Pluralist public sphere or elitist closed circle? Elite-driven agendas and contributor ‘chemistry’ as determinants of pundit choice on a flagship BBC politics show

Authored by: James Morrison

The Routledge Companion to Political Journalism

Print publication date:  October  2021
Online publication date:  October  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367248222
eBook ISBN: 9780429284571
Adobe ISBN:


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Since BBC1’s Politics Live discussion show launched in 2018, it has been characterized by an accessible and chatty, if sometimes highly involved, discursive style more native to podcasts than conventional daytime television. The program attempted to distinguish itself through distinctive features including meaningful engagement with social media, a dynamic ‘musical chairs’ approach to refreshing panels mid-show, live fact-checking of disputed political truth-claims, and a sometimes self-consciously inclusive strategy for balancing the age, race and gender profiles of studio guests. If the program has struggled to fulfil any of its trumpeted selling-points, however, it is its quest to reflect the world of politics at ‘grassroots’ level – by venturing beyond London’s insular ‘Westminster bubble’ to seek out issues and contributors that better reflect the topics people chat about in the pub. This chapter combines analysis of the voices and issues aired on Politics Live during the opening months of its second year and an interview with its head producer to determine the extent to which it qualifies as a pluralistic, representative public sphere, rather than a superficially persuasive reconfiguration of existing elite circles.

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