The integral role of media in shaping public opinion and political debate is significant. Media can set the agenda and define public interest, frame issues through selection and salience, indirectly shape individual and community attitudes towards risk, and feed into political debate and decision making (Lancaster, Hughes, Spicer, Matthew-Simmons, & Dillon, 2010). This is true of alcohol and other drugs, as much as any other issue. Crucially, media build consensus about what issues are the most important within the community (McCombs, 1997; McCombs & Shaw, 1972) and can define the nature of solutions through what they choose to present to their audiences.
Despite media being identified in 2001 as ‘a new battleground’ for the alcohol and other drug (AOD) field (Proctor & Babor, 2001), almost a decade on there has been limited research examining the role of media and its effect on audiences, its impact on alcohol and other drug policy or indeed avenues by which the AOD field can influence media debate.
The aim of this ongoing project is to explore particular alcohol and other drug policy issues as they emerge in media, with a focus on better understanding the nature and influence of media discourse around policy issues, and the role of evidence in these debates.
Responding to alcohol and other drug policy issues as they arise in media, we will apply methods commonly used in media and communications studies (such as media content analysis and discourse analysis) to systematically examine the nature of media portrayals of alcohol and other drug issues.
This ongoing project builds on previous research which has examined portrayals of illicit drugs in the Australian print media, and youth attitudes to media reporting on illicit drugs. Research is currently underway examining news media discourse on alcohol policy, with a focus on the role of evidence in Australian and UK media debates. In 2011, research commenced with Dr Jenny Chalmers and Dr Natasha Carragher into Australian and UK news coverage of alcohol pricing debates. This will be completed in 2012.
In 2011 three papers were completed on topics including ‘media ownership and content diversity: reporting of illicit drug issues in NSW, VIC, ACT and WA’ and ‘news media consumption amongst young Australians’.