In the thousand-channel universe, politicians must find innovative ways to reach citizens via television. Viewership for news and current affairs television programs has dropped dramatically. Meanwhile, the rise of programming that blends information with entertainment – infotainment – on Canadian television, especially in Quebec, has provided an opportunity for today’s politicians to use it to their advantage. But their appearances on these programs also fuel concerns over the declining authority of journalism in the public sphere. Breaking News? traces the development of infotainment and exposes the impact of these kinds of programs on modern political communication. Frédérick Bastien lays out the issues raised by the eroding influence of existing news gatekeepers and the implications of infotainment for politicians, journalists, and citizens, while arguing that infotainment ultimately makes a positive contribution to democratic life by piquing the audience’s interest in public affairs and motivating it to pay more attention to political news in general.
Introduction: A Controversial Marriage
1 The Rise of Infotainment Television
2 Be (or Don’t Be) Our Guests
3 The Political Interviews: Beyond Sex and Saxophone
4 From the War Room to the Confessional
5 The Disproportionate Influence of Infotainment
6 The Rules of the Game
7 The Challenges of Infotainment
Appendix; Notes; References; Index
Frédérick Bastien is a researcher of political communication, journalism, and methodology. Previously a professor of public communication at Université Laval, he is now an associate professor of political science at Université de Montréal. He is also associate director of the Centre for the Study of Democratic Citizenship and a member of the Groupe de recherche en communication politique. He was the lead editor of Les Québécois aux urnes: les partis, les médias et les citoyens en campagne. The French version of this book, published by the Presses de l’Université Laval in 2013, was shortlisted for the Prix francophone from the Canadian Political Science Association and the Canada Prize in Social Sciences from the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.