Beyond the mainstream media (MSM)
Beyond the MSM: Understanding the rise of alternative online political media.
The aim of the project is to understand the production, content and consumption of the most influential left and right-wing alternative political online sites, and to explore people's views about the MSM (mainstream media) and ask why some are turning to alternative media for news about politics and public affairs.
After the British public voted to leave the EU, Donald Trump's presidential victory and Jeremy Corbyn's rising support during the 2017 UK election campaign, the mainstream media (MSM) were criticised for not anticipating these events. They were accused of not reflecting or understanding many people's alienation from and anger with the mainstream media and political establishment.
On both sides of the political spectrum, the acronym MSM has become a widely used pejorative term to characterise a broad range of legacy media that represents the establishment, protecting the interests of elites and perpetuating the political status quo.
It is in this context that many voters went beyond the MSM during the 2017 UK general election campaign and turned to what have been labelled alt-left media sites, where more pro-Labour and anti-MSM messages were being conveyed. This included sites such as The Canary, Evolve Politics, Wings over Scotland, Novara Media, Skwawkbox and Another Angry Voice.
They became a prominent part of the campaign because they reached voters across many social media platforms, particularly Facebook, and bypassed the reliance on MSM for news. The rise of new alternative left media were credited with not just helping Jeremy Corbyn's Labour secure more votes amongst young people, but challenging the MSM's agenda setting power, including diminishing the editorial power of right wing newspapers, which far outnumber left-leaning titles.
Since they rose to prominence during the 2017 UK election campaign, there has been no research examining the content of these sites, the editorial motivation behind them or how people understand and engage with them.
The aim of this research project is to understand the production, content and consumption of both left- and right-wing alternative online political media, such as Westmonster, Breitbart UK, Conservative Woman and Guido Fawkes.
We are also interested in exploring users’ views about the MSM and understanding why some people are turning to alternative media for news about politics and public affairs.
This three-year project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
The project team