If I said the Jacobites of the 1743 uprising in Scotland could impact United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron’s 2015 campaign, would you believe me? Until the latest release of leaked Sony emails I would not have believed it either, but then I read them.
Cameron is running again for 10 Downing Street on the May 7th election and used classic Tory agenda setting to see his record as Prime Minister of the UK us sustained. Consecutively Diana Gabaldon is seeing a renewed popularity in the spotlight with her hugely successful book series, Outlander, being transformed into an even more successful TV series with American Company, Starz. The series follows the story of World War II army nurse, Claire Beauchamp who is transported back in time and meets Jamie Fraser in 1743 – two years before the 1745 uprising against the English.
The show features the heroic Gaelic-speaking, dirk wielding patriots fighting for their lands, families, and simple way of life in contrast to the invasion of the English soldiers who want to take away their freedom. Insert Mel Gibson “freedom!” reference here but over nine books, 16 episodes, and millions of fans around the world. Clearly the TV series is gaining traction around the world in popularity and reach. Even Scotland’s tourism companies are seeing an increase in visitors.
In an email to fellow executives Keith E. Weaver, Executive Vice President at Sony Pictures Entertainment, wrote detailing a meeting with Cameron would highlight “the importance of Outlander (i.e., particularly vis-a-vis the political issues in the UK as Scotland contemplates detachment this Fall)”. Of course there was speculation around the delay of sealing a deal with one of the local networks. Even by Gabaldon who stated you could take the rumour of delay for what it’s worth until the conclusion of the Scottish referendum.
With a 20 year old fan base swayed to the Bonnie Prince Charlie cause against the English Dragoons it was only a matter of time the eight-episode debut became a hit in the US. So much so that Starz took out Best Sci-fi TV Series over Game of Thrones at the People’s Choice Awards.
Eugene Shaw’s paper on agenda setting in the media provides a great understanding of this technique and its significance to political issues. In it Shaw highlights the media are pervasive in focusing attention on specific events determining the importance through their cognitions of the media’s performance. In this case, Cameron’s media performance was backstage until the Sony email leaks. Julian Assange, creator of WikiLeaks, has published over 30,000 of the leaked emails stating they belong in the public domain to “show the inner workings of an influential multinational corporation”. As a self-proclaimed anonymous not0for-profit organisation of journalists, this breach of privacy is to Assange another candid form of investigative journalism. Hugh de Burgh describes modern investigative journalism techniques attribute “partisan, commercial, or corrupt use… to right wrongs or overcome evil”. So in September last year (2014) when Scotland National Party hosted the Independence Referendum to England and the result went I favour of “No” to the detachment by 4%, would it be safe to assume the ‘investigative journalists’ could have overcome the agenda setting of Cameron and the presumably evil Tories by exposing the truthful tampering?
The United Kingdom is viewing the first episode nine months after the US and thanks the new-age investigative journalism we have caught a glimpse into the political agenda setting first outlined by Shaw. Unfortunately for Cameron his reputation was tarnished and labelled weak throughout media onslaught as a repercussion of a strategic intervention of TV scheduling, but it had an impact. And for Australia this is not the first time we are hearing a TV series affect political communications.
Underbelly, based on Melbourne’s long-time running gang lord war, was banned from Victorian networks whilst the murder trials were taking place in 2008. With the public outcry there was nothing to be done after the Supreme Court passed the ruling as it was feared the jury’s decision-making processes would be affected by the personalised nature of the TV series.
Overall, it was a bonnie scandal for Bonnie Prime Minister Cameron against the passion of fans and SNP activists, both online and offline, and an amazing example of media communications’ impact on connecting history from over 200 years ago to the political agenda setting effects of today.