Moving forward with an action plan: political campaigning on the big screen

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Milner, L 2012, 'Moving forward with an action plan: political campaigning on the big screen', Studies in Australasian Cinema, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 125-140.

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For decades, the media has been increasingly central to the conduct of elections. Politicians have made their mark in highly produced advertisements to further their cause, educate voters, and, perhaps, contribute to informed decision making at the ballot box. Ian Ward notes that television ‘has literally transformed the very practice of politics’, but well before the advent of television, politicians were massaging the media. Since the days of silent film, election campaign advertisements have set the agenda for debate and have reflected carefully selected images of the voting nation to themselves. I recently undertook the first comprehensive analysis of existing pre-television campaigns produced for Australian cinema screens. This article examines selected Australian election advertisements from silent screens to the dawn of the television era to explore how choices of framing agents have affected screen representations of politicians and their parties. Issues explored include aesthetic and stylistic considerations, personality and policy, and the growing intersection of early Australian political and media industries. The article charts a series of ongoing aesthetics and influences connecting our earliest political media to contemporary campaigns on television and the Internet, which demonstrate how some emerging trends of contemporary small-screen campaigning are but revamped older public relations methods.

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