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Framing the financial crisis: television news, civic discussions, and maintaining consent in a time of crisis.

Zurn, Meagan (2016) Framing the financial crisis: television news, civic discussions, and maintaining consent in a time of crisis. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.txd2e8qifgjv


The aim of this thesis was to investigate the role of television news media in maintaining cultural hegemony in the United States. The financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 was used as a window into this process. For this investigation, a qualitative frame analysis was conducted on samples of television news coverage from major moments during the financial crisis and the resulting economic recession. Additionally, peer group discussions were conducted as a window into how people who fit the social and cultural imaginary of “Middle America,” an important part of the historic bloc which forms the contemporary United States cultural hegemony, discussed the financial crisis and recession in a social context. The results found five major explanatory frames which dominated coverage of the financial crisis; strategygame frame, survivor stories, bootstraps frame, opportunity in disaster, and populism. Taken in aggregate, these frames directed attention away from the actions of the economic elite and onto either the actions of politicians or the responsibilities of non-elite individuals. Moreover, these frames deprived the information environment of information which might otherwise facilitate an understanding of the financial crisis as resulting from the actions and practices of the business elite or the economic structure. Participants in the peer group discussions seemed to echo much of the picture provided by television media, demonstrating in particular a pervasive belief in a dysfunctional American government. Overall, participants struggled to demonstrate a fundamental understanding of the financial crisis, and this hindered their ability to form and express counter-ideologies. This was in spite of pervasive, emotional expression of betrayal, dissatisfaction and economic vulnerability. Overall, it is concluded that television news media functions as a hegemonic apparatus due to its practices producing frames and narratives which obscure the role of the capitalist classes even in the event of an economic crisis.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Meagan E. Zurn
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HG Finance
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Supervisor: Cammaerts, Bart

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