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Drug Alcohol Rev. 2011 Nov;30(6):569-76. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-3362.2010.00253.x. Epub 2010 Oct 8.

Framing and the marginalisation of evidence in media reportage of policy debate about alcopops, Australia 2008-2009: implications for advocacy.

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1
School of Public Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

Abstract

INTRODUCTION AND AIMS:

We aimed to investigate news reportage of the contested Australian 2008 'alcopop tax' on ready-to-drink spirits, with an emphasis on the treatment of evidence of the tax's effect on consumption rates. The tax was associated with both and overall net reduction in alcohol consumption (2.7%) and reduction specifically in ready-to-drink spirits (26.1%).

DESIGN AND METHODS:

We conducted content analyses of 536 articles from Australian newspapers and 33 Sydney television news items. All items were coded for the presence of rhetorical frames, the total number of statements per item that corresponded with each frame and the group identity of news-actors making the statements.

RESULTS:

Four principal frames were identified: consumption reduction, substitution effects, revenue raising and closing a tax loophole. Only 22.2% of statements included evidence regarding the tax's effect on sales and consumption. A significantly higher proportion of statements supporting the tax included evidence (29%) compared with statements opposing the tax (15%).

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION:

Public health advocates should be mindful of how evidence can be marginalised in contested policy debates. The direction and rhetorical appeal of counterargument needs to be anticipated in strategic planning of the communication of alcohol control policies.

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