A Discourse Network Analysis of Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol: Mapping the Discursive Communities in UK Newspaper Coverage of the Debate

Hilton, S. , Fergie, G. , Hawkins, B. and Leifeld, P. (2017) A Discourse Network Analysis of Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol: Mapping the Discursive Communities in UK Newspaper Coverage of the Debate. Public Health Science 2017, London, UK, 24 Nov 2017. S8. (doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32943-4)

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Background Previous research on alcohol policy in general, and minimum unit pricing (MUP) in particular, has highlighted the importance of industry lobbying, political context, framing of policy arguments, and use of evidence, in the inception, development, and refinement of policies. Our study draws on network analysis approaches to map the discursive communities of key stakeholders represented in UK newspaper coverage of MUP. Methods The Nexis database was used to search 11 national UK newspapers, spanning political views and genres, to identify all articles relating to alcohol and pricing published between May 1, 2011, and Nov 30, 2012. Statements made by actors and organisations in the debate were inductively identified and coded with network analysis software to produce relational data to generate visualisations of discourse networks. Findings 1435 statements made by 151 individuals from 87 organisations were coded in 351 articles. Visualisation of the network showed two broad discursive communities, one opposing and the other supporting MUP as an intervention. Links between communities were based on agreement around general frames such as “alcohol consumption is bad for public health”, whereas disagreement between the two communities existed around specific frames such as the drivers and extent of the alcohol problem, potential solutions, and consequences of MUP. Cluster analysis of the network showed smaller groupings and highlighted potential discursive coalitions that reflect a common focus on a particular aspect of the debate, especially where there were shared vested interests. Interpretation Our analysis provides the first visualisation, to our knowledge, of the MUP network by the frames presented by key stakeholders. The network highlights splits both within the UK Government and between universities, the dispersal of alcohol manufacturers, retailers, and trade associations across the two discursive communities, and the alignment of economic think-tanks with key industry actors. A complex, poorly-understood interdependency exists between the framing of policy evidence, media representations, and stakeholder influence. These insights could help public health advocates to develop more effective media advocacy strategies.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Additional Information:Abstract published in Lancet 390(Suppl 3):S8
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Leifeld, Professor Philip and Fergie, Dr Gillian and Hilton, Professor Shona
Authors: Hilton, S., Fergie, G., Hawkins, B., and Leifeld, P.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences
Journal Name:The Lancet
Published Online:27 November 2017
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