Mapping discourse coalitions in the Minimum Unit Pricing for alcohol debate: a discourse network analysis of UK newspaper coverage

Fergie, G. , Leifeld, P., Hawkins, B. and Hilton, S. (2019) Mapping discourse coalitions in the Minimum Unit Pricing for alcohol debate: a discourse network analysis of UK newspaper coverage. Addiction, 114(4), pp. 741-753. (doi: 10.1111/add.14514) (PMID:30475418) (PMCID:PMC6492293)

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Background and Aim: Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) for alcohol was introduced in Scotland on 1 May 2018 and is now on the policy agenda in other devolved administrations and at Westminster. Previous research has explored the arguments deployed for and against MUP, but the congruence between actors in the MUP debate has not been sufficiently examined. This study identified and mapped the discourse coalitions that emerged in the UK MUP debate through an analysis of actors’ use of arguments in media coverage of the policy debates. Design: A sample of print media coverage of MUP was obtained from the LexisNexis newspaper database. The resulting sample was imported into discourse network analysis (DNA) software for coding and subsequent visualisation of actor networks. Setting: United Kingdom. Observations: 348 articles from eight UK‐wide and three Scottish newspapers from an 18‐month period, ending in November 2012, were analysed. Measurements: Actors’ arguments were coded to generate structured data for conversion into a weighted actor network where ties represent similarities among actors in terms of arguments in support of or opposition to MUP. Findings: Two polarised discourse coalitions, Opponents and Proponents of MUP, emerged in media coverage. The Proponents coalition consisted mainly of health advocacy groups, charities, political parties and academic institutions. In the Opponents coalition, the networks were formed of key alcohol manufacturers and economic think‐tanks. Whilst producer organisations were central to the Opponents coalition, some commercial actors were more favourable to MUP highlighting divisions within the industry overall. Conclusions: Media coverage of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) in Scotland from June 2011 to November 2012 showed alignment between the policy positions of 1) alcohol producers and think‐tanks opposed to MUP; and 2) public health advocates and health charities in favour of the policy. Some alcohol industry actors were supportive of MUP indicating divisions amongst the industry. Discourse network analysis may be usefully applied to study other highly contested policy issues in health and beyond.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Fergie, Dr Gillian and Leifeld, Professor Philip and Hilton, Professor Shona
Authors: Fergie, G., Leifeld, P., Hawkins, B., and Hilton, S.
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:Addiction
ISSN (Online):1360-0443
Published Online:26 November 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 The Authors
First Published:First published in Addiction 114(4): 741-753
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
727671SPHSU Core Renewal: Informing Healthy Public Policy Research ProgrammePeter CraigMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/15IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU
Chief Scientist Office (CSO)SPHSU15