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The European Parliament election night television show: The power of political protocol and the indifference of the audience

Keywords: political communication , television , European elections

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In Portugal, election nights are great moments on TV taking up many prime time hours. Each general television channel carefully prepares the broadcast, employing technical skills and resorting to the best journalists and the most famous commentators. The most recent European election, which occurred on 7th of June 2009, had one particular interest: in the political eld, the electoral results could have a bearing on the re-election to a second mandate of the Portuguese President of the European Commission, Dur o Barroso; on the other hand, it marked the beginning of a cycle with two other elections to follow (local and legislative). In the television eld, there was a new thematic and informative channel associated to the general leader channel and a transition to digital TV was under way. These elements transformed the European Parliament election, adding to the suspense and expectation surrounding the results. Despite that, voter turnout was very low as only 36.85% of Portuguese electorate voted. The three general interest channels that made a special coverage of the election from 8 p.m. to almost 12 a.m., together only achieved a 30.2% audience rating. Almost two thirds of the Portuguese neither voted nor showed an interest in following the electoral results on TV, despite the large resources expended on the political campaign and the efforts of the television channels to create tremendous shows of electoral news. It is interesting to note that the pace of the broadcasts was not wholly set by the journalists, but also by the politicians.


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