The growth of the mass media has also played a key part in superseding political parties. Changes in technology mean that the media now play a strong role in mediating information between politicians and the public, where political parties used to play that role. [Read more below]
Membership of a party used to be the most accessible way of obtaining political information and taking part in the political process. With the rise of the media and media politics, this avenue is redundant (Bain, 1999d: p.8).
As Simon Upton has written, ‘modern communications have steadily increased the flow of information that once flowed out through political parties. Television has just about killed meetings dead as a means of communicating with voters’ (Upton, 1993c: p.8). There are also now a number of alternative sources of political information:
The age of television, the Official Information Act, the Ombudsman and a host of other watchdogs mean that political parties can supply little in the way of privileged access to information as once they did. The days when people crowded into church halls to hear MPs report on issues of the day have gone (Upton, 1994a).
Rather than communicating through a large, active membership, New Zealand’s catch-all parties now communicate with voters by way of their leadership appearing on television. Furthermore, the party organisations are no longer an important source of political policy and feedback for the parliamentary wings:
Policies are driven by media exposure (television in particular) and opinion polling; their detailed execution is driven by the bureaucracy and independent consultants. Inhouse party expertise is limited. That’s scarcely surprising – there is no perceived need to join political parties to gain an insight into the political process. Meanwhile, thousands believe themselves to be participating in the fate of the nation by way of talkback radio (Upton, 1992b: p.8).