On May 24th 2012, Scotland passed the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Bill. Minimum unit pricing (MUP) is an intervention that raises the price of the cheapest alcohol to reduce alcohol consumption and related harms. There is a growing literature on industry's influence in policymaking and media representations of policies, but relatively little about frames used by key claim-makers in the public MUP policy debate. This study elucidates the dynamic interplay between key claim-makers to identify lessons for policy advocacy in the media in the UK and internationally. Content analysis was conducted on 262 articles from seven UK and three Scottish national newspapers between 1st May 2011 and 31st May 2012, retrieved from electronic databases. Advocates' and critics' constructions of the alcohol problem and MUP were examined. Advocates depicted the problem as primarily driven by cheap alcohol and marketing, while critics' constructions focused on youth binge drinkers and dependent drinkers. Advocates justified support by citing the intervention's targeted design, but critics denounced the policy as illegal, likely to encourage illicit trade, unsupported by evidence and likely to be ineffective, while harming the responsible majority, low-income consumers and businesses. Critics' arguments were consistent over time, and single statements often encompassed multiple rationales. This study presents advocates with several important lessons for promoting policies in the media. Firstly, it may be useful to shift focus away from young binge drinkers and heavy drinkers, towards population-level over-consumption. Secondly, advocates might focus on presenting the policy as part of a wider package of alcohol policies. Thirdly, emphasis on the success of recent public health policies could help portray the UK and Scotland as world leaders in tackling culturally embedded health and social problems through policy; highlighting past successes when presenting future policies may be a valuable tactic both within the UK and internationally.
Keywords: Alcohol; Media advocacy; Media representations; Minimum unit pricing; Newspapers; Newsprint coverage; Policies.
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