A Marxian Critical Perspective on News Framing Competition: Defensive Counter-Narratives During the Victorian 2016 Country Fire Authority Industrial Dispute

Victoria Fielding


Communication scholars are interested in how political, social and industrial groups compete to influence news framing in their favour. However, little is known about how groups with less power compete, and how they respond strategically to the inequality of framing influence. This article analyses public communication and news framing during the 2016 Australian dispute between management of the Victorian Country Fire Authority and the Victorian United Firefighters Union. How did the union use a defensive counter narrative to justify the legitimacy of their position within news coverage? Most contemporary media research assumes a liberal pluralist perspective of framing competition between political, cultural, and industrial groups, whereby they compete for positive media attention on a level playing field. This study fits better within a Marxian critical framework. It helps to explain why the employer’s perspective was structurally advantaged in news reporting such that the union resorted to a defensive counter narrative. The framework also explains how this communication strategy reinforced the dominant frame.

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