Addiction (Abingdon, England) | 2019

Mapping discourse coalitions in the minimum unit pricing for alcohol debate: a discourse network analysis of UK newspaper coverage



Abstract Background and Aims 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 visualization of actor networks. Setting United Kingdom. Observations A total of 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 polarized 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. While producer organizations 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 among the industry. Discourse network analysis may be usefully applied to study other highly contested policy issues in health and beyond.

Volume 114
Pages 741 - 753
DOI 10.1111/add.14514
Language English
Journal Addiction (Abingdon, England)

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