Pressure groups in the last few years have become more widespread and important in influencing decisions on government legislation and government policy. ‘A pressure group is an organization which seeks as one of its functions to influence and formulate the implementation of public policy, public policy representing a set of authoritative decisions taken by the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary, and by the local government and the European union. ‘ (Grant, 2000:pg 14).Explaining and understanding the typologies will give a firm grounding on what environment and associations different pressure groups work in. There are literally thousands of groups that can be defined as pressure groups, and categorizing and placing these groups in an exact manner is an almost impossible task. But people have tried to come up with different classifications, which on a very general basis can place groups into various sections.
One of the more familiar distinctions is between sectional and cause groups.Wyn Grant termed sectional groups as ‘representing a section of the community. Their function is to look after more common interests of that section and their membership is normally restricted to that section. ‘ These groups are often associated with a particular section of society, cordoning off any person or persons, that don’t have association or affiliation with that particular section. They tend to aim to get as many eligible members of that section as possible (http://www. historylearningsite. co.
uk/pressure_groups. htm, August 2002).And Grant went on to further state that cause groups ‘represented some belief or principle, seeking to act in the interest of that cause. ‘ These groups are often classified outside the mainstream, and tend to be based on membership without having the attachment of exclusivity to its name. Cause groups are somewhat different to sectional groups, as since they are promoting a cause, which could potentially, be supported by anybody. Usually membership for this reason is not restricted, and the more members it has, generally the more stronger the cause is.But prehaps a more important distinction between groups that are based on status and methods rather then particularly narrow aims such as sectional groups and causal groups need to be distinguised Wyn Grant came up with the idea of outsider/insider groups. Insider groups as ‘those who have regular access to, and dialogue with the bureacracy and who belong to policy communities.
They maybe expert organisations who are invited to contribute in governmental commitees because theit knowledge is extensive, or they could be groups whose personal contacts guarantee that their causes are heard.’ (Cracknell: 1993). Outsider groups alternatively then are those who enforce their strategies through areans, where their concerns can be publicly voiced.
By generating public concern, especially with outsider groups, it is their ability to use and make use of different arenas to establish the visilbility of their cause for which the issue is concerned. Solesbury’s 3 steps in the claims makng process, commanding attention, claiming legitimacy and invoking action, is important for all pressure groups, but particular those of outsider status.Claiming legitimacy is probably the hardest of the three, because outsider groups can often be seen as radical, as Ryan stated ‘gaining attention alone is not what a social movement wants; the real battle is over whose interpretation, whose framing of reality, gets the floor. ‘ The mass media has therefore been the pivotal point in which it can relay its messages, through the public areana in constructing its interpretations that will be favourable for these outsider groups. So, we look at how outsider groups attempt to influence or manage media.What tools do they have at their disposal to get the message across.
What strategies and techniques do they use, which may not be to different from what insider groups use, but without government support? We take a look at how environmental coverage and environmental policy is thus shaped, how they go about setting the agenda for media coverage and how truly successful they are in framing issues for public discussion. So, now that we have established what an outsider group is, we need to understand how it manages to communicate its policies and get its issues raised on the public agenda.The public agenda is a crowded place for issues, and time and space is extremely hard to come by. Hansen says that ‘the mass media constitute a key public arena in which voices, definitions and claims-makers, are put on public display and compete with each other for legitimacy. ‘ Pressure groups, particularly those of outsider origin, represent a significant channel by which public representations can therefore be made. Outsider groups have the advantage of what baggot entitled a ‘growth reflecting the rising levels of affluence over the post-war period.
‘ Because prosperity and wealth has become more apparent, material needs have been pushed aside, and issues of quality of life has become more apparent. But the problem with outsider groups is because they are generally radical groups, they operate outside of government jurisdication, so to get their message across, they must utilise the media, as a platform for their issues. Baggot said that ‘the difference between them is that insider groups are viewed as legitimate by government and are consulted on a regular basis, while outsider groups either do not wish to become involved in a consultative relationship or cannot secure recognition.’ While insider groups can claim legitmicy and command attention, two of the important steps in successful claims making which Solesbury stated, their nature of work seems to become to influenced, and their relative autonomous status becomes somewhat fazed. It restricts them from indulging in certain strategies that might otherwise be used and be effective in whatever their specific interests might be.
So outsider groups have advantages in claims making processes, where they can show a degree of framing the situation, in such a way that can they can command the neccesary attention, they can invoke action, through the neccesary channels (the media) and claim legitmacy, as they try to represent a good cause. Greenpeace is a perfect example of how successful an outsider group can be, of framing an event in such a way, as to acheive the success of communicating its media and public strategies with relative success.