What Lessons May Be Drawn from Media Reactions to a Universal Basic Income?

Prabhakar, Rajiv (2022). What Lessons May Be Drawn from Media Reactions to a Universal Basic Income? In: Borden, Sandra L. ed. The Routledge Companion to Media and Poverty. Routledge Media and Cultural Studies Companions. New York, USA: Routledge, pp. 371–379.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429291333-40


A universal basic income is a long-standing idea in social policy. This idea proposes that all citizens receive a regular income payment from government that is independent of individual contributions or any means test. Among its merits, supporters of a universal basic income argue that it provides a radical anti-poverty policy. Critics on the right claim that it is excessively expensive and indiscriminate, whereas critics on the left claim that it is a damaging distraction from more urgent anti-poverty policies, such as free child care. There is a current wave of media interest in a universal basic income. This interest has been sparked by high- profile trials of basic income in places such as Finland. This chapter uses British newspaper coverage of a Labour report recommending a U.K. pilot of basic income as a case study to illustrate the challenges campaigners face in advocating for this policy for the purpose of poverty reduction. One lesson for anti-poverty campaigners is that they ought to develop emotionally compelling narratives that exemplify the benefits of a universal basic income for reducing poverty in comparison with means testing. They also need to be able to refute the criticism that use of basic income for reducing poverty is too expensive.

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