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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 February 2007, 09:50 GMT
'Soaps should be more political'
A scene from EastEnders
Producers have been challenged to bring politics into soaps
Soap operas are too scared to include politics in their storylines, a report has said.

Experts at Leeds University said soaps could be one of the best ways to get people interested in politics - but rarely take up the opportunity.

They said shows like Coronation Street and EastEnders reached 40% of homes and could spark political debate.

On the occasions politicians appeared in soaps they were stereotypically unethical, arrogant and vain.

The researchers studied EastEnders, The Archers, Coronation Street and Hollyoaks for four months and found scarce mention of politics.

The experts said script writers needed to show a more positive side to the subject.

Adam Rickitt
Former soap star Adam Rickitt is a potential Tory MP

Professor Stephen Coleman said in his report The West(minster) Wing: The Depiction of Politicians and Politics in British Soaps challenged producers to introduce storylines where characters showed interest "outside their soap bubble".

He said: "Every other aspect of daily life - work, sex, drinking and gossip - is dramatised and open for debate, but soap producers seem to regard politics as a danger zone to be avoided.

"But there are aspects of everyday life citizenship that could add to the drama of soaps. If collective democratic action is rarely witnessed in popular drama, citizens could be forgiven for forgetting that such possibilities exist."

Professor Coleman carried out a series of interviews with soap producers and scriptwriters, who said they were not keen on mixing drama and politics.


They said that as many shows are recorded up to six weeks in advance, plot lines would be out of date by the time they were screened.

Researchers also found they were wary of seeming biased.

Soap characters have stood for their local councils before such as Ian Beale, Alf Roberts, Hollyoaks' Gordon Cunningham and Lynda Snell, who was on Ambridge Parish Council in The Archers.

Professor Coleman said those characters were generally unpopular busy-bodies.

In real life, former EastEnders star Michael Cashman is now a Labour MEP and Coronation Street star Adam Rickitt has been selected as a potential Conservative MP.

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