Consortium meets in Bucharest

On October 4-6, Mediadelcom consortium had the last meeting of that kind in Bucharest, Romania. During the in-person contact event, the country teams had a detailed discussion on topics related to final outcomes of the project. The two books under preparation went through in-depth finalizing debate. Also,  validity of conclusions, narrative based scenarios and agent based models were talked through at the meeting. The summary of the meeting has been presented in the podcast episode 44.

Furthermore, the issues of dissemination were addressed, as the final results are to accomplished soon and need to be presented to the public. Some publications have already been launched or at least introduced in Mediadelcom podcasts. Regards the coming publications, please stay tuned on our website.

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Mediadelcom’s panel on the ECREA conference 2022: Monitoring Media Change

Mediadelcom presented a panel at the 9th European Communication Conference by ECREA (European Communication Research and Education Association), hosted on 19 – 22 October 2022 in Aarhus, Denmark. The conference carried  the theme ‘Rethink Impact‘.

As described in the Conference Booklet, “the theme “Rethink Impact” serves as a frame for discussing how media and communication research, education, and training interact with, impact on and reflect society. /- – -/ Impact concerns the conditions of translating research insight into tangible outcomes for society, policy and business. Impact also suggests that such outcomes from research and education can be (and should be) quantified and validated.

Mediadelcom’s panel Monitoring Media Change: Concepts and Cases appeared at the International and Intercultural Communication section of the conference. Hereby, we present the abstracts of the contributions at the panel. Also, there are the slides of the opening presentation available.

Panel rationale

It is undisputed that media and journalism fulfil important functions in democratic societies and that the media transformations of the recent years have brought along various new possibilities for informed decision-making and deliberative communication. At the same time, media change also leads to new risks that may undermine social cohesion: Trends like disinformation and hate speech are just two examples of dangerous tendencies that have been propelled by technological transformation processes and must be considered a threat for democratic societies.

In the course of the 21st century, European media and communication research has triggered an overabundance of studies that deal with such problems as well as other phenomena of contemporary media change. However, its capability to highlight problematic trends in an early phase and work out operative scenarios of media development for policy makers and media experts has obviously been limited. Although the existing knowledge is voluminous, even a cursory review reveals that it is dispersed and fragmented.

The proposed panel intends to provide an inventory of the scope and quality of media and communication research in Europe. In how far can existing studies and further data sources help to provide a reliable monitoring of current media change processes? What, in fact, are the key risks and opportunities of the media and communication development in the 21st century? And in how far can our discipline contribute to securing a functional media environment for deliberative communication in democratic societies?

These questions are in the centre of a large-scale Horizon 2020 project which is currently realised by 14 research institutions in all parts of the European continent. The presentations collected in this panel will summarize key results from the first project phase, combining innovative conceptual insights with meta-analyses of previous studies and original empirical research.

The first presentation will serve as an introduction by conceptualizing risks and opportunities for media development and providing a comparative overview over the media monitoring potentiality in the 14 participating project countries. The second presentation will focus on the specific challenges of monitoring media accountability in Europe, also drawing on the findings of a recently completed global study on the diffusion of different instruments of media self-regulation. Presentations 3 and 4 will offer exemplary case studies from selected countries in Western and Eastern Europe: The analysis of the Italian case highlights trust in journalists as an indicator of deliberative culture and showcases results from a representative survey among Internet users. The Bulgarian country study uses the technique of PEST analysis to discuss to most pressing challenges for the national media system. The fifth and final presentation turns the spotlight on the special conditions of communication and media research in smaller European countries (such as Austria, Croatia, Estonia, and Latvia) and analyses their value for the international research community. In sum, the panel not only helps to broaden our understanding of different aspects of comparative media research, but also collects valuable hints with regard to the practical relevance of media and communication research in European societies.

Media monitoring potentiality in 14 European countries: Risks and opportunities

By Halliki Harro-Loit (EST) & Tobias Eberwein (AUT)

Social acceleration has been a catalyst for rapid changes concerning the communication scapes of European societies. Democratic societies need deliberation, but what kind of communication cultures are supported by different stakeholders and structural possibilities? The aim of this introductory contribution is to conceptualize and analyse the risks and possibilities concerning the monitoring potentiality of the performance and normative regulation of news media (journalism), media usage patterns and competencies of different actors who influence the news and communication culture of societies. Until now, however, there is no holistic approach to analyse media-related risks and opportunities. The contribution will therefore develop a novel conceptual approach that enables focusing on relationships between news production and consumption as well as contextual factors related to normative regulation and media literacy. The monitoring potential is related to various stakeholders who gather data on media and media usage, transform the data into knowledge and use this knowledge for media policy.

What interests and values are served by which stakeholders and how does this actual monitoring serve the media policy in different European countries? What is the role and resources of media researchers? These research questions will be answered with the help of an extensive literature review and a comparative analysis of the monitoring potentiality of 14 European countries, based on original case studies that offer a synthetic review of the ‘media-related risks and opportunities discourse’ in the studies on media transformations and innovations. The contribution will, thus, broaden the theoretical understanding of risks and opportunities for deliberative communication and fill a knowledge gap by synchronising existing dispersed studies and data into a concept that enables evaluating risks and opportunities for deliberative communication from a transnational perspective. At the same time, it will offer a first inventory of available monitoring instruments in different communication cultures across Europe.

Cf. the slides to the presentation

Media accountability: Global trends and European monitoring capabilities

By Marcus Kreutler & Susanne Fengler (DEU)

The concept of media accountability has long been analysed with a focus on Western or European democracies and on instruments developed in these countries. Even in Europe, comparative research has so far mostly highlighted the situation at singular points in time, sometimes limited to few instruments. To broaden the view on the topic, this paper follows a two-step approach: In a first step, it highlights trends in media accountability from a global perspective in order to develop a comprehensive framework of instruments and their interplay in different social settings. In a second step, building on this framework, monitoring capabilities for media accountability in 14 European countries are being evaluated.

The analysis of global trends in the field is based on a study of 44 countries across world regions and political regime types. Findings show that the concept of media accountability has a ‘limited capability to travel’, as observed by Voltmer (2012) for media systems in general.

Existing literature (e.g., Puppis, 2007) has described media governance as a continuum, from media regulation, to co-regulation, to professional self-regulation. However, this ‘liberal’ model, developed against the backdrop of established press freedom in Anglo-Saxon and Western European countries, does not accommodate the nuanced phenomena of media accountability our study has portrayed.

Instead, we find ‘media councils’ in countries with the tightest media control – clearly examples of ‘media capture’ (Mungiu-Pippidi, 2013; Coskun, 2020). We find media accountability instruments which are maintained by foreign actors, as media markets are too weak to sustain local initiatives. Co-regulatory practices and statutory councils are more common, but pose a risk of being exploited for political purposes in countries marked by patrimonialism and clientelism. Several Post-Soviet country reports show that if media accountability systems do not mature, there is a considerable risk of falling back into a state of media regulation. Traditional liberal models may also no longer fit to explain changing media ecosystems in Western countries.

The findings described above have also structured the study of monitoring capabilities in Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Sweden. Beyond the status quo, the capability to monitor changes and trends over time has been of particular interest. A general observation is that even in countries with relatively well-developed monitoring and research structures, much of the available literature is focusing on normative questions, and available data is not necessarily comparable longitudinally or cross-nationally. International efforts like the MediaAcT project or handbooks of media accountability (Eberwein, Fengler & Karmasin, 2018; Fengler, Eberwein & Karmasin, 2022) have inspired key publications in a number of countries, but are rarely followed up by a continuous monitoring of developments in the field. Several cases describe a common reason for monitoring deficits: Weak professional culture among journalists leads to ineffective and often neglected media accountability measures, which in turn limits research funding activity and funding opportunities.

Trust in journalists among the public as an indicator of deliberative culture: The case of Italy

By Sergio Splendore, Augusto Valeriani & Diego Garusi (ITA)

Media trust is one of the most debated issues in political communication. Nevertheless, it represents a concept that has required continuous refinement from a methodological and empirical point of view (Strömbäck et al., 2020). In the contemporary high choice political information environment (Van Aelst et al., 2017), characterised by the construction of highly personalised media experiences (Castro et al., 2021), it is even more crucial to understand how trust changes with respect to citizens’ media repertoires.

This contribution aims to study a neglected issue regarding media trust: trust that people maintain toward journalists (i.e. those that are professionally trained to gather, process, and distribute information of public relevance). However, the overall scenario has been rapidly changed and a wide variety of other actors, professional and non-professional, including citizens themselves, perform similar actions within increasingly crowded information ecologies (Lewis, 2012; Carlson & Lewis, 2015).

In such a context, the study aims to answer the following questions: (1) How much do citizens trust journalists? and (2) How do their media consumption repertoires influence their perceptions? Considering trust in journalists makes it possible to capture citizens’ judgements regarding the ability of the journalistic professional system to still perform a public service in contemporary societies.

Media trust is one of the most debated issues in political communication. Nevertheless, it represents a concept that has required continuous refinement from a methodological and empirical point of view (Strömbäck et al., 2020). In the contemporary high choice political information environment (Van Aelst et al., 2017), characterised by the construction of highly personalised media experiences (Castro et al., 2021), it is even more crucial to understand how trust changes with respect to citizens’ media repertoires.

This contribution aims to study a neglected issue regarding media trust: trust that people maintain toward journalists (i.e. those that are professionally trained to gather, process, and distribute information of public relevance). However, the overall scenario has been rapidly changed and a wide variety of other actors, professional and non-professional, including citizens themselves, perform similar actions within increasingly crowded information ecologies (Lewis, 2012; Carlson & Lewis, 2015). In such a context, the study aims to answer the following questions: (1) How much do citizens trust journalists? and (2) How do their media consumption repertoires influence their perceptions? Considering trust in journalists makes it possible to capture citizens’ judgements regarding the ability of the journalistic professional system to still perform a public service in contemporary societies.

The study presents the results of a CAWI survey to a representative sample (n=1563) of the Italian population of Internet users in the age range 18–74, interviewed in the second half of May 2020. This was a crucial context to study trust in journalists because the first mass lock-down following the COVID-19 pandemic just ended, then citizens needed to find information and to develop new (or consolidate old) relationships of trust with information sources (Scaglioni & Sfardini, 2021). At the same time, the cacophony of voices, as well as the centrality assumed in the communication space by doctors, scientists, and others non-journalistic actors, has created a context capable of significantly impacting trust patterns in the traditional “expert mediators” of information.

This research considers trust in journalists as an indicator of potential deliberative communication. The higher the trust, the more citizens feel as aware and informed participants of the public debate. The ways how the determinants of this trust operate indicate what are the risks that hinder the realization of the deliberative communication and the opportunities that are reserved for it. The main results emerging from the estimated multivariate models show that there is a negative correlation between the use of social media for information on matters of public importance and trust in journalists. In addition, those who use politicians’ accounts as a privileged source of information on social media have lower trust in journalists. Among other issues, these results pose one of the most frequent questions concerning political communication, i.e. which role social media are playing within the political communication environment.

Challenges of deliberative communication in the Bulgarian media ecosystem

Lilia Raycheva, Nadezhda Miteva, Neli Velinova, Bissera Zankova & Lora Metanova (BGR)

Contemporary societies are undergoing significant transformations which correlate with the dynamic developments of the information and communication technologies. Today these transformations are being catalysed by the intensity of the media ecosystem, encompassing all actors and factors whose interaction allows the media to function and to fulfil their role in society. It combines the mission of the traditional media with the potential of the blogosphere, social networks and mobile communications. Situated in the context of globalisation processes, the media themselves are undergoing multi-layered transformations. Using PEST analysis, the paper examines the political, economic, social and technological challenges to the Bulgarian media ecosystem within the framework of deliberative communication.

For the proper functioning of the contemporary media ecosystem, a number of political issues of the basic pillars of Europe’s audiovisual model are becoming increasingly important, such as: freedom of expression and access to information; pluralism of opinions and variety of content; professional standards and journalistic ethics; transparency of ownership and accountability to the audiences; protection of underage and vulnerable social groups; cooperation between regulation, self-regulation and co-regulation; the expansion of social media, etc.

The sustainability of these principles is a decisive factor for the democratic functioning of the country’s human-centred societal developments.

In contemporary times, the media and telecommunications sectors are among the industries that feel the strongest economic effects of the digital transformation. Internationalisation of economy and convergence of modern communications favour the prevalence of multi-sector and multinational corporations. At the same time, the globality and uniformity of the Information Society are dissolving into the separatism of glocality.

Today, transformations in the communication environment are catalysed by the social impacts, which also lead to a paradigm shift in the media – from mass media channels to individual media services. A virtual online mosaic culture has been created which, due to its interactive nature, acts as integrating while having alienating and restrictive effects on people, destroying their ‘live’ communication. This phenomenon is significant to understanding such phenomena as information overload and digital fatigue that consumers are facing.

The technological factors are the most active among those elements, affecting the construction rate and the functioning of the contemporary global information society. Therefore, media, information and digital literacy skills acquire additional importance in today’s intercultural dialogue in the communication environment. The ICT’s developments are so intense that it is difficult to define whether because of technological and economic convergence the media sector will evolve to the ever-increasing deregulation in favour of the market or to the serving of the public interest.

Some of the findings of the study have been disseminated to policy makers, media managers, and academia.

Media and communication research in smaller countries in Europe

By Ragne Kõuts-Klemm (EST),
Zrinjka Peruško, Dina Vozab (HRV),
Anda Rožukalne, Alnis Stakle, Ilva Skulte (LVA),
Tobias Eberwein (AUT)

Big and small states are equal in respect of functioning as comprehensive entities – they all need state apparatuses, the ability to provide services for citizens, the capacity to protect themselves, and appropriate media systems to guarantee a deliberative communication space for the democratic processes. Nevertheless, the resources of smaller countries can be limited and this can have an impact on the performance of their functions. Small states deserve special attention. Not only can the development of media systems in smaller countries have specific implications, like Puppis (2009) suggests, their self-reflecting capacity manifested as institutionalised media research can have limitations deriving from their smallness, too.

“Smallness” is a relational concept. For our contribution, we will define it broadly – based not mainly on the GDP per capita, but on the actual and perceived size of the population as well. Perceptions of smallness can also derive from the neighbouring of giant same-language countries (Meier & Trappel, 1992).

We will compare the monitoring and research capabilities of media developments in four small countries in Europe that represent contrasting historical backgrounds as well as different types of media systems: Austria, Croatia, Estonia, and Latvia. We will use the data collected for a case study of a large-scale H2020 project – a comparative research initiative that intends to highlight risks and opportunities for deliberative communication in the European media landscape. In the course of this case study, researchers from the participating countries conducted an extensive review of available academic publications and additional data sources in the fields of media regulation and accountability, journalism, media usage, and media-related competencies.

The aim of our comparative analysis is to identify factors that can have an impact on the monitoring and research capabilities of smaller countries. It will answer the following questions: What are the research interests of academic media studies in these countries? Is the research oriented toward national society or more broadly? How is academic research integrated into the international research community? At what stage is the research in respect of institutionalisation of communication as a scientific discipline? The results of the analysis will not only broaden the ongoing debate about comparative media systems research, but also offer valuable insights for media managers and policy-makers in smaller (European) countries.

Photos by Marcus Kreutler and Epp Lauk

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Consortium is fine-tuning the approaches in Sofia

The second semi-annual meeting of Mediadelcom in 2022 takes place in Bulgaria, at the Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication of Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”.

At such meetings, the consortium fine-tunes the concepts and variables for the research. This time, the first book details are being addressed, as well as the visions for comparative research among the 14 participating countries. Also, the agent approach and the resultant agent-oriented modelling is getting more focused as a tool.

The consortium is carefully listening to the feedback from the distinguished professors from the Advisory Board, Daniel Hallin and Kaarle Nordenstreng, and will adjust sail based on that.

Also the arrangements for intensified dissemination of the results have started to let the professional, academic and public audiences to get the load of the observations, conclusions and policy recommendations by the Mediadelcom project.

For more listen to the podcast episode 30.

Photo by Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”.

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Mediadelcom consortium meets in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Photo from Pixabay

The Mediadelcom consortium meets this week in Dubrovnik, Croatia to discuss the issues of WP3. This contains the fuzzy set approach in qualitative comparative data analysis, which the consortium is setting up for further research.

Also, the publication plans are under discussion. As to the Grant Application, there will be two books published during the project.

In parallel, the 10th Graduate Spring School & Research Conference on Comparative Media Systems is running to cover the topics of deliberative communication. This is co-organized with the ECREA CEE Network & Mediadelcom, titled “Media System Characteristics as Risks or Opportunities for Deliberative Communication”.

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Mediadelcom sets to case studies

Six months into the Mediadelcom project, the consortium members met in person for the first time in the second week of September in Tallinn, Estonia.

Three countries – Latvia, Estonia, and Bulgaria – had performed pilot studies to set common grounds for the fine-tuning of the operational variables and other aspects of the research methodology.

As Marcus Kreutler (DEU) told in the Podcast Episode #7, the pilot studies served as a reality check on what works well for the future study and what still needs some refinement. “The theoretical teams – who basically wrote the manual for the case study teams – have much clearer idea what works in their ‘recipe’ and what simply did not work in the reality of one country. This is a loud alarm bell when it comes to applying it to other countries.”

The consortium members interviewed for the podcast episode asserted that the discussions on the pilot studies provided much clearer grounds for combining theoretical work with case studies in practice, including searching and synthesizing the existing bibliography in risk analysis.

Over the course of four days, the teams discussed case studies to be drafted under WPs 2 and 3 by the beginning of 2022. The research methodology and structure of the studies were specified. As explained by the project coordinator Prof. Halliki Harro-Loit, the first case study should provide answers related to the potentiality of media transformations in 14 countries. The second, a comparative case study provides a critical analysis of the risks and opportunities for media transformations in Europe in general.

The project meeting in Tallinn ran parallel in the assembly hall and over the Internet.

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Mediadelcom people meet in person for the first time

Tallinn old town. Photo by Kaupo Kalda, visittallinn.ee

September brings us closer to autumn. In the global muddle of COVID-19, it has been unclear if Mediadelcom participants could gather in person. It is now clear that it is possible to get together: the consortium meeting (workshop) will take place in Tallinn (Estonia) on 7-11 September.

Through four days, the teams will discuss case studies. Three countries – Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria – have performed pilot studies to set grounds for the fine-tuning of the operational variables and other aspects of the methodology. Other discussion matters include how to apply fuzzy-set methodology and diachronic approach, how to relate the case studies and bibliographical database, and how to apply the agency approach.

Mediadelcom was launched in March 2021 and the members of the teams long  to see each other face to face to better perform networking tasks and get to know the colleagues all over Europe.  Further details will be reported soon.

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Coming up online conference: The pocketed media system – Not so soft censorship in Central-Eastern Europe

For the past year, Mertek Media Monitor (Hungary, a partner also for the Mediadelcom) has been led by Memo98 (Slovakia), MediaForum (Czechia) and ActiveWatch (Romania) to examine the media policies of these four countries.

They all used the same methods to analyse the phenomena of the media system. The researchers were looking for answers to questions such as
how do state advertising appear in the media market?
what is the system, financing and content of public service media?
how difficult is it to get information as a journalist?
is there evidence of bias in the media authority?

The coming up is the closing event of the research. Thus, the organizers urge to join it and be informed about the results and the policy recommendations. The event will be held in English. The research was funded by National Endowment for Democracy.

When: 29th of June 2021. 10:00 (CEST, UTC+2)
Where:  Zoom
Registration: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_5tvwSmLJSZiRCtm84lekEg

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Specifics of the legal and ethics domain under WP1: transcript of the podcast episode #3

Mediadelcom podcasts started to introduce in more detail the domains, which as the hypothesis suggests create the most of risks and opportunities for media. These domains are: legal and ethical, journalism, media competencies, media usage patterns.

Podcast episode #3 provided some insights into the legal-ethical domain.

Contributors of the Podcast #3. Snapshot from the Teams screen.

Prof. Halliki Harro-Loit, the Mediadelcom project coordinator, provided the general introduction into the particular domain saying:

The legal and ethical domain provides a normative frame for the other domains of journalism, media usage and competency. It’s also true that legal regulation and the accountability system have both been described by previous research teams. Still, this domain is important for the risk analysis, especially because we have to check first if there is a legal basis for deliberative communication. And then, of course, it’s more even more important how the legal regulation is implemented in national contexts.

Marcus Kreutler from the Technical University of Dortmund, Germany, has been working on the aspects and variables for the accountability (largely self-regulation) topic, for which he provided an abstract:

Our domain of regulation on the whole is concerned with what the media and what journalists can or should do. This concerns mainly two questions. First, what can be published, in legal terms, that would be a freedom of expression. And second, how to gather the material to be published, in legal terms, that is freedom of information.

Liberal constitutions try not to interfere with what can be said or what can be published for very good reasons. And there are only few exceptions defined by law. But that doesn’t mean that everything else is acceptable or helpful for the society or from the perspective of media ethics. And this is where media accountability actually comes into play. We are looking at non-state mechanisms that try to hold the media accountable to society, which they are supposed to work for.

Ideally, media accountability is filling that relatively huge space that is free of legal regulation. But it can also be seen as a step ahead to avoid legal interference. When media accountability instruments are working, legal action in that field is simply unnecessary. That leaves a kind of freedom that is actually desirable. If we’re looking at it historically, institutions like voluntary press councils or ombudsmen were often an attempt to prevent external legal interference. These statutory institutions or state institutions could govern what the media are supposed to do. So it can be a way to safeguard the autonomy of the media. It doesn’t mean that the reel of journalism or media ethics is necessarily narrower on Twitter than the legal framework is. To give you an example, journalism ethics demand that journalistic sources are protected by the journalists. But penal laws, on the other hand, might require to identify these sources.

The mechanisms of media accountability differ in each country context. So this is an important area of research within the Mediadelcom project. What we are trying to do here is to look at both agents within but also outside journalism to get a complete picture. So if we are looking at media accountability mechanisms, from a very narrow point of view, we are basically concentrating on journalistic agents and mechanisms that are in place inside journalism. But of course, the picture can be broadened to have a look at other agents who also play a role here.

If you think of some countries, particularly in Northern Europe where we have a very highly institutionalized framework of media self-regulation, of media accountability, we are quickly thinking of press councils, or established codes of ethics or ombudsmen that work either for the industry as a whole or for single media houses.

But there could be other means as well. Aspects like media-critical coverage, both inside journalism, but also outside journalism that play an important role. The risk really lies in the mixture of mechanisms in daily action. If you think of press councils again, a council to deal with audience complaints was introduced pretty early in the United Kingdom, for example, but it failed to be very stable in the long run. So other mechanisms could really come into play.

The Greek team from ELIAMEP has been working on the legal variables. Anna Kandyla spoke about these considerations.

For identifying risks and opportunities for deliberative communication in the legal domain, we have chosen to follow the fundamental rights perspective. Fundamental rights do provide the necessary basis for the democratic process for citizens to be able to take part in decision-making to exercise control over it in democracies. Fundamental rights provide some consistency, when it comes to approaching various legal areas.

Within the framework of the Mediadelcom project, we have decided to take free speech as the backbone, but to dissect the freedom to freely express opinions from the right to seek, receive and impart information. We single out freedom of expression as the first conceptual variable in the study of the legal domain, and freedom of information as the second. Freedom of expression will be covered through a set of operational variables that we are developing, aspects that are related to the freedom to express ideas, views and opinions. Freedom of information – this conceptual variable will focus on elements specifically related to access to public information.

We will base assessing risk and opportunities on two criteria. The first is the existence of regulatory safeguards that create an enabling environment for the exercise of each of these freedoms in the countries covered by our project. And so we’re not merely interested in the formal existence of particular provisions but whether these provisions are really creating conditions for exercising these freedoms. And of course, international codes and conventions and other standards of good practice are relevant for forming this evaluation.

Still, assessing risks and opportunities is not just a matter of evaluating the relevant legal codes. Sometimes we have them looking good on paper but, in practice, they are not enforced. Thus, the implementation of the rule of law has important implications for freedoms of expression and information. Hence, our second criterion focuses on the effective application of rules and standards. In assessing risks and opportunities, we try to take both dimensions into account, and see how they interact and what the end result would be.

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Report on sustainable journalism in Sub-Saharan Africa to be launched

The Embassy of Sweden in South-Africa together with partners will arrange a seminar launching a policy brief developed by a team of Swedish and African researchers and media practitioners who have jointly examined how independent journalism can be not only a leverage for democracy but also contribute to sustainable societies. And how media itself can develop new models for its own sustainability. One of these partners is also the MEDIADELCOM consortium member – Jönköping Universty, Sweden.

Meet the rapporteurs and follow the discussions around a new way of looking at journalism – called sustainable journalism, discussing about the future of journalism in a society marked by a lack of sustainability. Mark your calendars to watch the seminar online, held on Friday, 23 September 2021 between 14:00 – 15:00 hrs CEST/SAST Stockholm, Berlin, Brussels, Pretoria (UTC+2).

Online transmissions in social-media channels, in @fojo_int, and #SwedenInSA .

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New book: Comparing Post-socialist Media Systems

The Croatian partners of MEDIADELCOM from the Zagreb University together with the Inter-University Centre Dubrovnik (IUC), and the Department of Communication, University of Copenhagen, are launching a new book, Comparing Post-socialist Media Systems: the Case of Southeast Europe.

This book explains divergent media system trajectories in the countries in Southeast Europe and challenges the presumption that the common socialist experience critically influences a common outcome in media development after democratic transformations by showing different remote and proximate configuration of conditions that influence their contemporary shape.

This is a conceptually rich, methodologically sophisticated, and interdisciplinary analysis of south-east European media systems that explains continuity, change and divergence between the six cases. It deserves to be read not only by scholars of the region but by those considering how to approach more generally the study of comparative media systems and cultures.

John Downey, Professor of Comparative Media Analysis, Loughborough University

Applying an innovative longitudinal set-theoretical methodological approach, the book contributes to the theory of media systems with a novel theoretical framework for the comparative analysis of post-socialist media systems. This theory builds on the theory of historical institutionalism and the notion of critical junctures and path dependency in searching for an explanation for similarities or differences among media systems in the Eastern European region.

Extending the understanding of media systems beyond a political journalism focus, this book is a valuable contribution to the literature on comparative media systems in the areas of media systems studies, political science, Southeast and Central European studies, post-socialist studies and communication studies.

The launch took place on Apr 15, 2021 at 04:00 PM CEST – Sarajevo, Skopje, Zagreb.
The event was streamed live and can be catched up at the IUC YouTube channel

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Podcast transcription: what is deliberative communication?

Prof. Daniel Hallin (USA)
Prof. Lars Nord (Sweden)

This piece provides the reflections on ‘deliberative communication by professor Lars Nord (Sweden) and professor Daniel Hallin (USA) who addressed the topic on the MEDIADELCOM kick-off meeting and also in the MEDIADELCOM’s podcast episode No. 2. Subsequently, we present their talk in writing.

The acronymic name MEDIADELCOM stands for media deliberative communication. In the last podcast episode, we disclosed the concept behind that expression. This is the core concept of the entire research.

The kick-off meeting was held last week, which set the sails for the Horizon 2020 research project for the next three years. Over the Teams communication platform, the inceptive discussions took place for four days. One of the first ideas there to be defined was ‘deliberative communication’.

Lars Nord, professor in Political Communication at the Mid-Sweden University, elaborated the notion of deliberative communication in the context of MEDIADELCOM research at the kick-off meeting. He also made a brief popular overview at the key tack of the project for the podcast.

He said, “As this project deals with media related risks and opportunities for deliberative communication, I think it is very important to ask ourselves what we mean by deliberative communication. I think it is a core concept of the whole project and needs some reflection.

An analogy to explain the project is ‘democracy’. All the countries each one has free and fair elections. People are voting for ‘their’ parties, and then get governments based on the results of the election. This is, of course, a key sign of democracy.

However, when you are talking about democracy with communication using the adjective deliberative for both, you not only take into account the voting process. But also the reasoning. And the arguing about different ideas, and about some of the great theories on deliberative democracy and communication. They suggest that you don’t only participate in voting, but you are also meeting other people for conversations about what is going on in the society. You have equal access to these public arenas, where you can discuss societal topics. And, you’re there for your own interest, not representing other of society’s interests or pressure groups. Such conversations really witness both working deliberative communication and deliberative democracy.

So in my view, these very high demands on such democracies mean that in reality, you probably won’t find any country in the world today to meet all these standards. But on the other hand, I think it’s realistic to say that this is a goal to strive for. You should try to become more deliberative in democracy, because it really improves its quality.

The media probably plays a great role here. If media only reports about political alternatives, and about political candidates, and mirrors the political conflicts in society, media do not really meet standards of deliberative communication. You should also expect the media to provide access to the arenas for the people on equal terms. You should ask media to encourage public discussions about current events. So you demand much more of the medium within this deliberative communication framework.

I think our project is very interesting in this aspect that, of course, we don’t expect to find the perfect democracy among the involved countries. But we will certainly try to identify what media processes actually improve deliberative communication and what risks there are for reaching it. Thus, we are not looking for an example that deliberative communication actually exists in. But we would like to map the conditions across countries and the possibilities for going in the direction of deliberative communication. I think that would be one of the biggest benefits of this project.”

On the third day of the kick-off meeting, MEDIADELCOM’s advisory board spoke up. One of the distinguished members on the board is Daniel Hallin, Professor in Communication at the University of California at San Diego. In his video address to the consortium, inter alia, he briefly provided the American perspective to the issue.

He said, “We had an extraordinary last year with the pandemic, the black lives matter protests and general social mobilization over issues of racism and the attempt by Trump to overturn the electoral process following his defeat. All these historic events produced a tremendous amount of discussion over the role of journalism.

One of my best-known contributions to the study of deliberative communication, the one that was referenced frequently during the discussions of the last year, is my schema of the three spheres of news, the spheres of Consensus, Legitimate Controversy and Deviance. It is most often interpreted in the form of an argument that the sphere of Legitimate Controversy is too narrow, and excludes too many points of view. And this is often indeed an important problem. But with the crises of last year, I think we can see more clearly that the sphere of consensus and the forms of journalism that contribute to building it, are actually very important: it is very important that society be able to reach consensus on certain kinds of issues—on a scientifically based response to the pandemic or the climate crisis; on the rejection of racism; on the rules of the game of democratic politics.

It is also legitimate that there are boundaries to the sphere of Legitimate Controversy, which become deeply problematic when powerful political actors refuse to respect them. And for journalists, it is not clear that just reporting the news accurately in the traditional way is an adequate response to the kinds of threats to deliberative communication we face today – in the US, there is a lot of interesting debate going on now about the meaning of “objectivity”, which, of course, has for so long been central to American journalistic professionalism and journalists are really rethinking that.

I would add finally here that, although there is a lot of reflection going on within journalism, I think that journalists themselves cannot solve the problems that we currently face. We have to understand their role within the whole context of what is going on in the political system.”

The 4-day kick-off meeting officially launched the project into three years of research. As a result, we will hear much more findings related to ‘deliberative communications’. Our website will consistently provide all of it, bit-by-bit.

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First podcast episode sheds popular light upon MEDIADELCOM

MEDIADELCOM has released the first podcast episode. It talks about the project’s intentions and goals.

Halliki Harro-Loit, the project coordinator and the professor in journalism of the University of Tartu (Estonia) reveals the main characteristics of MEDIADELCOM, the participating countries and teams, and the theoretical background. The latter is related to four main domains, which as the project’s hypothesis suggests create most of the risks and opportunities to be detected: legal and ethical regulation; media related competencies of both the journalists and the lay public; media usage patterns; and journalism news production.

In the podcast episode, representatives from two of the projects 17 teams express their expectations for the project. Peter Berglez, a professor in media and communication science from the Jönköping University (Sweden) says he hopes the project will produce “very important research about media and journalism development in European context”. On the one hand the consortium will make use of pre-existing multiple research on various aspects of journalism while, on the other hand, it will use the findings to establish understanding of the development of media in the EU from an economic point of view and from the democratic perspective.

Regarding the consortium, Peter Berglez says, “I have very great expectations concerning the network of researchers and scholars this project builds upon. It will also pave the way for a lot of good research in the future.”

Lenka Waschková Císařová, assistent professor from Masaryk University (Brno, CZE) also looks for a common working field for researchers coming from the CEE countries. “I hope that we will finally cooperate in Central and Eastern Europe because I know several colleagues from projects, conferences, papers, and books but we have not had an opportunity to work together. So I am glad that we finally meet in this project.”

“I think that it is a brilliant idea not to collect new data but rather work with the existing data,” Lenka Waschková Císařová adds. She feels, CEE countries have much information about themselves but due to divergence in media systems, policies and even languages, media researchers in the CEE countries do not know much about what has been studied or what kind of knowledge has been accumulated by others.

“The media situation pushes research to focus more on longitudinal understanding of media development in different countries,” Lenka Waschková Císařová says. This is the foundation of the overall context.

Peter Berglez notes that currently “the concept of professional journalism is in many ways questioned. … So what we need to explore under that, is the media development, the relation between the traditional journalism and other types of practices, which somehow represent journalism as well, or the big global platforms and social media.”

The kick-off meeting for the MEDIADELCOM will take place over four days from 23-26 March 2021. The project coordinator explains that as the meeting has to be held online and bring the project’s specifics to everyone’s attention, the duration of each day are planned to be short – 4 hours max.

In the early bird mood, however, two virtual meetings have already taken place – the say-hello-meeting and the work-package 1 meeting. Halliki Harro-Loit expects the next general workshop in September to take place in person.

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The website is under construction

The current webpage is under construction. Thus, you may witness some pecularities during the development work. All items on the webpage are subjected to change.

Also we would appreciate, if you let us know about possible errors, shortfalls and suggestions at projectmediadelcom.eu.

The MEDIADELCOM is carried out by 17 teams representing 14 EU countries. The project pays special attention to CEE.

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