Hereby, we reproduce some sections of the Grant Application (that later were annexed to the Grant Agreement), which lay out the overall concept of the project and describe the departure features of it. These are sections 1 (Excellence), 2 (Impact), and 3 (Implementation). The rest of the sections – 4. Consortium, 5. Ethics and Security – has been omitted, as these issues have been exhibited elsewhere on the webpage. Also, detailed budgetary matters have been omitted from the excerpt of the Contract Agreement and, if relevant, reproduced on other related pages of this webpage.
MEDIADELCOM endeavours to contribute to the enhancement of European integration, social cohesion and consequently – Europeanization.
The popularity of ultra-right and populist political forces in European societies demonstrate that the unity of European nations and their common goals are not self-evident. Informed decision making in contemporary democratic societies is being challenged.
MEDIADELCOM consortium argues that European political and cultural spaces evolve best if specific policies enhance the conditions for deliberative communication. The Consortium will work out a methodology enabling the assessment and forecast of the risks and opportunities for deliberative communication emerging in the process of media transformation in 2000-2020.
There is no holistic approach to media related Risks and Opportunities (ROs); media studies and data are dispersed, restricting the evaluation of ROs for deliberative communication in European countries; there are no evidence-based holistic scenarios for prognosing media development in European societies.
The overall objective of MEDIADELCOM is to develop a diagnostic tool for policy makers, educators, media critical bodies and institutions, as well as for media experts and journalists, which enables the provision of holistic assessment of risks and opportunities concerning deliberative communication and consequently social cohesion in Europe.
- develop a model for holistic analysis of the ROs emerging within the process of media transformation in Europe;
- assess the sufficiency of existing research and data necessary for making knowledge based forecasts about European media landscape development trends;
- generate a novel method, based on motivational modelling and agent-based simulation for outlining scenarios to predict media related ROs.
By assembling and synthesizing existing dispersed research, and modelling multiple scenarios will create an instrument for media risk prediction and management.
The popularity of ultra-right and populist political forces in European societies, especially in Central and Eastern European post-socialist countries (e.g., Poland, Hungary, Czechia, Slovakia) as well as Brexit demonstrate that the unity of European nations and their common goals are not self-evident.1 These developments sound alarm bells about the vulnerability and risks concerning informed decision making in contemporary democratic societies.2 Within the past two decades of technological and economic transformations, it has become clear the market cannot support the level of journalism/news media, especially investigative journalism that would serve society’s democratic needs.3 The Call4 specifically addresses the need for providing alternative policy options “in order to mitigate or support these transformations with a view to enhancing the diversity of cultures and social bond [and] the existing or nascent social and cultural strengths of Europe.” MEDIADELCOM responds to this request arguing European political and cultural spaces evolve best if specific policies enhance the conditions for deliberative communication.5 In a mediated society, the latter depends on the news media’s ability to provide truthfulinformation and to carry out argumentative discussions with the aim of solving problems and reaching (at least temporary) agreements.6 Therefore, it is important to detect the risks and opportunities that determine the news media’s ability to provide necessary information, as well as influence the electorate’s engagement in deliberative communication.7 MEDIADELCOM will work out operative scenarios of media development for policy makers and media experts, which will enable them to foresee and assess these risks and opportunities (ROs), and to make informed decisions.
MEDIADELCOM’s problem setting is threefold:
- Although the existing research on media transformations includes a strong structural crises discourse (e.g., platform monopolies, degrading journalism, proliferating misinformation and disinformation etc.), there is no holistic approach to media related risks and opportunities (ROs). MEDIADELCOM focuses on a structured assessment of these risks and opportunities, developing a
novel holistic approach that enables focusing on relationships between news production and consumption, as well as contextual factors related to normative regulation and media literacy.
- MEDIADELCOM will fulfil a knowledge gap by organizing existing dispersed studies and data into a grid that enables evaluating ROs for deliberative communication in European countries (“what we
know and what we do not know”).
- As for the climate change discourse, democratic decision making requires awareness of possibilities and outcomes of different choices. MEDIADELCOM will work out the best and the worst scenarios of media development in different European societies from the perspective of deliberative communication for democratic governance.
1 Bremmer, I. (2018). These five countries show the European far-right is growing in power. Time, 13.09.2018. Risk report. https://time.com/5395444/europe-far-right-italy-salvini-sweden-france-germany/; Bershidsky, L. (2019). Europe’s far right has stalled. In 2019, its popularity flatlined and every electoral success was matched by a defeat. Bloomberg Opinion, 31.12.2019.
2 Porpora, D. & Sekalala S. (2019). Truth, Communication and Democracy. International Journal of Communication 13, 938–955.
3 Pickard, V. (2019.) Democracy without Journalism. Confronting the misinformation society. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 164.
4 Socioeconomic and Cultural Transformations in the Context of the fourth industrial revolution
5 E.g., Englund, T. (2006). Deliberative communication: a pragmatist proposal. Curriculum Studies 38(5), 503-520; Bayer, M.J.(2018). Deliberation in the Lab. The Effect of Communication on Information Sharing, Cooperation, and Consensus. Dissertation zur Erlangung des akademischen Grades eines Doktors der Sozialwissenschaften. University of Konstanz; Harcourt, A.J. (2017). European Media Policy. In Nussbaum J. & Simpson S. (Eds.) Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication, Oxford.: Oxford University Press.
6 Wurff, R., Swert, K.D & Lecheler S. (2016). News Quality and Public Opinion: The Impact of Deliberative Quality of News Media on Citizens’ Argument Repertoire, International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 30(2), 233–256.
7 Harcourt A.J. (2015). Media plurality: what can the European Union do? In Barnett, S., Townend, J. (Eds.) Media Power and Plurality: from Hyperlocal to High-level Policy, London: Palgrave.
MEDIADELCOM’s research will be guided by the following model
The departure point for the project was the two-part question: In which domains, and in which ways do existing research depict the risks and opportunities (ROs) regarding the agency of news media in supporting deliberative communication. A broad preliminary review of relevant published studies8 and reports9 on the transformations in the news media and journalism during the past two decades revealed four domains, conditional on each other, where the risks and opportunities discourse is most clearly identifiable (see Figure 1). The driving wheels of social acceleration – the technological innovations and growth oriented economy – have brought about a whole range of changes in communication and corresponding forms of life,10 thus generating ROs for deliberative communication through altering the key elements of four media domains.
Figure 1 demonstrates how the four domains and key elements form a model for the holistic approach to ROs, emerging in the course and as consequences of media transformations and technological advancement. The model is explained in detail in chapter 1.3. (Concept and methodology).
The domains and key elements are:
- Journalism as a part of the news media industry and business. Various transformations in the (news) media economy and news production process generate ROs for journalistic professionalism, journalists’ job market, and content producers’ competitiveness in global, national and (hyper)local news markets. They also create ROs for the role and position of public service media.
- Media related competences (knowledge, skills). Competences of professional news producers and competences of news/media users affect the sustainability of both journalism and the means of media usage.
- Media usage patterns. Availability (or deficit) of the knowledge on the changes in media usage and in citizens’ news engagement affects decision makers’ ability to make informed resolutions. News media’s ability or failure to provide reliable information and analysis of facts and developments affects the ability of citizens/electorate to make informed choices. Technological innovations enable media companies to acquire various data (e.g., metrics of visitors to their online versions) and keep the data secret for business purposes.
- Legal and ethical regulation of the media and the use of data. ROs appear in connection with: Data protection legislation at EU and national levels; informational self-determination; freedom of information and expression; media accountability; access to information.
8 High-impact journals on media and communication: e.g., Journalism Studies, Online Journalism, Journalism, Journalism Practice; European Journal of Communication; European Journal of Cultural Studies; International Journal of Communication Quarterly; News Media and Society, NORDICOM – have been cross-studied in order to find RO related research.
9 Council of Europe’s Recommendation on public service media governance 2012; Recommendation CM/Rec (2011)7 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on a New Notion of Media. See Kaul, A., (2012). Technology and corporate scope: Firm and rival innovation as antecedents of corporate transactions. Strategic Management Journal 33 (4), 347-367; Chapman, A. (2016). Digital games as history: How videogames
represent the past and offer access to historical practice. New York: Routledge; Tomljenović, R. (2018), cf footnote 83; Morganti, L., Ranaivoson, H., Mazzoli, E.M. (2018). MediaRoad Vision Paper –The Future of Media Innovation – European Research Agenda Beyond 2020, MediaRoad H2020 Project.
10 Rosa, H. (2015). Social Acceleration. A new theory of modernity. New York: Columbia University Press, p.31.
The overall objective of MEDIADELCOM is to develop a diagnostic tool (multiple scenario building model) for policy makers, educators, media critical bodies and institutions, as well as for media experts and journalists, which enables the provision of holistic assessment of risks and opportunities concerning deliberative communication and consequently social cohesion in Europe.
The MEDIADELCOM diagnostic tool enables drawing multiple risks and opportunity scenarios of the European media landscape at large, as well as the development of media landscapes in individual countries. Conceptual and operational variables for multiple scenarios will be created by thoroughly examining the diachronic and synchronic changes in news media ecosystems in 14 European countries11 with special attention to Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).
In the CEE countries, during the period of transitional reforms in the early 1990s, the revamp of old media structures and emergence of democratic institutions occurred simultaneously. The preconditions for democratic governance (rule of law, political pluralism, freedom of speech and information) did not yet exist at the time the media reforms started. The situation differed a lot from the established Western democracies, in which these qualities existed before the emergence of media.12 Inclusion of these countries is important as it enables explaining and comparing divergent media and research policy paths that have differently influenced the development of deliberative communication in Europe. The achievement of the General Objective is split into four Specific Objectives as outlined below.
Specific objective 1 (SO1): Detecting and describing configurations of the key elements (potential sources of ROs) of the four domains, which induce ROs for deliberative communication in 14 European countries (WP 2), and formulating conceptual and operational variables for revealing interrelations between the elements as well as the domains (WP 1).
Specific objective 2 (SO2): Mapping and critical analysis of the ROs related research and data (2000-2020), enabling the assessment of the quality of the research on media related ROs, as well as the
potential of national expertise in different EU countries. (WPs 2 and 3)
11 Although MEDIADELCOM includes 15 partner countries, 14 are included in the study (see also footnote 67).
12 Final Report Summary – MDCEE (Media and Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe: Qualities of Democracy, Qualities of Media). https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/230113/reporting
Within the past decades, the field of media studies has produced an increasing amount of data and research concerning media transformations; a growing number of text and audience research methods are being experimented. As a result, the existing knowledge is voluminous but fragmented and dispersed13. In addition, a lot of research results are disseminated only in national languages14.
Involving experts from 14 different countries, not only internationally available data and research, but also the studies in national languages will be included and examined. MEDIADELCOM relies on media scholars who have knowledge of media related risks and opportunities in their countries and who have excellent experience in comparative studies.
Special attention is devoted to methodological innovations and efficiency in data saturated media usage monitoring. Comparative analysis of media monitoring and research, especially in the leading media research countries (e.g., Sweden, Germany and Austria as exemplary cases for this project) allows MEDIADELCOM to determine the ultimate minimum of media data and information necessary for ROs analysis.
Creating new knowledge through the assembling and meta-analysis of existing data and research MEDIADELCOM will provide valuable expertise for the assessment of the quality and methodology of the research and data in the fields related to the risks and opportunities in news media transformations crossnationally. The model below (Figure 2) will guide the implementation of Specific Objective No 2.
13 e.g., Günther & Domahidi (2017). What Communication Scholars Write About: An Analysis of 80 Years of Research in High-Impact Journals, International Journal of Communication 11, 3051–3071; Hamelink, C. (2018) Communication research: resignation or optimism? Javnost: The Public, 25 (1–2), 218 –225; Kraidy, M.M. (2018) Global Media Studies: A Critical Agenda. Journal of Communication, 68, 337-346; Mihelj, S. & Stanyer, S. (2019) Theorizing media, communication and social change: towards a processual approach Media, Culture & Society. 41(4) 482– 501.
14 Štětka, V. (2015). Stepping out of the shadow: internationalizing communication research in CEE, CEECOM International
Conference, Zagreb 12-14 June 2015.
Specific objective 3 (SO3): Describing and analysing nation-specific paths and Europe-wide trends of the development of the European media landscape by using diachronic comparative approach (WP3).
The diachronic comparative approach will be combined with outlining and analysing various configurations and interrelations among the four domains of potential media related ROs (Figure 1).
Specific objective 4 (SO4): Composing a diagnostic tool by assembling relevant conditions and variables derived from ROs matrices. Using this tool, potential future scenarios and their outcomes will be outlined to illuminate plausible future developments of media landscapes on national and European levels, which either support or imperil deliberative communication, and consequently, social cohesion (WPs 4 and 5).
1.2. Relation to the work programme
1.2.1. Correspondence to the Challenge and Scope of the call
MEDIADELCOM directly addresses following Challenges and Scope expected in the TRANSFORMATIONS-10-2020 call text, as outlined in the table below.
Table 2. MEDIADELCOM’s responses to the challenges of the Call.
|Challenge of the Call||MEDIADELCOM’s response to the challenges of the Call|
|Main Challenge: “Gap exists in knowledge about the nature and implications for Europe as a whole and at the national and regional levels of recent transformation in the European media landscape”.||In order to fulfil the knowledge gap concerning the consequences of media transformations on local, European and global levels, MEDIADELCOM applies a holistic ROs approach (Figure 1) in order to reveal the particular nature and implications of media transformations in the 14 participating countries. The country case studies provide input for further cross-country analysis which enables us to distinguish universal and unique ROs on the European level.|
|Specific challenges||MEDIADELCOM’s specific response|
|1. “Do processes of Europeanization and localisation contradict or complement each other?”||MEDIADELCOM’s approach discloses risks and opportunities concerning global, national and local media transformations. Multi agent modelling and finally Scenarios developed by MEDIADELCOM will demonstrate possible tendencies that either support, contradict or complement the paths of Europeanization and localization concerning European countries and the complexities of these paths on the European level.|
|2. How are major transformations in the media landscape affecting the evolution of a European political and cultural space?||MEDIADELCOM stems from a holistic approach to the major transformations in the media landscape: technological, regulative, economic and cultural changes are interrelated; critical junctures are partly universal but also partly unique both culturally and temporarily. MEDIADELCOM defines “affecting” practically: the project reveals configurations of ROs in different national contexts and thereon at the European level.|
|3. How are media representations of major European political and cultural issues (like refugees, migration, religions, common history, geopolitical and economic crises, terrorism, sport, elections, etc.) affected by new modes of production, consumption, and by new trends of ownership and control over media content?||MEDIADELCOM does not specifically focus on representation analysis but is open to co-operation with any other projects and will map major ROs that are related to the biased reporting practices as well as massive disinformation and misinformation spread in social media on important issues related to economic crises, migration, identities, etc.|
MEDIADELCOM provides critical analysis concerning the research potential (expertise and methods) of media representations in various nations states.
As the control over media is one risk area concerning media transformations MEDIADELCOM will provide input for representation analysis.
|4. How have global and European media landscape impacted on specifically European political and cultural markers, symbols and identity elements and on perceptions and attitudes towards Europe?||MEDIADELCOM forecasts sustainability of European news journalism by taking into consideration the growing economic power of global platforms, political polarization and populism as well as fragmentation of audiences. Concerning European political and cultural markers, symbols and identity elements, MEDIADELCOM focuses on the role of professional journalism and competencies of media users.|
MEDIADELCOM does not carry out specific reception studies, although the second objective of the study asks about the resources and methodologies concerning perception studies. MEDIADELCOM stems from the idea that news perception is related to competencies of media users and proposes practical didactical opportunities for empowering news consumers to assess and select news.
|5. To what extent does the European media landscape foster or hamper the European project and societal cohesion?||MEDIADELCOM defines deliberative communication as one of the underlying conditions for the evolution of a common European political and cultural space as well as societal cohesion. MEDIADELCOM therefore focuses on ROs that enable or hamper the role of media in deliberative communication.|
The core idea of MEDIADELCOM is to synthesize available data and by using metadata create new knowledge for:
1) forecasting media development paths that rise risk potential for opinion polarisation and alienation of citizens;
2) forecasting paths and policy actions that enforce deliberative communication and consequently social cohesion.
|Scope of the call||MEDIADELCOM’s response to the scope conditions|
|Research on this topic needs to draw on regional, national and European data sources to analyse transformations of the European media landscape from the turn of the 21st century to the current day in the European media landscape in its global context. Where relevant, the research may put recent transformations in historical perspectives, including comparisons with other past ‘media revolutions’.||The SO2 of MEDIADELCOM provides analysis on different European and national data sources as well as the creators and owners of this data and knowledge.|
The SO2 of MEDIADELCOM is implemented by using the case study method (country case studies). A historical comparative approach enables pointing out consequences of junctures that influence the ROs matrix of a certain country.
|Beyond analysing media production, ownership and eventual censorship, the research should look into the patterns of representation, dissemination and consumption or usage at a certain level of|
disaggregation, in terms of socio-economic categories and European countries and regions.
|MEDIADELCOM not only goes beyond analysis of media production, ownership and censorship, but focuses on tensions between sustainability of journalism and media consumption – by taking into consideration two important contextual domains: media and information regulation and competencies of journalists and users that influence the final ROs’ matrices of different European countries and Europe generally.|
|It should study the contradiction or compatibility of an emerging European Media landscape with an increasing localisation of the content of European Media.||MEDIADELCOM will analyse potential ROs concerning competition between global corporations and local news producers and how this influences media usage and consequently ROs for deliberative communication.|
|The research should provide new knowledge including data concerning the evolution of the spatial and social, including gendered, distribution of media consumption and use.||SO2 provides an overview on new methodologies and data owners/providers concerning media consumption data.|
Special attention is placed on the surplus or deficit of previous and current research, methodologies and data collection system(s) for generating matrices on national and European level.
|This action should study the impacts of the deep transformations of the media landscape on the prospects and evolution of a common European political and cultural space as well as on the media representations and narratives of major European political and cultural issues, markers, symbols and identity elements.||MEDIADELCOM approaches the deep transformations of the media from the perspective of ROs. MEDIADELCOM proposes that the holistic approach to media transformations that take into consideration the news production, media usage, normative context and the competencies, producers and users will eventually influence the media representations, narratives and the reception of European major political and cultural issues.|
1.3. Concept and approach
1.3.1. Overall concept
Transformations in media production, distribution, consumption and professions have been triggered by several related junctures, e.g., the exponential rise of social media since 2002; changes in the advertising and (news)media economy combined with globalisation of media ownership and the economic crisis in 2008/2009; the rapid spread of smartphones since 2007/2008 accompanied by the enhancement of their technological capacity; European new data regulation since 2018/2019 etc. While the technological and global nature of these transformations is transnational, changes in national media ecosystems should be approached as contingent historical processes where “the earlier phases are causally linked with the present phase, and the present phase comprises the causally determining conditions for the next phase”15. Using the historical comparative approach16 the processes of change and continuity in media ecosystems as well as the consequences of junctures that influence the ROs matrices of particular countries will be analysed.
The main concept of MEDIADELCOM is based on a synthetic review of ‘media related risks and opportunities discourse’ in the studies on media transformations and innovations. The risk discourses are usually related to information disorder or fake news, business models of news, precariousness of journalism labour, decreasing autonomy and media freedom, low levels of media literacy, echo chambers, and increasing platform monopolies, just to name a few.
For MEDIADELCOM we have synthesized approaches from 9 fields of research (journalism studies, media economics and management, media consumption/user research; media literacy; media and communication ethics, information and media regulation, political communication, media and communication policy and systems, sociology of media and communication) into the four ROs domains (see Figure 1).
In addition, the ROs concerning sufficiency and deficiency of research and knowledge are taken into consideration. Perpetual changes in the media that researchers are trying to grasp, as well as the pressure of academic publishing have resulted in a high fragmentation of research topics and economic rationalisation since the 1990s, and turned into rapid development since the beginning of the 21st century.17 Hence, the overall risk is related to dispersed and uneven knowledge about what the consequences of transformations are to news media ecosystems, and what would be the possible opportunities of innovation.
MEDIADELCOM will also pay attention to the institutional position and recognition, differentiation of topical-methodological subfields and composition of available resources (cognitive and material dimension) that define activities of research and knowledge production concerning media at national and European levels.18
The four domains (Figure 1) were created with the aim of providing a structure for analytical conceptual variables, which will be further developed into operational variables. The interaction between these domains accounts for changes supporting or undermining deliberative communication.
The four ROs domains of MEDIADELCOM’s approach
1. Journalism frames the ROs, which are related to transformations19 in news production and dissemination, the business of journalism, and journalism as a profession. The “umbrella concept” relates to the question of the sustainability of journalism20, possible agency of news media acting as the “watchdog” of national power holders, and as a sociocultural glue that holds together dialogue between societal groups, institutions and citizens.
By conceptual variables, we mean the topic areas, which describe sustainable journalism. The conceptual variables include: sustainability of the media and news economy; global, national and local news producers; public service media; online and multi-platform news production; automated journalism; journalists’ working conditions, job security, and role perception; gender issues in journalism; credibility and transparency of news, conciliatory journalism.21 Increasing competition between local, national and global content producers is the reason for adding two conceptual variables that extend the media economy topic concerning the size of the market and localism. First: large, medium, small and minute language media markets face the risk that a monopolistic or oligopolistic market or even an overly fragmented market lead to the lower quality of news coverage. The size of the media market determines the size of the journalists’ labour market.
Second: local professional media are an inevitable part of local community life22 because the local audiences expect closeness to the local media – they prefer local content and local news23. The ROs conceptual variable asks the question, as to what extent local journalism meets community’s informational and deliberative needs through the business model, output and performance.
2. Media usage patterns (MUP). ROs derive from the tensions between digital media structure and users’ agency – there are unbalanced power relations.
Two types of actors can be distinguished acting as a structure for the citizens’ agency in the digital environment: (1) platforms that function on the basis of algorithms; and (2) media companies’ use of audience metrics producing content for the citizens. Both have the power to direct the users’ behaviour and both are opaque. Many privately owned media organizations do not share this information.24 As the digital platforms and their algorithms direct the users’ behaviour non-transparently, offering the content and products for users based on the users’ earlier selections (‘digital traces’), the level of freedom of users’ decisions is questionable. How much agency can users have in the digital contexts, and, are the platforms that have more power responsible in their power use? The platforms “episteme of audiences” can be evaluated critically, since individuals are seen as “amalgams of ever-changing, dynamic, lively data points” by the platforms25.
For media companies that provide news for citizens based on the web metrics social responsibility is not an important issue. Research shows that the web metrics – information about the audiences’ clicks and views on web pages – significantly influence editorial decisions. The possible consequences have been referred as “dumbing down the news”26, “ghettoizing citizens into bundles based on narrow preferences and predilections rather than drawing them into community”27 and lowering the quality of the public information sphere.28 Both structural mechanisms should be analysed critically with the help of methodological innovation in data collection29. Media research has to develop new approaches for the analysis of media, such as citizens’ relationships that would empower citizens’ agency.
Hence, the current types of risk are twofold. The first type concerns who and how collects and has data on people’s media usage. A risk may emerge, if private companies have more and better data and knowledge on citizen’s news consumption patterns than the public – this risk is connected to the access to data. A risk may also appear if, due to the lack of national resources, there is no systematic and consistent data collection that would adequately reflect the dynamics of audiences. The second type is related to the biased knowledge on media consumption patterns, because of the preferences of existing research projects and groups in particular countries, e.g., age bias or platform bias in research. Some methods of users’ research may contain ethical problems. ROs concerning media consumption are related to citizen engagement and deliberation30.
Based on the considerations above, the conceptual variables of media usage and consumption patterns include: methodologies used for MUP; who is ordering and who is funding research; accessibility, comparability and quality of media usage and consumption data and knowledge, dynamics of media audiences; social media usage and related ROs.
MUP operational variables include: analysis of automatically collected data on media usage; publicly available raw data; sociological data produced by private companies; web usage analytics e.g., Gemius and Alexa databases; academic qualitative and quantitative research data and knowledge; knowledge gaps on media usage and “news gaps”31; the main ROs that are defined in national contexts.
3. Media related competencies (knowledge, skills and attitudes) is a syncretic area between Journalism and MUP domains. The area was separately defined as part of the discourse and is represented in information and media literacy (MIL) reports and projects32, although the latter is too broad for construction of ROs variables. Still, comparative cross-country analysis on European MIL (a project carried out by Divina Frau-Meigs, Irma Velez and Julieta Flores Michel, 2017) covers 50 factors and provides a valuable input for MEDIADELCOM. Also the Media Literacy Index (2017, 2018, 2019) provides important background information as it contains instruments for measuring the predictors of media literacy.33
Human capital theory is the most prominent theory of skill formation,34 which connects media related competencies with the education system. A broad definition of human capital includes abilities, skills, knowledge and experience of particular professionals35. Thus, the human capital approach in this project covers the expected and actual expertise concerning the journalism profession and journalistic labour: demands of competencies, mismatches between salaries and workload, and job security.
From the users’ perspective, the human capital approach is used in the context of general media literacy index and citizens’ engagement in news. Technologies, especially communication media, change culture and society, and consequently, audiences A person who has been using new media for a long time adapts to them36. Their cognitive functions and abilities – perception, thinking, imagination, etc. – will be adapted. So if the cognitive abilities change, the audience (including the young generation of journalists) will also change. These changes are both positive and negative. Positive factors include accessibility to information, rapid communication, strengthening of collective intelligence37 and associative thinking38. A weakening of attention abilities, memory and critical thinking are risks here. Spitzer39 even talks about digital dementia. These are challenges for media education, including media literacy – media diet, cognitive asceticism, critical thinking, ability to move between online and offline worlds (transversal rationality40) etc. (e.g., ecochambers, polarization, etc.).
Conceptual variables in MUP domain include: the public sector policies that provide tools for implementation media and information related competencies; media and communication education in the formal education sector and in tertiary education; actors outside the school system and their initiatives concerning MIL; journalists’ professional careers and transformation of competences; self-reflection; abilities and disabilities of citizens to effectively search for, evaluate and verify online information and news; research and training units related to educational activities.
4. Legal and ethical considerations domain provides important contextual information for deliberative communication as well as for media performance. Application of EU data regulation and interpretation of media related case law in national contexts works for the harmonization of European norms. The European data protection concept also changes the conditions of media research. Concurrently data protection should be balanced between access to information (freedom of information) and freedom of speech.
The blurring border between professional journalists and ‘citizen journalists’ challenges once strictly professional journalistic ethics. Also, the rapid development of digital media and online journalism demand revision of ethical principles and rules of journalism. A need for generally agreed norms of mediated communication ethics has become obvious. A risk is that the inability to “distinguish the merely annoying but relatively harmless trolling, easily ignored, from more serious and systemic forms, such as group bullying, coordinated and sustained attacks, or organized efforts to promulgate fake news”41 might end up with limitations in freedom of expression. There is a need to ask, what regulatory means can be used against digital aggression?
As informational self-determination is an increasingly important concept according to EU data protection principles, the accountability concerning information delivery extends to all media users. ROs here are related to interpretation of new norms as well as practices of implementation and practices of accountability. Legal and ethical considerations (as a conceptual variable) are related to sustainable journalism, media usage and consumption patterns and media related competencies.
Conceptual variables are: data protection and privacy regulation and case law; practices of accountability of news production and delivery (journalists as well as users); press, communication and information freedom in networked society; digital aggression.
ROs concerning deliberative communication and social cohesion
15 Sztompka, P. (1993). Sociology of social change. Blackwell, Oxford UK and Cambridge USA, p. 56.
16 Peruško, Z., Vozab, D., Čuvalo, A. (2021). Comparing post-socialist media systems: the case of Southeast Europe. London, Routledge.
17 Corner, J. (2013). Is there a field of “media” research? The “fragmentation“ issue revisited, Media, Culture & Society, 35(8), 1011-1018.
18 Buhmann, A., Ingenhoff, D., Lepori, B (2015). Dimensions of diversity: mapping the field of media and communication studies by combining cognitive and material dimensions. Communications, 40(3), 267–293.
19 Wahl-Jorgensen, K., Williams ,A. Sambrook ,R., Harris ,J., Garcia-Blanco, I., Dencik, L, Cushion, S. Carter, S. & Allan, S. (2016). The Future of Journalism. Risks, threats and opportunities, Digital Journalism, 4(7), 809–815.
20 In addition to Posetti, J. (2018) Time to step away from the ‘bright, shiny things’? Towards a sustainable model of journalism innovation in an era of perpetual change, Published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism with the support of the Facebook Journalism Project. – the notion of “sustainable journalism” has been developed by Berglez, P., Olausson, U. and Ots,
M. (2017). What Is Sustainable Journalism? Integrating the Environmental, Social and Economic Challenges of Journalism. Peter Lang: New York, Bern, Frankfurt, Berlin, Brussels, Vienna, Oxford, Warsaw; Merican A.M. (2017). Sustainability Journalism as Discourse among Civilizations: Concept & Dialogue. KATHA – The Official Journal of the Centre for Civilisational Dialogue,
[S.l.], 10(1), p. 26–40.
21 Hautakangas, M. & Ahva, L. (2018). Introducing a New Form of Socially Responsible Journalism: Experiences from the Conciliatory Journalism Project. Journalism Practice 12(6), 730–746.
22 e.g., Waschková Císařová, L. (2013.) Český lokální a regionální tisk mezi lety 1989 a 2009. Brno: MUNI Press; Nielsen, R. K. (ed.) (2015) Local journalism. The decline of newspapers and the rise of digital media. London, New York: Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, I. B. Tauris.; Hess, K. & Waller, L. (2017) Local Journalism in a Digital World. London, New York: Palgrave.
Waschková Císařová, L., Macek. J. & Macková, A. (2018) Shattering the Myth? Audiences, Local Media and Local News Relationships’ Revisited. In: J. Hodson & A. Malik (eds.). The Future of Local News: Research and Reflections. Toronto: Reyerson University, pp. 1–26.; Radcliffe, D. (2018) How local journalism can upend the ‘fake news’ narrative. Conversation.
23 (Waschková Císařová, L.W. (2017). Should we Consider Local Newspaper Chains Local Media? Development of the Local Press Chain in the Czech Republic. Mediální studia 11(2), 112-128; Pew Research Center. (2015). Internet Seen as Positive Influence on Education but Negative on Morality in Emerging and Developing Nations. Internet Usage More Common Among the Young, Well-Educated and English Speakers. https://www.pewresearch.org/global/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/03/Pew-
Research-Center-Technology-Report-FINAL-March-19-20151.pdf; Fenton et al. (2010), cf. footnote 46.
24 Heikkilä, H. & Väliverronen, J. (2019). Media Accountability in the Era of Fake News. Journalistic Boundary Work and Its Problems in Finland. In: Media Accountability in the Era of Post-Truth Politics. European Challenges and Perspectives. T. Eberwein, S. Fengler & M. Karmasin (Eds.) Abingdon & New York: Routledge, pp.55-64.
25 Fisher, E. & Mehozay, Y. (2019). How algorithms see their audience: media epistemes and their changing conception of the individual. Media, Culture & Society, 41 (8), p 1188. DOI: 10.1177/0163443719831598
.26 Nguyen A (2013). Online news audiences: The challenges of web metrics. In: Allan S and Fowler-Watt K (eds) Journalism: New Challenges. Poole: CJCR: Centre for Journalism & Communication Research, Bournemouth University, pp. 146–161.
27 Tandoc EC Jr and Thomas RJ (2015). The ethics of web analytics: Implications of using audience metrics in news construction. Digital Journalism 3(2): 243–258.
28 Usher N (2013). Understanding web metrics and news production: When a quantified audience is not a commodified audience. Digital Journalism 1(3): 335–351.
29 e.g., Kleppe,M. & Otte, M. (2017). Analysing and understanding news consumption patterns by tracking online user behaviour with a multimodal research design, Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, 32(2), p. ii158–ii170,
30 Dahlgren, P. (2009). Media and Political Engagement. Citizens, Communication and Democracy, Cambridge University Press.
31 Boczkowski, P.J. and Mitchelstein, E. (2013). The News Gap: When the Information Preferences of the Media and the Public Diverge. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
32 Frau-Meigs, D., Velez, I. Michel, J. F. (2017). Public Policies in Media and Information Literacy in Europe: Cross-Country Comparisons. London and New York: Routledge.
34 Lauder, H., Brown, P. Ashton, D. (2017). Theorizing Skill Formation in the Global Economy, IN: Warhurst, C, Mayhew K., Finegold D, Buchanan J. (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Skills and Training, p402, 403.
35 See for example: Vandenbussche, J., Aghion, P., Meghir, C. (2006). Growth, distance to frontier and composition of human capital. Journal of Economic Growth, 11(2), 97-127; Faggian, A., & McCann, P. (2009). Human capital and regional development. In (Eds.) Capello & P. Nijkamp, Handbook of regional growth and development theories (pp. 133–151). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar; and: Sardadvar, S., & Reiner, C. (2016). Does the presence of high-skilled employees increase total and high-skilled employment in the long run? Evidence from Austria. Empirica, 44(1), 59-89.
36 Lohisse, J. (2003). Komunikační systémy [Communication systems], Praha: Karolinum.
37 Lévy, P. (1999). Collective Intelligence: Mankind’s Emerging World in Cyberspace. Cambridge (MA): Perseus Books; Marcelli, M. (2018). Myslenie v sieti [Thinking in the Network], Bratislava: Kalligram;
38 Gálik, S. (2017). Influence of Cyberspace on Changes in Contemporary Education. Communication Today, Vol 8 (1), pp. 30–38.
39 Spitzer, M. (2014). Digitální demence [Digital Dementia], Brno: Host; Greenfield, S. (2016) Změna myšlení [Change of Thinking], Brno: Albatros Media a. s.;
40 Welsch, W. (1994). Naše postmoderní moderna [Our postmodern modernity] Praha: Zvon.
41 Reyman J.. & Sparby E.M. (2020). Introduction. Toward an Ethic of Responsibility in Digital Aggression. In: Reyman J. & Sparby E.M (Eds.) Digital Ethics. Rhetoric and Responsibility in Online Aggression. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group: New York & London, p. xviii.
At the beginning of the 21st century, hopes and expectations concerning public engagement with communication were high: bloggers and citizen journalists were expected to take over the roles and functions of journalists, and the internet was seen as a potential “Fifth Estate”42 empowering people with new means for keeping the powerholders accountable. These hopes are realized only partly: journalism engages the public more than ever, but for fulfilling the investigative function and providing truthful information relevant for deliberative public sphere, professional journalists still need to be educated and trained. Some of the structural problems are results of policy failures (e.g., extreme commercialism or political parallelism).
Recent technological changes brought about by digitalization enabled new forms of engagement with the public, and have led to absorbing new media (practices) or emerging genres as acceptable journalism, and thus have further blurred the boundaries of professional journalism.43 Although social media is increasingly important in news exchange, from the point of view of deliberative communication “journalists have the capacity to foster and moderate debate, to enhance the transparency of public affairs, and to make sure that relevant issues and voices are heard.”44
The ‘risks and opportunities’ discourse raises the question: How are all these risks and possibilities related to social cohesion and changes in the evolution of common European political and cultural space (Europeanization)? According to the ideas of Habermas all individuals should have a chance to publicly express their claims and arguments, and in a process of deliberation and representation ideas and needs are gradually filtered, until they can be turned into collectively binding laws. This possibility depends on the quality of deliberative communication: the majority’s wish and ability to express and listen to the diverse needs and views, search for the best and truthful arguments, and the ability to carry out argumentative discussions with the aim of solving problems, and maintaining social cohesion and reaching at least a temporary agreement45.
An important issue related to deliberative communication is the balance between global, European, national and local news producers. The role of the local media in community integration forms an important part of the research on the democratization potential of the media46. It relies on theories addressing the relationship between media use and individuals’ integration into communities: individuals’ community ties are positively associated with local media use and this relationship maintains and supports community ties. This is linked to the fact that local audiences expect closeness to the local media – meaning they prefer local content and local news47. Low engagement with local but as well as national and finally European topics has various reasons including distrust, ambivalence and indifference48 towards politics, politicians but also news media. Concurrently, changes in media economy, especially the dominance of global platforms has caused the emergence of local news deserts49.
Research and knowledge acquisition capability: an indirect source of ROs
In addition to the four domains of ROs that are directly related to the consequences of media transformations, MEDIADELCOM will add research, data collection and knowledge acquisition capability as an indirect source of ROs. We focus on the questions about the quantity and quality of the research and data, covering the ROs, as well as sufficiency or deficit of research, methodology and data for generating ROs’ matrices at national and EU levels (see Figure 2).
As Buchmann, et. al.50 point out, media and communication studies are fragmented into various sub-fields, applied theories and methods. The historical development of cognitive patterns (research approaches and topics) is inherently connected to distinct institutional settings and material conditions. The analysis of resource acquisition and profile development of institutional research units within countries will help getting answers concerning possible knowledge gaps in national ROs matrices (WP2, tasks).
The conceptual and operational variables of “research and knowledge acquisition capability” are “intellectual dimension” (subject topics and scientific output) and “social and material dimension” (human resources, funding and institutional position and recognition of media studies)51.
Being aware of the complexity and unpredictability of the consequences of media transformations, MEDIADELCOM proceeds from the social need to sharpen the thinking that there may be various alternatives, each with its own set of uncertainties and consequences. Therefore, the multiple scenario concept52 for envisioning plausible futures will be applied. When assessing the ROs for a particular scenario, the possible consequences and forecasts will be pointed out.
As Garb, et al.53 explain: “It is important to emphasize that the influence of scenarios is not simply through changes in explicit knowledge and understanding, but also through more implicit shifts in how problems are framed.”
42 Dutton, W. (2009). The Fifth Estate Emerging Through the Network of Networks. Prometheus, 27(1), pp. 1-15.
43 Carlson, M., & Lewis, S. (Eds.). (2015). Boundaries of journalism: Professionalism, practices and participation. Abingdon & New York: Routledge.
44 Brüggemann, M. (2017). Post-normal journalism: Climate journalism and its changing contribution to an unsustainable debate. In Peter Berglez, Ulrika Olausson, Mart Ots (Eds.): What is Sustainable Journalism? Integrating the Environmental, Social, and Economic Challenges of Journalism. New York: Peter Lang, pp. 57–73.
45 Habermas, J. (1996). Beyond Facts and Norms. Cambridge: Polity press; Englund, T. ( 2006). Deliberative communication: a pragmatist proposa, Curriculum Studies 38(5,) 503–520l; Rosa, H. (2010). Alienation and Acceleration. Towards a Critical Theory of Late-Modernity Temporality. Summertalk, vol 3, NSU Press, Københaven, Helsingfors, Århus.
46 Waschková Císařová, L. (2013). Český lokální a regionální tisk mezi lety 1989 a 2009. Brno: MUNI Press; Waschková Císařová, L., Macek. J., Macková, A. (2018). Shattering the Myth? Audiences, Local Media and Local News Relationships’ Revisited. In J. Hodson, A. Malik. The Future of Local News: Research and Reflections. Toronto: Reyerson University, pp. 1–26; Waschková Císařová, L. (Ed.). (2017). Voice of the Locality: Local Media and Local Audience. Brno: MUNI Press.
47 Fenton, N., Metykova, M., Schlosberg, J., Freedman, D. (2010). Meeting the news needs of local communities. London: Media Trust.
48 Dahlgren, P. (2009). Media & Political Engagement. Citizens, Communication & Democracy. Cambridge University Press, p. 82.
49 cf. Abernathy, P. M. (2018). The rise of the ghost newspaper. www.usnewsdeserts.com.
50 Buchmann, A., Ingenhoff, D. & Lepori B. (2015). Dimensions of diversity: Mapping the field of media and communication studies by combining cognitive and material dimensions. Communications 40(3): 267–293.
51 Buchmann et al., p. 270.
52 e.g., Bruaset, S. & Sægrov, S. (2018). Using the multiple scenario approach for envisioning plausible futures in long-term planning and management of the urban water pipe systems, European Journal of Futures Research, 6(7), https://doi.org/10.1186/s40309-018-0136-x.
53 e.g., Garb, Y., Pulver, S. & VanDeveer, S.D. (2008). Scenarios in society, society in scenarios: toward a social scientific analysis of storyline-driven environmental modeling; Environ. Res. Lett. 3, 045015 (8pp), Online at stacks.iop.org/ERL/3/045015.
1.3.2. Positioning with regard to prior RDI activities
MEDIADELCOM is a unique project from two aspects: 1) it provides a holistic approach to media transformation ROs and 2) takes into consideration 14 different European countries with all their complexities regarding ROs. As a result of this holistic approach, MEDIADELCOM can use input from various previous and ongoing EU projects.
MEDIADEM and MediaAct (both projects from the Framework 7 programme, which included 9 members of the teams of the current project) have produced a highly valuable comparative knowledge on media policy, media law and media accountability systems. For MEDIADELCOM these two projects provide valuable input for the ROs related to media regulation.
The Horizon financed project MediaRoad – European Media Ecosystem for Innovation, ICT-19-2017 – Media and content convergence MEDIAROAD vision paper (Sept 2019) – identified several technological trends that could change the way we use and think about media and the possible risks and opportunities media policy and regulation should take into consideration. Concerning AI, Immersive Technologies, Blockchain, 5G, IoT and Convergence – the vision paper explains the risks and challenges that are related specifically to this technology (e.g., the risk associated with AI is the destruction of human critical thinking; news bots automatically generating stories about current events is becoming popular among many news producers). Immersive technologies open up new ways of storytelling. Since blockchain potentially reduces transaction costs, it could easily support micro-payments, notably as a way to reduce advertising’s hegemony in online content financing; telecommunications regulations are now mainly focused on connectivity, but with the deployment of 5G it may become important to develop regulations on the processing and storage of data etc. This detailed analysis of technology related ROs enables MEDIADELCOM to fulfil the objective of WP 1 more easily.
The Horizon financed project Content Personalisation Network (2017-April 2020, ICT-19-2017 – Media and content convergence) – aims to identify the needs, expectations and motivations for single users to accept personalisation of news. The deliverables provide useful insight for MEDIADELCOM concerning an important development trend in media usage. Content personalization network goes beyond the usual risks descriptions (e.g. filter bubble) and provides User Profile Management Requirements and possible solutions for the question: “How can CPN avoid filter bubbles and echo chambers (a valuable contribution to WPs 1 and 5). MEDIADELCOM will critically ask about the knowledge concerning personalization of news feeds in countries across Europe.
Media Motor Europe ICT-33-2019 – Startup Europe for Growth and Innovation Radar (MME, started in 2020) “will boost solutions that can address challenges such as misinformation, accessibility, user interfaces and use of data” – hence MEDIADELCOM will analyse the results of this project from the perspectives of decreasing risks in three domains “Journalism”, “Media usage” and “Media related competencies” (WP 1).
COMPACT: From Research to Policy through Raising Awareness of the state-of-the-art on social media and convergence (ICT-19-2017 – Media and content convergence) (2017 – 20 Sept 2020) aims at
analysing national and broader regional policies and regulatory frameworks, as well as judicial approaches on social media and content convergence, from the perspective of information disorder. For MEDIADELCOM, this provides valuable input for the “Legal and ethical considerations” ROs domain (WP 1 and WP 2).
Social Observatory for Disinformation and Social Media Analysis (SOMA) ICT-28-2018 – Future Hyper-connected Sociality (2018–Apr. 2021) will contribute to the ROs (WP 1) concerning media usage, media related competencies. The project’s “Investigation” page provides good cases for MEDIADELCOM to create operational variables on fact-checking.
The Political Economy of Media Bias (PEMB) –H2020-EU.1.3.2. – Nurturing excellence by means of cross-border and cross-sector mobility (ended 2 September 2019). The project was loosely connected to MEDIADELCOMs objectives, but while resolving how media bias affects electoral and political outcomes – the project provided important information on how to engage politicians and other stakeholders (used in MEDIADELCOM’s communication plans).
Varieties of Media Effects (VARME) ERC-2018-STG – ERC Starting Grant (March 2019-February 2024). MEDIADELCOM will follow the project’s results as the overall objective of VARME is to determine the long-term effects of the news media on citizens’ beliefs about societal problems. The relevance is methodological and related to research on media usage.
Overall approach and methodology
The overall approach of MEDIADELCOM is mainly based on synthesis and meta-analysis of existing research as well as critical assessment of the knowledge needed for the analysis of ROs and multiple scenario building.
Special attention is paid to the sufficiency or deficit of previous and current research, methodologies and data collection system(s) for generating matrices at national and European levels. In order to relate concepts that lay the foundation of the ROs approach of MEDIADELCOM, the conceptual variables – listed in the project research concept (1.3.1.) were initially defined.54 Conceptual and operational variables will be elaborated according to the tasks of WP 1.
For example, the development of media accountability instruments in a certain country is a conceptual variable, while the number of cases and organizations/journalists involved is an operational variable, because it is measurable.
The following figure presents how a conceptual variable (e.g., journalism) is transferred into operational variables.55
54 Cooper, H. (1994). Hypotheses and Problems in Research Synthesis. In (Eds.) Cooper, H., Hedges L.V. and Valentine J. Handbook of Research Synthesis and Meta-Analysis. 2nd edition, New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
55 The Figure presents an elaborated version of the list of variables provided by C. Ann Hollifield and Laura Schneider (2017). A Global Media Resource Model: Understanding News Media Viability Under Varying Environmental Conditions, In. Berglez P., Olausson U., Ots, M. (Eds). What is Sustainable Journalism? Integrating the Environ- mental, Social and Economic Challenges of Journalism, New York: Peter Lang.
There is a lack of knowledge about how the configurations of various ROs actualize in different national and cultural contexts. Therefore, MEDIADELCOM uses country case studies and cross-country comparative analysis. The country case studies will be carried out using the conceptual and operational variables of the four ROs domains.
For the comparative analysis of diachronic ‘paths’ of media transformation MEDIADELCOM will use the fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA). The fsQCA56 is a set-theoretical approach and research method that is able to explain why similar outcomes are possible with paths including different configurational conditions. The fsQCA method enables to combine case-oriented analysis with variable – oriented quantitative analysis57, and will be used to detect the conditions of various configurations and combinations of the ROs within the framework of media changes.
For the comparative analysis of media research capability by countries, MEDIADELCOM uses the framework analysis method in order to summarize the country case studies. As the “defining feature of framework analysis is the matrix output: rows (cases), columns (codes) and ‘cells’ of summarised data, providing a structure into which the researcher can systematically reduce the data, in order to analyse it by case and by code”58; the method enables MEDIADELCOM to carry out analysis across cases as well as within individual cases.
In order to assess the research and data quality (WP 2, tasks 2.1. and 2.3) MEDIADELCOM will in the first instance apply two frequently used general criteria in research evaluations: (1) coverage of publications in Scopus and Web of Science, and other journal articles and books in English (internationalization criteria59) and (2) publications in native languages. In addition we assess the quality of collected data, methods (e.g., surveys), samples by using the following criteria: availability, usability, credibility, accuracy, completeness and finally relevance to ROs60. Credibility includes three aspects: methodology, reliability of data source and the time/context when the data are produced and archived. We specifically ask about the usage of big data (raw unstructured data): who owns this kind of data, for what kind of analysis and how, if any analysis has been carried out; timeliness of collected data.
New empirical data will be gathered for two purposes:
(1) For country case studies short qualitative interviews with data collectors and researchers will be carried out in order to find out the avenues and restrictions of public access to media related data and statistics.
In the final stage of the project short interviews with policy makers will be conducted in order to get comments for different possible scenarios and assessment for the main risks and opportunities.
56 Ragin, C. C. (2008). Redesigning Social Inquiry: Fuzzy Sets and Beyond. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
57 The method has been used in media studies for example by J. Downey and J. Stanyes – (2010). Comparative media analysis: Why some fuzzy thinking might help. Applying fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis to the personalization of mediated political communication, European Journal of Communication 25(4), 331.
58 Gale, N.K.; Heath G., Cameron, E.R., Rashid, S. Redwood, S. (2013). Using the framework method for the analysis of qualitative data in multi-disciplinary health research, BMC Medical Research Methodology, 13, 117.
59 Sivertsen, G. (2016). Patterns of internationalization and criteria for research assessment in the social sciences and humanities, Scientometrics, 107, 357–368.
60 Cai, L. & and Zhu, Y. (2015). The Challenges of Data Quality and Data Quality Assessment in the Big Data Era, Data Science Journal, 14(2), 1-10.
(2) As the consortium includes researchers who also teach media and journalism, the project aims to carry out small-scale methodological pilot studies (in 4-5 countries) involving students, in order to improve research methodology concerning media usage and consumption practices (e.g., unstructured diary studies and self-tracked data in order to study intermediality by taking an individual-centred approach; purposive sampling strategy in order to target specific groups or types of individuals). Before these pilot studies are started, critical analysis of the research methods and results will be carried out at the European as well as country level. We critically ask about age and gender bias in media consumption studies61, and we also assess the efficiency of media consumption research.
In some aspects, MEDIADELCOM methodologically resembles the Media Pluralism Monitor62 (MPM) that provides a diagnostic tool designed to improve broad understanding of the risks to media pluralism in Member States. Both projects deal with risks and methodologically, both projects define disciplinary areas (MPM derives from Basic Protection, Market Plurality, Political Independence and Social Inclusiveness), conceptual variables (MPM defined 20 indicators) and operational variables.
As the MPM methodology is based on a European Commission funded study published in 2009 and has been adapted and refined later by the European University Institute, MEDIADELCOM knowingly relies on the experience of MPM methodology.
MEDIADELCOM has, however, significant differences:
While the aim of MPM is to carry out cross-national analysis according to one universal variables’ matrix, MEDIADELCOM proceeds from the understanding that media ecology in different European states and especially in the CEE countries have been influenced by 21st century transformations in different ways. Hence, methodologically MEDIADELCOM does not fit the countries in a universal matrix (MPM approach) but aims to create several unique matrices that include risks as well as opportunities diachronically – worst cases and best practices concerning the quality of deliberative communication.
While MPM indicators (on operational level) included “information that is not available” this aspect was not paid any special attention. MEDIADELCOM argues it is imperative, for making informed and efficient media related decisions, to have data and information that are accurate and reliable, and thus it is important to know areas of uncertainty. Therefore, methodologically MEDIADELCOM combines critical mapping of European and national media and communication research and critical cross-country analysis of national statistics on media and media consumption.
MEDIADELCOM will create a novel method for outlining ROs as scenarios. A pilot study will be carried out by using motivational modelling and agent-based simulation (MM and ABS).
61 Rosales, A. & Fernàndez-Ardévol, M. (2019). Structural Ageism in Big Data Approaches. Nordicom Review, 40(1), 51-64
Media studies have used MM for analysing information, and filtering scenarios to answer the question: under which circumstances do social media and recommender algorithms contribute to fragmentation of modern society into distinct echo chambers63? In this project, the aim in MEDIADELCOM is to develop and test a method that enables detecting interaction between journalists, editors and news consumers. The pilot study would construct possible scenarios combining data about news production quantity, quality and proximity of news. The innovative experiment aims to create different sub-scenarios between “Journalism” and “MUP fields”.
We will use some novel methods for system analysis of complex systems. According to the methodology of motivational modelling64 to be used in the project, the starting point for outlining potential scenarios is modelling goals of deliberative communication. According to this methodology, three kinds of goals – functional goals, quality goals and emotional goals – are elicited from ROs matrices and other sources. For example, the goal “Inform about what is happening in society” is associated with the quality goal “Trustfully”, and with the emotional goal “Believably”. The functional goals are broken down into smaller functional goals, each of which represents an aspect of achieving its immediate upper level goal, for example, “Provide fact checked news” or “Assess the reliability of a news source”.
We also associate functional goals with roles, which are capacities or positions required for achieving those goals. For example, the roles required for achieving the goal “Inform about what is happening in society” are Journalist, Editor and Newsagent. This methodological process will result in a hierarchy of goals, where the quality and emotional goals are related to (1) the functional goals they are concerned with and (2) the roles of stakeholders responsible for the attainment of the corresponding functional, quality and emotional goals. In such a way, three kinds of goals – functional goals, quality goals and emotional goals – as well as the relevant stakeholder roles are represented in a holistic manner within the same goal tree. The functional goals of the hierarchical goal tree can be categorised into achievement goals, cessation goals, maintenance goals, avoidance goals, and optimization goals. Achieving a goal can be desirable or unwanted. The probabilities and consequences of achieving or not achieving one or another goal can be evaluated by a qualitative approach, such as the Delphi method, which is a group iterative process based on structured communication65.
The resulting hierarchical goal model is incrementally complemented with other kinds of models prescribed by the methodology of motivational modelling. For example, the roles attached to the functional goals of the goal tree are elaborated in terms of their responsibilities and constraints as role models; relationships between the roles are represented as the organisation model; and the information resources to be consumed for achieving the goals are represented as the knowledge model.
63 Geschke, D., Lorenz, J., & Holtz, P. (2019). The triple-filter bubble: Using agent-based modelling to test a meta-theoretical framework for the emergence of filter bubbles and echo chambers. British Journal of Social Psychology, 58, 129–149.
64 Sterling, L., & Taveter, K. (2009). The Art of Agent-Oriented Modelling. MIT Press; Miller, T., Lu, B., Sterling, L., Beydoun, G., & Taveter, K. (2014). Requirements Elicitation and Specification Using the Agent Paradigm: The Case Study of an Aircraft Turnaround Simulator. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 40, 1007-1024.
65 Bruase, S. & Sægrov, S. (2018). Using the multiple scenario approach for envisioning plausible futures in long-term planning and management of the urban water pipe systems. European Journal of Futures Research 6(1), 7.
Based on the goal model and other complementary models, the scenarios can be composed so that they describe how the goals set for the media environment can be achieved by different Newsagents and by players of other stakeholder roles. The pilot study will construct possible scenarios combining the available data on Newsagents. The scenarios will be tested by agent-based simulations that use data from at least two participating countries. For designing and developing agent-based simulations, the models of motivational modelling will be complemented with the global and local variables defined according to the ODD methodology.66
The sample consists of 14 country cases67 that represent different historical, economic and cultural media landscapes, and different media research practices. The sample follows three criteria: geography (countries from North, Eastern, Southern and Western Europe), the size of media market (according to population size), and political-historical background (the CEE countries with the legacy of the communist regimes, and western established democracies).
66 Grimm, V., Berger, U., Bastiansen, F., Eliassen, S., Ginot, V., Giske, J. & Huth, A. (2006). A standard protocol for describing individual-based and agent-based models. Ecological modelling, 198(1-2), 115-126; Grimm, V., Berger, U., DeAngelis, D. L., Polhill, J. G., Giske, J., & Railsback, S. F. (2010). The ODD protocol: a review and first update. Ecological modelling, 221(23), 2760-2768.
67 Belgium is a partner country but is not included in case studies.
Table 3. Sample of the MEDIADELCOM countries.
|Size of the media market||Western democracies|
|Large – population >20 mil||Germany, Italy, Poland|
|Medium – population 10–20 mil||Romania, Greece, Czechia, Sweden, Hungary|
|Small – population 2–9 mil||Austria, Bulgaria, Slovakia|
|Tiny – population < 2 mil||Latvia, Estonia|
1.3.3. Gender dimension in the planned research
Gender issues in MEDIADELCOM primarily relate to two domains – “Journalism” and “Legal and Ethical Regulations”. The advancement of the internet, online media and social media has created a new risk factor for female journalists – online harassment. According to the latest (2019) report on female journalists’ perceptions on their own safety (in Canada and the U.S.) 85 percent of respondents said they feel less safe than five years ago. Online harassment was cited as the biggest threat by 90 percent of respondents in the U.S. and percent in Canada.68 European journalists do not differ much from their American and Canadian counterparts, as online harassment is a global phenomenon. In Europe, online safety of female journalists is a crucial segment in the work of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media.69 MEDIADELCOM (WPs 1, 2, and 4) takes into consideration the risks concerning safety of female journalists, as attempts to silence journalists is a threat to freedom of speech, and consequently, to democracy. The safety topic clearly bridges the domains of “Journalism” and “Legal and Ethical Regulations”.
Another bridging issue pointed out by earlier research is the ‘work–life balance’70 of female journalists. Although journalism is ‘feminizing’ (in many countries, there are more female journalists and also female journalism students), women disappear at the higher levels of the career hierarchy.71 Many studies prove that the working conditions and organizational arrangements in newsrooms are generally unsuitable to, and often in conflict with, women’s domestic and social life demands.72 Failure to balance time between com- peting activities have health and well-being implications for female journalists. North (2016), among others, argues that mothers returning from maternity leave may lose possible career progression opportunities since they cannot commit enough time to work demands.73 Also, female journalists in many countries experience work-place sexual harassment. A related dimension is the extent to which powerful male sources are active sexual harassers.74
The aforementioned issues – safety, ‘work–life balance’, career possibilities, working conditions and or- ganizational arrangements – are all factors that limit female journalists’ professional autonomy, and conse- quently, weaken news media’s agency as an attribute of democracy.
The review of the research on media usage patterns includes critical analysis of possible research bias con- cerning gender and age (WPs 1 and 2).
The general ambition of MEDIADELCOM is to develop a tool – a multiple scenario building model – for forecasting media related ROs for deliberative communication, in order to help policymakers make informed decisions and suggestions concerning media governance. MEDIADELCOM develops a novel holistic approach for studying media related ROs.
Also, the ambition is to engage media scholars in continuous and systematic monitoring of the changes in the media landscapes in order to collect accurate and truthful data and carry out critical analysis for further advancement of the media policies for the sake of Europeanisation and European democracy. In addition, MEDIADELCOM’s ambition is to enlarge the public’s awareness of the vulnerability of contemporary conditions of deliberative communication as well as the opportunities to support it.
The innovative methodological ambition is the use of motivational modelling and agent-based simulations for creating multiple scenarios for forecasting further developmental paths.
MEDIADELCOM research focuses on and pushes the boundaries of current knowledge and methodologies in two major areas: (1) ROs research and (2) sources of research, data, monitoring and knowledge building.
69 See, e.g. “Safety of Female Journalists Online” information material published by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media: https://www.osce.org/representative-on-freedom-of-media/370331 OSCE Report: “New Challenges to Freedom of Expression: Countering Online Abuse of Female Journalists”. Vienna: The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media 2016. See also: Committee to Protect Journalists reports: https://cpj.org/reports/
70 Roberts, E. (2008). Time and Work–Life Balance: The Roles ‘Temporal Customization’ and ‘Life Temporality’. Gender, Work, and Organization, 15(5), 430-453; Davis, R. (2013). Work-life Balance: Measures to help reconcile work, private and family life. Library Briefing- Library of the European Parliament. Brussels, Belgium. Retrieved from: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document.html? reference=LDM_BRI(2013)130549
71 Melki, J.P., & Mallat, S.E. (2016). Block Her Entry, Keep Her Down and Push Her Out. Journalism Studies, 17(1): 7-73; Griffin, A. (2014). Where are the Women? Why we need more female newsroom leaders. Nieman Reports
72 Davis, R. (2013). Work-life Balance: Measures to help reconcile work, private and family life. Library Briefing – Library of the European Parliament. Brussels, Belgium. Cf. footnote 70.
73 North, L. (2016). Still a ‘blokes club’: The motherhood dilemma in Journalism. Journalism, 17(3) 315-330; Correll, S. J., Benard, S. & Paik, I. (2007). Getting a Job: Is There a Motherhood Penalty? American Journal of Sociology, 112(5), pp. 1297-1339.
74 North, L. (2007). “Just a little bit of cheeky ribaldry? Newsroom discourses of sexually harassing behavior. Feminist Media Studies, 7(1), pp. 81-96; Lachover, E. (2005). The gendered and sexualized relationship between Israeli women journalists and their male news sources. Journalism, 6(3), p. 291–311.
75 World trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development, UNESCO, annual reports https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000265969
76 e.g., Just think about it. Findings of the Media Literacy Index 2019, European Policies Initiative, Policy Brief 55, Open Society Institute, Sofia, European Policies Initiative.
1.4.1. Current state-of-the-art: risks and opportunities (ROs) research
Current studies on consequences of media transformations can be divided into studies and reports that (1) explicitly focus on specific and traditional risks, describing them in detail (e.g., risks for media freedom and pluralism75; information disorder; Media Literacy Index 2017, 2018, 201976) and (2) those that focus on specific phenomena, which contain potential ROs (e.g., automated news77, resilience of media systems,78 etc.), but do not present this potential explicitly in terms of risk discourse.
Julie Posetti79 in her report explicitly outlines key risks in journalism that are directly related to recent innovations: platform-dependent journalism, personalization applied to news distribution, potential to in- crease audience polarization80; re-paywalling journalism; shifting audience engagement to more closed net works; targeted online harassment of women journalists and orchestrated digital disinformation campaigns. According to Posetti “social platforms and search engines (including Facebook and Google) were described as journalism’s ‘frenemies’, in reference to the destruction of traditional business models associated with their capture of digital advertising, and news organisations’ varying levels of dependence on them in content distribution. The report also points out the need for a newsroom transformation, in symbiosis with business innovation.
The discourse of information disorder81 includes a variety of interrelated risks for reliability of mediated news. While Zollmann82 points out quality and bias of news (propaganda model filters) as risks to economic and political power, Wardle & Derakhsha (2017) speak about information pollution and point out (among other threats) implications of weakened local media, decreasing transparency and filter bubbles. Also, the problems concerning information disorder are different in different countries, for example Tomljenović83 points out the “Council of Europe suggests governments should commission research to determine the scale and reasons for the information disorder in their respective countries.”
As for opportunities, there are two research trends: one is related to public media service and another to good media governance. Tomljenović, in research on behalf of the Council of Europe, suggests supporting public service media organisations, promoting the strengthening of good quality journalism and local news development, and encourages launching programs for educating citizens on online security.
77 e.g., DeVito, M. A. (2017). From Editors to Algorithms, Digital Journalism, 5(6), 753-773; Diakopoulos, N. & Koliska, M. (2017). Algorithmic Transparency in the News Media, Digital Journalism, 5(7), 809-828; Powers, E. (2017)., My News Feed is Filtered? Digital Journalism, 5(10), 1315-1335.
78 Humprecht, E., Esser, F. & Van Aelst, P. (2020). Resilience to Online Disinformation: A Framework for Cross-National Comparative Research. The International Journal of Press/ Politics, 1-24. DOI: 10.1177/1940161219900126.
79 Posetti, J. (2018). Time to step away from the ‘bright, shiny things’? Towards a sustainable model of journalism innovation in an era of perpetual change, Journalism Innovation Project, University of Oxford, Reuters Institute with the support of the Facebook Journalism Project. Citation page 20.
80 See also Eskens, S., Helberger N & Moelle, R.J. (2017). Challenged by news personalisation: five perspectives on the right to receive information, Journal of Media Law, 9(2), 259-284, DOI: 10.1080/17577632.2017.1387353.
81 Wardle, C. & Derakhsha, H. (2017). Information Disorder Toward an interdisciplinary framework for research and policymaking, Council of Europe. https://rm.coe.int/information-disorder-report-version-august-2018/16808c9c77
82 Zollmann, F. (2019) A Propaganda Model for the Twenty-First Century, In MacLead A. (Ed.) Propaganda in the Information Age. London & New York: Routledge.
83 Tomljenović, R. (2018). Regulatory Authorities for Electronic Media and Media Literacy – Comparative analysis of the best European practice, https://rm.coe.int/regulatory-authorities-for-electronic-media/1680903a2a, p. 12.
Progress beyond the current state of the art
MEDIADELCOM goes beyond the earlier research achievements in two major aspects:
1. Via synthesis of different risk/opportunity approaches, the project provides a holistic approach to ROs, paying attention to the non-linear nature of ROs, which are a complex of numerous variables in mutual interactions. “A change of lenses” – via comparative approach – provides possibilities to reveal new ROs (for example, media diversity that was once an opportunity has, in some countries, turned into information overload and audience fragmentation).
2. By using multiple scenarios approach for envisioning plausible forecasts of ROs for policy makers. Scenarios are a traditional tool84 for opening the mind to several possible futures and for improving communication, but have been little used in media studies. In 2014, Edwardsson and Pargman published a study where they asked about the main media consumption trends and future scenarios.85 They created four scenarios based on the four possible combinations of strong/weak governmental and commercial powers. MEDIADELCOM uses agent-based modelling in combination with traditional exploratory scenario building methodology in order to better understand the complexities of media related ROs.
84 e.g., Mietzner, D. & Rege, G. (2005). Advantages and disadvantages of scenario approaches for strategic foresight, Int. J. Technology Intelligence and Planning, 1(2). 220-239.
85 Edwardsson, M., P. & Pargman, D. (2014). Explorative scenarios of emerging media trends. Print, Media, Technology, 3(3), 195-206.
1.4.2. Current state of the art: Sources of the research, data, monitoring and knowledge building
Current media, communication and journalism “data sources” can be divided into four “streams”. First, international comparative data sources where the data is collected systematically and/or the comparative knowledge is delivered via open access reports. Existing databases are not specifically focused on the risks and opportunities we are interested in, but contain ample of the background information for detecting ROs.
These comparative data and knowledge sources are annual reports: e.g., the Reuters Digital News Reports, NEPOCS (Network of European Political Communication Scholars), Media Sustainability Index; World Press Freedom Index, Media Literacy Index; Democracy Index; World Internet Users Statistics; Council of Europe’s annual report “Democracy at Risk: threats and attacks against media freedom in Europe”; Media Pluralism Monitor, etc.
The second “stream” is represented by large comparative research projects that collect data and produce comparative analysis over certain periods: for example Media and Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe (MDCEE), EU Kids online, Worlds of Journalism, some questions focusing on media usage in European Social Survey. These projects are regularly collecting data and producing comparative knowledge on most of the European countries. A knowledge gap concerning first two “streams” appears as a missing synthesis of the results of these information rich databases and projects.
The third “stream” comprises national media statistics, annual reports of media organizations; different annual reports of various national organizations that include some aspects concerning media or are related to very specific aspects of the news media (e.g., annual reports of press councils).
The fourth “stream” comprises various national research carried out by different research groups in universities, units in the media industry structures, independent monitoring units, etc.
The largest knowledge gap lies at the linguistic level – little is internationally known about the research done in national languages, and the results – as a source for future research – are not available in academic circulation.
Progress beyond the current state of the art
MEDIADELCOM will endeavour to ‘sift’ out the ROs related data from the data of the first mentioned stream and combine it with the data from the other sources, using the new (meta-data) in scenario building endeavours.
MEDIADELCOM will assess the quality of available national data and knowledge production. This is important because a lack of data and knowledge becomes a serious obstacle for knowledge based policy formation. We will also assess the media analytical expert resources in different countries: the position and status of researchers, the possible gap between research of industries and academes’, the number of internationally recognized research units as well as methodological expertise available in countries related to the four ROs domains86.
Via country case studies, MEDIADELCOM makes a review of the results and knowledge production in national research and data available in English (see: WPs 2 and 3).
1.4.3. State-of-the-art in scenario building
Although the issue about the future of news media has been discussed a lot in the 21st century, the scenario approach has been used rarely. Development trajectories have been a central issue in various future-studies, e.g., climate change and environmental research, urban studies etc. There are a few studies that have used various scenario-approaches for forecasting media development. Edwardsson and Pargman87 focused on the media consumption trends and the main characteristics of media consumption. The study presents 11 media consumption trends that are described via four possible scenarios. Geschke, Lorenz and Holtz88 used agent oriented modelling approach in order to simulate the emergence of echo-chambers.
Progress beyond the current state of the art
MEDIADELCOM will go beyond these studies as the project has two goals. First, we test the methodological possibilities of using agent based modelling in scenario building (for explanations see 1.3.3.). MEDIADELCOM will test simulation of two groups of actors: news consumers and news producers (owners, editors, journalists). The relations are complex and the aim is to focus on interplay between these social groups and test predictability of producer-user relations. The innovation in our approach is focusing on the goals and motivations of different newsagents (producers and users) simultaneously taking into consideration diachronic changes and various contextual factors in various European countries. The scenarios will be used for policy suggestions.
1.4.4. Innovation potential
MEDIADELCOM’s novel approach goes beyond the media systems’ analysis and puts emphasis on the interrelations and tensions between the four domains of the emergence of potential ROs (as shown in Figure 1). MEDIADELCOM aims to change the way of thinking about media systems: combinations of universal ROs factors produce unique and complex ROs matrices at national level. Media professionals, experts, policy makers and the general public will be given a creative tool for combining matrices of ROs factors into the development scenarios, which enable better understanding of the consequences of changes in the news media. More specifically, MEDIADELCOM’s approach enables the creation of a knowledge triangle between media research, education and training with media business.
The multiple scenario building model of media related ROs will be usable in journalism and media education at secondary and tertiary levels. Becoming an element of education, the concept and the model obtain sustainability, which is vital for enlarging the public’s and the industry’s awareness of the vulnerability of contemporary conditions of deliberative communication, as well as the opportunities to support it. Media businesses are increasingly competing for audiences’ attention, and changes in business models put increasing pressure on the media business. The ROs approach and the scenarios have the potential to improve future thinking by providing critical exploration of different future possibilities, and to encourage industry representatives to answer the question: “What could happen to a communication and media dependent society?”
86 E.g., Herkman, J. (2008). Current Trends in Media Research, NORDICOM, 29(1), 145-159.
87 Edwardsson and Pargman (2014), see footnote 83.
88 Geschke, Lorenz and Holtz (2019), see footnote 62