Mass Media and Political Communication in New Democracies

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Katrin Voltmer
Psychology Press, 2006 - Business & Economics - 262 pages
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This book examines how political communication and the mass media have played a central role in the consolidation of emerging democracies around the world.

Covering a broad range of political and cultural contexts, including Eastern and Southern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa, this new volume investigates the problems and conflicts arising in the process of establishing an independent media and competitive politics in post-autocratic societies. Considering the changing dynamic in the relationship between political actors, the media and their audience, the authors of this volume address the following issues:

  • changing journalistic role perceptions and journalistic quality
  • the reasons and consequences of persisting instrumentalization of the media by political actors
  • the role of the media in election campaigns
  • the way in which the citizens interpret political messages and the extent to which the media influence political attitudes and electoral behaviour
  • the role of the Internet in building a democratic public sphere

This book will be of great interest to all those studying and researching democracy and democratization, comparative politics, political communication, journalism, media and the Internet.

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The book under analysis is devoted to the effect of mass media on the process of democratization. The author states the aim of the research as to find out the role of media in countries with emerging democracies and position of media towards governments, politics and citizens. The book is divided into three main parts dedicated to major players in communication between media and politics: journalists, governments and citizens. Each part presents surveys from different countries, which represent a broad range of new democracies (including Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America), written by different authors. Although the countries chosen for the studies are defined as those of “the Third Wave of Democratization”, the book also includes countries that are viewed now as consolidated democracies, such as Spain. Each chapter deals with the particular country, providing the readers with essential characteristics of its democratic society and various statistical data with their thorough interpretations. Besides, major democratic principles are discussed throughout the researches. Opposing opinions about the surveys or concepts given in the book are also presented. In the introductory part, Katrin Voltmer points out the following roles of media in the process of democratization: 1. giving opportunity to express different opinions (“The marketplace of ideas”); 2. providing society with information; 3. controlling the government (being “the watchdog” or “the fourth estate”). It is stated, that media are major intermediates between politics and the electorate. Moreover, media often take part actively in creating political messages. The first part explains relations between journalists and politics. Chapter 2 gives an analysis of the role of the press during the transition to democracy in Spain in 1975-78 after the death of the dictator, Franco. The majority of press supported political reforms of the new government and contributed positively to the idea of the consensus within the nation. Chapter 3 deals with the paradoxes of democracy and press freedom in post-communist Russia. The researchers suggest that if the democracy is the political system based on free, competitive and regular elections, free press is its cornerstone as it introduces plurality of opinions,. The paradox is that often press freedom is restricted in order to protect democracy, which may lead to “genuinely pluralistic unfree media”. The studies of South Africa in chapter 4 show the tightening of relationships between new, post-apartheid government and mass media. The comparison between coverage of elections in Ukraine by old media (printed press) and new (Internet) is described in chapter 6. It is argued that traditional media are still guided by government, while web-based media are more pluralistic. The researchers also touch upon the topic of media logic. According to the conclusions drawn in the book, media in a democratic society supports pluralism, reveals decision-making processes (but not determines them), provides the dialogue between governments and citizens and performs controlling functions. As a result, politics depends on media. Chapter 5 discusses terms of credibility and trust to media and reveals the phenomenon of fragmented journalism in Latin America. The reasons for the disintegration of media include existence of different media organizations with different criteria concerning their roles in the society. Many journalists tended towards infotainment or special age groups of viewers. Politics, in their turn, used the press as temporary partisan organs; some of media were even economically tied with the government. The second part of the book gives an analysis of representation of parties, governments and elections in mass media. Chapter 7 describes the role of media in consolidation of new democracies in Latin America (particularly, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay). The researcher touches upon issues of professionalization and Americanization of elections’ campaigning, which is concluded from the use of 

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References to this book

Comparative Politics
Daniele Caramani
No preview available - 2008

About the author (2006)

Katrin Voltmer is Senior Lecturer of Political Communication at the Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds, UK.

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