The Theoretical Models Of Media
The theoretical models of media- politics for the post-communist countries in Europe and the future of the relationship between politics and media
1.11.1. Toward a theoretical model of media- politics for the post-communist countries in Europe
One could always refer to the Soviet Communist concept of the four theories of what the press should be and do in socialist/communist countries before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. We could disagree with the four theories, but simultaneously silently agree that the Soviet press theory seemed to explain the state of media not only in the Soviet Union, but in other socialist countries as well. The silence lasted for over 20 years because nothing ever changed. We needed only to learn that the newspaper should be a “collective propagandist, agitator and organizer” and then conveniently (and in a cowardly way?) leave the question about media in socialist countries aside. (Terhi: 171)
The World Bank (2002) has categorized post- communist countries, combining analysis of political system type with that of economic policy, as shown in Figure 1.10. A great number of factors influenced this differentiation of post-communist countries . Considerable importance must be attached to initial conditions prevailing at the start of the transformation process, which in turn had their roots in particular countries’ historical experience.
Figure 1.10. Political Systems in Post- Communist Economies, 1990- 1999
War-torn regimes Noncompetitive political regimes
Slovak Republic Armenia Kazakhstan
Bulgaria Albania Uzbekistan
Romania Georgia Belarus
Ukraine Macedonia Turkmenistan
Source: World Bank dates, 2002
Figure 1.11. Endogenous factors involved in the fall of communism
Type A countries: Factors creating conditions for relatively successful transition Type B countries: Factors obstructing transition
Low living standards, mass deprivation
High educational standards
Low educational standards
Survival of pre-Communist corporate identity/cultural tradition (depending on the strength of that tradition, but also on the duration of the Communist system itself
in the given country) Disintegration (or destruction) of indigenous cultural tradition and identity
Existence of an organized dissident movement and grass-roots pressure for change
Movement non-existent or weak
Relatively lenient treatment of dissidents
Harsh persecution of dissidents, traumatic conclusion of earlier crises, discouraging thought of further opposition to the Communist system
Dissident movement able to unite many social groups around its goals Intellectual dissidents isolated
Existence of a reformist wing of the
Party Party “liberals” non-existent or weak
Earlier attempts of top-down reform No such attempts
Population homogeneous from national/ ethnic point of view Existence of national/ethnic tensions, or conflicts
Source: Jakubowicz, Post-Communist Media Development in Perspective, 2005, p. 4.
To simplify matters, we may identify two groups of countries: Type A and Type B. Figure 1.11. shows the difference between them in terms of factors facilitating or hindering successful post-communist transformation. In discussing this set of factors, we may rely on Ekiert’s (1999) analysis of the importance of historical legacies:
• First, all successful (Type A) countries had earlier histories of political conflicts, liberalization attempts, economic reforms and experiments, and oppositional activities. Such developments under state socialism produced more pragmatic communist elites, more viable private domains within state-run economies, and stronger cultural and political counter- elites.
It seems that such histories of political struggle and reforms engendered a learning process on the level of elites and society alike that facilitated faster transition to democracy, better quality of democratic institutions, and more extensive liberties and freedoms. The kinds of knowledge and skills that were acquired by relevant collective actors under decentralized and pragmatic state socialism were an important asset after its demise.
• Second, these are also the countries that maintained more extensive relationships with Western democracies, international organizations, and the global economy in the past. They benefited from scientific and technical cooperation, trade relations, and received extensive aid in a form of expertise and capital inflows. All these factors clearly contributed to speedier and more successful transformations.
• Third, these were the countries where former communist parties lost power in the first round of democratic elections and opposition forces formed the first democratic governments. New political elites were more committed to change and accelerated the exit from state socialism.
This is summed up in Figure 1.12.As we will see bellow, prospects for change in the media are heavily dependent on whether a particular country represents Type A or Type B.
Figure 1.12. Schematic representation of transformation in Type A countries
Source: Karol Jakubowicz, Post-Communist Media Development in Perspective, 2005, p. 4.
The real story after 1989 was that the emergence of at least two groups of post-communist countries. In more advanced (Type A) countries, the partitocratic system, together with the politicization of all spheres of public life and political culture of post-communism, favored control of the media by political elites. In less advanced (Type B) countries, an autocratic system of government, involving the power of state administration or the oligarchs over the media and an underdeveloped civil society, largely undermined prospects for media freedom, turning them into the voice either of the state, or of political or vested interests.
Professor Slavko Splichal of Slovenia has called the result a “paternal-commercial system” . He has also pointed to “Italianization of the media” (i.e. close ties between politics and the media) as the main distinguishing feature of the post-communist media system.
As a result, the media model characteristic of the present stage of transformation is a combination of the mimetic and “atavistic” media policy orientations.
“The new media scene is surely much better than it was, let’s say, ten years ago,” says Galik (2003, p. 204). This is no doubt true in relation to a great majority of post-communist countries.
We can identify at least eight processes or clusters of complementary or contradictory processes of change in post-communist media systems:
1. Demonopolization and (partial) remonopolization
2. Commercialization and marketization of media systems
3. Change as regards media freedom and independence
5. Pluralization and diversity in the media
6. Professionalization of journalists
7. Development of public service broadcasting
8. Internationalization and globalization.
Demonopolization is by no means universal or complete in post-communist countries. In countries like Belarus, Ukraine, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – also Russia – media are either all controlled by the State, or by oligarchs close to the state; private or opposition media are persecuted or simply banned. In such countries, demonopolization – meaning the existence of non-official and uncontrolled media – is achieved by means of the Internet and a handful of low-circulation newsletters. This is, in a way, a digitalage reincarnation of the Soviet-era dissident samizdat. Everywhere, a veritable flood of new publications followed demonopolization.
Not only had old regulations to be lifted, but also entirely new broadcasting laws had to be adopted, and that was a protracted and conflict-ridden process. In many countries, demonopolization was followed by media concentration.
In war-torn, non-competitive or concentrated regimes like are most of the former Yugoslav countries, media concentrations are mostly politically-driven, evidence of incomplete transformation and of continuity with the previous era. Most of the media moguls make their money elsewhere and spend it on the media in order (as described by Lange, 1997) to “buy a voice, control a voice or have the ability to let others use that voice.”
Elsewhere, media concentration is promoted by more familiar market mechanisms, involving mergers and acquisitions between existing media companies, often involving action by foreign media conglomerates interested in entering a market. The old media system fragmented very quickly and was replaced by a market- oriented system that rapidly began to integrate itself into the world media market, with a clear trend towards monopolization (or concentration) of local market.
The more transformation is advanced in a post-communist country, the more market mechanisms shape the media scene – and the more the oxygen of democracy is squeezed out by the laughing gas of the tabloidization of all the media. This is additionally promoted by the appearance and activities of foreign media companies that usually pursue strictly market oriented goals and introduce business and managerial know-how.
Features of a media system shaped by market forces include such elements as segmentation of audiences (including separation of elite and popular media, and identification of market niches in both broad areas), stress upon entertainment rather than on educational or informative content, a preponderance of advertising- oriented content, media concentration (see above), etc.
A good case study of this situation is provided by Hungary, for example, where foreign investors took over both the national and the regional political newspaper market in a couple of months early on in the transition period and turned the previously statedominated “command industry” into a market-driven media system (Bayer, Galik, 2002).
The following structural changes could be noted in the 1990s:
• Popular/tabloid titles appeared on the scene in 1990 and the fight for readers’ attention began between the political and the tabloid press;
• Middle-of-the road newspapers have been squeezed out of the market: they either transformed themselves into tabloids or went out of business;
• The magazine industry has expanded enormously compared to the pre-transition era;
• People started to spend more money and time buying and reading magazines;
• The supply of radio and television channels grew continuously during the 1990s, attracting audience attention and advertising budgets to the competing electronic media;
• Freesheets containing some editorial parts next to advertisings and distributed to the public in different forms have been common and started to siphon advertising revenues vital for survival out of the industry. The picture is completed by the clear dominance of commercial television over the public service one. Consumer target groups are becoming narrower and the advantages from economies of scope are becoming more and more obvious. Further consolidation seems inevitable in both markets. (Jakubowicz, 2005: 6)
At the risk of some oversimplification, one could point to different policy orientations as regards media independence in different types of political systems:
1. Authoritarian regimes in most cases pursue a proactive policy of full subordination of the media, censorship and administrative control;
2. Non-competitive democracies maintain extensive control of state/public broadcast media and are likely to make use of licensing to keep opponents of the regime off the air. To begin with, their policy vis-Ã -vis private broadcast and print media was usually a reactive one, responding to cases when they challenged the government or public officials . More recently, pre-emptive strategies to prevent hostile or critical coverage became more common, including (as in Russia or Ukraine) pressure on old media oligarchs to give up their media holdings and turn them over to people or companies selected by the power elite.
3. For their part, competitive democracies (Type A countries) accept extensive media freedom. The system does, however, encompass politicization of public media and use of a variety of methods to influence or control the media, whenever possible. (Ibid.)
There are two main reasons why media organizations in many post-communist countries are unable to sustain themselves on the market:
• Slow pace of economic reform, leading to an underdeveloped market economy and therefore an impoverished public and an underdeveloped advertising market (driving down revenues from sales and advertising) ;
• An overabundance of media outlets, resulting from (i) political or other extraneous reasons for establishing newspapers or broadcasting stations, regardless of the cost or prospects for their self-financing; (ii) early enthusiasm for launching new media once the Communist system was abolished, (iii) simplified procedures for awarding licenses to broadcast before new broadcasting laws were passed, often to cronies of the current government , and then institutional failure of licensing authorities , resulting in their inability to put the broadcasting market on a sound economic footing by adjusting the number of stations to the size of the market .
With too many media organizations chasing inadequate sources of revenue, the result is a foregone conclusion: in order to survive they must find other sources of finance: government subsidies or money from political parties, local authorities, business or
other. Financial dependence translates into lack of editorial autonomy.
New political elites everywhere have sought to apply a wide variety of measures either to control the media or curb their “excessive” independence and autonomy. In many countries, such issues as access to official information, or generally freedom of information legislation, protection of journalistic sources, state secrets laws, defamation, libel and privacy provisions, manner of licensing/registration of newspapers and publishers, accreditation of journalists, journalists’ professional rights and obligations are all hotly contested in the process of drafting and implementing the law in terms of media and journalistic freedom.
Very little has been done to achieve true democratization of the media system or media organizations. Democratization of media organizations themselves may take the form of making the media, their ownership, management and content, more democratic and socially representative. In a few cases has some effort been made to involve civil society in policy-making as well as management and oversight of public service broadcasting organizations and to ensure pluralism of content. Everywhere else, most of the main decisions are left firmly in the hands of the power elite. There are practically no cases when the appointment of broadcasting regulatory authorities and governing bodies of public service broadcasters, including their top management, has been made apolitical.
An attempt at democratization has, in some countries (Poland, Macedonia) taken the form of measures to provide for some advantages for non-profit broadcasters. Despite these and other isolated moves, it is clear that the “civic,” or “non-profit” sector has not
emerged in any significant form in post-communist countries – at least not by way of legislation and due to efforts by public authorities. If it has, it has taken the form of alternative or radical media.
Naturally, evolution of the media system still under Communist rule contributed to greater diversity of media provision, both in terms of the range of content and functions performed by the media. In the first period, there emerged literally hundreds of new print
media titles, with every new political party and organization rushing to establish its own newspaper or periodical. At that point, however, the market and audience preferences took over and it soon became clear that there was no demand for party or indeed politically- oriented media.
Still, there is no doubt that the market model has delivered the kind of diversity it is suited for – but only to the extent to which market conditions made it possible.
In terms of political diversity of the media, post- communist countries may generally be divided into three groups.
• In authoritarian regimes there has been little or no real demonopolization, media independence is practically unknown, and therefore there is no room for political diversity of any kind.
• In concentrated, non-competitive regimes, the media are (or, as in Russia, were until recently) largely controlled by the “oligarchs.” Such “pocket media” have had little do with journalism as such. They should more properly be seen as PR and propaganda arms of political-cum-economic groupings which need the media to maintain their position and fight competitors.
• In competitive democracies there is more genuine political diversity. The public policy model works (if at all) by means of state subsidies and other forms of assistance to the media, and maintenance of state or public broadcasting. Limited media assistance schemes are in operation in many post-communist countries.
De Smaele (2002) has commented that in countries like Russia, the result is a pluralist but not an independent (autonomous) press. In this sense, she says, post-communist Russia is hardly less pluralistic than older democracies. Ivan Sigal has named Russian news coverage “a part of politics.” “In such circumstances,” says Izvestiya journalist Sergej Agafonov, “a free independent press is doomed, but an unfree and dependent press can flourish” […] Alexei Pankin speaks of a unique result: “a genuinely pluralistic unfree media.” However, a pluralism that derives the right to exist from the presence of different power groups in society is an uncertain pluralism. Hence, when the different power groups join forces because they feel threatened in their positions, as was the case in the 1996 presidential elections, this pluralism dies (De Smaele, 2002).
There is, of course, a great deal of fine journalism in post-communist countries. However, given the circumstances described above, it is not surprising that conditions
for professionalism and independence of media professionals are not fully developed. For
example, it is doubtful if any formal safeguards of internal independence exist anywhere in the region. Journalists are often deprived of basic job security and protection vis-Ã -vis their employers.
Other structural factors include lack of market conditions for the financial success (and therefore independence) of the media. As a result, the administration, political organizations or business interests simply control the media and their contents.
Government subsidies for the media exacerbate the situation from this point of view, creating direct media dependence on funding which is often politically motivated.
However, there are also other, more deep-seated reasons why the watchdog role is often rejected. Because of the traditional role of the intelligentsia in Central and Eastern European countries, journalism is often conviction-driven and didactic. By subordinating their work to promoting social and political change, journalists opt for a partisan, advocacy-oriented and campaigning style of writing, bordering at times on propaganda.
In addition to any paternalism inherent in the traditional Central and Eastern European role of the intelligentsia, this is sometimes sincerely meant as a sense of responsibility for one’s country. This ties in with the “Italianization of the media”, intensifying the confusion as to what role journalists should play in post- communist societies.
Privatization and commercialization also affect media and journalistic autonomy, subordinating media performance to market requirements. When this is combined with demoralization of journalists by poverty, ubiquitous corruption, political and other control of the media, the result may be willingness (or necessity) to sell their services to the highest bidder. If in such circumstances we have to do with “pocket media,”
then we may regard journalists as “lapdogs” of the owners of their places of employment, or of the power elite in general.
A frequent phenomenon is sensationalism, a concentration on exposing the real or imagined crimes or transgressions of the mighty. In short, this is tabloid journalism, a blending of facts and opinions, real events and trivial fictional material, news and entertainment replaced factual and reliable accounts of daily, particularly politically relevant events.
Central and Eastern European countries could be divided into three groups:
• Those where the “rush” took the form of an influx of films, television programming and other media products, but not of investments. That had the effect mostly of stunting the already limited prospects for growth of indigenous content production;
• Those, like the Baltic countries, whose political stability, economic growth and development of market economy offered the prospect of profits for investors, but which are too small for the big players;
• And those, like Hungary, the Czech republic, Slovakia and Poland, with some action also in other countries, which were seen as promising enough for large-scale investments. (Jakubowicz, 2005: 9)
Thus, media system internationalization has political, economic and cultural dimensions, so its direction and pace are naturally influenced by the circumstances prevailing in each country.
Some observers have called this entire process of “colonization of the East by the West”. A study of foreign ownership in Central and Eastern European media conducted by European Federation of Journalists points to “the growing domination of the media
by foreign media groups through a process of market colonization which has taken place since 1989”.
Still, if it was “colonization” – which is doubtful – it was colonization by invitation, as Central and Eastern European countries usually opened their doors to foreign media investments. Internationalization of reception and internationalization at the organizational level expanded the media landscape available to the public.
At the same time, by setting in motion consolidation and concentration of media markets, it began to reverse their extreme deconcentration after the collapse of the old media system. The diversity profile of post-communist media systems was extended by the introduction of many new media products, especially new types of publications and program services in broadcasting. Naturally, sources of finance were also enhanced, both by direct investments and by the influx of Western advertising. Advertisers and advertising agencies were encouraged to move into Central and Eastern European countries if they could work with the same media companies as in other markets.
1.11.2. The model of the relationship media and politics in Republic of Macedonia
Republic of Macedonia, as one of several post- communist countries, still doesn’t have its final communication model following the fall of communist system, which model would be compatible with the new societal circumstances. Nor, there doesn’t exist tentative model between media and politics in Macedonia, still.
After reviewing several models of the relationship media and politics there was no any of them typical that fit in case of Macedonia. There are several models from other experiences that could be a pattern for the Macedonian model. But, still the practice in Macedonia says that for Macedonia with other small transition post- communist countries the most appropriate and best model could be a compilation/ combination of few models taking some parts from the existing models in the western democracies and quasi- democratic states. The combination of such a model fits and for both the practice and theory of the relationship of politics and media in Macedonia.
The model of the relationship media- politics in Macedonia like in many other post- communist countries in transition is composed of at least three following components or sub-models:
• Post-communist or post- independent sub-model
• Quasi democratic sub-model
• The free market sub-model
The building- up process of the new communication model in the democratic system and market economy is going on parallel with the transition of the society that in case of Macedonia means not only democratization, but stabilization, as well. Proposing a tentative model concerning the relationship between media and politics would be of facilitative nature to design a new communication model that would fit to the new societal performances.
Both, transition of the society/ political system toward a modern democracy and the transition of the old media system toward new communication system, in case of Macedonia is taking longer compared to other post- communist countries in the Eastern and Central Europe. That task is still not completed.
With the political pluralism it was allowed to be established media pluralism as well. That is a case. But, that wasn’t done through creation a new media system that would apply the societal changes’ outcomes and the new premises of the Macedonian political and economic subsystem. The new communication system has been discussed, proposed several times and claimed only to be established in imaginative way, but in fact all the time there was created only a framework for media pluralism and for emergence of the non- state media and rapid increase of their number compared to the era before democracy.
Accessing toward shaping a model for the new communication model the level, situation and outcomes of the transition of the society and political system should be taken strongly into consideration. As one of the leading Macedonian communication expert, Vesna Sopar would say, “that model would be based on the democratic, economic and educational specifics, or even on the geopolitical situation of the system, national specifics, culture, communication tradition, etc” . (Sopar: 1997: 122)
After the political changes in the last few years, the media in Macedonia face new challenges. The same applies to both, the press and to the electronic media. After the end of the Balkan wars, the construction of a new democratic order and the creation of a civil society under the rule of law are of prime significance. Similarly, one of the most important challenges facing the media consists of the painful task of dealing with the recent past. The media also have a role to play in uncovering war crimes. There is unacceptable the points of view of those who think that such work is unnecessary, or even damaging, as this would only serve to open old wounds that have yet to heal. The digging up of the past, so the argument runs, prevents the pragmatic shaping of the future. It is however a fact that the old Yugoslavia also broke up because the war crimes of World War II had not been dealt with. In the spirit of a new “Brotherhood and Unity”, these atrocities were simply swept under the carpet. As a consequence, nationalist leaders were able to play with national prejudices for years. A part of the media supported them in this. By evoking the crimes committed by the other side in World War II, they were fostering a climate of fear and menace. This was the soil on which violence grew.
The examination of the recent past is therefore no luxury. It is a political necessity and an important precedent for democratic renewal and lasting peace in the Balkans. It is the basis for reconciliation and tolerance between ethnic groups .
220.127.116.11. Media and politics in transition: The Three Models
Media have been in transition in Macedonia since its independence in 1991 and their transition from an administrative-bureaucratic model toward the market and democratization has been closely connected with the transition of Macedonian politics from Yugoslav socialism (close often to the authoritarianism) to democratic pluralism.
The political transition can be divided into three periods: the period if dissolution of former Yugoslavia and independence for Macedonia late 1980s to 1991; the establishment of new democratic political institutions in 1992-2001; and the period that followed the end of the armed conflict in 2001 and the constitutional changes foreseen with the Ohrid Framework Agreement that stopped the armed conflict that provided more liberal and democratic elements in the Macedonian political system.
Now Macedonia is facing the need to retain the public service sectors in communication and mass media in the context of growing pressures of corporate interests and new information technologies. This process of on-going transition coincides with global transition to an information society in other countries and cultures. The difficulties of transition in Macedonia reflect the complexity of rapid and not always orderly movement to the market and democracy.
Each of the three stages of transition produced its new model of mass media:
• Post-communist, or post- independent model;
• Quasi democratic model, or The Fourth Power (or Estate) model, and
• The free market model.
They are all transitive models, as the transition process in Macedonia is not completed yet. They are a kind of the sub- models composing the general model of media- politics for Macedonia.
18.104.22.168.The post- communist or post- independent model
During the dissolution of former Yugoslavia and the period of proclaiming the independence of the new emerged state the media were used to promote the formation of the national identity in Macedonia; changes and to get rid of bureaucratic authoritarian trends. The Communist Party was loosening its grip on the media, but retained its control few years later as well, as several of the succeeding major parties emerged from the former Communist Party. The political leaders tried to reintroduce censorship and issued orders to keep on the control on the functioning of independent newspapers and broadcasters.
The start of the pluralism opened the way for a new chapter in the history of Macedonian media free from one party control and state toward control by several political parties and the government.
In the post communist period/ independent period the media were certainly the most important vehicles of the new established Macedonian state, but they still retained their instrumental character.
22.214.171.124.Quasi democratic model (The Fourth Power (or Estate) model)
The development of new democratic institutions involved free, independent, and pluralistic media, both print and broadcast. Numerous new voices have been creating a new media culture, which strongly resisted encroachments on their independence from the State and for a large part took an adversary position towards the Government and the Parliament.
Media were for the most part no more instruments or mouthpieces; they tried to promote objectivity, de-politization and independence. One of the most remarkable achievements of the free Macedonian media was their coverage of the Kosovo crisis in 1999.
The political freedom and the movement to the market created new difficulties—the economic constraints. Newsprint, printing, and distribution monopolies increased dependence of the media on advertisers, sponsors, banks, and opened ways for new dependencies, which media have resisted with different degrees of success.
During this period the State tried to interfere in the activities of the media several times in sophisticated way. The Government suspended several media programs and tried to impose censorship on some democratic newspapers via the economic dependency.
This practice is still not abolished, however, despite the pressures from journalists and democratic public opinion, as censorship usually doesn’t appear in classic way in Macedonia.
The media’s inflammatory role during the armed conflict in 2001 was out of the range of the democratic systems.