Media Meet the Citizen
Beyond Market Mechanisms and Government Regulations
University of Nijmegen, PO Box 9104, 6500 HE Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Department of Communication, University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Structural changes in the media world, including an increase in competition and commercialization, mean that the topicality and urgency of the notion of social responsibility in the media are increasing. Analogously, the discussion of the social responsibility of companies and organizations becomes a central concern in the business world and within government, as the relatively new concept of ‘good governance’ shows. In recent years we have seen that the absolute belief in the free market is once again under debate. Rather than a return to a controlling government as the main provider of a context in the complex ‘ecology’ of communication policy, possible solutions are now sought in greater responsibility for the media actors themselves (media companies and organizations, citizens, supervisory boards and commissions) and in self-regulation in the media profession. This article assesses accountability mechanisms currently in existence in the Netherlands and provides a comparative overview of interesting practices in other geographical contexts. This contribution also examines the academic reflection upon and conceptualization of such notions as social ‘responsibility’ and media ‘accountability’ in the division of labour throughout the market, the government and civil society. We are thinking of mechanisms for accountability such as a contract between the government and the broadcasters, an ombudsperson, forms of self-regulation, supervisory bodies, forms of public consultation, and the profession seeking contact with the citizens (e.g. civic journalism).
Key Words: citizens • media accountability • media policy • media responsibility • press and broadcasting policy
The News Media's Prospective Accountability Function: Explaining Variable Press Support for Access to Government Information Laws in Six Latin American Countries
University of Texas at Austin 2009
Abstract: Theoretically and empirically, this paper makes the case for re-conceptualizing how we evaluate a news media that keeps government accountable. Particularly in developing democracies, the dominant watchdog paradigm tells us increasingly little about news media independence and government effectiveness. The watchdog suggests retrospective accountability - digging up past abuses of authority. But scholarship has neglected the crucial flipside, the prospective accountability function of the press - coverage of key reforms and remedial measures. This paper evaluates coverage of a key prospective reform - access to government information laws. It analyzes media campaigns for the right in six Latin American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico and Uruguay. I find striking variation in coverage, weaker in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay and considerably stronger coverage in Chile, Guatemala and Mexico. Two explanatory frameworks - one structural and systemic the other institutional and contingent - suggest tentative explanations to account for this variation. First, in line with media concentration theories, centralized markets and dominant firms tend to be associated with less prospective coverage. Second, coverage of prospective reform tends to proliferate under legislatively compromised political leaders but not under stronger leaders. This pattern holds notwithstanding vital right-to-know movements and policy activity. Both explanations lend credence to the idea that prospective coverage is assigned in a politically opportunistic manner.