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Archive for the ‘M40MC – Global Media and Communication’ Category

 

This essay was written for my Global Media and Communication module, handed in 9/12/11, with a final mark of 63%.

Introduction

The existing media system operating in the Czech Republic is representative of the strides forward the country has taken since the shadowed past of pre-Velvet Revolution and Velvet Divorce, in 1989 and 1993 respectively. Politically, the country has a Presidential system and a Prime Minister-led Parliament. This is a clear indicator of the country’s determination to be an autonomous state since the fall of communism. The President that oversees the government is a political hangover of the communist regime; a leader with powers to overrule. The media system is a combination of a public broadcaster, mainly funded by the government, and a free system built on private ownership. This promotes competition, an attribute of capitalism in the United States of America that the general public wanted to recreate. This case study looks at how the Authoritarian theory as promulgated by Siebert, Peterson and Schramm in 1956 still influences aspects of the Czech print media system after the country tried so hard to remove itself from Soviet rule.

 

The Czech press and its governance

In 2001 the Czech Republic was the first country of the former Soviet occupied states to review their original media policy. After the fall of communism in 1989, media legislation proved such a low priority in comparison to the creation of a new government that the press simply began a form of self-regulation (Gulyás 2003: 85). When the country divorced from the Slovak Republic in 1993, the Press Act created was largely similar to the framework still in use today, one that promoted freedom with no regulation regarding foreign ownership. The state amended the original Press Act, managed by the Ministry of Culture, in 2000. It still clearly denotes the freedom of the press in Section 4. This entire section is summed up in one line of text: “The content of a periodical lies with the editor” (Klaus et. al. 2000)

Major restrictions include regulation on defamation. This is covered in Section 10. It states that if “communications containing factual allegations which touches the honour, dignity or privacy of certain individuals”, the affected can ask for a repeal or a response from the editor to be printed within 30 days. This section has caused the most controversy.

The general public tends to be of the opinion that attaching legislation to regulate the press largely devalues what the country fought for during the demise of Soviet power. Regulation goes precisely against the societal beliefs of what the free press should be. There was public outrage in 1994 when a journalist, Zdenek Svavorky, was arrested and jailed for four months when he described the President, Vaclav Havel as a “traitor” (Wachtal 1996).

The current political leaders have long had a widely publicised loathing of journalists, which has in many cases been duly reciprocated. If the level of detest is so high then why don’t the political leaders impose more restrictions on the media?

There would be, without doubt, absolute disgust on behalf of the public should stricter legislation be introduced, but I would argue another reason: The government tolerates the way the media system operates because it is ultimately the decision of Czech leaders to provide a ‘free’ press. Allowing the public to express their views in a newspaper can in itself be seen as a form of regulation.  Adorno and Horkheimer explain; “there is the agreement of all executive authorities, not to produce or sanction anything that in any way differs from their own rules, their own ideas about consumers, or above all themselves” (1944: 122).

The Czech government supports a system that is intended to allow private ownership and public body broadcasters to work in unison. This bicameral approach is represented in practice in all sectors of the media apart from the newspaper industry.

According to Metykova and Cisařová the current mixture of journalists is divided between those working before the fall of communism and those who came in to the profession following the Velvet Revolution and Divorce. These two types of journalist have opposing ideologies on what their role is in society.

 – Pre 1989

The journalists that survived the cold war reported a huge cultural change in their country. Despite this experience they seem to have developed a hangover of the journalism practices drummed into them by their previous leaders. The job they fulfilled was one that spoke for the government and provided information and structure to the daily order. “The ‘old’ generation identify themselves as the bearers of (arguably idealized) professional standards and professional integrity and pride”. (Metykova &Cisařová 2009: 733)

 – Post 1989

The modern journalist, or at least those who began working after the fall of communism, are far more aggressive in their attempts to undermine the government at any opportunity. The general feeling amongst them is that they now have the freedom to speak out against the government so they will. (Sparks 1998:  162)

The political leaders tend to take these criticisms personally; consequently they have let their feeling for journalists be known. In an interview with Forbes magazine in 1994, the Prime Minister, Vaclav Klaus stated, “journalists are the biggest enemies of mankind” (Gulyás, 2003: 87).

We can take a clear element of distaste shared between the two sides from this quote but Sparks argues that Klaus and other politicians later developed a collaborative relationship with many media outputs, especially TV Nova. The leading commercial Czech television station used these links with politicians to lobby for and achieve changes to media legislation. In exchange for this, the media diluted their hostility toward the country’s leaders (2000: 43). Therefore, as is the case under the authoritarian model, the government achieves support from the press without formal regulation.

Newspapers are under private ownership and must abide by the Press Act. This Act now falls under the terms of the Competition Law of the European Commission, as does the regulation of the rest of the media. The Competition Law says that it regulates “(i) cartels, (ii) abuse of a dominant position and (iii) merger control” (Hoffman 2005: 4). The Antimonopoly Office ensures that the terms of the legislation are followed by taking in to account the specific roles of each publication and investigating media convergences. The media is seen as a vital role in Czech culture, which is “viewed as a ticket to the future”. (Jehlička 2008)

 

Other theories the Czech press may fit into

Some may argue that 4 Theories of the Press is the Bible of media theory but many modern theorists have started to lose faith. There are already suggestions of a fifth, Development theory that applies to peripheral countries, as well as modern combinations of the original four.

Sparks (1998) concludes that the 4 Theories of the Press is a completely useless tool to benchmark the Czech media system against. This is true to an extent.

The Soviet-Communist system is obsolete as the current system was set up to directly oppose the purpose of a Soviet press.

With the press being free, perhaps the Libertarian theory offers a connection, yet the Czech Republic definitely maintains a solid government.

The Social-Responsibility theory does reflect elements of the Czech system. The Czech Press Act gives the impression of a free press, but its official legislation in Section 10 regarding defamation, and the jail sentence of Svavorky, proves otherwise. The media ownership also negotiates too many underhand deals with the government in order to influence freedom and legislation for this theory to fully apply to the Czech system. The media moguls Vladimír Železný and Ronald Lauder of TV Nova have proven that the Czech media owners are savvy enough to persuade the government to work in their favour, indicating self-interest rather than social-responsibility. The press doesn’t have a Czech media tycoon, as German or Swiss publishers own the majority of papers. Právo is the only Czech-owned newspaper. It is the second biggest broadsheet and not strong enough in power to broker deals with the government similar to it’s broadcast colleagues. In the absence of such deals, print journalists have no reason to dilute their antagonism towards the government. Notions of social-responsibility certainly do not encourage them to present a balanced view.

The Czech media system is a complex mix of journalistic practices from the old regime, the new revolutionists, the media moguls and the stubborn governance.

Such a hybrid of ambitious powers jockeying for position in this still young country can cause theorists to jump to conclusions when discussing which theory best describes its press.

With its private ownership, and the part control of broadcasting by the government it is the Authoritarian theory that still holds true. Despite Hitler’s control of the media, privately run newspapers faired rather well under Nazi rule. Alfred Hugenburg owned a successful paper that went largely uninterrupted in its choice of content (Sparks 1998: 40). It was taken over by the regime toward the end of WWII to ensure support for the cause but for the most part it was left to choose its own content. One thing the Authoritarian theory relies on is strict support for the government in power; the Czech press have very little belief in their leadership, but the theory should not be thrown out over such minor details. This lack of belief does not necessarily destroy the application of this theory. Adorno and Horkheimer argue that the emotion achieved after the consumption of culture remains the same, regardless of the political system. “Consumers appear as statistics on research organization charts and are divided by income groups into red, green and blue areas; the technique is that used for any type of propaganda.” (1944: 123).

 

 

 

Conclusion

Applying the arguably outdated Authoritarian theory to the press system of the Czech Republic is a questionable choice that will undoubtedly draw critics. That doesn’t mean it should be disregarded.

The Controlled Commodification theory has revitalised the concepts of self-regulation and state control. It is tough to argue without hesitance that the media system in China is entirely under control of the state, and the same can be said for self-regulation. The combined theory shows that both aspects have relevance (Weber & Lu 2007).

Just as Controlled Commodification developed from two ideas, for this reason I believe the Authoritarian theory may still be of use when analysing today’s Czech press. Although the theory cannot stand by itself when describing the current system, for reasons I have stated, its utility could combine with a second, or even third, theory after more specific examination. Due to the limitations of this article I am unable to expand much further than stating a prospective amalgamation with the Social-Responsibility theory.

Examples of the government looking after their own principles, and the media expressing their freedom demonstrate that it would be best to submit a Socially-Responsible Authoritarian media theory. As further research is needed of the two archaic systems, this is yet to be confirmed. What is clear from my study is that with the government’s attempts to control the broadcasting system, and the more relaxed attitude toward the newspaper industry, the Authoritarian theory should still be considered when describing the Czech Press.

 

References:

Adorno, T. Horkheimer, M. (1994) ‘The Culture Industry: Enlightenment As Mass Deception’ Dialectic of Enlightenment: 120 – 167, Norfolk: Lowe & Brydon Printers Ltd

Gulyás, Á. (2003) ‘Print Media in Post-Communist East Central Europe’, European Journal Of Communication (18) 1: 81

Hoffmann, T. Fucik, J. Institute of European Media Law (2005) ‘Chapter 3: Czech Republic’, Market Definitions in the Media Sector [online] available from <http://ec.europa.eu/competition/sectors/media/documents/&gt; [26 November 2011]

Jehlička, V. (2008) National Cultural Policy of the Czech Republic, Prague: Government of the Czech Republic

Klaus. Havel. Zeman. (2000) ‘Regulation No. 46/2000/Předpisy č. 46/2000’ Collection of Laws/Sbírka zákonů, [online] available from <http://www/sagit.cz.pages.sbirkatxt.asp?zdroj=sb00046&cd=76&typ=r&gt; [5 December 2011] (Translated via Google Translator)

Metyková, M. Císařová, L. (2009) ‘Changing journalistic practices in Eastern Europe’, Journalism, (10) 5: 719-736

Siebert, F.S. Peterson, T. Schramm, W. (1956) Four Theories of the Press, Urbana: University of Illinois

Sparks, C. (2000) ‘Media theory after the fall of European communism: Why the old models from East and West won’t do any more’, Curran, J., Park, M. De-Westernizing Media Studies, London: Routledge, 35-49

Sparks, C. Reading, A. (1998) Communism, Capitalism and the Mass Media. London: SAGE Publications

Wachtel, B. 1996, ‘Czech media: Democratic or anti-communist?’ Nieman Reports (50) 2: 51.

Weber, I. Lu, J. (2007) ‘Internet and self-regulation in China: the cultural logic of controlled commodification’ Media, Culture and Society (29) 5: 772-789

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As this term draws to a close our last Global Media lecture meant we weren’t learning about new theories or concepts and focused on looking at a number of programmes that discussed ones we’d learned in previous weeks.

The programme titled Hollow State produced in December 1996 looked at the information society developing in China at the time.

An interesting thought process is if the hollowness has increased or decreased over the years. Has culture and society caught up with the information society and developed with it? Or has it become more hollow as the information technology of today develops at such a rate that we are constantly behind the trend or latest revelation.

The programme brought to light some of the academic theorists we have seemingly studied over the past few weeks. This shows that the journalist making the programme will use the theorists when discussing certain developments and the latest news. It’s important to develop contacts with the people I study with currently as these may be the people I’m interviewing in a few years time.

Hollow State was particularly well made due to the different views it offered. It’s a good visual example of how to construct the essay due to be handed in next week. It presented the views opposing the programmes theory and gave examples of why it may be true, as well as the views the programme believed with examples.

 

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We are getting close to the end of term, or semester, Coventry University can’t decide what they want to legally call it. Either way we’re going to be breaking up for Christmas soon. Before then I have to hand in this essay and start the next one.

Today’s seminar with Fred was perhaps to help us with the current essay we’re writing but to be honest anything we learned now must surely be too late to throw in a new theory.

The main bulk of the class was about the age we’re living in is The Information Age, and we are part of The Information Society.

They sound like covert operations or sci-fi programmes, when really it’s simply about the fact that information is power at the moment.

40-50 years ago, the world was coming to the end of the industrial age. This saw labour intensive work begin to die out, factory work shutting down and mines being boarded up. Northerners and Welshmen didn’t know what to do with themselves. Before that it was the agricultural age, everyone who had a plot of land, grew something. That is how you had wealth, and power.

These days the ability to access information is whats important.

We discussed when the information age began as there is no defined argument apparently. Some say it was the start of the 1900’s when such things like the telegram and telephones were invented. Others believe it was a bit later in the 1960’s when colour TV’s started popping up, these things called satellites started appearing in the sky and communication via radio was popular. The latest date argued is the 1990’s when the internet started appearing as we know it today, we also started buying mobile phones and were contactable at any time of the day wherever we were.

We now know we are right in the middle of the information age because the knowledge that you need communicational technological information accessibility is globalised.

Martin Shaw, a big theorist dude in this area defines globalisation as;

The compression of the world and the intensification of the consciousness of the world as a whole

Take from that what you will but the entire world appears to be networked now, and its all because of this information age theory. The more LinkedIn you are the better.

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With the week I’ve had, Genevieve and I managed to miss each other at every opportunity to plan our presentation for today’s seminar. The presentation, although not marked, is supposed to take a view at how we are getting on in the process of our essay writing. So far I haven’t got anywhere, as the link will explain.

We managed to meet a few hours before our lecture to throw together a quick presentation. As my lecture notes had disappeared this was a tougher process than it could have been.

We spent the first half hour teaching one another about the country we will be discussing in our essay and the theories behind our essay. We then put together a few slides just to support our speech.

While our presentation was a clear example of how we were under-prepared, we both managed to explain ourselves in a manner that meant we could get some good constructive feedback.

When I begin writing my essay, I now have four questions that I need to focus on.

1)   What is the media policy?

2)   Is it executed?

3)   Which of the ‘4 theories of the press’ does it fit into?

4)   How does post-traumatic journalism/post communism theory fit into it?

I will be writing about the print media system in the Czech Republic. The media policy I have yet to research, but that is my next main focus. I have done plenty of theoretical research so far so as soon as I read the official policy I should know whether the Czech print media are executing it effectively.

A holy grail when it comes to Central European media theory

Whilst I will argue that the system currently operating doesn’t fit into any of the 4 theories (citing Sparks & Reading 1998), I will suggest that it most closely fits into the libertarian theory.

This argument will then lead e on to the idea of Post Traumatic Journalism, or in the case of the Czech Republic, post-communism.

Overall it was a very helpful exercise, I also noted down a few pointers that Fred and the class suggested we include so I have some further reading to do, but hopefully I should be in a position to start the essay by the end of next week.

 

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This week’s Global Media and Communication seminar focused on our next piece of work. The fact that I have barely begun my first piece of work is unsettling. This is the level of speed and efficiency you have to work at to develop at an MA level.

The second piece of coursework is a choice of six questions, of which we have to explore and write up the answer with of course references to the various theories and concepts behind Global Media.

One such question that caught my eye was the second that asks me to ‘Discuss the argument that media and communication have democratic value with reference to a specific political phenomenon or event of global interest, such as controversial occurrence or landmark election in a country of your choice’.

The bonus of this particular assignment is that is doesn’t have to be entirely written. There are a number of options available to how I wish to approach the execution of this. An idea I have had is to create a 10-minute podcast of the subject and write the additional 1000 word review. I could possibly write a 3000-word article and review but as my previous lecturers know my academic writing isn’t the best. I am more practical and I should embrace it given the opportunity, this type of product will also prove useful toward a portfolio down the line.

One of many books edited by John Mair inspired by his famed Coventry Conversations

With regards to the subject I may look at the answer in relation to The Arab Spring. This could be done as the podcast will need to be put together quite quickly and John Mair has already written a book about the Arab Spring and how the globalisation of media has affected its success. I will hopefully be able to include him in the podcast and maybe some other opinions to back up my points.

The rest of the essay was completed with the discussion of Conflict and Persuasive communication, in particular the roles of propaganda and how peace journalism is reported.

Whereas Propaganda is heavily planned, selective and can influence general opinion through emotion, Peace journalism focuses on the needs of ordinary people and with finding a solution to their problems.

For next weeks lecture I’ll look at a text titled ‘Embedding and the Geneva Convention’ in preparation, but will need to book some time with Genevieve, a colleague who I will be completing my presentation with next week.

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I have been doing this course for 8 weeks now. I have done more reading in the past 8 weeks than I did in my entire three years studying Creative Writing. This either says a lot about how seriously I’m taking this course or very little about how seriously I took my previous course.

The truth is I knew what I was capable of as an undergraduate and perhaps I took it a bit lightly and I spent my time at Marjon growing as a person and getting involved in plenty of extra-curricular activities.

This course I haven’t got involved in basketball or many side-projects, I am reading so much and focusing on my work each week. It has definitely led in a slower development of bonding with friends but feel I’m slowly getting there with my course-mates.

My first piece of major coursework is due in pretty soon and I think I am pretty prepared for it, not quite entirely, but nearly. Of course what I have realised in doing so much work is that I was never ready to complete any piece of coursework in my previous course, I didn’t even take the time to learn how to construct my academic essays.

This past Friday’s session allowed us to look at this subject a little bit. We did spend the first hour discussing this past weeks readings, but after this we looked at other journal articles and how they are set up. I’ve never thought about it before but for this academic essay I think I’m going to ‘plan’ it. Bizarre. At least it feels so. I’ll start this week as we don’t have any essential reading to do so I can spend the time I’d usually commit to that looking at how I’m going to put together the essay.

The introduction needs to adhere to these brief points.

  • The title – has to explain what country I’ll be talking about, what media system and the theory I’ll be attaching to it
  • The 1st sentence – should tell the reader something about how the system is affected by political, social or economic structures.
  • The 1st paragraph – will propose the current situation in the country regarding the media system discussed and it’s pros and cons.
  • Before beginning the analysis, the intention of the article should be set out and the system should also be put into context in the global marketplace

So that’s the first paragraph planned. It only took two days…

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With the second half of Monday dedicated to discovering InDesign there wasn’t a lot to write about from that particular class apart from that we re-constructed a magazine DPS (Double Page Spread) from AutoCar.

Hence I didn’t really offer a full write up.

Friday’s seminar session with Fred and the Global Media and Communication gang was a discussion roundtable of work we had been reading up until that point. We discussed theories and different media concepts and conversed as to how we will be using them to relate to our essay this term. That’s the part I worry over is the academic writing. I’ve always struggled with academia, if you ask me to write a story about anything I can, if you want me to critically analyse the media systems present in the Czech Republic since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the drop of the Iron curtain – I’ll struggle.

But I’m reading all I can and so far have been impressed with how I have approached this course in comparison to my BA. Of course the reasons are justified but I’m happy the work is going in to it.

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