Media, Political science

Course date

1 July - 21 July, 1997
15 February, 1997
Course Director(s): 

Miklos Sukosd

Political Science, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary
Course Faculty: 

Andras Bozoki

CEU, Budapest, Hungary

Gabriella Cseh

COLPI, Budapest, Hungary

Howard Frederick

Emerson College, Boston, USA

Miklos Haraszti

Central European University, Budapest, Hungary/UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Belarus

Karol Jakubowitz

National Broadcasting Council, Warsaw, Poland

John Keane

University of Westminster, London, United Kingdom

Janos Kornai

Harvard University, Cambridge, United States of America

Free and pluralist mass media systems constitute a crucial institutional precondition of democracy. Without unrestricted media and freedom of information, states and societies cannot be fully democratic. In Western liberal democracies, the media were traditionally viewed as the watchdog of government that warn against misuses of power and help to assure the survival of state of law and constitutionalism. However, many contemporary analysts point out that extreme deregulation of sensationalist commercial media actually threaten meaningful public discourse. Others urge a new definition for public broadcasting and suggest that interactive computer networks offer new perspectives for democratic communication. In East and Central Europe, the media played important roles in the transitions to democracy during 1989-90. However, several forms of authoritarian media policies keep blocking consolidation of democracy during the 1990s. Many political scientists, media scholars and journalists warn that presidents, governments and even municipal executives limit media freedom in several countries of the region. Loopholes in media regulation, state-controlled media privatization and frequency distribution as well as governmental interference with the public service media results in biased political communication, including election campaigns. However, other countries seem rather successful in developing pluralist media systems. The challenge of the democratic legal norms of the European Union and of new communication technologies add to the complexities of political communication in the region. The purpose of this course is to thorougly investigate these trends in an East-West comparative perspective. In the three weeks course, distinguished political and legal theorists, media scholars, and experts on democratic transformation of East and Central Europe will explore different aspects of mass media and democracy. The first week of the course will focus on dilemmas of media and democracy in contemporary Western democracies. We will discuss pro and con arguments for/against liberalization, commercialization and deregulation of media, the supposed crisis of traditional public service media and the democratic potentials of new interactive media. In the second and third weeks, we will turn to media and democratization in East and Central Europe. How do media laws and structures serve democracy in this region? Can massive privatization of television, radio and newspapers lead to new media monopolies? To what degree transparency and information freedom was realized in the governmental and NGO sectors? We will also discuss methods of monitoring media performance and whether journalists were able to learn the art of covering democracy. Finally, we will focus on the gender aspects of democratic communication.