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Importing the Fourth Estate to the European Union: Problems and considerations for European democrac


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Title: Importing the Fourth Estate to the European Union: Problems and considerations for European democrac

Importing the Fourth Estate to the European
Union Problems and considerations for European
  • Jesse Owen Hearns-Branaman
  • PhD Researcher

Institute of Communication Studies, University of
  • Relationship between democracy and news media
  • Fourth Estate as Myth
  • Development of Fourth Estate Myth
  • Formative Phase
  • Simulation-Reinforcement Phase
  • Applications to EU
  • Further Research

1) Relationship between Democracy and News Media
  • Hackett (2005) Three Critiques
  • Free Market / Neoliberal / Neoconservative
  • Public Sphere Liberalism
  • Radical Democratic / Politico-Economic
  • Hallin Mancini (2004) Three Models
  • Liberal secular, market mechanisms, commercial
  • Democratic Corporatist commercial/secular,
    limited state
  • Polarized Pluralized non-secular, strong state
  • Splichal (2006) Publicness
  • Kant Publicity, enlightenment of the people,
    public use of reason, free speech and expression,
    moral force
  • Bentham Utilitarian (maximum happiness),
    surveillance of the government by press, free

1) Relationship between Democracy and News Media
  • Agreement from many scholars that free market /
    liberal / Bentham systems are greatly limited by
    relationship with capital
  • But ideas of free press and free speech are
    conflated (Splichal 2006)
  • All place news media as important in performing
    Fourth Estate-style checks (Hackett 2005 86,
    89, 92 Hallin Mancini 2005 225, 231 etc)

Spread of Liberal/Free Market system
  • UK has already moved towards a more American
    system (Herman McChesney 1997 166-170)
  • Media consultants from USA are being hired to
    give advice over much of Europe (Allan 2000)
  • Liberal system is gaining dominance outside its
    homeland (Hallin Mancini 2004, 2005)
  • Importation will cause increased corruption for
    parties and a vicious circle of further
    alienation from ordinary voters (Voltmer 2006

3) Fourth Estate as Myth (Bottici 2007 112)
  • is not an explanation that is put forward to
    satisfy a contemplative curiosity over the world
  • derives its crucial features from the fact that
    it has a specific social function
  • Tends to function
  • less by providing ultimate explanations for
    being than religion/spirituality
  • less on how the world exists than science
  • Performs a role left unfilled, even in
    enlightened and modern societies

3) Fourth Estate as Political Myth
  • the work on a common narrative by which the
    members of a social group (or society) make
    significance of their experience and deeds
    (Bottici 2007 133)
  • The Fourth Estate was neither a consistent nor
    absolutely clear set of practices, yet it was
    an important contribution to the discursive
    formation of journalism (Conboy 2004 109)
  • It provided an important rhetorical bridge
    between the interests of the newspapers and those
    of the newly enfranchised middle classes (ibid)

3) Myth Class (Barthes 1957 150-151)
  • Myth consists in admitting the accidental evil
    of a class-bound institution to better conceal
    its principal evil (i.e. the capitalist system)
  • This immunizes the contents of the collective
    imagination by means of a small inoculation of
    acknowledged evil one thus protects it against
    the risk of a generalized subversion.
  • So now the bourgeoisie no longer hesitates to
    acknowledge some localized subversions because
    they help to hide the larger principal evil

4) Development of the Fourth Estate Myth
  • Performance of watchdog functions
  • Branding as adversarial
  • Branding as biased, left-wing

Marketization / Corporatization
Legal Protection of Press
Formative Phase (18th/19th Centuries)
Simulation-Reinforcement Phase
3.i) Formative Phase
  • Secularisation Out of direct control of
    political parties and government
  • Marketization/Corporatization Cover price went
    below cost, reliance on marketplace of ideas
  • Legal protection Freedom of expression, speech
    and/or press laws established and enforced
  • Professionalization Establishment of
    professional norms and standards

3.i) Effects of Formative Phase?
  • Established apparent neutrality and
    trustworthiness of news media in the publics
  • Placed news media under corporate control,
    intimately tied with capitalist interests in
  • Legal protection encouraged expansion of news
    media businesses
  • Constrained activist (i.e. working-class)
  • Gave journalists a professional motivation (myth
    / common narrative)
  • Constrained debate (Is journalism performing its
    watchdog function well enough?)

3.ii) Simulation-Reinforcement Phase
  • The social machine now moves on a Möbius
    strip, and the social actors are always on both
    sides of the contract (Baudrillard 2001 21)
  • Actual performance of watchdog functions (i.e.
    Watergate, David Kelly affair)
  • Branding of news media as adversarial towards
    government / business interests
  • Branding of news media actors as being biased
    (too liberal, too conservative)

Example Watergate Scandal(Baudrillard 1978
  • Scandal is a means to regenerate a moral and
    political principle because denunciation of
    scandal always pays homage to the law. And
    Watergate above all succeeded in imposing the
    idea that Watergate was a scandal
  • Hence, the resignation of Nixon was simply a
    reinjection of a large dose of political
    morality on a global scale
  • capital, which is immoral and unscrupulous, can
    only function behind a moral superstructure, and
    whoever regenerates this public morality
    spontaneously furthers the order of capital, as
    did the Washington Post journalists
  • Before, the task was to dissimulate scandal
    today, the task is to conceal the fact that there
    is no real scandal

3.ii) Effects of Simulation-Reinforcement Phase?
  • Occasional exposure of corruption shows the
    public the system is working
  • Simulates adversarial relationship while still
    maintaining reverence for capitalism
  • News media reiterate adherence to professional
    norms, continuing to limit activist media (i.e.
  • Simulates public debate (balance means only two
    sides to an issue? Are they or arent they?
    instead of Is it important?)
  • Aids justification for increased deregulation of
    media system
  • Reinforces false subject(ive) / object(ive)
    divide (Calcutt Hammond 2008)

  • Secularized State-by-state basis, but neutrality
    is encouraged
  • Marketized, ad dependant , corporatized
  • public-supported news might come under attack?
  • deregulation?
  • Legally protected of press, professionalized
  • under Charter of Fundamental Rights
  • more talk for EU-wide standards?
  • Fifth freedom of expression?
  • Performance as watchdog not Europe-wide yet as
    most news markets are more local-based Dr. Meyer
    EU commission aims at invulnerability
  • Branding as adversarial, biased Prof. Trenz -
    news media seen (hoped?) by EU to perform
    instrumental role

4) Applications for EU Democracy
  • Policy makers need to differentiate between free
    speech, free expression and free press
  • Advertising-based media is not a reliable
    business model for watchdog journalism
  • Actual performance of watchdog functions does not
    preclude passive government/business influence
  • Commercial news media cannot be relied on to
    check systemic corruption
  • Dr. Michailidou democratization vs. PR
    (political marketing) functions

  • Public sphere Contribution of news media to PS
    will always be coloured by corporate control?
  • Class and media need to examine relationship
    better (i.e. media as a class institution)
  • Comparative media systems analysis of spread of
    Fourth Estate Myth in transitioning democracies
  • Problematizing and critiquing terms of analysis
    Nation-state boundaries? Regional systems?
    Trans-national media companies? (i.e. van de
    Steeg 2002)

Selected Bibliography
  • Allen, C. (2000), Sold American US news
    consultants and news issues abroad in R.
    Anderson L Strate (eds), Critical Studies in
    Media Commercialism, (Oxford University)
  • Barthes, R. (1957 1993), Myth today, in
    Mythologies, A. Lavers (tr.) (Vintage)
  • Baudrillard, J. (1978 1994), Precession of
    simulacra, P. Foss P. Patton (trs), in
    Simulations, (Semiotext(e)).
  • Baudrillard, J. (2001), Impossible Exchange, C.
    Turner (tr.), (Verso).
  • Bennett, W. L. (2000), Media power in the United
    States, in J. Curran M.-J. Park (eds),
    De-Westernizing Media Studies, (Routledge).
  • Blumenberg, H. (1979 1985), Work on Myth, R.
    Wallace (tr), (MIT)
  • Bottici, C. (2007), A Philosophy of Political
    Myth, (Cambridge University)
  • Calcutt, A. P. Hammond (2008) Future of
    objectivity, paper presented at End of
    Journalism? Technology, Education Ethics
    conference, University of Bedfordshire, Luton,
    UK Oct 17-18, 2008
  • Chomsky, N. (2002a), Understanding Power The
    Indispensable Chomsky, P.R. Mitchell J.
    Schoeffel (eds), (The New Press)
  • Conboy, M. D. (2004), Journalism A Critical
    History, (Sage)
  • Curran, J. (1978), The press as an agency of
    social control An historical perspective, in G.
    Boyce, J. Curran P. Wingate (eds), Newspaper
    History from the Seventeenth Century to the
    Present Day, (Constable)
  • Curran, J. (2000), Rethinking media and
    democracy, in J. Curran M. Guerevitch (eds),
    Mass Media and Society, 3rd Edition (Arnold)
  • Curran, J. (2002), Media and Power, (Routledge)

Selected Bibliography
  • Eriksen, E. O., J. E. Fossum A. J. Menendez
    (2004), A constitution in the making? in E. O.
    Eriksen, J. E. Fossum A. J. Menendez (eds),
    Developing a Constitution for Europe, (Routledge)
  • Fraleigh, D. M., Tuman, J. S. (1997), Freedom
    of Speech in the Marketplace of Ideas,
    (Bedford/St. Martins)
  • Fraser, N. (1992), Rethinking the public sphere
    A contribution to the critique of actually
    existing democracy, in C. Calhoun (ed.),
    Habermas and the Public Sphere, (MIT)
  • Hallin, D. C., P. Mancini (2004), Comparing
    Media Systems Three Models of Media and
    Politics, (Cambridge University)
  • Hallin, D. C., P. Mancini (2004), Comparing
    Media Systems, in J. Curran M. Gurevitch (eds),
    Mass Media Society, 4th ed., (Hodder Arnold)
  • Habermas, J. (1962 1991), The Structural
    Transformation of the Public Sphere An Inquiry
    into a Category of Bourgeois Society, (MIT)
  • Habermas, J. (2004), Why Europe needs a
    constitution, in E. O. Eriksen, J. E. Fossum
    A. J. Menendez (eds), Developing a Constitution
    for Europe, (Routledge)
  • Hackett, R. A. (2005), Is there a democratic
    deficit in US and UK journalism?, in S. Allan
    (ed), Journalism Critical Issues, (Open
  • Hearns-Branaman, J. O. (2008), Must we
    ourselves not become gods? A perspective on the
    visual theories of Foucault, Debord and
    Baudrillard in explaining contemporary power
    structures, in The International Journal of
    Baudrillard Studies, 5(2).
  • Heilbroner, R. L. (1985), The Nature and Logic of
    Capitalism, (Norton)
  • Herman, E. S., Chomsky, N. (1988),
    Manufacturing Consent The Political Economy of
    the Mass Media, (Vintage)
  • Herman, E. S., McChesney, R. W. (1997), The
    Global Media The New Missionaries of Corporate
    Capitalism, (Cassel)
  • Lippman, W. (1920 2007), Liberty and News,
    (Princeton University Press)

Selected Bibliography
  • McChesney, R. W. (2004), The Problem of the
    Media U.S. Communication Politics in the 21st
    Century, (Monthly Review)
  • Splichal, S. (1999), Public Opinion Developments
    and Controversies in the 20th Century, (Rowman
    and Littlefield)
  • Splichal, S. (2002), The principle of publicity,
    public use of reason and social control, in
    Media, Culture and Society, vol. 24 5-26.
  • Splichal, S. (2006), In search of a strong
    European public sphere Some critical
    observations on conceptualizations of publicness
    and the (European) public sphere, in Media,
    Culture Society 28(5) 695-714
  • Trenz, H. (2004), Media coverage on European
    governance Exploring the European public sphere
    in national quality newspapers, in European
    Journal of Communication 19(3) 291-319
  • Van de Steeg (2002), Rethinking the conditions
    for a public sphere in the EU, in European
    Journal of Social Theory 5(4) 499-519
  • Voltmer, K. (2006), Conclusion Political
    communication between democratization and the
    trajectories of the past, in K. Voltmer (ed),
    Mass Media and Political Communication in New
    Democracies, (Routledge)