Democracy and Media in Central and Eastern Europe 25 Years On

by Bogusława Dobek-Ostrowska (Volume editor) Michał Głowacki (Volume editor)
©2016 Edited Collection 291 Pages


This book is a collective effort of scholars who elaborate on democracy, civil society and media-political relations in Central and Eastern Europe. The authors look at both theories and practices of media systems and democracy. They indicate problems, risks, challenges related to political transformations, the public sphere, journalism culture and media freedom. All of this while bearing in mind the growing role of new media, civic engagement in the online space as well as societal changes that Central and Eastern European democracies are going through in the second decade of the 21st Century. This book is a helpful companion to media and communication scholars as well as students of journalism and political science, media practitioners and policy makers in Central and Eastern Europe and beyond.
«A well-documented book on the mass media in a little explored area: Central Eastern Europe. Four models of media and politics are presented opening the floor for a wider scholarly debate.» (Paolo Mancini, Università di Perugia, Italy)
«This volume meets the continuing need to make sense of the changing worlds of journalism, journalists, and media. Each of the ten contributions is a well conceptualized, researched and thought out assessment of the pertinent issues and a springboard for further evaluations and model building. A great addition to the classroom and scholarship.» (Peter Gross, The University of Tennessee, USA)

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Editors’ introduction
  • 25 years after communism: four models of media and politics in Central and Eastern Europe
  • Institutions and cultures: an analytical framework for the study of democratization and media transformations in Central and Eastern Europe
  • Four Russias in communication: fragmentation of the Russian public sphere in the 2010s
  • Back to the future? Puzzling transformations of post-Soviet television
  • Central and Eastern European journalists in comparative perspective: demographics, working conditions and professional values
  • A passion for Robin Hood: a case study of journalistic (in)dependence in Russia
  • Guarded or guardless? The role of political knowledge in spotting manipulation in news about international affairs and resisting its persuasive effects
  • Journalism student culture in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Sweden: a comparison of selected dimensions
  • Monitory democracy online: a case study of two Serbian civic initiatives
  • Too much buzz about nothing? uses of social media in Czech news production
  • The Polish think tank scene
  • The Facebook image of the 2013/2014 social protests in Bulgaria
  • Conclusions: mapping the outcomes of media transformation in Central and Eastern Europe
  • List of figures
  • List of tables
  • Index
  • Notes of contributors

| 7 →

Editors’ introduction

Democracy, as well as relations between media and politics in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have been widely analyzed in several scientific publications and further discussed during international and national conferences. So far, the media and democracy in CEE have been widely analyzed through the lenses of models of media systems, journalistic autonomy and the state of media freedom. In addition to this, several of the attempts indicated problems, risks and challenges related to political and cultural transformations, the development of the public sphere, civil society, journalism culture, and the role of traditional media. The rise of new media and technologies in the fast-changing information society of the 21st Century enabled citizens to get actively involved in the public debate through new platforms, devices and services. The public, which has now become more active in terms of content creation, production, and dissemination has called for a redefinition of traditional relations between media and democracy, in terms of power shifts, decentralization, democratization of policy making, as well as the empowerment in decision-making and control. All of this has a profound impact on the functioning of state authorities and institutions as well as relations between the public and media enterprises, which now allow users to contribute, collaborate and co-create. In many countries around the world, including Central and Eastern Europe, the public has proven to be able to mobilize and act in order to achieve selected goals. The changing nature of mediascapes, a shift from media policy towards the processes of governance, together with the growing importance of citizen journalism, blurring the division between producers and consumers as well as examples of civic activism, generate a plethora of new opportunities for a large-scale evaluation of existing models and theories.

Bearing in mind the 25th anniversary of the collapse of communism in many Central and Eastern European countries and the 10th anniversary of the first CEE countries’ accession to the EU, we focused on changing approaches to media freedom and the public sphere and we tried to stimulate debate about the next phase of media and democracy model going forward during the 7th International Central and East European Conference Media titled “Changing Media and Democracy: 25 Years of Media Freedom and Public Sphere in Central and Eastern Europe”. The conference was organized in June 2014 in Wrocław. The event gathered more than 160 scholars from 30 countries in CEE and beyond. ← 7 | 8 →

Chapters published in “Democracy and Media in Central and Eastern Europe 25 Years on” were presented during this conference. In this collection we take the holistic approach in order to analyze changes in Central and Eastern Europe with a special emphasis on new types of transformations in politics, media and civil society. All the changes analyzed here are being treated as ongoing processes, contributing to the emerging approaches and searching for models of media and democracy. Our hypothesis is that countries in CEE have not yet fully recognized the potential of new contextual factors to improve the quality of democracy, media and the public sphere. One of the reasons for this is the lack of the role for media to play. The aim of this book is not only to focus on EU members, but all 21 countries in CEE emerged after the collapse of the communist bloc. They are on a different level of democratization process and media reform (Rozumilowicz, 2002). After reading all the examples and emerging concepts in contemporary studies in CEE we decided to add two analytical chapters at the beginning and in the end of this collection.

Contextual frames for media-political relations in CEE are being deconstructed in the opening chapter by Bogusława Dobek-Ostrowska. Based on previous studies as well as indexes on media freedom, the author evidences the existence of four types of Central and Eastern European media systems. The author proposes a new concept of four models of media and politics in CEE. It is also an attempt to explain what happened during the last two and half decades, and what kind of consequences the changes generated, generate or will generate in the future.

Media transformations and their (un)expected outcomes are being discussed in the following three chapters. The research of Auksė Balčytienė is dedicated to relations between institutions and cultures. It is an analytical framework for the study of democratization and media transformations in CEE. The Russian scholars Svetlana S. Bodrunova and Anna A. Litvinenko present four Russias in communication and fragmentation of the Russian public sphere in the 2010s. By posing question “Back to the Future?” Natalija Mažeikienė and Kristina Juraitė further reconstruct a puzzled transformation of post-Soviet television.

Four chapters are dedicated to journalism and media performance. David H. Weaver takes a comparative perspective when looking at demographic traits, working conditions and professional values of journalism. Svetlana Pasti discovers a “passion for Robin Hood”. She analyses a case study of journalistic (in)dependence in Russia and tries to define a degree of journalistic freedom in Russia. In empirical research, Vasyl V. Kucherenko and Cindy T. Christen consider “guarded or guardless” and try to indicate the role of political knowledge in spotting manipulation in the news about international affairs and resisting its persuasive effects. Marína Urbániková and Jaromír Volek present the data collected in their empirical ← 8 | 9 → comparative studies conducted in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Sweden, and dedicated to journalism students’ culture.

Civil society and new forms of journalism is a common idea for the next four chapters. Jelena Kleut and Dušan Spasojević write about monitory democracy online and deconstruct two Serbian civic initiatives. Václav Štětka and Radim Hladík analyze the use of social media in Czech news production. Agnieszka Hess elaborates on the Polish think tank scene. Mariyan Tomov and Lilia Raycheva try to explain the Facebook image of the 2013/2014 social protests in Bulgaria.

The book ends with a chapter by Michał Głowacki, summarizing the main findings from the perspective of power shifts, democratization and the potential of civil engagement. The author concludes with a list of research questions for the further analyses of emerging studies and approaches.

We believe that all the ideas presented in this collection will be of help to media and communication scholars as well as students of journalism and political science, media practitioners and policy makers in Central and Eastern Europe and beyond. We hope that this book will contribute to future discussions on the media and democracy model going forward.

Bogusława Dobek-Ostrowska and Michał Głowacki

| 11 →

25 years after communism: four models of media and politics in Central and Eastern Europe

Bogusława Dobek-Ostrowska

University of Wrocław

Abstract: There are 21 post – communist countries in Europe, which after the collapse of this regime in 1989/1991 made a more or less successful transition toward democracy. We call them Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). But it is not a monolith in respect of democratic consolidation and European integration. It is quite a varied region with different political standards and levels of economic development. The media systems operate between political pressure, which leads to politicization, and economic pressure, which is responsible for commercialization. These are the two negative tendencies that result in the low quality of the media. A quarter of a century after the collapse of communism, there are four models of media and politics in CEE – the Hybrid Liberal, the Politicized Media, the Media in Transition and the Authoritarian.

Keywords: Authoritarian Model, commercialization, democracy, Hybrid Liberal Model, journalistic culture, Media in Transition Model, models of media systems, politicization, Politicized Media Model, transition.

Introduction: What does “Central and Eastern Europe” mean?

The media systems in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) are the main object of research presented in this volume. What does CEE mean and how can we define it? According to Lerman, Csaki and Feder (2004:4), it is a generic term for the group of countries in Central Europe, Southeast Europe, Northern Europe, and Eastern Europe, i.e. the former communist states in Europe. This term has been in use since the collapse of communism in 1989–1990 in this part of the European continent.

There is also another concept of East-Central Europe (E-CE) (German Ostmitteleuropa, French Europe médiane), which describes the region between the German-speaking countries and Russia (Palmer, 1970), and reflects the land situated “between two”: “(…) between two worlds, between two stages, between two futures” (Braudel, 1990). In this geopolitical sense, East-Central Europe is perceived as one of the “Three Europes”, situated alongside Western and Eastern Europe. ← 11 | 12 →

The two terms CEE and E-CE are based on different criteria: the first one indicates political criteria, the other one uses geographical, historical, economic and cultural circles (Huntington, 1996), but politics cannot be analyzed outside of this context. It is the result of many circumstances and factors, such as geographical location, historical experiences, levels of economic and cultural development. The concept of CEE is more adequate for the research dedicated to the media systems in the 21 countries (see Figure 1), which appeared amongst the ruins of European post-communist/post-socialist states, both terms are used by scholars and they are synonymous.

Figure 1: Map of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE)


Source: European Map – Political Map of Europe (2015). ← 12 | 13 →

Non-democratic systems, such as authoritarian and communist regimes, have to go through some phases towards mature democracy, such as pre-transition, transition and consolidation (Rustow, 1970; O’Donnell and Schmitter, 1986), and different stages of media reform which are linked with them (Rozumilowicz, 2002:17) (see Table 1).

Table 1: Democratization process and media reforms


Source: Rozumilowicz (2002:17).

The main aim of this research is to answer the following question: Where are the media and where is the politics in CEE 25 years after the collapse of communism in Central Europe in 1989, the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the war in Yugoslavia (1991–2001)? Media systems do not exist in a vacuum. They are in constant movement, only the speed of changes can be different. They still act under pressure from external factors, and they are a complex of many elements which are subject to mutual interactions. Media systems are the result of interactions between historical heritage, politics and political culture, economic development, media owners and journalistic culture, social culture and civic society, and also of the implementation of and access to new technologies. We cannot forget about the international context, which in the case of CEE plays an important role. It should be noted that this construction is dynamic and transforms more or less dynamically, but in the case of CEE, the changes of the media system happen very quickly.


In this chapter, the analysis will be concentrated on relations between political actors (political parties, politicians, state authorities), and the mass media (owners and journalists) which decide on the level of political parallelism (media politicization). But in the case of CEE, factors such as economic development play a crucial role in the transformation of the media market (media commercialization).

Based on the accessible empirical data and academic research, we try to verify two hypotheses: ← 13 | 14 →

H1: There is not one CEE 25 years after the collapse of communism. The countries are in different phases of democratization and stage of media reform.

H2: The media in CEE act between politicization and commercialization, which are of a different scale and significance than in mature democracies.

In this research we use mixed methods, a combination of publicly available data and literature.

In the beginning we present a historical background of CEE, which can be noted in the media systems today, and their international context, which seems important.

One of the most visible features which distinguishes CEE from Western mature democracies, is the lower level of democratic standards, on the one hand, and weaker economic development, on the other. But the differences are noted also among CEE countries, and additionally, the changes occur so quickly that it is often difficult to predict a final effect. Widely available data and common statistical methods are used in the second part of this analysis to show the difference among the 21 countries in this part of Europe. There are five data sources, which are the base for this comparative research and which refer to the same period of 2014 and 2015 (see Table 2):


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (December)
mass media politics transformation civil society the social media
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 291 pp., 15 b/w ill., 32 tables

Biographical notes

Bogusława Dobek-Ostrowska (Volume editor) Michał Głowacki (Volume editor)

Bogusława Dobek-Ostrowska is a Full Professor at the University of Wrocław (Poland). She is founder and editor of Central European Journal of Communication, and was president of the Polish Communication Association. Michał Głowacki is an Assistant Professor at the University of Warsaw (Poland). He is the associate editor of Central European Journal of Communication.


Title: Democracy and Media in Central and Eastern Europe 25 Years On
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
book preview page numper 39
book preview page numper 40
294 pages