These questions were tackled in an international survey of 1,800 journalists in twelve European and two Arab states conducted by the EU-funded research project, «Media Accountability and Transparency in Europe» (MediaAcT). The results provide a solid empirical basis for the discussions taking place. This book advances research on media accountability and transparency, and also offers innovative perspectives for newsrooms, media policy-makers, and journalism educators. Its systematic comparative design makes it an unprecedented venture in international journalism studies.
Table Of Content
- About the Editors
- About the Book
- This eBook can be cited
- Foreword: Scott R. Maier
- Section A: Background and Methodology
- 1. Introduction: Media Accountability—Basic Concepts and Theoretical Foundations: Susanne Fengler, Tobias Eberwein, Tanja Leppik-Bork, Julia Lönnendonker & Judith Pies
- Media Accountability, Media Pluralism and Media Freedom
- Mapping Media Accountability: A Comparative Approach to Media Accountability
- Media Accountability—Why? Media Regulation versus Media Self-Regulation
- Formal versus Informal Institutions of Journalism
- The Development of the Journalistic Profession
- A Typology of Media Accountability Instruments
- Media Accountability, Media Self-Regulation and Media Transparency
- Accountable—to Whom?
- About this Book
- 2. Mapping Media Accountability—in Europe and Beyond: Susanne Fengler & Tobias Eberwein
- Press Councils
- Media Criticism in the Mass Media
- Media Blogs
- 3. Innovations in Media Accountability and Transparency: Heikki Heikkilä, Michał Głowacki, Michał Kuś & Judith Pies
- Media Accountability Innovations, Comparatively Speaking
- Initiatives Drawn from Outside Media Organizations
- Online Practices within News Organizations
- Actor Transparency
- Production Transparency
- 4. Counting Media Accountability—the Concept and Methodology of the MediaAcT Survey: Tobias Eberwein, Susanne Fengler, Susan Philipp & Maryam Ille
- What? Research Questions and Questionnaire
- Who and Where? Sampling Strategy
- How and When? Implementation and Time Frame
- Section B: Key Survey Results
- 5. Media Accountability through the Eyes of Journalists: Feedback, Responsiveness, Interaction: Epp Lauk, Halliki Harro-Loit & Jari Väliverronen
- Criticism—A Sensitive Issue
- Criticizing the work of fellow journalists
- Journalists as targets of criticism
- Interaction with the audiences
- 6. Little Impact? Journalists’ Perceptions of Traditional Instruments of Media Self-Regulation: Salvador Alsius, Ruth Rodríguez-Martínez & Marcel Mauri de los Rios
- Codes of Ethics
- Press Councils
- A General View
- A Country-by-Country Analysis
- An Analysis by Age
- Women and Men are Different
- Position Changes the Perspective
- The Different Nature of Public and Commercial Broadcasting
- Unions and Associations
- 7. More Accountability in the Digital Age? The Influence of New Technologies: Wayne Powell & Mike Jempson
- New Accountability Tools in the Digital Age
- Impact by Age, Media Segment and Gender
- The Impact of Blogs and Social Media
- 8. Media Accountability and Transparency—What Newsrooms (Could) Do: Harmen Groenhart & Huub Evers
- A General View: Do Newsrooms Practice what they Preach?
- A Focus on Countries
- A Focus on Media Segments
- A Focus on Job Position and Age
- Section C: External Influences on Media Accountability
- 9. Context Factors for Media Self-Regulation and Accountability: Harmen Groenhart & Huub Evers
- Journalists’ Perceptions of Political Influences
- Journalists’ Perceptions of the Market Frame
- Journalists’ Perceptions of their Obligations Towards the Public
- 10. ‘Cultures of Accountability’—or Global Trends in Media Accountability? The Hallin and Mancini Model Revisited: Gianpietro Mazzoleni & Sergio Splendore
- Identifying Journalistic Accountability Cultures
- The Hallin and Mancini Model Tested by the ‘Index of Accountability Cultures’
- Journalism Accountability Beyond “Media Markets” and “Political Parallelism”
- 11. Realms of Influence on Media Accountability: Olivier Baisnée & Sandra Vera Zambrano
- Field Theory
- Autonomous Pole, Heteronomous Pole: Four Different Models
- The ‘Northern’ countries—the autonomous, formal accountability framework
- The (slippery) ‘Mediterranean’ countries—the heteronomous, formal accountability framework:
- The ‘liberal’ countries—an autonomous, informal accountability framework
- Romania and the Arab countries—heteronomous, informal accountability regulation
- 12. Media Accountability in Transition: Survey Results from Jordan and Tunisia: Judith Pies
- Media in Transition: A Process of Re-Defining Journalism
- Challenges for Journalists in a Transition
- The Process of Re-Defining the Profession
- Media Accountability: An Element of the Transitional Re-Definition Process
- Journalists’ Perceptions: An Indicator for the Status Quo of MA in a Transition
- Perception of the Public
- Perceptions of the News Organization
- Section D: Perspectives for Newsrooms, Policy-Makers and Journalism Educators
- 13. The (Behavioral) Economics of Media Accountability: Susanne Fengler & Stephan Russ-Mohl
- The Rational Perspective (1):Media Accountability as a Worthy Investment
- The ‘Rational’ Perspective (2): Accountability Does Not Pay Off
- Two Markets for Media Accountability
- Why Do Media in the Upper Quality Segment Refrain from Accountability?
- Rationalizing the Status Quo and Indecisiveness
- Behavioral Economics and Social Psychology
- Media Accountability Needs More Effective Sanctions and Incentives
- 14. Media Ethics as Institutional Ethics—the Potential of Corporate Social Responsibility: Matthias Karmasin, Daniela Kraus, Andy Kaltenbrunner & Klaus Bichler
- CSR and the Media Industry
- Principles of CSR for Media Companies
- How Well Prepared Is European and Arab Journalism for CSR?
- 1. Get Involved
- 2. Mission Statement
- 3. Development of Principles
- 4. Public Self-Binding
- 5. Training
- 6. Stakeholder Measures
- 7. Institutionalization
- 8. Communication of CSR and Feedback
- 15. Media Accountability and Journalism Education: Raluca-Nicoleta Radu & Daniela-Aurelia Popa
- Education and Occupational Groups
- (No) Global Education in Journalism
- A Focus on Journalism Education
- Recent History Media Systems Clusters
- The Perceived Influence of Academia
- Entry Routes and Life-Long Education
- Journalism Education and Media Accountability
- Ethics Courses and MAIs
- 16. Summary: Perspectives for Newsrooms, Policy-Makers and Journalism Educators: Susanne Fengler, Tobias Eberwein, Gianpietro Mazzoleni, Colin Porlezza & Stephan Russ-Mohl
- Towards a ‘Culture of Accountability’:Newsrooms Make the Difference
- Media Accountability: Participatory Models in the Digital Age
- Key Recommendations for Media Companies and Professional Organizations
- Be transparent about who you are and what you stand for
- Be transparent about what you are doing
- Communicate and collaborate with your audience
- Accountability increases brand loyalty and the commitment to quality journalism
- Key Recommendations for Policy-Makers
- Monitoring media accountability
- Incentive models for media accountability
- Media accountability in transition
- Perspectives for Mass Communication Scholarship on Media Accountability
- A Comparative Approach to the Study of Media Accountability: Lessons from Finland
- The Hallin and Mancini Model—a Suitable Model for Media Accountability?
- Key Recommendations for Journalism Educators
- Appendix: The Questionnaire of the MediaAcT Survey
Accountability and transparency: what journalists demand of their sources is also what the news media need to ask of themselves in order to maintain their independence and credibility. Identifying the best tools to achieve these goals has been MediaAcT’s mission, and in so doing, the research consortium helps to preserve a free and vibrant press.
Thus I felt honored when invited to serve on MediaAcT’s advisory board. But privately, I harbored doubts about what would be learned from this three-year study of media accountability and transparency across the European continent. In the United States, where I worked as a reporter and now teach journalism, traditional mechanisms of media accountability have become endangered species. For example, ombudsmen positions have been downgraded, if not eliminated, as newspapers struggle with reduced resources and personnel. Only one regional press council, isolated in the nation’s northwest corner, remains active in the United States. I quietly wondered, what value do these musty accountability instruments offer European media?
MediaAcT has demonstrated that media accountability and transparency indeed remain vital in theory and in practice. More than 30 press councils in Europe provide a voluntary platform for airing grievances about news coverage. Digital journalism—from media blogs to corrections buttons—provides new venues for media to explain how the story is covered—or misreported. The need for media accountability became strikingly clear as the News of the World scandal brought journalistic practices under sharp scrutiny in the United Kingdom. As this book’s introduction pronounces, “Media accountability is back on the political agenda.”
Perhaps MediaAcT’s greatest contribution is to provide a factual foundation to the debate on media self-regulation. Funded by the European Union, MediaAcT conducted a survey of 1,762 journalists in twelve European and two neighboring Arab states. In addition, the research consortium interviewed scores of journalists to better understand how media accountability is ← 1 | 2 → handled in each of the nations studied. With this information, MediaAcT fills a gap in mass communication research with thoughtful, empirical analysis of media accountability and transparency in Europe.
The challenges that MediaAcT encountered were at times formidable. Imagine designing a multinational survey on “media accountability”—a term that doesn’t even exist in some of the languages used. (To assure language equivalency, each survey was translated from English into the relevant languages and then back again into English.) In the UK, many British reporters and editors initially resisted participating in the MediaAcT project when the survey was distributed in the heat of the Leveson Inquiry over journalistic practices. In Tunisia, face-to-face interviews with journalists were conducted in place of online surveys to minimize the risk of surveillance by the national secret service.
Despite the hurdles, the MediaAcT team demonstrated resilience and a cheerful ‘can do’ attitude that ultimately made the project a success. The result is an empirically driven study that builds on existing theory and combines qualitative with quantitative analysis to offer fresh perspectives on journalism culture and practice.
The findings highlight the assimilation and convergence of journalistic values across the 14 nations studied. Despite linguistic and national differences, journalists shared the core belief that responsibility is a prerequisite of press freedom. Across European cultures, journalists hold high their responsibility to personal conscience, to journalistic standards, to their sources and to democratic values. The findings also revealed contradictions. While journalists strongly supported media responsibility, many appear reluctant to encourage professional self-criticism or to engage in the transparency that media demand of their sources. Journalists lag behind their audiences in seeing the value of media blogs and other forms of online exchange.
The data and analysis provide not only a composite view of media accountability in Europe but also nuanced exploration of differences among nations. The distinctions are instructive. For example, the study finds that Tunisian and Jordanian journalists, reflective of the ‘Arab Spring’ experience, embrace the role of the public sphere more strongly than their European counterparts. The study also showed that journalists identify in ways that transcend traditional national and cultural boundaries. (One of my favorite off-shoots of the MediaAcT research was the study with the intriguing title “How Polish is French Journalism?”.)
The study underscores journalistic scepticism of outside surveillance of their work practices. But MediaAcT also shows that the journalists tend to have a strong sense of personal ethics as well as faith in newsrooms to up-hold professional standards. This suggests that the key to media accountabil ← 2 | 3 → ity is working at the organizational level, encouraging newsrooms to more clearly—and more publicly—adhere to a code of ethics, to appoint an ombudsman or reader representative, to publish corrections when errors are made, to engage in other mechanisms encouraging reader exchange, and to more transparently explain how stories are covered. MediaAcT’s findings also highlight the vital role of journalism educators and scholars in nurturing a collective understanding of professional responsibility. The challenge, as MediaAcT has clearly shown, is to make media accountability and transparency a standard of quality journalism in practice as well as in principle. ← 3 | 4 → ← 4 | 5 →
← 5 | 6 → ← 6 | 7 →
Media accountability is back on the political agenda. Early in 2013 a high-ranking group of experts, initiated by EU commissioner Neelie Kroes, presented a list of media policy recommendations to ensure media freedom and pluralism in a media world going through fundamental technological and economic changes. The experts demanded that the EU and its member states make more pro-active use of competition laws to reduce the influence of ‘media barons’ in several Southern as well as Central and Eastern European countries. They also demanded that the issue of media self-regulation be tackled. Their report “A free and pluralistic media to sustain European democracy” (see Vike-Freiberga, Däubler-Gmelin, Hammersley and Maduro 2013, 21, 36) states: “All EU countries should have independent media councils.” Pointing to the example of the United Kingdom, where a press council widely considered as a rather innovative model of media self-regulation was obviously unable to properly handle, let alone prevent, the journalistic scandals associated with the News of the World case, the report envisions that future media councils will have “competences to investigate complaints” and “real enforcement powers, such as the imposition of fines, orders for printed or broadcast apologies, or removal of journalistic status.” Furthermore, the report demands more transparency from European media organizations: “To ensure that all media organisations follow clearly identifiable codes of con ← 7 | 8 → duct and editorial lines, and apply the principles of editorial independence, it should be mandatory for them to make them publicly available, by including them on their websites.”
The first suggestion relating to media accountability has particularly drawn fierce reactions from the media since then. Industry representatives and federations, as well as individual news outlets, journalists and bloggers across Europe, have attacked the report, suspecting that the EU intends to curb press freedom.2 While many media managers and journalists across Europe argue that the press does an adequate self-regulation job, a small, but highly interesting recent study shows that European ombudsmen, press council members, and other professionals already actively involved in self-regulation strongly support many of the EU advisory group’s recommendations (Prinzing and Blum 2013).3 So—how should the harsh reactions of many media professionals be seen? Are they an ‘automatic’ reflex by journalists eager to preserve media independence? Or do they show that the media, which routinely investigates and criticizes all kinds of public figures and demands transparency and accountability from organizations and institutions, is somewhat immune to criticism, and reluctant to be transparent and accountable itself?
This book seeks to shed light on how the media across Europe handle issues of media self-regulation. What impact do journalists ascribe to press councils, ombudsmen, ethics codes, and the many new accountability instruments which have developed online? And thus—do existing structures of media accountability suffice, or do we urgently need new instruments and initiatives? These are the key questions in the comparative survey of 1,762 journalists in twelve European and two Arab states, conducted by the EU-funded research project “Media Accountability and Transparency in Europe” (MediaAcT).4 The answers are presented in this book and will provide a solid empirical basis for the heated debates currently taking place.
There is no doubt that this is a time when the future of media accountability and media self-regulation needs to be negotiated anew by media professionals and their stakeholders. The digital revolution has profoundly changed the traditional business models of the legacy media and social media activists challenge the long-term gatekeeper monopoly of journalists. The ← 8 | 9 → impact and potential of new media accountability and transparency instruments online (see also Bichler, Harro-Loit, Karmasin, Kraus, Lauk, Loit, Fengler and Schneider-Mombaur 2012) is one of the key topics of this book.5 Obviously, we have once again reached a turning point in the history of media self-regulation—in a similar way to the years after World War II.6 At that time public discontent with a press widely considered as greedy, sensationalist and politically imbalanced in many countries (McQuail  2010, 170) culminated in the United States in the establishment of the Hutchins Commission. This was a committee of intellectuals set up to investigate the status quo of journalism and develop ideas about how to make the media more accountable to the public.7 Among other recommendations this Commission also suggested “that the members of the press engage in vigorous mutual criticism. Professional standards are not likely to be achieved as long as the mistakes and errors, the frauds and crimes, committed by units of the press are passed over in silence by other members of the profession” (Leigh 1974, 94)—a notion almost shocking to media professionals at that time. The reactions were sharp. However, since the 1950s, journalists in many Western countries have slowly reacted to public criticism—and political pressure—with the establishment of media accountability instruments (MAIs) (see e.g. Wiedemann 1992, 245).
Another turning point for media self-regulation was the introduction of ombudsmen. In 1967, The Courier-Journal and The Louisville Times in Louisville, Kentucky, were the first newspapers to install ombudsmen in the USA.8 In the late 1980s and 1990s, the advent of cable TV, and later the Internet, along with the deregulation of the broadcasting sector in many countries, created a new climate. Numerous quality media started to report regularly on media issues—and thus created a degree of transparency and public awareness of journalism and the media industry that was unthinkable before.
Now we seem to have reached yet another turning point. What kind of self-regulation do we expect from a media which has long escaped from the ← 10 | 11 → chains of government and become a powerful institution itself? In fact, the media has become so powerful that many politicians, who willingly engage in ‘pop politics’ designed to fit the needs of the media (Mazzoleni and Sfardini 2009), might not even dare to publicly think about holding the media to account, out of fear of the media. Indeed, the ever more prominent role mass media plays in modern ‘information societies’ in the ongoing process of ‘mediatization’ (see for example Esser, Reinemann and Fan 2001; Esser and D’Angelo 2003), where media consumption is constantly on the rise, makes the need to hold journalism to account by various stakeholders ever more pressing (see also Bardoel and d’Haenens 2004).
What could motivate journalists and media managers to become actively involved in media accountability? Quality journalism will need a competitive advantage with so many new voices online fighting for the attention of the media users. Accountability and transparency could become part of a media brand, just as other brands, which are sensitive to consumers’ changing expectations, now offer their well-educated customers full transparency over the full production process online.9 Thus, this book also departs from the traditional normative discussion about media accountability in journalism and mass communication studies, and draws on economic theory (see Fengler and Russ-Mohl 2005; Porlezza 2013) to develop a better understanding of why existing media self-regulation structures do not often come up with the desired results—because it might not ‘pay off’ to be a ‘good journalist’ under the given circumstances.
Media Accountability, Media Pluralism and Media Freedom
We also argue that media accountability and the maturity of the media’s self-regulation infrastructures are another, so far neglected, key indicator of media freedom and pluralism. A comparative analysis of the landscape of media accountability and self-regulation across Europe—as provided by the Media-AcT research consortium in a prior publication (Eberwein, Fengler, Lauk and Leppik-Bork 2011)—shows that Northern European countries and the United Kingdom display a multitude of MAIs. However, in many Southern and Central European countries, characterized by a high degree of political parallelism, even press councils are dysfunctional or non-existent, and often the words ‘media accountability’ do not even exist in the language.10 ← 11 | 12 →
Figure 1.1: Status quo of media accountability in Europe
The high ownership concentration in the Central and Eastern European countries points towards another aspect in the discussion on media accountability: the core aim of media accountability to stay independent from the state may well be undermined by the media industry serving their own rather than the public’s interests (Lauk and Denton 2011, 220). An extremely media-critical blogosphere, counterbalancing a lack of media accountability within the media sector, as in the case of Romania (see Coman, Radu, Preoteasa, Paun and Badau 2011), can be interpreted as a consequence of that. It shows interesting parallels with the situation in the ‘Arab Spring’ countries, where social media have also become the vehicles of the media accountability debate (see Pies and Madanat 2011a, 2011b). In the difficult transformation phase that these countries have now entered into, the relationship between the media and the new governments also needs to be negotiated anew (see Margani 2012). The fight over the independence of the media self-regulation mechanisms that will be created will play a central role in this process. Therefore, the results of our journalists’ survey in two Arab countries—Jordan and Tunisia—might be of particular interest to scholars and practitioners alike. ← 12 | 13 →
Mapping Media Accountability: A Comparative Approach to Media Accountability
The emergence of MAIs—or the even broader ‘media accountability culture’—in a country is obviously closely connected to the political, but also to the economic context that media professionals in the specific country operate under. Many of today’s MAIs were conceived by journalists in the United States (and, in the case of a national press council, the UK) and later emulated by media professionals abroad. As both countries have the longest traditions of press freedom in the world, these journalism cultures—benefiting from an early deregulation of the media sector—were also the first to develop instruments of media self-regulation, as noted by Marzolf (1991), Wiedemann (1992), Campbell (1999) and Puppis (2009).11 However, besides political and economic influences, several other factors can impact on the emergence of an ‘accountability culture’, among them the maturity of the journalistic profession.
Obviously, accountability practices display remarkable differences across countries, which make them a fruitful subject for comparative analysis. However, even though a growing number of studies in journalism and mass communication research have analyzed media actors, structures and content from a comparative perspective (see for example Deuze 2002; Donsbach and Patterson 2004; Machill et al. 2006; Shoemaker and Cohen 2006; AIM Research Consortium 2007; Hanitzsch et al. 2010; Trappel, Meier, d’Haenens, Steemers and Thomass 2011), little comparative research has been undertaken on the field of media self-regulation and media accountability.12 The few studies available mostly focus on national phenomena of media accountability.13
This volume seeks to fill this gap in contemporary mass communication research by describing and comparing structures and practices of media accountability across countries. As a ‘template’ for the comparative analysis, the volume will draw on the well-known model of media systems and journalism cultures in Western countries developed by Daniel Hallin and Paolo Mancini (2004). They have pointed out how national political and economic structures shape the emergence and status quo of journalism and the media. ← 13 | 14 → Furthermore—and this has made Hallin and Mancini’s model a useful tool for comparative analysis—they argue that similar trends influencing the media and journalism can be identified in specific journalism cultures crossing national borders, and accordingly develop country clusters characterized by a number of remarkable similarities:
•The liberal model (e.g. the United Kingdom, the United States) is characterized by highly deregulated media markets, little state interference in the media sector, and a highly developed culture of professionalism among journalists (Hallin and Mancini 2004, 198).
•The democratic corporatist model (e.g. Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria) is also associated with high professionalism among journalists, but differs from the liberal model with regard to the influential role that public broadcasting plays in those countries (Hallin and Mancini 2004, 143).
•Distinctive features of the polarized pluralist model (e.g. Italy, Spain, France) are the high influence of political actors on both private and public news organizations, a weak professional culture among journalists, and the somewhat marginal role of the print media (Hallin and Mancini 2004, 89).
While Hallin and Mancini do not study the existence of media self-regulation and MAIs in Western countries, they do briefly examine the existence of press councils in the three models as an indicator of journalistic professionalism (Hallin and Mancini 2004, 110, 170, 217). The chapters contained in Section C of this volume will explore in depth the emergence and impact of the numerous accountability instruments within the different journalism cultures as described by Hallin and Mancini. This book will also critically assess the heuristic value of their model for the study of media accountability, as even a quick glance at media accountability structures in the liberal model suggests considerable differences within one journalism culture. For example, while a Press Complaints Commission exists in the United Kingdom, no lasting national press council has been established in the United States (see Fengler 2002). Thus, Section C of this book will explore and explain deviations from the Hallin and Mancini model when it comes to the study of media accountability structures.
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- Publication date
- 2013 (January)
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 313 pp., num. ill.