Webworks by webcontxt

The media landscape, media and democracy


Curator: Ashna Ashesh, Student, B.A., LL.B. (Hons.), National University of Juridical Sciences

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Tony Bennett, Theories of the Media, Theories of Society, available at  (open access)Bennett in examining the scholarship on the different theories of media seeks to understand the assumptions at play in the various schools of thought, which have gone on to shape our understanding of media. Through this exercise he also aims to comprehend the implications of the terminology “mass, media and communications”, so as to discern the nature of the media as perceived.

The Mass Media as Fourth Estate, available at (open access)

This article deals briefly with the various theories propounded in relation to public sphere and the media

Alison Gillwald, The Public Sphere, The Media and Democracy, available at (open access)

Gillwald examines the public sphere, contextualising it in terms of the debate between the liberalist school of thought and the Marxist school of thought. While the traditional liberalist position that locates the media “at the interface between the governors and governed”, the Marxist school characterises the media as bourgeoisie. Gillwald in elucidating on the shortcomings of both these notions, seeks to understand the public sphere in the sense of Habermas’ critical sphere. Through the debunking of certain misplaced assumptions with regard to the public sphere, she seeks to reconstruct the public sphere, thereby redefining the role of the media in a democracy.

Dr. Stephen Stockwell, Reconsidering the Fourth Estate: The functions of infotainment, available at (open access)

Traditionally the role of the media was to help shape the debate that would largely inform the electorate on issues of relevance to democracy. In recent times however, the media has come under attack for dereliction of its duty to inform and resorting to cheap gimmicks that target ratings. Essentially it is perceived, that the media is now seeking to “dumb down” viewers placating them with voyeuristic entertainment. In this article however Stockwell seeks to challenge this presumption that ‘infotainment’ is essentially negative. Deconstructing this inherent negativity attributed to ‘infotainment’, he posits that it actually offers a more

Peter UweHohendahl, Critical Theory, Public Sphere and Culture. JurgenHabermas and his Critics, available at (open access)

Hohendahl examines the traditional notion that culture and politics are essentially divorced in the public sphere. He further elucidates on critiques of this notion and seeks to comprehend the nature of the public sphere. In doing so he also observes the notion of collective identity that seems to be a by-product of an advanced capitalist society.

Simon Susen, Critical Notes on Habermas’ Theory of the Public Sphere, available at’Critical%20Notes%20on%20Habermass%20Theory%20of%20the%20Public%20Sphere’%20SA%205(1)%20pp%20%2037-62.pdf  (open access)

Habermas’ simplified understanding of what connotes the public sphere, needs to be re-examined in context of a modernist society. Susen in her article aims to build on the traditional structural understanding of the sphere and further examine its proliferation in modern times. The idea is to discern whether Habermas’ theory is of any relevance in a modernist society where the nature of the public sphere has undergone a stark transformation.


Researching Media, Democracy and Participation, The Intellectual Work of the 2006 European Media and Communication Doctoral Summer School, Tate University Press, available at (open access)

This report expounds on the various components of the “media system”. It begins with examining the role of the media in deliberative democracy. It then goes on to examine the different avenues that foster participation in the media. Furthermore it elucidates on the linkages between democracy and public participation, seeking to understand how knowledge is produced and communicated through modern societal institutions.

Agner Fog, The Supposed and the Real Role of Mass Media in Modern Democracy (working paper), available at (open access).

Fog undertakes an examination of the various factors that influence the media. Focussing specifically on the stiff economic competition this paper seeks to examine how economics has fostered the development of a ratings driven media, as opposed to one that works towards informing the electorate.

Jenifer Whitten-Woodring& Patrick James, Fourth Estate or Mouthpiece? A Formal Model of Media, Protest and Government Repression, available at (open access)

With the advances in technology, communication of information to the public, through the media, is facilitated with remarkable ease. The role of the media however is not limited to being a broadcaster of information. It also acts as a watchdog. Woodring and James in their article examine whether an independent media with more democratic characteristics is actually better equipped to protect human rights, and act as a tool to combat government oppression.

Sheila S. Coronel, The Role of Media in Deepening Democracy, available at (open access)

Coronel examines the constraints placed on the media and posits that the media can only be efficient in the discharge of its various functions, if there is a conducive environment fostering the same. Furthermore Coronel states that in an ever changing democracy, the media too needs to adapt and equip itself with tools that will help it function better in the contemporary context.

Democracy in The Information Age: The Role of the Fourth Estate in Cyberspace, available at (paid access)

Nic Newman, William H. Dutton, Grant Blank, Social Media in the Changing Ecology of News: The Fourth and Fifth Estates in Britain, available at (open access)

Newman et al focus on the implications of the advent of the internet on traditional media. The internet is what is now being envisaged as the fifth estate. This article seeks to examine the various risks and benefits associated with the increased reliance on the fifth estate.


IzabellaKarlowicz, The Difficult Birth of the Fourth Estate: Media Development and Democracy Assistance in the Post Balkan Conflicts, available at (open access)

Karlowicz undertakes an examination of the media in post Balkan states. She seeks to discern how international institutions that seek to provide assistance to nations in transition to democracy can help foster a conducive environment for the media in these countries.

The Fourth Estate, available at (open access)

Reiterating the importance of a free press, this excerpt examines the various roles of the fourth estate. Drawing on these, it then elucidates on the importance of free press in transitions to democracy, using Uzbekistan, and Ukraine as illustrations.

Jesse Hearns-Branaman, The Fourth Estate in the USA and UK: Discourses of Truth and Power, available at (open access)

This thesis explores the ideological and epistemological constructs surrounding media.

  1. Guy Berger, Theorizing the Media-Democracy Relationship in Southern Africa, available at (open access)

The concepts surrounding the media are often characterised as ‘western’ notions. Berger in his article examines these notions and seeks to reconstruct them in terms of South African media and democracy. The key issue at play here is that media theories need to be improvised on based on socio-economic, cultural, political and economic indices for the media to be a tool of relevance in any society.

The Report of the High Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism, A Free and Pluralistic Media to Sustain European Democracy, available at (open access)

This report examines the competence of the EU in fostering an independent and pluralistic media. The recommendations involve establishing media literacy programmes, facilitating a more fluid model of media, ensuring that internet providers do not curb the freedom of speech and expression, and also call upon the EU to administer an independent monitoring organisation, among other things.

AsiminaMichailidou, Democracy and the New Media in the European Union: Communication or Participation Deficit, available at (open access)

Michailidou examines how instruments of mass media and the public have an influential role in shaping the political identity of nation states. It further elucidates on how advances in communication technology have impacted the political landscape and how the public sphere has been instrumental in democratising governance in the EU

Interview with Dr. Karol Jakubowicz, Democracy and New Media in Central and Eastern Europe, available at  (open access)

This interview engages with a plethora of issues- the nature of mass media, reconciling changes in communication technology with new democracy, whether the transformed media caters to new democracy, and economic development has influenced new media and technology in the context of Central and Eastern Europe.

The Role of the Independent Media in Africa’s Change to Democracy, available at (paid access)

NaelJebril, Vaclav Stetka, Matthew Loveless, Media and Democratisation: What is Known about the Role of Mass Media in Transitions to Democracy, available at (open access)

Jebrilet al examine how reforms in media are instrumental for nation states that are transitioning to democracies. They attempt to understand the process through the lens of institutional changes that characterise transitions to democracy. In doing so, they elucidate on the transitional experience of various Latin American and African countries.


Victoria L. Farmer, Nation, State, and Democracy in India: Media Regulation and Government Monopoly, available at (open access)

Farmer focuses on the efforts made by the government to foster nation-building through media platforms (specifically Doordarshan). She further examines how the administrative and legal institutions have impacted television as a medium of communication

RaghabendraChattopadhyay& Swati Bhattacharjee, The Information Deficit: Use of Media in a Deliberative Democracy, 46(52) Economic and Political Weekly (2011) (subscription based access)

Indrajit Roy, AshishNandy’s Critics and India’s Thriving Democracy, 48(8) Economic and Political Weekly (2013) (subscription based access)

Taberez Ahmed Neyazi, Politics after Vernacularisation: Hindi Media and Indian Democracy, 46(10) Economic and Political Weekly (2011) (subscription based access)

ShivamVij, Grappling with Media: The Hoot Reader, available at open access

This blog post examines how the various facets of media influence the contemporary landscape through their practices. It also highlights the shortcomings in these practices.

Media at its jingoistic worst, The Hoot, available at (open access)

This blog post examines the effects of media practices coinciding with populist sentiment, and questions biased inaccurate reporting.

Inequalities and the Media, The Hoot, available at (open access)

This blog post examines how the media has become a tool of the privileged and is increasingly being used to marginalise the impoverished. It raises serious issues as to plurality and adequate representation in what should ideally be a democratic media.

Propaganda, new media and racism, The Hoot, available at–new-media-and-racism/6422-1-1-19-RADIO/Caste-on-the-campus/6959-1-1-19-true.html (open access)

This blog post examines the contours of information dissemination in India and examines whether the Indian media acts in furtherance of participative, deliberative democracy or against it.

More media regulation not the answer, media education is, The Hoot, available at (open access)

This blog post elucidates on the need for media regulation and the appropriate mechanism to do so.


Sara I. Magalhaes, Carla Cerqueira& Mariana Bernardo, Media and the (Im)permeability of Public Sphere to Gender, available at (open access)

The public sphere as envisaged by Habermas was a sphere of the privileged. With the increase in the democratisation of the public sphere however, Magalhaeset al examine through the lens of feminist critique the relevance of plurality in the media and the public sphere.

Feminism, the public sphere, media and democracy, available at (paid access)

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