Comparing Media Systems; Three Models of Media and Politics/Democratizing Global Media; One World, Many Strategies

Article excerpt

Comparing Media Systems; Three Models of Media and Politics. Daniel C. Hallin and Paolo Mancini. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 342 pp. $75.00 hbk. $29.99 pbk.

Democratizing Global Media; One World, Many Strategies. Robert A. Hackett and Yuezhi Zhao, eds. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005. 328 pp. $79.00 hbk. $34.95 ppk.

The venerable Four Theories of the Press included two "theories" of Western media: the Libertarian, represented more or less by partisan European newspapers and some broadcasters, and the Social Responsibility, typically public service broadcasters and non-partisan U.S. newspapers. Hachten later put both into a single "Western" concept. Now we have a third typology that divides Western media and political systems into three groups: Mediterranean or Polarized Pluralist Model (France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain), Northern European or Democratic Corporatist Model (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland), and the North Atlantic or Liberal Model (the Anglosphere of Britain, United States, Canada, and Ireland). Unlike the other two, Comparing Media Systems embeds the media into the political system and devotes as much attention to the symbiotic relationship between politics and journalism as to the media themselves.

The two authors, one from California, the other from Italy, trace the origins of the book to an earlier joint enterprise that concluded twenty years ago and list nearly two pages of places visited and people consulted. It is a thoughtful analysis, long in gestation, worth careful reading, full of useful insights. After a section of chapters devoted to defining criteria for evaluating media systems and political systems, the authors turn to the three-part Europe plus North America typology to see where the major countries of the West are alike-and different. The conclusion, represented in a final section, focuses on homogenization of both political and media systems and, inevitably, Americanization. Are all of the Western media finally, as Jeremy Tunstall asked several decades ago, American? The answer here is "yes," but only partly. The authors conclude that the Anglosphere liberal media model has triumphed in the West but credit factors such as technology, commercialization, distancing of media from political parties, and the dominance of the United States in information production rather than the tired explanation of cultural imperialism. And they note that the robust media/political mix traditionally associated with Old Europe is likely to appeal to parts of New Europe and other regions emerging from various forms of authoritarianism more than the antiseptic professionalism of U.S. journalism. Even in the United States, the explosion of cable outlets leads to a segmentation along economic and ideological lines that is reminiscent of European media. Fox News is conservative? At one time, the Italian government divided the three public networks among the three major parties, and the Netherlands once allocated broadcast time in a similar way. A Frenchman would still be puzzled by U.S. concerns of political media "bias." Of course, newspapers are partisan; aren't they supposed to be? What if the media are partisan and occasionally irresponsible? It's a question that resonates widely. The world's media really aren't American yet and are not likely to be in the future.

Democratizing Global Media deals with some of the same issues but from a very different perspective. If anything, it is Canada-centric since the editors are from Simon Fraser University, and, except for Robert McChesney and Majid Tehranian, none of the contributors lists a U. …

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