The Media and Elections: A Handbook and Comparative Study. Bernd-Peter Lange and David Ward, eds. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004. 265 pp. $59.95 hbk.
As any keen observer will attest, media and democracy are indispensable to each other and intricately symbiotic. Yet, rarely do communication scholars venture outside the United States to assess and compare the impact of existing media systems and practices on democracies. Nor has much scholarly effort been made to investigate problems that may emerge from media operations under new democracies and electoral processes in varied contexts of media performance. This book is a welcome endeavor that bridges the gap. It covers extensively the media and electoral systems in seven nations: France, Germany, Italy, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Additionally, it reports three distinct electoral processes in Cambodia, Peru, and Zimbabwe. The two editors conclude by illuminating the study's importance and significance for today's mass communication scholars and political researchers.
Although each chapter's length varies, the seven more detailed chapters analyze each nation's political system, regulatory authorities of media, media structure and ownership, and existing laws and regulations as well as their effect on media and electoral systems, overall election coverage, print versus broadcast media, free versus paid media, access to media, and recent election issues and controversies. For anyone who is interested in these seven nations, this book is a good place to start, especially for English-only readers who want to learn more about countries where English is not the national language. The chapters of four nations (i.e., Italy, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States) include solid references for serious researchers to explore further each nation's media and politics.
The editors, Lange and Ward, provide two useful chapters in the end that synthesize the case findings. Echoing many contributors' viewpoints, Ward says, "In none of the countries studied in this book is the organization of elections via the mass media a perfect model and it is possible to identify certain areas where failings in the systems have occurred and will continue to do so in the future." Furthermore, he concludes that "although there are indeed a set of core principles that act as both the philosophical and moral foundation of liberal democratic systems of government, there are also strong national specificities that must be taken into consideration. The style and nature of how elections are approached by the mass media varies not only between countries, but also within countries, and depending on the media sector. …