Business Influence on Media News Processing: A Comparison of Journalists' Perceptions in the Czech Republic and South Africa

By de Beer, Arnold S.; Láb, Filip et al. | Economics & Sociology, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Business Influence on Media News Processing: A Comparison of Journalists' Perceptions in the Czech Republic and South Africa


de Beer, Arnold S., Láb, Filip, Strielkowski, Wadim, Tejkalová, Alice N., Economics & Sociology


(ProQuest: ... denotes formula omitted.)

Introduction

A long standing research issue in journalism and media studies is the influence, real or perceived, that media owners and businesses in general have on media freedom, more specifically on journalists' agency to select news stories; to emphasize certain news aspects and to participate in editorial discussion and decision making (news coordination) (e.g. Price, 2003; or Gilensa and Hertzmana, 2000).

The interaction between business people and the media has been a standing topic of research, not the least because the results could also be of interest to business people and not only the academic sphere (see Tejkalová et al., 2015). For example, Dougal et al. (2012) used exogenous scheduling of Wall Street Journal columnists to identify a causal relationship between financial reporting and stock market performance. Moreover, it appears that more experienced, more trusted and reportedly independent journalists tend to have more influence over the stock market behavior (Li, 2014).

The research question this paper addresses deal with the same question, but this time within the context of two formally authoritarian countries, the Czech Republic and South Africa, namely: How do journalists in these two countries perceive the potential of media owners and other business people to influence their work? Could one expect the situation in the two countries to be more or less the same after democratic independence was obtained in late 20th century?

A fundamental question is of course whether one can compare the two previously authoritarian countries within the context of media freedom? The Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia) was a Socialist country with a command economy and thorough and total control over mass media exerted by the ruling Communist Party, while South Africa was a well-functioning market economy, but distorted by its racial policy of apartheid and clampdowns on the free flow of information.

Although the political change to a democratic dispensation happened in both countries roughly at the same time (1989 in the Czech case, and 1994 in the case of South Africa), the nature of the changes was relatively different. In the case of South Africa, there was the change to black majority rule, with most of the structures of private property and market economy remaining for a time more or less the same. It was only after Nelson Mandela did not seek a second term that the full weight of the state came to bear on a change towards a socialist form of government, including black economic empowerment and affirmative action in all walks of life (see e.g. Wasserman and de Beer, 2010). In the case of the Czech Republic there was a profound change of everything, with all formal and informal institutions included in the process (see e.g. Tejkalová et al., 2015).

What both countries had specifically in common was the change of the people at the top. All of a sudden, freedom fighters, without any particular political experience or background in national governance, found themselves ruling a country. At first, they were sympathetically supported with mistakes being swept under the carpet of international political public opinion. However, as time passed, governments in both countries became corrupt, greedy for power, and more than willing to limit the freedom of speech and mass media. As a result, they increased pressure on journalists to toe the official line. On top of the pressure experienced from the state, journalists also had to cope with the influence (real or perceived) media owners and the business sector exerted. The broad topic of this paper is then the way journalists in the Czech Republic and South Africa, both former authoritarian countries, the first being part of the global north and the second of the global south, perceive these influences.

Media ownership

Comparisons between media ownership in the two countries should be approached with caution. …

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