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


Abstract. How do journalists in two formally authoritarian countries, the Czech Republic and South Africa, perceive the potential of media owners and other business people to influence their work? Multinomial ordinal regression analysis was applied to data collected in the Czech Republic and South Africa for the present 50 country-wide Worlds of Journalism (WoJ) Project. A total of 291 journalists in the Czech Republic and 371 journalists in South Africa were interviewed according to the WoJ protocol. Three aspects of media freedom, as perceived by the respondents, a r e discussed, namely the freedom journalists have to select news stories; to emphasize certain news aspects; and to participate in editorial discussion and decision making (news coordination). The results suggest that media owners as well as business people curb, but also support, journalists' freedom in dealing with the news. In the Czech Republic, a country in the global North and a former member of the Soviet bloc, the results show the influence of media owners and business owners supports the freedom of journalists in selecting their own stories. More influence of business people is associated with more freedom of journalists in aspects emphasized in the stories and in the frequency the journalists participate in newsroom coordination. In South Africa, a former white minority-ruled country in the global South, the results suggest that the influence of media owners seems to lessen journalists' freedom to select news and to emphasize certain news aspects, and coordination. Moreover, the perceived level of influence of business people in South Africa did not statistically significantly relate to all three aspects of journalists' freedom.

Keywords: media economics, business ownership, freedom of press, Czech Republic, South Africa, news selection

JEL Classifications: L82, M20, P12, P26

(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. …

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