Publication details

Challenges for the public service media in fragmented media environments



Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Description Public service media (PSM) have to educate, entertain and inform in the public interest (EBU, 2021). However, in recent years they are facing attacks from politicians, which can be identified as representatives of the ultra-right-wing populism (Sehl et al., 2016). Thus, although the PSM hold on to the high levels of trust, international comparative research shows that people with populist attitudes trust them significantly less (sources). In addition to challenges that have their roots in the political beliefs of individuals, we can also observe challenges that have direct origin in the structure of the media environment (Steppat et al., 2020). Today's media audiences operate in a high-choice media environment, which is characterized by a huge variety of information sources: from professional media, through partisan alternative media to information from social networks and fake news (Strömback et al., 2020, Müller & Schulz, 2019). This gives consumers the opportunity to purposefully choose media that match their views and to avoid media that share a different one. The conditions under which PSM must currently operate, are in many respects very challenging. Indeed, their main objective is to ensure open access to information for all parts of society (Donders, 2012) and to guarantee a common information minimum for all citizens, including specific minorities (Napoli, 2001). They are therefore inherently based on pluralism, which is in direct conflict with the ultra-right populist ideology based on a strong demarcation from elites and people who in some way do not resemble the majority (Hameleers, M. et al., 2017). This discrepancy between the role of PSM and the essence of ultra-right populism thus raises the idea that expectations from PSM across different groups of people could vary. However, current PSM research is relatively fragmented and limited. It focuses mainly on the technological (Horsti et al., 2014; Donders, 2019; Cushion, 2019; Vanhaeght, 2019) and economic (Vyslouzilova, 2019; Horsti et al., 2014) challenges but studies on political challenges are very rare, and if they exist, trust in public service media plays just contextual role. In addition, the studies largely focus on PSM in Western European countries (Sjovaag et al, 2019; Freedman, 2019; Picone & Donders, 2020; Newton, 2016) or countries such as Hungary or Poland, where their role is fundamentally threatened (Polonska & Beckett, 2019). Thus, the aim of this dissertation is to try to fill this gap in research and find out what attitudes and expectations the public has of PSM and to compare these findings with expectations that are enshrined in official documents. I want to do so on the example of public service media in the Czech Republic, which is specific for its post-communist past and concept of PSM is thus far less rooted here and more fragile than elsewhere. My research will be based on the premises of social constructivism, which is based on the idea that social reality is not objectively given to an individual as a fact, but is constantly re-constructed in the process of social interaction (Berger & Luckmann, 1966).

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