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Should they be neutral, should they be biased? Audience Expectations of Public Service Media in the Czech Republic

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SMEJKAL Klára

Rok publikování 2023
Druh Další prezentace na konferencích
Citace
Popis Public service media (PSM), with their independence from the media market, play an important part in European democratic systems. Trust in them is consistently high (Schulz et al., 2020) and their presence contributes to increased interest in political events (Curran et al., 2009) and voter turnout (EBU, 2016). The exception is citizens with populist attitudes who trust PSM significantly less and accuse them of not representing or contradicting their values and opinions (Hameleers et al., 2017; Smejkal et al., 2022). Riedl and Eberl (2022: 1687) remark that “lower trust in the media may not only be the reason for different expectations of journalism, but also the result of neglected expectations.” Therefore, to understand low trust in PSM among citizens with populist attitudes we should first look at the expectations these audience members have of PSM. In recent years, several studies were looking at audience expectations of news media (e.g., Peifer, 2019; Vos et al., 2019; Willnat et al., 2017). These studies are mostly quantitative and deal mainly with expectations linked to the fulfillment of normative journalistic roles formulated by journalists themselves (Hanitzsch and Vos, 2018; Hanusch and Banjac, 2018). However, as Banjac (2022) and Eldridge and Steel (2016) put it, there is a need to take a bottom-up view that allows to re-evaluate expectations from the audience site and find out if they have different expectations than journalists. Moreover, research focused specifically on PSM audience is still scarce (Asano, 2021). Therefore, I focus specifically on PSM audience and, in contrast to majority of other studies, employ a qualitative approach. Existing studies also identify political attitudes as one of the strong predictors of differences in expectations, even with respect to the negative relationship of populist politicians with the media (Riedl and Eberl, 2022; Loosen et al., 2020). Hence, I consider as important to focus on whether expectations of PSM differ with respect to citizens’ political preferences. The aim of this study is thus, with the help of six focus groups, to find out what expectations audience members have of Czech PSM and whether these expectations differ across different political preferences. I am primarily interested in the difference between voters of traditional political parties, voters of populist parties and people who define themselves as non-voters. The Czech Republic constitute for the study a suitable context because Czech PSM have a strong position in the national media environment and are perceived as the most trusted source of news (Štětka, 2022). At the same time, for several years they have been constantly under attack from populist politicians and attempts to control them (Smejkal et al., 2022; Štětka, 2021). They thus present a suitable terrain that allows me to explore the expectations of both satisfied audiences and dissatisfied ones.
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