Lecture #1 – University of Copenhagen

Lecture #1

Challenges to Media Freedom in the EU and US, by Associate Professor Miklós Sükösd

Abstract of lecture:
According to standard theories of democracy, the media serve as a key component in the system of checks and balances, and provide a public sphere for the development of meaningful agendas and public debate. However, this concept has been undermined by several recent challenges to media freedom, pluralism, and the democratic performance of media in the European Union as well as the United states. This talk attempts to present a systematic framework for the analysis of these challenges.

One problem is that social media may create echo chambers for partisan audiences and offer opportunities for political actors to bypass professional media institutions when they address their constituencies. In this way, the chances for meaningful, democratic debate are lessened. Another set of challenges is presented by the media structure within the EU. A pan-European public sphere is fragmented into 28 national media systems, and there is a tension between the two levels. We also see a gradual erosion of the European institution of public service media (PSM) in relation to state aid regulation of the EC that restrict the expansion of PSM to social media and various online platforms.

Transnational challenges include Russian disinformation efforts, the Chinese acquisition of international media companies, and the threat of Islamic terrorism for journalists that inhibits free expression (e.g. the massacre 12 editors and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo in Paris 2015; or killing film director Finn Nørgaard in Copenhagen 2015). In the EU, add that US tech companies (e.g., Google and Facebook) siphon off growing proportions of advertising revenues from national media markets, which also pose long-term structural challenges to media pluralism in Europe. At the same time, we witness direct political attacks on media freedom in Central and Eastern Europe (even the establishment of a non-democratic, hybrid political and media regime in an EU member state, Hungary). What could be the policy and advocacy responses to these challenges by different stakeholders? If we see a synergy of problems, could we also envisage a synergy of responses? 

Introduction of Miklós Sükösd

Miklós Sükösd is an Associate Professor at the Department of Media, Cognition and Communication at the University of Copenhagen. Before coming to KU, he was an Associate Professor at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong. He also held an appointment as Academic Director of the Center for Media and Communication Studies at Central European University (CEU), where he taught as Associate Professor of Political Science as well. His research interests include media in post-communist countries (Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and China), and environmental communication. As Senior Fellow at Media Diversity Institute (London), he gave several curriculum development seminars for professors of journalism at universities in the Middle East and the Caucasus (including Egypt, Morocco and Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia).

He has published over 20 books and many book chapters and journal articles about political communication and media politics. He has received international research awards and fellowships, including Fulbright Fellowship at Columbia University; Japan Foundation Fellowship at the University of Tokyo; ACLS Research Scholarship at the Woodrow Wilson Center (Washington, D.C.); and a General Research Fund grant, Hong Kong. He also served in major international media research and consultancy projects, including as Chair of the COST A30 Action East of West: Setting a New Central and Eastern European Media Research Agenda, and key expert and team leader in the European Union study on indicators for media pluralism.

His latest book is Media Pluralism and Diversity: Concepts, Risks and Global Trends (ed. with Peggy Valcke and Robert G. Picard). Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. (Palgrave Global Media Policy and Business Series.)