Equality / Interest mediation (E)

This structural feature refers to the country and its entire media system. According to this feature, equality is better guaranteed if there are large numbers of different media outlets (quantitative external diversity). Ownership structure and diversity are accordingly regarded as important elements. Moreover, news should reach the citizen by means of different formats. Finally, there is a greater chance of achieving equality if the mass media are employed by minority groups (alternative media, third sector) and if the dominant mass media report on a regular basis about minority claims.

Claims concerning the threats of ownership concentration for democratic media have been discussed widely among scholars. Arguing from different angles, a high level of media concentration is considered detrimental to media market competition, the diversity of opinions and the representation of different groups in society. According to Doyle (2002), media ownership concentration is highly relevant to democracy, as it may result in the “abuse of political power by media owners or the under-representation of some significant viewpoints. (…) Concentrations of media ownership narrow the range of voices that predominate in the media and consequently pose a threat to the interest of society” (Doyle 2002, p. 6). Furthermore, Doyle argues that media ownership can lead to overrepresentation of certain political opinions that may create power imbalances, entailing risks for democracy and social coherence (ibid. p. 26). More recently, Baker argued that ownership concentration must be seen as contrary to the fundamental ideas of democracy. To him, the egalitarian principle of one man, one vote is not adequately reflected in media ownership concentration. “Dispersal of media power, like dispersal of voting power, is simply an egalitarian attribute of a system claiming to be democratic” (2007, p. 14). Therefore, “(…) concentrated media ownership creates the possibility of an individual decision maker exercising enormous, unequal and hence undemocratic, largely unchecked, potentially irresponsive power” (ibid. p. 16). McChesney concludes that ownership concentration accentuates hyper-commercialism and journalism denigration. He simply calls concentration “a poison pill for democracy” (2008, p. 427). For all these reasons, it is important to examine thoroughly the level of ownership concentration both at the national level (indicator E1) and at the regional (local) level (E2).

(E1) Media ownership concentration national level

The first indicator (E1) refers to the degree of ownership concentration at the national level. The central assumption is that ownership concentration in the media may compromise the plurality of the media landscape. A national market controlled by one operator (monopoly) or by two (oligopoly) can be problematic in this regard. Ideally, more than two competing news media outlets should therefore be available in each news media sector, such as newspapers, news magazines, radio, television, online media.

Question What is the degree of ownership concentration at the national level?
Requirement The lower the national ownership concentration, the more democratic equality is guaranteed and the higher the potential that democracy will be promoted.
Points [3] low concentration ratio (measured by CR3) and more than two competitors for all news media
[0] private monopoly at the national level
Criteria – plurality of ownership at national level
– transparency of ownership
– if there is a monopoly: Is it publicly controlled? Is it state-owned?
Data sources Statistics (data, calculate the market share CR3 of all media in the country)

(E2) Media ownership concentration regional (local) level

The second indicator (E2) measures the degree of ownership concentration in the market of regional news media. In this context, each country must first define its major communication areas and then show the regional selection of newspapers, broadcasters, and online media. Ideally, more than two competing news media outlets should be available in each news media sector. With lower media concentration, a larger number of players have access to the news markets and more diverse opinions are likely to emerge. Over recent decades, many regional media markets lost on completion between regional or local media owners. Strong media ownership concentration at the local level is particularly difficult for local politics, as politicians have no alternative means to communicate with their electorate other than through the local monopoly media company. The Internet may help to offer additional channels of information and participation, but critics argue that it does not eliminate gate-keepers and does not provide equal access to deliberation. “The Internet has served to level some existing political inequalities, but it has also created new ones” (Hindman 2009, p. 19).

Question What is the degree of ownership concentration at the regional (local) level?
Requirement The lower the regional (local) ownership concentration, the more democratic equality is guaranteed and the higher the potential that democracy will be promoted.
Points [3] more than two competitors in all regions for all news media types (newspapers, TV, radio, etc.)
[0] full news control of just one private media company in all relevant regions (integrated media companies: newspaper, local TV, radio, online)
Criteria – plurality of ownership in the regions
– transparency of ownership
– if there is a monopoly: Is it publicly controlled? Is it state-owned?
Data sources Statistics (data, calculate the market share CR3 of main regions in the country)

(E3) Diversity of formats

The following indicator – diversity of formats – measures the diversity of the respective formats and news presentations. It indicates plurality of information through multiple types of newspapers, television, radio, and online media as well as their use to provide news to the public. each medium has its own specificities in the presentation of news and adds potentially to the diversity of news and information on offer. Accordingly, it is argued that when more options and greater variety of news formats exist, more diversity is provided to the consumer. Moreover, ownership diversity is unlikely to automatically translate into news format diversity (see ownership concentration E1 and E2).

Question Is there a diversity of different formats of news presentation?
Requirement The higher the diversity of formats, the more plurality of information and democratic equality is guaranteed and the higher the potential that democracy will be promoted.
Points [3] abundance of news formats
[0] minimum diversity of news formats
Criteria – degree of diversity of formats (deliver a list of different format of news, including online-outlets specialized on news, 24-hour news channels, etc.)
– multiples types of news media
– special forms of news presentation
Data sources Reports; audience research, format research

(E4) Minority / Alternative media

Indicator E4 – minority/alternative media – refers to the existence of minority/alternative media. It is uncontested that media can contribute to diversity by reflecting differences in society: “Media are expected to represent the prevailing differences of culture, opinion and social conditions of the population as a whole” (McQuail 1992, p.144). Ideally, all major minorities within a given society are served by a variety of special minority/alternative media or are well-represented by other media based on rules or conventions. More democratic equality is likely to be established if minority groups have easy and even privileged access to the media in order to argue their causes. Governance rules within media companies that entail legally binding obligations for the media in favour of positive discrimination of minorities are considered helpful tools in establishing more equality.

Question Do minority / alternatives media exist? Are all sorts of minorities served by media? Do they have their own media? As minority qualify: ethnic groups, disabled people, women, minority languages, etc.
Requirement The more minority/alternative media exist, the more democratic equality is guaranteed and the higher the potential that democracy will be promoted.
Points [3] plenitude of minority media exist, largest minorities are served by them
[0] no such media exist
Criteria – quantity of minority/alternative media
– do main / largest minorities have their own media or access to media on a regular basis?
– use of languages that reflect the linguistic diversity of the media’s target area
– use of languages relied upon by marginalized groups
– existence and relevance of Weblogs of minorities / ethnic groups, etc.
Data sources Research reports; audience research

(E5) Affordable public and private news media

According to the next indicator, the news media should be available at a reasonable price to the whole population. In order to provide people with equal opportunities to inform themselves on a regular basis, the price of the available media must be within the financial means of the entire population. Therefore, this indicator measures the cost of access to newspapers (price of subscription and/or copy price), television and radio (license fee, pay TV), and online media (broadband connection). These costs are put in relation to the average household income in order to provide a sound data basis for international comparison.

Question What is the price of the media in relation to average household income?
Requirement If the price for news media is affordable, it is more likely that democratic equality will be guaranteed and thus that democracy will be promoted.
Points [3] low price in relation to average household income
[0] news media only affordable for elites
Criteria All in relation to average household income and to lower income household groups (quantitative):
– average price for an annual full subscription for newspapers
– annual tax/licence fees for television and radio
– price of broadband access
Data sources Statistics; prices

(E6) Content monitoring instrument

The structural feature content monitoring instrument refers to the specific country and its mass media landscape. According to this feature, equality is better guaranteed if there is a large number of politically neutral outlets (internal diversity) or a balance of politically aligned media organizations at the aggregate level (external diversity). For this reason, it is important that there exist bodies or institutions that monitor, for example, the actual political neutrality of the media. This indicator illustrates whether a country’s media system has bodies or instruments to monitor news media content. Such instruments should be independent, the results should be publicly available, and operate on a regular basis. Such content monitoring might be institutionalized by the media themselves, by supervising bodies, by university institutes, or other organizations. The existence of a permanent content monitoring institution by itself is considered to have a positive impact on journalists’ behaviour and to help foster the idea of media accountability.

Question Is there a regular and publicly available issue monitoring instrument for news media?
Requirement If an effective monitoring instrument exists, it is more likely that democratic equality will be guaranteed and thus that democracy will be promoted.
Points [3] continuously and published issue monitoring
[0] no public monitoring at all
Criteria – organized, permanent issue monitoring published by relevant news media on a regular basis (publicly available)
– independence of the monitoring body / private company
Data sources Desk research

(E7) Code of ethics at the national level (structure)

The following indicator seeks to determine the existence and the use of an institutionalized and effective self-regulation system for the main news media of a country. It checks whether the internal tools for editorial policies (such as mission statements, codes of ethics, editorial guidelines, etc.) are implemented in line with formal rules. The central assumption here is that the mass media, within a prevailing climate of self-regulation and respect for the journalistic profession, effectively reflect and represent the diversity of views and interests in society. Scholars have pointed to a large variety of possible measures to implement both at the company level and on the national level (Bertrand 2002; Liederke 2004). relevant for this indicator is the national level and whether codes of ethics exist that are implemented and respected by the leading news media.

Question Does a code of ethics at national level exist, requiring news media to provide fair, balanced and impartial reporting? Is it known and used?
Requirement If an effective code exists, it is more likely that democratic equality will be guaranteed and thus that democracy will be promoted.
Points [3] code is implemented and frequently used
[0] no code, not in use
Criteria – existence of a press complaints commission, etc.
– existence of independent journalist associations, which disseminate good practice, e.g., improving skills and raising ethical standards…
– are there any provisions regarding the accountability of the media to civil society?
Data sources Interviews

(E8) Level of self-regulation (performance)

The structural indicator E7 is combined with the performance feature E8. This indicator is geared towards self-regulation instruments within leading news organizations in each country. Such self-regulation instruments are part of media governance in a broad sense, understood as the collective rules that organize media systems (Boeyink 1994; Freedman 2008; puppis 2010). It is assumed that instruments such as clear internal rules that apply to all journalists in the newsrooms help to increase quality and provide journalists with guidelines on their day-to-day routines. Such guidelines work on the condition that rules do not only exist, but are used regularly. According to McQuail (2010), such self-regulation instruments can be formal or informal. However, formal self-regulation rules are more transparent and possibly more helpful for journalists than a set of informal rules that are applied by editors-in-chief at their discretion. news organizations with a sophisticated, highly developed, and continuous ly updated set of internal self-regulation rules are considered to better advance the cause of democratic equality.

Question Does a media self-regulation system exist at the main news media, requiring the provision of fair, balanced and impartial reporting? Is it effective?
Requirement The better the media’s self-regulation system is, the more democratic equality is guaranteed and the higher the potential that democracy will be promoted.
Points [3] highly sophisticated self-regulation instruments
[0] no such instruments at all
Criteria – existence of a mission statement/ code of ethics/code of conduct, which refers to democratic values and contains journalistic obligations to report politically balanced
– existence of internal rules for the right to reply
– existence of formal systems for hearing complaints about alleged violations of ethical standards
– do ombudsmen have their own space in the media? Are they independent?
– existence of sanctions against journalists who violate ethical standards – organized process of self-criticism
Data sources Interviews

(E9) Participation

Indicator E9 – participation – examines the extent to which news media give citizens the opportunity to voice their own views and reactions to news stories they see, read or hear (Christians et al. 2007, p. 116, Mcnair 1999, p. 19, Wahl-Jorgensen 2007). In 1947, the Hutchins Commission on social responsibility in journalism proposed that media should provide a forum for exchange of comments and crititcism (Commission on Freedom of the press 1947). Moreover, the indicator analyses how well the media encourage citizens to participate in the production of news. Such an approach requires that the news media be open to forms of cooperation with citizens. It can be argued that, generally speaking, the larger the number of citizens who participate, the greater the chance of having a multitude of opinions. Online media are very well situated to organize such a forum by providing web-space for user reactions. Furthermore, other media make use of the Internet to provide a forum for comments and criticisms on their websites. In general, the Internet opens up new modes of citizen participation in the public discourse with fewer gatekeepers and supposedly a re-distribution of communicative power, away from established news outlets like television, radio and newspapers. The public sphere may be broadened and opened up to those with less access to traditional media. However, this form of participation via the Internet has a downside as well. Critics, such as Matthew Hindman, claim that differences remain and that the computer skills necessary to participate are even more stratified than in the analogue world. “These scholars acknowledge the continuing effects of the digital divide, the influence of economic forces and Internet gatekeepers, and the simple fact that all Web sites are not created equal” (Hindman 2009, p. 11).

Question Is there an organized way for people to participate in the news process?
Requirement The more people that participate in the news process, the more democratic equality is guaranteed and the higher the potential that democracy will be promoted.
Points [3] open newsrooms, space in the media for citizens’ voice
[0] no such possibilities
Criteria – newsrooms open to the public (sometimes, always)
– existence of rules for the right to reply / possibilities to give feedback
– do leading news media offer / organize public debates and discussions?
– do people participate in online fora on news issues offered by the media?
– do leading online media offer public postings?
– if leading news media provide space for user generated content: For what reasons? What is the internal justification?
Data sources Interviews

(E10) Rules and practices on internal pluralism

Along with the process of media ownership concentration (see indicators E1 and E2), the importance of internal pluralism increases. Different voices in society are well represented if the leading news media allow for a high degree of internal pluralism in the newsrooms. While in earlier stages of the media development external pluralism was provided by a large number of independent news outlets (newspapers), which showed in their entirety a wide array of opinions, media concentration and in particular the demise of the party press require higher levels of internal pluralism within leading newsrooms. Irrespective of the requirement for each newsroom to follow an editorial line, from the perspective of democratic equality different views and opinions should be represented. But internal pluralism cannot follow from state regulation. It is rather part of the newsroom culture. empirical evidence can be collected from close observation of the newsroom output (which is not done in this research exercise) or by discussion with members of the newsrooms. Internal pluralism is realized when divergent voices are represented within the same newsroom, when different experts’ opinions are being voiced, and when the feedback culture of the newsroom is open to all sides.

Question How do media organizations ensure that different views and perspectives are being reported?
Requirement The more different voices are reported by the media, the more democratic equality is guaranteed and the higher the potential that democracy will be promoted.
Points [3] known and practiced standardized procedures to ensure internal pluralism
[0] no such procedures
Criteria – how are different positions accommodated within the newsroom?
– what rules apply to present divergent opinions of journalists within the same newsroom?
– are there regular internal debates on different positions?
– existence (and observance) of internal rules/guidelines specifying that all relevant information and socially significant views must be given their appropriate weight in the coverage
– are journalists free (and expected) to also use information and views favouring the other side when a medium is allied with a particular party or ideology?
– are politicians / experts from all sides given the chance to present their case?
– is the medium‘s feedback culture (e.g., readers‘ letters) open to all sides?
Data sources Interviews