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Media and Public

"Wall-newspapers" and public forms of announcements then - today it is difficult to disregard the daily news.
Bratislava, 1968: The citizens of Bratislava seek to get information about the recent developments after the invasion of Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia. News is available in shop windows and everywhere else around the city.
© Votava, Wien

From a historical point of view, the formation of western democracies is accompanied by the emergence of a general public. Hereby, publicity constitutes an intermediate sphere: the governed people express their wishes and needs by votes, citizens' initiatives and protests, whereas the government tries to make political decisions by linking factual conclusions and then strives to keep in power with the demands of the voters. In modern societies the political public is primarily established by the mass media. Although the political realm of influence is territorially limited, the capitalist economy tends to interact globally. This economical process of integration causes a dual deficit, as it is not escorted by a simultaneous globalisation of national publics: Firstly, citizens can not address their concerns and wishes to a general official representative (public deficit). Secondly, decisions made in international and supranational arenas lack legitimisation (deficit of legitimisation), because they are not coupled to an international civic society.

This is possibly the reason why protagonists of the new social movements, such as ecology groups like Greenpeace, try to exploit media mechanism by stage-managing spectacular campaigns. Through public attention they not only seek to arouse solidarity, but also create counter movements among people. Good examples were set by the radio station "B2" in Belgrade during the Balkan Wars as well as by mainly female activists in Afghanistan who supported a "barefoot-journalism" against the Taliban. Away from the mainstream, minority groups and NGO's try to conquer public spheres generated through the media. These attempts become apparent in the private radio sector, in special minority programmes and measures of anti-discrimination. The presence of voices from minorities in our society can therefore be taken as a yardstick for the quality of a democracy.

Gertraud Diendorfer
(Last update: 02/2006)

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