CORDI @ IAMCR 2020

The annual conference of the International Association of Mass Communication Research (IAMCR), launched its first global online conference on Sunday 12 July 2020. The conference, organized by Tampere University, with the theme Reimagining the Digital Future: Building inclusiveness, respect and reciprocity, entails 6 plenary sessions, 26 video sessions produced by IAMCR’s sections and working groups, and 680 online papers.

Several CORDI members presented in the conference:

Marko Ala-Fossi’s and Riku Neuvonen’s paper, co-authored with Jukka Lempiäinen, titled Finland: digital leader standing on mobile feet?  Inequality of citizens as digital consumers of public services online was featured in the Digital Divide working group:

“A large part of the public services and mass communication in Finland has been digitalized and moved online, which makes Finland one of the digital leaders within the EU. The focus of the Finnish broadband strategy is exceptional because it is based on wireless mobile networks. This strategy has also been taken further than elsewhere in Europe by demolishing fixed telephone networks almost entirely. So far, there has been some technological and economic critique on favouring mobile networks and slow investments in building new fixed networks. Although the usability of public services and journalistic media content like news online is a growing part of the everyday life of the Finns, the citizen perspective has been not been heard so far. The purpose of the project we are planning for is to find out whether the Finnish broadband strategy based on mobile networks results in growing inequality between different population groups– and is it possible that the strategy could even endanger the citizen rights and their security. Based on the results, we will create a proposal of policies for securing equality of the citizens as well as universal availability of public services and journalistic media content also in the digital environment.”

See the full paper here.  

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Ilmari Hiltunen presented his paper Experiences of External Interference Among Finnish Journalists – An Interview Study in the Media production analysis working group:

“With the rise of populist politicians fanning anti-media sentiments and the emergence of new threats like online harassment, defamation, and intimidation, journalists are subjected to wide range of new challenges in contemporary communication environment. While multiple organizations track statistics on extreme intimidation behaviors such as murder or imprisonment of journalists, systematic research on any of the less severe forms of interference or their implications to professional or personal life of journalists have been rare. This is especially true in the context of democratic and stable Western societies, where external pressure and threats have rarely been studied and there has long existed a tendency to take physical and mental safety of journalists for granted.

Finland, like the rest of the Nordic countries, has generally ranked high in measures of press freedom. This research represents an exploratory attempt to empirically study experiences of external interference and its perceived implications among Finnish journalists. Based on applied thematic analysis (ATA) of 31 semi-structured interviews with Finnish working journalists collected using critical case sampling (n=15) supplemented with maximum variety sampling (n=16), this qualitative research explores how external interference affects the journalism production and the professional and personal lives of journalists in Finland. With journalists from diverse demographics (women and men of different ages and experience), types of employment, occupational positions, media outlets, geographical levels (national, regional, and local), and specializations present in the sample, the study is based on information-rich tapestry of experiences and perspectives to the phenomenon.

For this study, external interference is defined as all active and/or invasive methods external actors use to interfere in the journalistic process and/or influence journalists to shape editorial content. This definition emphasizes the individual experience and perspective of the journalist and makes it possible to simultaneously study low-intensity interference like verbal abuse or pressure alongside more intrusive and aggressive methods ranging from intimidation to physical violence. This allows for a nuanced overall picture of different aspects of the interference and its implications for journalism and journalists.

The research identifies three main themes in the data: new detrimental phenomena brought on by the fragmentation and transformation of journalistic public sphere, the dissolution of professional and private roles of the journalist, and the paramount importance of organizational trust, support and communication in journalism outlets. The findings demonstrate how combined effects of external interference that journalists encounter increasingly seep from professional realm also to private life. Simultaneously, the research seeks to understand how these effects are mediated on both organizational and individual level.

By using Finland as a case example, this research demonstrates how external interference manifests and affects journalists within a democratic Western country that has strong legal, cultural, and institutional safeguards for press freedom and autonomy. As this area of journalism production has seldom been studied in context of countries with high press freedom, this research provides important addition to global debates surrounding the challenges of journalists in transforming communication environment.”

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Reeta Pöyhtäri,  Jockum Hildén,  Riku Neuvonen,  Katja Lehtisaari and Marko Ala-Fossi presented in a session co-sponsored by the Communication Policy and Technology Section and the Global Media Policy Working Group. Their paper was titled Between the media welfare model and reality: Nordic media policies and regulation in a move:

“In a world of globalising media and growing international regulation, the Nordic countries seem to be at a crossroads of different tendencies in media policies. Nordic countries (Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and to an extent, Iceland) have been described as media welfare states (Syvertsen et al. 2014), characterised by both a democratic corporatist media system (Hallin and Mancini 2004) and social democratic welfare state ideology (Esping-Andersen 1990). Nordic media systems have been analysed as inherently similar and distinctive from other media systems (e.g. Brüggemann et al. 2015), their specificity based on four pillars: universally available communication services, institutionalised editorial freedom, extensive cultural policy for the media, as well as preference for consensual policy-making and compromises between key stakeholders. (Syvertsen et al. 2014.) Taken that Nordic countries have shared socio-political histories, including the development of liberal democracies with press freedom, such analyses are not surprising. The concept of media welfare state has turned out to be a useful tool for understanding the development of Nordic media systems.

However, the contradiction between the idealised Nordic model and reality has been increasing in the past years. The transition from welfare states to competition states has been ongoing since the 1970s, and especially the Nordic social democracy is in deep crisis. None of the Nordic countries is a perfect example of the suggested model and next to similarities, the media systems also have many market and policy based differences (Hilson 2008; Nord 2008; Engelstad et al. 2017). National path-dependence in the field of freedom of speech doctrine and media regulation creates even greater variation in the age of digital disruption. The ideas of media welfare state should thus be seen as dynamic, and in need of periodic re-examination (Syvertsen et al. 2014). Especially in the present era of digital media and global influences, it is relevant to ask, whether the Nordic media model still correlates with Nordic media realities.

This paper assesses Nordic media policies and regulation on direct and indirect press subsidies, the self-regulation and practices of journalism, and the regulation of online media from the perspective of national path-dependence and influence of supranational decision-making. For example, for many years VAT rates for the digital subscriptions of newspapers were subjected to the standard EU level for digital services, prohibiting member states from applying the same VAT rates to physical and digital newspapers. In 2018 the Council finally agreed to allow reduced VAT rates for digital publications, with the restriction that only member states that applied reduced rates to physical publications prior to 2017 can allow for reduced rates. Furthermore, policy-making is increasingly taking the form of EU acts being adapted to national contexts in path-dependent form. While due consideration tends to be given to other Nordic countries’ way of transposing EU regulation, the solutions tend to be more oriented towards catering for the needs of national industries and following the regulations previously in place. While the Nordic media model still forms a basis, we argue that the implementations are increasingly different.”

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Minna Horowitz, with Marius Dragomir of the Central European University, presented in the video panel of the Public Media Policies working group, with the title Media Capture and Its Contexts: Developing a Comparative Framework for Public Service Media:

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