Media and Society1

Figure 2. Four normative roles of media

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Figure 2. Four normative roles of media

Institutional power

Media dependency

Media autonomy

People’s power

This map is based on the relation of the media to the power system in society, both political and economic power, leading to four different normative roles:

  1. Monitorional role

  2. Facilitative role

  3. Radical role

  4. Collaborative role

The listing is from Christians & al. (forthcoming). Monitorial role refers to typical cases of media seeing themselves as neutral observers reporting “objectively” about the world. However, since the sources of information are mostly in the centers of power, the agenda is largely set by the power system and thus the informational role is in fact quite dependent on institutional power and elites even if it may criticize them like a “watchdog”. Facilitative role has a greater distance from centers of power, since it seeks to provide citizens with a platform for expressing themselves and participating in the political process. This category also includes the movement of civic or “public journalism”. Radical role refers to a totally oppositional approach to the prevailing power, to the extent of questioning the foundations of socio-political order and inciting revolution. Liberation movements used to belong to this category; today it has only token representation among established political organizations and is mainly represented among free intellectuals and alternative social movements. Collaborative role finally refers to cases where media directly serve governments and other centers of power like “lapdogs”.

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