Entangled Evolutions: Media and Democratization in Eastern Europe
The revolutions of 1989 swept away Eastern Europe’s communist governments and created expectations on the part of many observers that post-communist media would lead the liberated societies in establishing and embracing democratic political cultures. Peter Gross finds that it was utopian to hold such expectations of the media in societies in transition.
On the one hand, those countries’ media professionals had all learned their jobs under the communist regimes and could not instantly transform themselves into guides for a politically enabled populace, Gross argues. On the other hand, newcomers to the media world, even those who were notable literary figures, viewed themselves as social and political leaders rather than mere informers and facilitators of the resocialization required to form new democracies. The news media have remained highly politicized and partisan.
So how are the media, civil society, and political culture related in societies in transition? And can changes in these relationships be anticipated? To address these questions, Entangled Evolutions examines media in post-1989 Eastern Europe. It studies the effects of privatization of the media, journalists’ relations to political figures, institutional structures such as media laws, professional journalistic culture, and the media’s relation to their market. Sources include interviews with journalists and politicians, sociological and political data from national surveys, and media audience studies.
Peter Gross is a professor of journalism at California State University-Chico. He was an East European Studies research scholar in 1996 at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.