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Crisis as an object of study for
Media Governance Research


Crisis has been a major area of study for the team of Media Governance research in recent years. Projects are exploring specifically the question of struggle for control over communicative spaces, the main actors involved in this process, regulatory frameworks and policies, whether law bound or practice based, shaping the conditions and normalizing a certain order of media landscapes, as well as the level of discourse about crisis and its role in the process of controlling communicative spaces.

The term 'communicative spaces' refers to online and offline spaces of communication, whether established forms of media, public squares and public physical spaces, the Internet and from mass media to small/er organized spaces. 'Communicative spaces' refers to the process of spatiotemporally constituting social relations based on action, reaction and interaction among various constituencies and within specific historical contexts. These dimensions of communication require extensive analysis and systematic study.

A Media Governance approach in our team sees in crisis a historical making of breaking and re/building social relations around the right to communicate, as well as a process of struggle over gaining access to means and spaces of communication and controlling i.e. determining the conditions of this access. Institutionally, socially and individually, struggles over communicative spaces involve direct forms of control from crude censorship to effective control, such as through imposed structural changes in the media in crisis and to practices of selective discursive control, within which conflicting and temporarily allied interests are the underlying forces of polarized versions of media in Europe.

The crisis of Europe's monetary union has raised questions about the political legitimacy of its own institutions and those of the European polity and has put basic democratic principles at risk. The mediated and practiced solutions to the crisis, mainly in the form of budgetary cuts and austerity measures, have stirred social protests in various EU member states. The mistrust in institutions includes also the mainstream media. In these times of uncertainty, not only the legitimacy of (supra-) governmental institutions and of regulatory frameworks, but also the ethos of 'the'/ 'a' European identity are shaken and negotiated anew. The backbones of good governance, legitimacy and trust are frequently questioned. The crisis has also given rise to the visible resurfacing of colliding interests represented in the public sphere in political debates that intertwine with and are dominated by economic processes: markets and parliaments, parties and citizenry. European communication systems represent, construct and claim to explain the 'crisis' to European publics. Thus, representations intersecting in the public sphere form a multifaceted phenomenon which cannot be understood through an 'economic' angle - but rather incorporates political, legal as well as social perspectives. After all, diverse crises produce different Europes – evidently springing from renewed democratic processes of public participation in public debates.

The team has studied the European public sphere, the spatial and geographic configurations of Europe and its transforming identity in times of crises. These discussions have emerged from extensively and systematically collecting data on the coverage of the crisis in the European elite and boulevard press (six EU member countries) on social networks (such as Twitter) in the advent of the Greek elections (June 2012), the Spanish bailout (2012), the French Presidential Election (April 2012); the Cypriot financial crisis (2012/2013), the European Parliamentary Elections (May 2014) and the recent national Greek and regional Spanish elections (2015).

The team has further explored the transforming communicative landscapes across Europe evolving around regulatory changes of Public Service Media in several countries, such as Greece (the closure of ERT in 2013, its re-opening in 2015), Hungary's controversial media law, structural changes in Spain and Portugal as well as changes of other European creative industries in terms of labour and production. Furthermore, our research explores developments of cyber-activism and other civil activity on social networking sites in times of crises, in order to understand the ways in which these innovations relate to and have an impact on the conditions of media and communication governance.

The Research Lab's work is communicated in academic publications and conferences and we are very much interested and engaged in public outreach activities and communication with the press and policymakers.


Media Governance and Industries Research Lab
Dept. of Communication
University of Vienna
Währinger Str. 29
1090 Vienna
Austria

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