Introduction: Can the Media Serve Democracy?
Something seems to be wrong. Talk of decline, disengagement and disenchantment dominates the debate about the state of contemporary democracy. All too often, such talk leads on to expressions of ill-concealed frustration about ‘apathetic’ citizens who have forgotten their civic ‘duty’ and ‘irresponsible’ media failing to serve the public interest. Avoiding these well-rehearsed lamentations, the aim of this book is to reflect upon the ways in which one of the key institutional actors in the public domain — the media in their various forms — both serve and undermine democratic objectives. Let us take the Leveson Report’s call for the media: ‘to give a powerful voice in the public domain to those unable to do so effectively for themselves’ and to provide ‘a public forum, where information, ideas and entertainment are both circulated and held up to scrutiny’ as a normative benchmark. To what extent do the media in developed political democracies reach that benchmark? How realistic is it to expect them to do so?
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