You are on page 1of 144


Vol. 10 / 2013
ISSN 2029-865X
Auksė BALČYTIENĖ, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania
Peter GROSS, University of Tennessee, USA
Aušra VINCIŪNIENĖ, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania
Karen ARRIAZA IBARRA, Complutense University of Madrid, Spain
Péter BAJOMI-LÁZÁR, University of Oxford, UK
Rasa BALOČKAITĖ, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania
Inta BRIKŠE, University of Latvia, Latvia
Bogusława DOBEK-OSTROWSKA, University of Wroclaw, Poland
Ilija TOMANIĆ TRIVUNDŽA, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Mykolas DRUNGA, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania
Ari HEINONEN, University of Tampere, Finland
Stig HJARVARD, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Irena CARPENTIER REIFOVÁ, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic
Nico CARPENTIER, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
Kristina JURAITĖ, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania
Epp LAUK, University of Jyvaskyla, Finland
Nelija LOČMELE, “”, Latvia
Gintautas MAŽEIKIS, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania
Werner A. MEIER, Universität Zürich, Switzerland
J. D. MININGER, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania
Tom MORING, University of Helsinki, Swedish School of Social Science, Finland
Laima NEVINSKAITĖ, Vilnius University, Lithuania
Hannu NIEMINEN, University of Helsinki, Finland
Lars W. NORD, Mid Sweden University, Sweden
Audronė NUGARAITĖ, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania
Henrink ÖRNEBRING, University of Oxford, UK
Yoram PERI, Tel Aviv University, Israel
Karin RAEYMAECKERS, University of Ghent, Belgium
Anda ROŽUKALNE, Riga Stradins University, Latvia
Helena SOUSA, University of Minho, Portugal
Jesper STRÖMBÄCK, Mid Sweden University, Sweden
Miklós SÜKÖSD, The University of Hong Kong
Burcu SUMMER, Ankara University, Turkey
Václav ŠTĚTKA, University of Oxford, UK
Artūras TEREŠKINAS, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania
Jaromír VOLEK, Masaryk University Brno, Czech Republic
Peeter VIHALEMM, Tartu University, Estonia
  
© Vytautas Magnus University, 2013
UDK 316.77
/ 14
/ 74
/ 56
/ 100
/ 118
/ 40
Kristina JURAITĖ
Introduction: Mediated participation in a digital age
Digital worlds and civic opportunities: Connecting online and ofine
activism in Lithuania
(Dis-)respectful public discussions online: insights on audience polarization
and formation of radical hate or support groups
Stacey May KOOSEL
Artists and digital culture: (The strain of ) self-promotion in social media
Stanisław JĘDRZEJEWSKI and Urszula DOLIWA
Local radio – an endangered species? The Polish case
Dzmitry YURAN
The point of no return: Belarusian audience refusal to use Western
broadcast media after exposure to their content
Two realities of one revolution: Coverage of mass protests of 2011 in state-
run and independent Belarusian media
/ 4
Introduction: Mediated participation in a digital age
Kristina JURAITĖ
Associate Professor, PhD
Department of Pubic Communications
Vytautas Magnus University
Kaunas, Lithuania
ISSN 2029-865X
Media Transformations 5
Te role of the Internet, digital communications and mobile tech-
nologies have changed our understanding of the world, politics, reli-
gion, culture, science and many other spheres of societal life. Today’s
world, once defned as a mediapolis (Silverstone, 2007), is a mediated
public space where media reinforce and reshape everyday life expe-
riences. However, the main changes penetrating diferent layers and
structures of society are not technological or institutional per se, but
rather cultural and social, embodied in individual practices and in-
teractions (Castells, 2009). Terefore, while addressing the changes
in relationship to the public and politics, not only technological, in-
stitutional, structural, but also social and cultural implications have
to be considered.
Communication processes, at some point having been rather homo-
geneous and dominated by the national media, have transformed
into a diversifed media system with an abundance of diferent chan-
nels, modes, platforms, publics, etc. In this new media ecology, the
way media penetrates social structures and our lives is also changing;
audience loyalty for a single channel is disappearing, while engage-
ment in a more active, selective, creative and critical media use is
growing. What is emerging nowadays is a completely new communi-
cation infrastructure of everyday life, which provides people, as well
as institutions, with new incentives for interaction, communication
and participation (Livingstone, 2004, 2009).
Te changing role of media is also transforming and challenging
the political feld, democratic processes and public participation
practices. On one hand, new media is seen as an important pledge
of deliberative democracy, while promoting the public sphere and
providing a platform for citizens’ participation, which is one of the
key dimensions and theoretical conceptions of contemporary de-
mocracy (Carpentier, 2011). On the other hand, media have always
played an important watchdog function in democracy, while over-
seeing the performance of ofcial representatives and authorities.
However, media coverage of political issues has ofen been criticized
for one-sided, scandalous, populist and superfcial reporting, which
makes the public disappointed with the current political situation
and skeptical about the political world (Cardoso, 2008). Te more
citizens are aware of political scandals, crises and malfunctions, the
more they become intolerant of many things taking place inside and
Introduction: Mediated participation in a digital age
Kristina JURAITĖ
around politics, such as corruption, political party scandals, con-
ficts between public and private interests or other ways of abusing
authority. Te idea of modern politics being shaped by profession-
al information and communication management, political PR, and
marketing techniques has been disputed by political science and
communication researchers (Curran, 2002; Putnam, 2004; De Vreese
et al., 2008; Castells, 2009; Norris, 2011). In mediated politics, a cru-
cial role is played by the professional advisers, political campaign
managers and public relations consultants who shape the media,
public and political agendas, predetermine the news content and in-
duce public support or disappointment. Rather than informing and
supplying citizens with quality information, constructive and thor-
ough coverage of political and social issues and, what is more impor-
tant, stimulating citizens’ interest in public afairs, the news media
have been more successful in entertaining the public and increasing
its disengagement and cynicism.
Indeed, the late modern democracies have been characterized by civ-
ic apathy, public skepticism, disillusionment with politics, and gen-
eral disinterest in the conventional political process, and yet, public
interest in blogging, online news, web-based activism, collaborative
news fltering, and online networking reveal an electorate that is not
disinterested, but rather, fatigued with the political conventions of
the mainstream (Papacharissi, 2013). Even though the media have
been always seen as a vital democratic institution, the advent of new
technologies, diferent approaches and considerations towards new
media roles and functions in political processes evolved. Te propo-
nents promised a rapid democratization of society, as information
and tools provided by the new media would encourage public en-
gagement in social and political life, and promote public activism.
For instance, we can witness a certain invigoration of political action
groups and online community movements in social networks, as well
as online polling, e-referenda, and Internet voting. Moreover, it has
become fast, easy, cheap, and convenient to use political information
online (Papacharissi, 2002). On the other hand, critics of the virtual
public sphere have emphasized fragmentation and political and so-
cial divisions, as well as the lack of substantial reforms of political
thought and action. Indeed, recent technological revolution has cre-
ated a new public space, facilitated mainly by online and mobile com-
munications. However, if such a public space can transform political
Media Transformations 7
culture and stimulate a qualitatively new public sphere, meaning an
alternative way and forum for political deliberation, still remains an
open question for experts and researchers (Papacharissi, 2013).
Te shifing relationship between the public and politics can also be
approached and analyzed as institutional and structural transforma-
tions, which have been explicitly demonstrated by changing power
relationships of traditional institutions, like politics, religion, fami-
ly, and media (Bauman, 2005; Deuze, 2008; Hjarvard, 2013; Hepp,
2013). In the global, and increasingly individualized, society, also
marked by precipitating mediatization, the media as modus operan-
di afects public institutions and practices, and encourages them to
endorse and follow the new media and communication principles.
Terefore, in a mediated cyberspace, the normatives and practices
of politics, religion, culture, education, and other social and cultural
structures are also changing. People receive more opportunities to
choose between the diferent alternatives available for them, which
doesn’t necessarily mean they are disengaged from political life:
Tis individualized act of citizenship can be compared to
the act of the consumer, browsing stores of a shopping mall
for that perfect pair of jeans, comparing prices and sizes
with online oferings. Monitoring is indeed the act of the
citizen-consumer, participating in society (whether that
“society” equals virtual, topical or geographical communi-
ty, one’s role within a democratic nation-state, or within a
translocal network) conditionally, unpredictably, and vol-
untarily (Deuze, 2008: 852).
In the turbulent times of change, the relationship between the pub-
lic and politics becomes more and more individualized, based on
our personal likes, wants, and needs, rather than institutional com-
mitments, responsibilities and loyalties (Deuze, 2008). Instead of
voting, joining a political party or trade union, or demonstrating,
people look for more meaningful, self-expressive, less hierarchical
and more engaging activities. Te new conditions that new commu-
nication technologies have created, while penetrating into very dif-
ferent spheres of life including politics, science, religion, and culture,
require researchers to rethink many issues related to social and polit-
ical development, interaction, participation, identity formation, etc.
Introduction: Mediated participation in a digital age
Kristina JURAITĖ
No coincidence, then, that this current issue of Media Transforma-
tions is also addressing the changing media role and its implications
for democratic political culture, citizens’ participation and public
Te frst article in this volume, “Digital Worlds and Civic Opportuni-
ties: Connecting Online and Ofine Activism in Lithuania” by Liepa
V. Boberienė, examines how the new media environment is promot-
ing the digital generation and changing the way people experience
citizenship through more active, selective and creative engagement.
Te author argues that these changes can be addressed while com-
paring the online and ofine practices in which young citizens of
Lithuania are engaged. Even more, online participation can provide
favorable conditions and some kind of springboard for ofine citi-
zenship practices, community action and political discourse. It is true
that over the past two decades of liberal democracy, market econo-
my, and free media, the democratic transition in Lithuania was faced
with the difculties of developing a strong political and civic culture
and overcoming public fatigue and alienation. Te study shows that
the most common online activities among Lithuanian youth is in-
formation exchange, followed by social networking and eventually
political expression, which is the least common type of engagement
among the students. Tose who are more active online as organiz-
ers or content generators were also more empowered ofine. Tey
expressed more confdence in public institutions, had more positive
perceptions of government responsiveness, and engaged in diferent
organizations, community activism and political discourse. In gen-
eral, multiple online activities, including networking, learning, and
expressing oneself, provided new opportunities for decentralized and
individualized participation outside traditional power structures.
Te idea of new communication and information technologies cre-
ating a new virtual environment is also at the center of Inesa Bir-
bilaitė’s article “(Dis-)respectful Public Discussions Online: Insights
on Audience Polarization and Formation of Radical Hate or Support
Groups”. Te author is focusing on the quality of online public spaces
and political discussions that are taking place on the social network
site Facebook with regard to climate change issues. Following the
Habermasian conception of the public sphere, as well as the empir-
ical measurement of discourse quality index, the author approaches
Media Transformations 9
respect as an underlying value and category indicating the quality
of online public deliberation. Even though there have been more re-
spectful rather than ofensive language expressions on Facebook, dis-
cussions on climate change provided certain patterns of indirect of-
fensive language. One of the conclusions the author comes up with is
audience polarization, meaning that particular support or hate group
formations can be observed and characterized by narrow, one-sided
and dogmatic discourse ofen involving confrontational and ofen-
sive behavior. For instance, people are more likely to ofend outsiders
rather than direct participants of the discussions. Also, public fg-
ures, such as politicians, government representatives, and local and
national institutions, as well as experts, scientists and the media are
most ofen being referred to in an ofensive way in the online discus-
sions. Tus, apart from the technological innovations and facilities
available for citizens’ more active engagement into deterritorialized
online communities, the quality of deliberated content depends on
other factors like online culture and civic values.
While communication technologies are creating new cultural and
social environments, bridging geographical locations and time bar-
riers, individuals are exposed to new opportunities to observe, ex-
perience and engage with the society, politics and community life
through more active self-expression and participation in the mediat-
ed public sphere. Te media have become one of the most important
means of representing our social reality, while mediated communi-
cation defnitely afects our daily lives, identities, self-presentations
and interactions. In her contribution, Stacey May Koosel questions
the role of social media networks, namely Facebook, in afecting Es-
tonian artists’ professional and social reputations. Trying to identify
the ways social media are used for self-presentation and personal in-
formation communication, on the basis of mediated identity narra-
tives of the Estonian artists, the author disputes fundamental cultural
transformations in a new era of digital dependence. Te paradigmatic
shif, the author is underlining, refers to the virtual reality which is
gaining more and more relevance and diminishing the importance of
the ofine world. On one hand, the new social and cultural environ-
ment reinforces changing interactions, blurring lines between pro-
fessional and personal information. On the other hand, it recreates
and demonstrates social and professional alliances, and restructures
the sense of self.
Introduction: Mediated participation in a digital age
Kristina JURAITĖ
Te discourse of democratic media and sociopolitical change require
one to consider other forms of mediated participation as a key cat-
egory and condition for democracy. In the joint contribution “Lo-
cal Radio – an Endangered Species? Te Polish Case” by Stanislaw
Jędrzejewski and Urszula Doliwa, a community media concept is
examined conceptually and practically, on the basis of international,
as well as Polish, experience of local radio management. Following
the authors, community radio is usually operating on a voluntary
and non-proft basis. Even more, it is built on the belief that commu-
nity radio has to promote democratic processes, pluralism, diversity,
tolerance and media autonomy, while focusing more on community
development and identity building. However, local radio stations are
also going through fundamental changes and are experiencing chal-
lenges related to commercialization, competition, and funding that
makes their mission hardly reachable. In the second part of the pa-
per, the authors discuss practical challenges and controversies local
radio stations in Poland are facing from the legislative, organization-
al, technological and fnancial sustainability perspectives.
Te last two papers shed light on even more controversial and com-
plex media challenges in the post-communist and authoritarian Be-
larus. Despite promising transformations that penetrated major po-
litical, economic, social and cultural structures in the beginning of
1990s, the democratization period was too short in the country. Afer
two decades of Aleksandr Lukashenko’s presidency, the national me-
dia have been under state censorship and control, while the regime
practices have remained antidemocratic, authoritarian and repres-
sive with regard to journalists and the public. In her article “Two
Realities of One Revolution: Coverage of Mass Protests of 2011 in
State-Run and Independent Belarusian Media”, Tatsiana Karaliova
compares media representations and discourses of the 2011 mass
protests organized through social networks and covered in major Be-
larusian state-run and independent media. Despite a huge expansion
of the Belarusian media market in the post-communist years, the
challenges for democratic media market still persist. With signifcant
state support, state-run media is much stronger and more infuential
in the country, while independent media is playing quite a marginal
role as an alternative information source. Te author identifes clear
ideological cuts and contradictory realities in terms of news framing,
diversity of voices, discursive strategies, language and rhetoric in the
Media Transformations 11
state-run and independent media in Belarus.
Taking into account limited freedom of information in Belarus, Dz-
mitry Yuran’s research on audience choices and rationalities is par-
ticularly relevant. In his article “Te Point of No Return: Belarusian
Audience Refusal to Use Western Broadcast Media afer Exposure to
the Content”, the author argues that though media users are aware
of the state control over the local media, they do not trust the West-
ern media channels, either. People are critical about the Belarusian
media, however, they are even more skeptic about the foreign media
discourse, which is ofen regarded as irrelevant, misleading, opinion-
ated and biased. In other words, while applying normative criteria
towards Western media, research participants are less critical about
the Belarusian media, which have become quite a sensitive, strategic
and tactical mean in public opinion formation. Te main research
question raised by the author explores why alternative media sourc-
es, mainly Western media channels, do not gain public attention and
are lacking legitimation in the Belarusian population.
Even though access to diferent media channels and content are use-
ful tools the democratizing potential of the new media depends on
additional factors, namely social, political and economic structures
that have been developing for centuries. On the other hand, no doubt
that the precipitating processes of mediatization induce changes on
the structural and individual levels that need to be addressed and ne-
gotiated from diferent conceptual and methodological outlooks. On
behalf of the editorial board, we hope the critical issues approached,
reasoned and deliberated in the contributions of this issue will en-
rich and stimulate academic discourse of media(ted) transforma-
tions with regard to political communication, public participation,
democratic engagement, and the democratizing role of media in a
political culture.
Introduction: Mediated participation in a digital age
Kristina JURAITĖ
Bauman, Z. (2005). Liquid Life. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Cardoso, P. (2008). From Mass to Networked Communication:
Communicational Models and the Informational Society. Interna-
tional Journal of Communication, Vol. 2, 587–630.
Carpentier, N. (2011). Media and Participation: A Site of Ideologi-
cal-Democratic Struggle. Bristol: Intellect.
Castells, M. (2009). Communication Power. Oxford: Oxford Univer-
sity Press.
De Vreese, C., M. Elenbaas (2008). Media in the Game of Politics:
Efects of Strategic Metacoverage on Political Cynicism. The Interna-
tional Journal of Press/Politics, Vol. 13, 285-309. DOI: http://dx.doi.
Deuze, M. (2008). Te Changing Context of News Work: Liquid
Journalism and Monitorial Citizenship. International Journal of
Communication, Vol. 2, 848-865.
Hepp, A. (2013). Cultures of Mediatization. Polity Press.
Hjarvard, S. (2013). Te Mediatization of Culture and Society. Rou-
Livingstone, S. (2004). Te Challenge of Changing Audiences: Or,
What is the Audience Researcher to Do in the Age of the Internet?
European Journal of Communication. Vol. 19 (1), 75-86. DOI: http://
Livingstone, S. (2009). On the Mediation of Everything: ICA Presi-
dential Address 2008. Journal of Communication, Vol. 59 (1), 1-18.
Norris, P. (2011). Democratic Defcit: Critical Citizens Revisited. New
York: Cambridge University Press.
Papacharissi, Z. (2002). Te Virtual Sphere: Te Internet as a Pub-
lic Sphere. New Media & Society, Vol. 4, 9-27. DOI: http://dx.doi.
Media Transformations 13
Papacharissi, Z. (2013). A Private Sphere: Democracy in a Digital Age.
Polity Press.
Silverstone, R. (2007). Media and Morality: On the Rise of Mediapolis.
Cambridge: Polity Press.
Digital worlds and civic opportunities: Connecting online and ofine activism in Lithuania
PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow
American Orthopsychiatric Association
Washington DC, USA
ABSTRACT: Although democratization via new media technologies has received
considerable attention in recent years, empirical research is lacking. Te opportu-
nities ofered by Internet engagement must be studied at the user-level, looking at
individuals’ own grassroots participation. Lithuania serves as an interesting case
study, as civic culture is developing simultaneously with the spread of new techno-
logies. Te purpose of this study was to examine the types of Internet participation
and the civic attitudes that contribute to ofine engagement in organizations, local
community activities, and political discussions among Lithuanian university stu-
dents. A 2012 web-based survey of 580 18- to 30-year-olds from fve major Lithua-
nian universities provided evidence that strong associations exist between Internet
engagement and structural features of society, civic attitudes, and civic activism of-
line. Internet activities, centred on social networking, information exchange, and
political expression, provide opportunities for creative construction of communities
and involvement in civil society. Such online experiences play an important role in
shaping young adults’ social environments, where they experiment with interests
and identities. By choosing the ways that they engage online, youth are active agents
in their civic development.
KEYWORDS: youth development, media technologies, civic participation, social
networking, and political expression
ISSN 2029-865X
Media Transformations 15
Te information and communications technology (ICT) revolution
calls for a re-examination of the nature of youth civic engagement,
especially in young democracies such as Lithuania. Cyber-optimists
hope new technologies will create an abundance of social networks
that allow for decentralized democratization, while pessimists warn
of the dangers of virtual sociality for real world activism (Ray, 2007).
Civic literacies and behaviours are embedded in young people’s
technology practices, which shape peer communities and social lives
(Alvermann, 2002). Over the past few decades, opposing paradigms
of civic culture have emerged, portraying youth as either passive and
disengaged or active and engaged (Bennett, 2008). Some fnd that
youth engage in new ways that are rapidly replacing old models of
traditional political participation (e.g., Stolle, Hooghe, & Micheletti,
2005), and others have begun to investigate the use of new media
for civic purposes, which foster new forms of citizenship, online and
ofine (e.g., Boyd, 2008; Coleman, 2008).
Te Internet allows for interest-based communities that foster social
capital—the norms, trust, and resources that lead to increased social
involvement essential to democracy (Putnam, 2000; Scott & John-
son, 2005). As people network online, they can strengthen bonds as
well as create new bridges (Ellison, Steinfeld, & Lampe, 2007). For
example, research indicates that Facebook users are three times more
likely than others to feel that most people can be trusted (Hampton,
Goulet, Rainie, & Purcell, 2011). Valenzuela and colleagues (2009)
found that intensity of Facebook use correlated with students’ so-
cial trust, civic engagement, and political participation. Online com-
munities can create a culture of participation, as individuals achieve
goals while asserting personal values and social identities (Dahlgren,
2005). Tey have empowered youth to mobilize ofine: students
used MySpace profles to organize nation-wide protests of U.S. im-
migration reform in 2006 (Boyd, 2008).
People can access an abundance of information online, which sup-
ports the growth of large networks of activists who lead social action
campaigns. Online political information access has been associated
with greater political efcacy and participation (Kenski & Stroud,
Digital worlds and civic opportunities: Connecting online and ofine activism in Lithuania
2006). Diani (2000) argued that as ICTs increase opportunities for
communication and information-sharing, they broaden the sup-
port base for activism, help people identify with issues, and make
transnational advocacy efective through coordination. For example,
new technologies allow for increased transparency and political con-
sumerism, as people incorporate social goals into their brand iden-
tity and support particular companies’ policies based on political or
ethical considerations (Micheletti & Stolle, 2008). As youth interact
online based on personal interests, such civic involvement becomes
embedded in everyday life.
Te Internet also leads to an improved public space for debate, where
young people discover political interest for themselves and practice
civic skills, such as identifying issues, motivating others, and taking
action. As Benkler (2006) argued, the digital generation is changing
how people experience citizenship: “they no longer need to be con-
sumers and passive spectators. Tey can become creators and prima-
ry subjects” (p. 272). Research indicates that youth participation has
been enabled through new technologies, as 44% of young Internet
users who joined discussion groups and read political blogs had not
been politically engaged in the past (Graf & Darr, 2004). Gagnier
(2008) found that the youth-created has reduced feel-
ings of political exclusion: as youth become engaged online, they
bring attention to issues and implement their own solutions.
Each of the Internet engagement pathways outlined above contrib-
utes to the civic socialization of youth. First, the Internet can lead to
the emergence of wider participation in organizations. Tose who
use the Internet daily are more socially engaged ofine than those
who use it rarely or not at all (Lopez, Levine, Both, Kiesa, & Kir-
by, 2006). Second, studies show the Internet improves access to re-
sources, which leads to greater activism locally (Valaitis, 2005). Shah,
Kwak, and Holbert (2001) found that youth who use the Internet
for information are more likely to get involved in local community
activism. Tird, through political expression online, youth may be-
come interested in more signifcant community action and political
discourse. In East Asia, those who used the Internet to express their
views also displayed higher rates of community participation (Lin,
Kim, Jung, & Cheong, 2005). Research in Finland indicated that
those who were active in online politics increased their awareness
Media Transformations 17
and activity in a self-perpetuating cycle of knowledge and involve-
ment (Grönlund, 2007).
Te research literature regarding Internet use and its efects on civic
engagement is inconsistent. It is important to distinguish the spe-
cifc ways in which individuals use the Internet when investigating
efects on civic activism. Tere are diferences in how researchers op-
erationalize Internet use and civic engagement, as well as diferences
in approach to analysis. Studies have examined Internet access and
hours of use (Jennings & Zeitner, 2003; Lopez, et al., 2006), diferent
purposes of Internet use (Shah et al., 2005), or intensity of use (Va-
lenzuela, Park, & Kee, 2009). Some scholars believe that the Inter-
net will only activate citizens who are already interested in politics,
by reducing costs of accessing information and ofering convenient
ways of engaging. Diferent motivations for Internet use afected en-
gagement outcomes in Shah and colleagues’ (2001) study, in which
Internet use for information exchange had a positive impact on local
civic engagement and trust, but recreational Internet use did not. On
the other hand, specifc Internet activities, such as blogging and so-
cial networking, may alter the traditional patterns of political interest
(Smith et al., 2009).
Although Lithuania has had democratic institutions for over two
decades, positive civic values are still developing as a societal norm
(Degutis, Ramonaitė, & Žiliukaitė, 2008). A majority of Lithuanians
believe government is unresponsive and national institutions cannot
be trusted (Adomėnas et al., 2007; Mačiulytė & Ragauskas, 2007),
and research suggests that about a third of the population refrain
completely from civic initiatives (Romanchuk & Dambrauskaitė,
2010). According to Zimmerman (2000), empowerment requires
individuals to practice their capacities to efect change. Converse-
ly, inactivity reinforces negative civic attitudes, so that Lithuanians
continue to avoid opportunities to experience their power as citizens
(Žiliukaitė et al., 2006). However, youth may acquire positive civic
values if they practice civic action. Internet engagement may pro-
vide opportunities for activism that are absent ofine, and therefore
lead to civic socialization and the development of trust and political
Digital worlds and civic opportunities: Connecting online and ofine activism in Lithuania
Online opportunities might encourage a more positive civic culture,
breaking the cycle of powerlessness and apathy that currently exists
in Lithuania. In Estonia, citizens are increasingly participating online
to complement traditional practices, even though the population is
generally politically passive (Reinsalu, 2009). Tis fnding is particu-
larly relevant for Lithuania, as both countries’ transitions to democ-
racy were characterized by gaps between democratic institutions and
civic culture, so that citizens remained alienated from politics afer
democratization. Areas of research inquiry include the relationships
between Internet engagement and structural features, civic attitudes,
and civic behaviours ofine, as online action may either substitute
for ofine activities or support their development. Research ques-
tions include:
Q1. How are government responsiveness and trust in institu-
tions related to engagement in social networking, informa-
tion exchange, and political expression online?
Q2. How are social networking, information exchange, and
political expression online related to values of interpersonal
trust and political efcacy?
Q3. To what extent does frequency of Internet engagement
in social networking, information exchange, and political ex-
pression predict ofine participation in organizations, com-
munity action, and political discourse?
Te purpose of this study was to examine the nature of Lithuanian
youth Internet use and the types of online activities and civic norms
that contribute to ofine participation in organizations, communi-
ty action, and political discourse. Te study used a cross-sectional
design to target 18- to 30-year-old college students at fve univer-
sities in Lithuania: Vilnius University (VU), Vytautas Magnus Uni-
versity (VDU), Lithuanian University of Education (LEU), Klaipeda
State College (KVK), and Vilnius Gediminas Technical University
(VGTU). Tese students are at a critical stage for identity formation,
as the increasing complexity of life in a globalized world lengthens
adolescence and emerging adulthood (Larson, 2002).
Media Transformations 19
In total, 590 students flled out the questionnaire, and the sample was
predominately young and female. 31%
of respondents were 18 to
19, 40% were 20 to 21, 24% were 22 to 24, and 5% were 25 to 30. Re-
spondents who were over 30 (n = 10) were excluded from analyses.
A variety of faculties were represented: political science or interna-
tional relations (19%), education or communication (13%), social
sciences (12%), philosophy (11%), economics or business (9%), hu-
manities (7%), natural sciences (7%), medicine (6%), mathematics or
informatics (5%), philology (4%), creative industries (3%), law (2%),
and fne arts (2%). Most respondents reported having completed
some college education (58%) or having received a high school di-
ploma (20%). Smaller proportions reported having received a Bach-
elor’s degree (8%), having some graduate education (11%), or having
received a Master’s degree (3%).
Te sample represented moderate socioeconomic status (SES), based
on the number of books present at home during childhood, which
has been an efective indicator of SES in international studies of ed-
ucational achievement, interpreted as a proxy for resources avail-
able to support literacy (Torney-Purta et al., 2001). Almost half of
respondents (46%) reported that they had more than 100 books at
home. About 32% reported 51 to 100 books, 20% reported 11 to 50
books, and only 3% reported 0 to 10 books. At the same time, virtual-
ly the entire sample (99%) reported having Internet service at home
currently. Te majority of respondents had been using the Internet
for 5 to 10 years.
A professor from each of the fve Lithuanian universities partnered
with the researcher to disseminate the survey in the spring of 2012.
Te professors were sent informational letters, detailing the purpose
of the research, potential risks and benefts of participation, the pro-
tection of confdentiality, the voluntary nature of the study, as well as
contact information for questions. Tey were asked to forward the
invitation to their students. A follow-up email was sent two weeks
later to remind students about the opportunity. Respondents were
invited to participate in a rafe for seven iPod shufes upon com-
All percentages
represent valid data,
excluding missing
Digital worlds and civic opportunities: Connecting online and ofine activism in Lithuania
pleting the questionnaire. To enter, they emailed the researcher with
a code displayed on the last page of the questionnaire, which ensured
confdentiality of survey responses.
Te survey instrument contained 110 items. Te study’s major con-
tructs drew on the International Educational Achievement’s (IEA)
Civic Education Study (Torney-Purta et al., 2001), the World Val-
ues Survey (2005), the European Values Study (2008), and the Na-
tional Election Studies (Niemi, Craig, & Mattei, 1991). Te survey
and invitations to participate were translated into Lithuanian by the
researcher. Tese documents were then back-translated by a profes-
sional translator, and discrepancies were resolved by adjusting the
Lithuanian version.
Government Responsiveness. Government responsiveness was as-
sessed using three political system items developed by Torney-Purta
and colleagues (2001) and two external political efcacy items used
by Niemi and colleagues (1991). Statements exploring attitudes to-
ward government were rated on a fve-point Likert scale. Items were
tested for internal consistency reliability and found acceptable (α =
Trust in Institutions. Trust in national institutions was assessed
using items developed by Torney-Purta and colleagues (2001) and
items from the European Values Survey (2008). Response categories
for how much participants can trust institutions ranged from 1 (do
not trust at all) to 5 (trust completely). Te eight items formed a reli-
able scale (α = .78)
Internet Engagement. Although previous studies have examined
Internet use for various purposes, no scale has been published that
measures the range of new opportunities online. Terefore, an In-
ternet engagement scale was developed to include activities related
to social capital development, information exchange, and self-ex-
pression. Response categories included 1 (never), 2 (less than once
a month), 3 (about once a month), 4 (a few times a month), 5 (about
once a week), 6 (a few times a week), 7 (about once a day), and 8 (more
than once a day).
Media Transformations 21
Te study’s sample size (n= 580) allowed for factor analyses to inves-
tigate the latent structure of the data and establish factorial validity.
Te Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measure of sampling adequacy, indicating
the amount of variance, revealed excellent factorability, KMO = .87,
and, Bartlett’s test of sphericity was signifcant, χ2 (276, n = 570) =
4021.25, p < .001. Principal axis factor analyses revealed that the ma-
jority of items loaded on three factors, which explained 36% of the
total variance. Factors were grouped according to magnitude of beta
loadings and logic (See Table 1). Te three factors formed reliable
scales related to social networking, (α = .80), information exchange
(α = .83), and political expression, (α = .73).
Table 1.
Factor Loadings
for Internet
Digital worlds and civic opportunities: Connecting online and ofine activism in Lithuania
Convergent validity of Internet engagement scales was established
through correlation analyses with civic attitudes and behaviours. As
found in previous studies, Internet use for social networking, infor-
mation exchange, and political expression was strongly associated (p
< .001) with all civic activism measures: organizational participation
(Jennings & Zeitner, 2003; Moy et al., 2005), civic engagement (Lin
et al., 2005; Pasek et al., 2006; Valenzuela, Park, & Kee, 2009), and
political discourse (Shah et al., 2005; Wellman et al., 2001; Xenos &
Moy, 2007).
Trust in Groups and Interpersonal Trust. Trust in groups was as-
sessed using the items developed by Welzel (2010) for the World Val-
ues Survey. Response categories indicated degree of trust in various
groups (e.g., dissimilar in belief or origin) from 1 (do not trust at
all) to 5 (trust completely). Te researcher applied a formative index
logic to create an index of trust in groups. In addition, interperson-
al trust investigated whether respondents thought that most people
would try to take advantage of them if given the chance, or whether
they would try to be fair, based on the European Values Study (2008).
Response categories ranged from 1 (most people would try to take
advantage of me) to 10 (most people would try to be fair to me).
Political Efcacy. Feelings of personal competence to understand
and participate in politics were assessed following the National Elec-
tion Studies (Morrell, 2003; Niemi et al., 1991) and the IEA Civic Ed-
ucation Study (Torney-Purta et al., 2001). Respondents were asked to
rate agreement regarding four statements of confdence in political
abilities on a Likert scale. Te six items formed a reliable scale (α =
Organizational Participation. Organizational participation was
assessed using items from Torney-Purta and colleagues’ (2001)
membership items and the European Values Study’s (2008) volun-
tary organizations items. Respondents were asked whether they had
participated in voluntary organizations and with what frequency: 0
(not a member), 1 (not very active member), or 2 (active member).
Respondents also had the opportunity to write in other organiza-
tions that were not listed, which included: youth civic NGOs, organ-
izations for people with disabilities, health organizations, academic
and career groups, and an underground press. Scores on items were
Media Transformations 23
summed to create a scale where 0 was no participation and 26 was
active participation in all types of organizations.
Community Action. Frequency of participation in community ac-
tivities, groups, and charities was measured using items from Tor-
ney-Purta and colleagues’ (2001) political action measure. Response
categories included 1 (never), 2 (less than once a month), 3 (about
once a month), 4 (a few times a month), 5 (about once a week), 6 (a
few times a week), 7 (about once a day), and 8 (more than once a day).
Te six items formed a reliable scale (α = .73).
Political Discourse. Face-to-face discussions about politics with
peers, parents, teachers, and others were assessed using items from
the IEA Civic Education study (Torney-Purta et al., 2001). Answer
categories included 1 (never), 2 (less than once a month), 3 (about
once a month), 4 (a few times a month), 5 (about once a week), 6 (a
few times a week), 7 (about once a day), and 8 (more than once a day).
Te scale proved reliable (α = .85).
Socioeconomic Status. SES measures explored participants’ levels of
education, the number of books in respondents’ homes when they
were growing up (Torney-Purta et al., 2001), as well as whether their
parents read books, discussed politics at home, followed the news,
and whether they had problems making ends meet (reverse-coded)
(European Values Study, 2008). Response categories were on a Likert
scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).
Response distributions were assessed for outliers, missing values,
and skewness. Political expression online, organizational participa-
tion, and community action were positively skewed, indicating that
most of the responses fell on the lower end of the frequency contin-
uum. Non-linear transformations were conducted to improve their
distributions for use in analyses that assume normality.
Chi-square and correlation analyses were conducted to examine the
efects of demographic and SES variables on Internet engagement in
social networking, information exchange, and political expression.
Pearson correlation analyses were also used to investigate the rela-
tionships between structural features (government responsiveness,
Digital worlds and civic opportunities: Connecting online and ofine activism in Lithuania
trust in institutions) and civic attitudes (trust in groups, interperson-
al trust, political efcacy) and Internet engagement.
Te efects of Internet engagement on ofine activism were ad-
dressed through hierarchical multiple regression analyses predicting
organizational participation, community action, and political dis-
course. Te analyses investigated the unique contributions of SES,
structural features, Internet engagement, and civic values on activ-
ism. Variables were selected based on correlations, and those that
did not contribute signifcantly to each model’s explained variance
were removed in order to create parsimonious models. Collineari-
ty diagnostics and tolerance were examined to ensure that predictor
variables were not overly correlated.
Descriptive statistics indicated that engagement in Internet activities
was not a daily occurrence. Of the three types of Internet engage-
ment, information exchange was the most common, with an average
frequency of a couple times a week (M = 5.58). Respondents engaged
in social networking only a few times a month, on average (M =
4.06). Te least common type of engagement was political expres-
sion, with a rating of less than once a month (M = 1.49).
Engagement in social networking, information exchange, and politi-
cal expression did not difer signifcantly by age, gender, city, univer-
sity, faculty, time using the Internet, or education level. However, sig-
nifcant diferences were found in information exchange by number
of books at home, χ2 (168, n = 532) = 211.64, p = .01, and respond-
ents whose homes had the most books scored the highest on infor-
mation exchange. All SES items were signifcantly correlated with at
least one Internet engagement scale, suggesting that family upbring-
ing is strongly associated with participation online (see Table 2).
Media Transformations 25
Research Questions 1 and 2, regarding structural features and civ-
ic attitudes, were addressed through Pearson correlation analyses.
Greater perceptions of government responsiveness and confdence in
public institutions were both associated with more frequent engage-
ment online. Internet activities, especially information exchange,
were also positively correlated with trust in groups, interpersonal
trust, and political efcacy, as detailed in Table 2.
A signifcant regression model predicting respondents’ levels of or-
ganizational participation explained 20% of the total variance in the
scale, as shown in Table 3. Respondents’ perceptions of government
responsiveness accounted for 4% of the variance, while social net-
working and political expression online accounted for about 16%
above and beyond that. Standardized beta values showed that online
social networking had the greatest impact on organizational partic-
ipation. Although other variables (e.g., information exchange, civic
attitudes) correlated with the criterion, they did not contribute to the
model and were omitted.
Table 2.
and SES,
Features, and
Civic Attitudes.
Digital worlds and civic opportunities: Connecting online and ofine activism in Lithuania

A signifcant model of community action explained 41% of the total
variance in the measure, as displayed in Table 4. Te largest predic-
tors of the criterion were social networking and political expression
online. In this case, the unique contribution of these two variables
was about 32%, above and beyond the efects of parents discussing
politics and perceived government responsiveness. Te efects of
these variables may have overshadowed the efects of other variables
correlated with community action (e.g., trust in institutions, political
Finally, a signifcant model of political discourse explained about
45% of the total variance in political discourse, as shown in Table 5.
In this analysis, parents discussing politics explained about 16% of
the variance, and information exchange and political expression on-
line explained about 17% above and beyond background and struc-
tural variables. Feelings of political efcacy had the largest efect on
political discourse. Although trust in institutions, social networking,
and trust in groups correlated with political discourse, they did not
contribute signifcantly to the model and were omitted.
Table 3.
Media Transformations 27
Table 4.
Digital worlds and civic opportunities: Connecting online and ofine activism in Lithuania
Table 5.
Media Transformations 29
Tis study examined the opportunities ofered by Internet engage-
ment at the user-level, looking at an individual’s own grassroots par-
ticipation, within the political and cultural contexts of society. Sev-
eral important fndings emerged. First, the study supports a more
comprehensive, multi-dimensional conceptualization of Internet
engagement based on a variety of interpersonal and interactive ac-
tivities which provide a myriad of opportunities to connect with oth-
ers, learn and share, and creatively contribute to discourse. Results
highlight the need to examine diverse types of Internet use for efects
on civic engagement, as networking, learning, and expressing opin-
ions online create opportunities for decentralized and individualized
participation. Although some of the activities may not seem politi-
cal, they increase social support (Hampton et al., 2011) and expand
users’ knowledge of dissonant views (Garrett, 2006), which can lead
to activism.
Te boundaries between political and social or personal activities
online are porous, and strengthening values, sharing knowledge, and
developing identities online may all ft into an expanded defnition
of civic or political engagement, as young people become active play-
ers in defning what politics means for their lives (Coleman, 2008;
Collin, 2008). Creative and social uses of the Internet ofen represent
new forms of activism in participatory communities that are miss-
ing from conventional channels of political communication (Harris,
2008). Unregulated public spaces provide opportunities for youth to
communicate with others and express interests and concerns outside
of traditional political mechanisms. Such activities contribute to civ-
ic socialization and ofine activism despite a rejection of traditional
power structures.
A second contribution of this study was the inclusion of perceived
structural features of society, including government responsiveness
and trust in institutions, in analyses predicting engagement. Results
indicated that those who perceived more supportive governments
and institutions were also more likely to engage frequently online.
Furthermore, the relationship between government responsiveness
Digital worlds and civic opportunities: Connecting online and ofine activism in Lithuania
and ofine activism was robust across analyses, as perceived gov-
ernment responsiveness accounted for signifcant proportions of
the variance in organizational participation, community action, and
political discourse. Tese fndings have important implications for
power imbalances and youth engagement.
Young adults from lower socioeconomic backgrounds did not take
advantage of opportunities to engage in Internet social networking,
information exchange, and political expression as ofen as did oth-
ers—SES variables and structural features were signifcantly corre-
lated with online engagement. Tus, youth who are more alienated
from government and national institutions, and those coming from
lower SES environments may remain marginalized, despite physical
access to the Internet. Barriers to online participation may include
low digital literacy, anxieties about the risks of new media, or fear
of surveillance (Banaji, 2011). As producers of civic websites have
pointed out, it is difcult to reach those on the fringes of society, and
online social networks may actually deepen “the participation divide
by giving the already active more access to public space and more
practice at developing institutional, intercultural civic skills” (p. 138).
Tese issues challenge the notion that the spread of new technologies
have a universal democratizing efect.
A third contribution of this study was the large efect sizes found
for ofine activism: hierarchical multiple regression analyses using
structural features, Internet engagement, and civic attitudes as pre-
dictors explained 20% of the variance in respondents’ organizational
participation, 41% of the variance in community action, and 45%
of the variance in political discourse. Internet engagement displayed
powerful relationships with real-world participation, consistent with
recent literature (e.g., Hampton et al., 2011; Valenzuela et al., 2009).
Scholars have been concerned that face-to-face contact can decline
as the Internet allows people to socialize, work, and be entertained
online, and reduced social contact might lead to a decrease in trust
and activism (see Ray, 2007). However, young adults in this study
were active online and ofine simultaneously. As found by Kittil-
son and Dalton (2011), virtual social activity can be as conducive
for strengthening citizenship values as participation in face-to-face
Media Transformations 31
Engagement in social networking, information exchange, and politi-
cal expression online were signifcantly associated with respondents’
political efcacy. As suggested by other scholars, Internet features
such as interactivity, personalization, and one-to-many commu-
nication may be uniquely empowering for users (Bimber & Davis,
2003). New media allow and require an active rather than a passive
audience, and numerous opportunities to practice skills can have
powerful efects on beliefs of self. Tis is especially meaningful for
youth, who may otherwise feel a sense of powerlessness concerning
communication with leaders and access to resources (Valaitis, 2005).
Research suggests that these psychological efects can lead to con-
crete acts of civic engagement (Xenos & Moy, 2007).
Although engagement in expressive activities online was the least
common Internet dimension, it was meaningful for all measures of
ofine activism. Tis supports the framework developed by Bennett,
Wells, and Freelon (2011), regarding youth preferences for expres-
sive styles of citizenship over earlier models of dutiful citizenship.
Bennett (2008) suggested the rise of “actualizing citizenship,” involv-
ing personal engagement with causes through individual expression
and peer networks that organize civic action. Te segment of Lithua-
nian young adults who used the Internet for expressive activities may
have developed stronger feelings of competence to mobilize ofine.
Indeed, political efcacy emerged as the strongest predictor of polit-
ical discourse. Individuals who gained experience creating content
and sharing opinions online may have been prepared to overcome
challenges ofine.
Interestingly, trust was not a signifcant predictor across ofine par-
ticipation variables. Traditional theories of civil society development
point to interpersonal trust as a prerequisite for civic activities (Put-
nam, 2000); however, these attitudes may be slow to develop among
Lithuanian young adults, who have grown up in a time of uncertain-
ty regarding civic action (Degutis et al., 2008). Research indicates
that experiences with political corruption can lead to decreases in
generalized trust (Uslaner, 2001). Because youth internalize values
through existing socialization processes, value change does not come
about easily (Welzel & Inglehart, 2010). Still, the spread of civic en-
Digital worlds and civic opportunities: Connecting online and ofine activism in Lithuania
gagement may bring about more positive civic attitudes, as meaning-
ful civic experiences increase feelings of interpersonal trust.
Although online interactions are ofen impersonal, they are rooted
in real-world social networks, shared systems of meaning, and tacit
knowledge. Tus, the Internet remains embedded in local cultures
that may have powerful efects, and civic values may be slow to ma-
ture. Still, online communities play an important role in shaping
young adults’ peer environments as youth overcome the limits of
their particular locations by establishing meaningful social experi-
ences online. Te Internet enlarges the scope of interactions, opens
new paths of communication, and provides opportunities for more
individualized involvement with information. All of these opportu-
nities allow young adults to consider identity alternatives, experi-
ment with interests, and evaluate their abilities.
By choosing the ways that they engage online, individuals are ac-
tive agents in their own civic development. Such personalization al-
lows young adults to actively construct new systems of meaning and
new roles for citizenship, and such creative engagement can increase
feelings of agency (Collin, 2008). As youth discover self-defning ac-
tivities through a wide range of online tools that provide a good ft
between their talents and their sense of purpose, they may take on
new identities (Waterman, 2004). Tis study found that the Lithua-
nian youth that actively engaged online as organizers or producers of
civic content were also more empowered ofine, engaging in organ-
izations, community activism, and political discourse. As increasing
volumes of information and tools move online, the ability not only
to access them but also to creatively contribute to them may become
crucial to civic socialization and participation in community life.
Although this study established knowledge regarding the nature and
extent of Internet engagement and civic attitudes and behaviours
among self-selected students in Lithuania, several important limi-
tations must be considered. Given the cross-sectional nature of the
study, the causal directions between constructs remained unclear.
Young adults who are already interested in civic life may use the In-
Media Transformations 33
ternet according to their motivations. Online and ofine activities
seem to be mutually benefcial. Tere is a need for long-term analy-
ses or experiments that use random sampling or random assignment
in order to investigate the nature and magnitude of these efects as
they change over time or across conditions.
Another limitation was the use of an online survey that targeted uni-
versity students. Te sample was not nationally representative, so re-
sults could not be generalized to Lithuanian young adults as a whole.
Te use of an online survey also created self-selection bias, as those
who had access to the Internet came from higher SES backgrounds
and may have had more time and resources to engage in civic ac-
tivities. Tus, using an online survey methodology produced results
that characterized the tendencies of youth who use the Internet, not
average youth. However, because the study’s purpose was to investi-
gate relationships between online engagement and civic participa-
tion, it made sense to target Internet-users. Furthermore, Internet
use did not guarantee engagement in social networking, information
exchange, or political expression, and the sample included a range of
students who exhibited low and high engagement.
Future research could apply the Internet engagement scales to more
diverse populations, both in Lithuania and in other countries. Given
that greater numbers of youth are embedded in multiple contexts
online and ofine, civic research must reach diverse participants us-
ing diverse methods. Qualitative research may be useful in re-con-
ceptualizing important indicators of civic health. Content analyses
of popular websites may be able to provide a more detailed picture
of the types of websites that young adults engage in and the kinds of
networking, information exchange, and public discourse that pro-
vide meaningful contributions to civic socialization. Such analyses
could target neighbourhood forums, public policy debates, or users’
own creative websites and blogs. Both the technological capabilities
of the Internet and the actual content accessed may infuence stu-
dents’ attitudes and behaviours.
Te Internet exists within diferent social, political, and cultural con-
texts, and fostering a healthy media culture for youth depends on
research on how digital technologies can best serve the goals of free-
Digital worlds and civic opportunities: Connecting online and ofine activism in Lithuania
dom and democracy in diferent cultures. Civic socialization will not
occur simply by connecting every citizen to the Internet, unless indi-
viduals take advantage of opportunities to participate. Marginalized
groups still face barriers; however, for those who do engage, online
public spheres may improve civic activism and involve more actors.
Online, youth can fnd others who share their interests, contribute
knowledge to others around the world, and creatively participate in
discourse and self-governance. As individuals’ choices contribute
to larger societal trends, youth participation may act as a catalyst to
broader civic reform.
Adomėnas, M., Augustinaitis, A., Janeliūnas, T., Kuolys, D., Motieka,
E. (2007). Lithuanian Society: Analysis of the Situation and Develop-
ment Prospects. Civil Society Institute. Retrieved July 1, 2013, from
Alvermann, D. E. (ed.) (2002). Adolescents and Literacies in a Digital
World. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
Banaji, S. (2011). Framing Young Citizens: Explicit Invitation and
Implicit Exclusion on Youth Civic Websites. Language & Intercultur-
al Communication, Vol. 11, 126–141. DOI:
Benkler, Y. (2006). Te Wealth of Networks: How Social Production
Transforms Markets and Freedom. New Haven, CT: Yale University
Bennett, W. L. (2008). Changing Citizenship in the Digital Age. In W.
L. Bennett (ed.), Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can
Engage Youth. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 1–24.
Bennett, W., Wells, C., Freelon, D. (2011). Communicating Civic
Engagement: Contrasting Models of Citizenship in the Youth Web
Sphere. Journal of Communication, Vol. 61, 835–856. DOI: http://dx.
Bimber, B. A., Davis, R. (2003). Campaigning Online: Te Internet in
U.S. elections. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Boyd, D. (2008).
Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: Te Role of Networked
Media Transformations 35
Publics in Teenage Social Life. In D. Buckingham (ed.), Youth, Iden-
tity, and Digital Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 119–142.
Coleman, S. (2008). Doing IT for Temselves: Management Versus
Autonomy in Youth E-Citizenship. In W. L. Bennett (ed.), Civic Life
Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth. Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press, pp. 189–206.
Collin, P. (2008). Te Internet, Youth Participation Policies, and the
Development of Young People’s Political Identities in Australia. Jour-
nal of Youth Studies, Vol. 11, 527–542.
Dahlgren, P. (2005). Te Internet, Public Spheres, and Po-
litical Communication: Dispersion and Deliberation. Polit-
ical Communication, Vol. 22, 147–162. DOI: http://dx.doi.
Degutis, M., Ramonaitė, A., Žiliukaitė, R. (2008). Civic Empower-
ment Index: 2007. Civil Society Institute. Retrieved July 1, 2013, from
Diani, M. (2000). Social Movement Networks Virtual and Real. In-
formation, Communication & Society, Vol. 3, 386–401. DOI: http://
Ellison, N. B., Steinfeld, C., Lampe, C. (2007). Te Benefts of Face-
book “Friends”: Social Capital and College Students Use of Online
Social Network Sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communica-
tion, Vol. 12, 1143–1168. DOI:
European Values Study (2008). Master Questionnaire. Retrieved July
1, 2013, from
Gagnier, C. (2008). Democracy 2.0: Millennial-Generated Change to
American Governance. National Civic Review, Vol. 97, 32–36.
Garrett, R. (2006). Protest in an Information Society: A Review
of Literature on Social Movements and New ICTs. Information,
Communication & Society, Vol. 9, 202–224. DOI: http://dx.doi.
Digital worlds and civic opportunities: Connecting online and ofine activism in Lithuania
Graf, J., Darr, C. (2004). Political Infuentials Online in the 2004 Presi-
dential Campaign. Institute for Politics, Democracy, and the Internet.
Retrieved July 1, 2013, from
Grönlund, K. (2007). Knowing and Not Knowing: Te Internet and
Political Information. Scandinavian Political Studies, Vol. 30, 397–
418. DOI:
Hampton, K., N., Goulet, L., S., Rainie, L., Purcell, K. (2011). Social
Networking Sites and Our Lives. Pew Research Center’s Internet &
American Life Project. Retrieved July 1, 2013, from http://pewinter-
Harris, A. (2008). Young Women, Late Modern Politics, and the Partic-
ipatory Possibilities of Online Cultures. Journal of Youth Studies, Vol.
11, 481–495. DOI:
Jennings, M., Zeitner, V. (2003). Internet Use and Civic Engagement.
Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 67, 311–334. DOI: http://dx.doi.
Kenski, K., Stroud, N. J. (2006). Connections Between Internet
Use and Political Efcacy, Knowledge, and Participation. Journal of
Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Vol. 50, 173–192.
Kittilson, M., Dalton, R. (2011). Virtual Civil Society: Te New
Frontier of Social Capital? Political Behavior, Vol. 33, 625–644. DOI:
Larson, R. (2002). Globalization, Societal Change, and New Tech-
nologies: What Tey Mean for the Future of Adolescence. Journal of
Research on Adolescence, Vol. 12, 1–30.
Lin, W., Kim, Y., Jung, J., Cheong, P. (2005). Growing Up Digital:
Exploring Youth’s Civic Uses of the Internet in Digital Cities of East
Asia. Presentation at the International Communication Association
Lopez, M. H., Levine, P., Both, D., Kiesa, A., Kirby, E., Marcelo, K.
(2006). Te 2006 Civic and Political Health of the Nation: A Detailed
Look at How Youth Participate in Politics and Communities. College
Media Transformations 37
Mačiulytė, M., Ragauskas, P. (2007). Lietuvos savivalda: Savarankiškos
visuomenės link? [Lithuanian]. Vilnius: Pilietinės Visuomenės Insti-
tutas and Versus Aureus.
Micheletti, M., Stolle, D. (2008). Fashioning Social Justice
Trough Political Consumerism, Capitalism, and the Inter-
net. Cultural Studies, Vol. 22, 749–769. DOI: http://dx.doi.
Moy, P., Manosevitch, E., Stamm, K., Dunsmore, K. (2005). Linking
Dimensions of Internet Use and Civic Engagement. Journalism and
Mass Communication Quarterly, Vol. 82, 571–586.
Niemi, R. G., Craig, S. C., Mattei, F. (1991). Measuring Internal Polit-
ical Efcacy in the 1988 National Election Study. American Political
Science Review, Vol. 85, 1407–1413.
Pasek, J., Kenski, K., Romer, D., Jamieson K. H. (2006). America’s
Youth and Community Engagement: How Use of Mass Media is Re-
lated to Political Knowledge and Civic Activity Among 14- to 22-
Year Olds. Communication Research, Vol. 33, 115–135. DOI: http://
Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling Alone: Te Collapse and Survival of
American Community. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
Reinsalu, K. (2009). Te Implementation of Internet Democracy in Es-
tonian Local Governments. Tartu: Tartu University Press.
Romanchuk, Y., & Dambrauskaitė, Ž. (2010). Attitudes on civil so-
ciety in Belarus and Lithuania. Over the Hedge. Eastern European
Studies Centre. Retrieved February 24, 2014 from http://www.eesc.
Scott, J. K., Johnson, T. G. (2005). Bowling Alone but Online To-
gether: Social Capital in E-Communities. Journal of the Community
Development Society, Vol. 36, 1–18.
Digital worlds and civic opportunities: Connecting online and ofine activism in Lithuania
Shah, D., Cho, J., Eveland, J., Kwak, N. (2005). Information and Ex-
pression in a Digital Age: Modeling Internet Efects on Civic Par-
ticipation. Communication Research, Vol. 32, 531–565. DOI: http://
Shah, D., Kwak, N. R., Holbert, L. (2001). “Connecting” and “Dis-
connecting” with Civic Life: Patterns of Internet Use and the Pro-
duction of Social Capital. Political Communication, Vol. 18, 141–162.
Smith, A., Schlozman, K. L., Verba, S., Brady, H. (2009). Te Internet
and Civic Engagement. Pew Research Center’s Internet & American
Life Project. Retrieved July 1, 2013, from http://www.pewinternet.
Stolle, D., Hooghe, M., Micheletti, M. (2005). Politics in the Super-
market: Political Consumerism As a Form of Political Participation.
International Political Science Review, Vol. 26, 245–269. DOI: http://
Torney-Purta, J., Lehmann, R., Oswald, H., Schulz, W. (2001). Cit-
izenship and Education in Twenty-Eight Countries: Civic Knowledge
and Engagement at Age Fourteen. Amsterdam: International Associ-
ation for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement.
Uslaner, E. M. (2001). Producing and Consuming Trust. Political Sci-
ence Quarterly, Vol. 115, 569–590.
Valaitis, R. (2005). Computers and the Internet: Tools for Youth Em-
powerment. Journal of Medical Internet Research, Vol. 7, 1–17. DOI:
Valenzuela, S., Park, N., Kee, K. (2009). Is Tere Social Capital in a
Social Network Site?: Facebook Use and College Students’ Life Sat-
isfaction, Trust, and Participation. Journal of Computer-Mediated
Communication, Vol. 14, 875–901. DOI:
Waterman, A. S. (2004). Finding Someone to Be: Studies on the Role
of Intrinsic Motivation in Identity Formation. Identity: International
Journal of Teory and Research, Vol. 4, 209–228. DOI: http://dx.doi.
Media Transformations 39
Wellman, B., Haase, A., Witte, J., Hampton, K. (2001). Does the
Internet Increase, Decrease, or Supplement Social Capital? Social
Networks, Participation, and Community Commitment. Amer-
ican Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 45, 436–456. DOI: http://dx.doi.
Welzel, C. (2010). How Selfsh are Self-Expression Values? A Civ-
icness Test. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Vol. 41, 152–174.
Welzel, C., Inglehart, R. (2010). Agency, Values, and Well-Being:
A Human Development Model. Social Indicators Research, Vol. 97,
World Values Survey (2005). World Values Survey 2005 Question-
naire. Retrieved July 1, 2013, from http://www.worldvaluessurvey.
Xenos, M., Moy, P. (2007). Direct and Diferential Efects of the
Internet on Political and Civic Engagement. Journal of Communi-
cation, Vol. 57, 704–718. DOI:
Žiliukaitė, R., Ramonaitė, A., Nevinskaitė, L. Beresnevičiūtė,
V., Vinogradnaitė, I. (2006). Neatrasta galia: Lietuvos pilietinės
visuomenės žemėlapis [Lithuanian]. Vilnius: Pilietinės Visuomenės
Institutas and Versus Aureus.
Zimmerman, M. A. (2000). Empowerment Teory: Psychological,
Organizational and Community Levels of Analysis. In J. Rappaport
and E. Seidman (eds.), Handbook of Community Psychology. New
York, NY: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, pp. 43–63.
(Dis-)respectful public discussions online: insights on audience polarization and formation
of radical hate or support groups
ISSN 2029-865X
PhD, Lecturer
Department of Public Communications
Vytautas Magnus University
Kaunas, Lithuania
ABSTRACT: Debates related to the quality of online discussions are quickly enga-
ging scholars from diferent felds, but still, there is no single answer if we can expect
online discussions to be deliberative enough for the establishment and maintenance
of a well-functioning public sphere online. In this paper, I presume that respect is an
essential category determining overall quality of online public discussions. Tere-
fore, I assess if discussions from a preselected Facebook page on climate change are
respectful. I fnd that in comparison to similar face-to-face settings, members of
preselected discussions are quite respectful to each other. On the other hand, foul
language is ofen used to address outside actors or groups. In turn, I link these results
to the phenomenon of audience polarization online and conclude that in my sam-
ple, discussions cannot be of good quality because they are dominated by similarly
thinking members, which possibly leads to polarization and generation of support
and/or hate groups.
KEYWORDS: audience polarization, hate and support groups online, respectful dis-
course, deliberation
Media Transformations 41
Respect is a crucial category in determining the quality of public dis-
cussions as well as an important indicator revealing the existence of
a well-functioning public sphere
online. If the discussions between
citizens and policy makers are based on disrespectful and ofensive
language, it cannot be expected that rational deliberation will be
reached and a well-functioning public sphere will be established.
Terefore, in this paper I measure the level of respect in pre-selected
Web 2.0 based online communication environments in order to as-
sess and defne the quality of public discussions online and evaluate
potentials for a well-functioning public sphere to emerge and devel-
op in Web 2.0 based online communication environments. But frst,
why it is important to discuss the quality of virtual public discussions
and the formation of a well-functioning public sphere online? In this
paper, I consider a number of reasons, which are closely intercon-
nected and condition each other; and which explain the possible im-
portance of public online discussions.
First of all, emerging new global risk-related problems, such as cli-
mate change, virtual wildfres, and health crises, among others, re-
quire crucial changes in global and local political and social systems,
including changing relations between citizens and policy makers,
which in turn raises the question of shifing democratic traditions
(i.e. deliberative turn). In this sense, discussions online could pos-
sibly constitute a core of deliberations where major issues could be
discussed between citizens and preliminary decisions reached.
Secondly, a deliberative turn in policy making is determined also by
the recognition of limitations and uncertainties of traditional polit-
ical and scientifc practices (especially related to the emergence of
phenomenon of post-normal science or the politics of uncertainty)
indicating that any scientifc or political decision can be questionable
and is not absolute. Tis means that there is no single and correct
answer; therefore, we ourselves (in consultations with experts) have
to decide which way to take it.
Such a situation requires reassessment of traditional forms of policy
and science making, preferably by increasing the level of democra-
tization (e.g., democratization of science and deliberative democ-
racy). Hence, the third point deals with democratization, which is
In this paper, I
perceive the concept
of a well-functioning
public sphere fol-
lowing Habermasian
tradition. Specifcally,
I assume that a public
sphere is well-func-
tioning when it
corresponds to the
main criteria listed by
Habermas – participa-
tion, respect, listening,
justifcation, force of
better argument, and
truthfulness; however,
here I limit my anal-
ysis to the category of
respect, as I believe it
is the most essential
in defning level of
audience polarization,
which is the major
obstacle for quality
deliberation to occur.
perceived as a stronger and closer connection between citizens and
policy makers. It is important because if the citizens’ positions are
not properly considered by policy makers, the gap between the citi-
zens’ aspirations and satisfaction with democratic politics increases,
in turn causing democratic defcit and leading to declining public
trust and support for political actors (Norris, 2011). Te public’s
trust and support for political decisions are indeed important when
dealing with new global risks, because they require global solutions,
which are based on local or even personal initiatives and actions. In
other words, there is no global efect if actions are not taken at a per-
sonal level. To foster and maintain the quality of recent democracies,
communication between society and policy-makers are crucial.
Fortunately, new information and communication technologies pro-
vide current democracies with unprecedented virtual environments,
where two-way communication between citizens and their repre-
sentatives becomes possible. New discursive spaces are being estab-
lished, enabling new and possibly more democratic relations between
citizens and policy makers. Some scholars express huge hopes for the
Internet as a new type of public sphere, (Kenix, 2008; Dutton, 2009;
Armstrong and Zúniga, 2006; Reynolds and Ball, 2006; Benkler,
2006; Xenos and Bennett, 2007; Dahlgren, 2005) arguing that on-
line communication environments help to improve communication
practices (e.g., enable multi-directional communicational modes)
and serve in democratizing the ways in which news can be generated
and disseminated (Cox, 2013). Few go even further, suggesting that
online communication environments also provide citizens with un-
precedented communicative power. Meanwhile, others remain skep-
tical and point to diferent obstacles, including increasing individu-
alization, audience fragmentation, and polarization (Sunstein, 2001;
Gentzkow & Shapiro, 2010; Putnam, 2000; Bennett, 1998, 2012;
Habermas, 2006) that prevent the formation of a well-functioning
public-sphere online. Hence, the major goal of this paper is to bring
some clarity into these theoretical discussions by generating some
empirical evidence.
(Dis-)respectful public discussions online: insights on audience polarization and formation
of radical hate or support groups
Media Transformations 43
Data for the empirical research was collected from the Facebook page
UN Climate Change Conference, 2009 created for the 15th Conference
of Parties also known as COP15 meeting. Tis annual global confer-
ence was organized in Copenhagen in 2009 with the major hope to
establish a new climate change document, which would replace the
Kyoto Protocol. However, the outcomes of the meeting were not as
expected and led to public disappointment and dissatisfaction.
Tis conference, in general, is a good example, demonstrating that
traditional democratic ways of policy-making are no longer suf-
cient in efectively dealing with recent global risks and uncertainties
(Birbilaitė, 2013). In particular, no global-binding agreements were
reached at the COP15 and in turn, while some countries took in-
dependent actions to fght climate change on their own, others still
wait. Besides, during the conference, another important trend was
noticed – surprisingly intense global public discussions occurring
online on climate change.
I assessed the level of respect of each comment posted on the Face-
book page UN Climate Change Conference, 2009. Te fnal sample
constituted 156 wall-posts published by the page moderator(s) and
2788 comments made by 1424 active participants. Data analysis
was performed in two stages. Following them, I provide the results
in this paper. First, I discuss descriptive analysis of my data. In ad-
dition, I compare results to other similar investigations where the
same instrument was used to measure discourse quality in face-to-
face discussions. Namely, I selected two PhD studies performed by
Ugarriza (2011) and Caluwaerts (2012)
. While the discussions be-
tween ex-combatants of Columbia analysed in the frst dissertation
by Ugarriza demonstrated a low-level of deliberation, the second
study reported rather high-quality discussions between linguisti-
cally divided citizens of Belgium. Hence, I aimed to identify where,
in comparison with these diferent studies, my discussions, in terms
of respect, stands. Further, I proceed to a more in-depth analysis of
empirical data, aiming to identify signifcant internal and external
factors, which might infuence variations of quality level.
Both studies were
performed as a
part of a larger
research project on
deliberation in deeply
divided societies,
coordinated by Jürg
Steiner, professor at
the University of Bern
(Switzerland) and
University of North
Carolina (the USA).
Te project had an ex-
plicit comparative aim
of determining the fa-
vorable conditions for
deliberation in deeply
divided societies.
(Dis-)respectful public discussions online: insights on audience polarization and formation
of radical hate or support groups
Discourse quality index (DQI) was the main instrument used to col-
lect and analyse empirical data. Although, this instrument was creat-
ed to primarily analyse the quality of ofcial face-to-face discussions
(e.g., parliamentary debates) my research proves that with minor
changes it can easily be adapted to study online content. Te core of
this index lies in the Habermasian theory of Communication action.
In particular, it closely follows six normative discourse conditions
discussed by Habermas: participation, respect, justifcation, com-
mon good, force of better argument, and truthfulness. Although some
scholars criticize the DQI for being too focused on discourse itself
while ignoring the broader context in which discourse takes place
(O’Brien, 2009) or for distorting Habermasian ideals because it re-
duces them to observable phenomena and fails to measure discourse
accurately and objectively (King, 2009), Habermas himself applauds
the instrument and notices that the DQI captures ‘essential features
of proper deliberation’ (Habermas in Bächtinger et al., 2010). Inven-
tors of the DQI agree that coding following the DQI can be subjec-
tive and, therefore, requires broader interpretations (Steiner, 2012).
For the purpose of the present paper, I applied the DQI to meas-
ure the category of respect in chosen online discussions. Category of
respect in the updated version of the DQI is measured in two stag-
es. First, the researcher examines if foul language is used towards
participants of the discourse (at a personal level) or towards their
arguments. If yes, such contributions are coded under the group of
foul language type I (FL I). Contributions that contain foul language
at a personal level are considered to be least deliberative. Second, all
contributions are assessed for the existence of respectful language to-
wards other participants (at a personal level) and/or their arguments
– respectful language type I (RL I).
As noticed by Talpin (2011), for ordinary citizens public expression
of disagreement is a difcult move, agreement (arising as respectful
language) might be a more favourable way to express positions and
also oppositions. Hence, comments containing respectful language
towards discourse participants (at a personal level) or towards their
comments are perceived as most deliberative, because the participant
Media Transformations 45
expresses his/her position (positive, negative or neutral) in a respect-
ful way without any ofensiveness.
In addition to the traditional DQI measurements of the category of
respect, in my analysis I also considered respect towards participants
who did not directly participate (i.e. politicians, experts, scientists,
and others) in the discussions but were important actors of the dis-
course. I called these indicators foul language type II (FL II) and re-
spectful language type II (RL II). I assumed that when dealing with
the quality of online discussions these indicators might be signif-
cant, especially considering scholarly literature stressing that online
discussions encourage public polarization, formation of hate groups,
and might greatly determine low quality of the discourse.
Before turning to the analysis of the empirical data, it is important to
ascertain that the coding process was reliable. Since the entire empir-
ical data of this research project was collected and coded by only one
coder, I also performed an inter-coder reliability test. Hence, afer
the main researcher coded the data, the DQI was introduced and ex-
plained to four other coders, who were third year bachelor students.
One discussion was coded together with students and aferwards
they were asked to analyse four separate, randomly selected discus-
sions following the DQI. In total, 192 comments were re-coded. In
general, results indicated that the coding process was reliable, as the
overall ratio of coding agreement (RCA) was 0.935
, which means
that coders agreed on 93.5 per cent of the cases. Category of respect
demonstrated very high level of inter-coder reliability. Coders agreed
on all cases of category RL II, there was a perfect inter-coder agree-
ment (1.000). RCA for RL I was 0.990 and for FL I – 0.974. Yet, a
quite low level of reliability was achieved while coding category of
FL II (0.828). Tis can be explained by the fact that sometimes, for
additional coders, it was difcult to distinguish between slight foul
languages pointed to outside actors or their thoughts, i.e. what was
considered to be slight foul language by the main coder to others
seemed to be simply strong contra-argument. In other words, the
main coder was, in general, stricter. However, Cohen’s kappa indicat-
ed that the level of agreement was moderate but acceptable (Landis
and Koch, 1977).
Here I refer to overall
ration of coding
agreement (RCA),
which is an average
measure of RCA of all
categories, including
participation, respect,
listening, justifcation,
common good, force
of better arguments
and additional
measurements (type
of communication,
consistency, and
(Dis-)respectful public discussions online: insights on audience polarization and formation
of radical hate or support groups
Foul and respectful language type I: One can expect that in Web
2.0 based online communication environments, foul language is
used more frequently and more freely (Steiner, 2012); however, the
level of respect in my sample did not actually difer a lot compared
to previous face-to-face studies. Namely, comparing frequencies of
foul language in three research works, it was noticed that discussions
under consideration were somewhere in between. Specifcally, foul
language (FL I) in my sample was less frequent when compared to
the case of linguistically divided Belgians, but more frequent than re-
ported by Ugarriza (2011) in his research on discussions by ex-com-
batants of Columbia (see Table 1). On the other hand, comments
from my sample more ofen contained foul language towards indi-
viduals at a personal level than towards arguments (1.4 versus 0.3
respectively), which was similar to the Columbian discourse between
ex-combatants. Tis implied a lower level of respect, because in qual-
itative discussions disagreements based on a personal level cannot be
prioritized; instead personal matters should be silent in the name of
common good.
In contrast to previous researches, where severe foul language was
not recorded at all, I did fnd some examples of strong foul expres-
sions, especially in those cases where ofensive language was pointed
towards discourse participants at a personal level. Participants were
called idiots, freaks, fools, etc. For instance, in one comment a par-
ticipant criticized the performance of the UN and named those who
supported the UN – “dupes”: “Seriously, does anyone with any intel-
Table 1.
and relative
of foul and
participants of
the discourse.
Media Transformations 47
ligence want the UN in charge of anything? You are all dupes”.
Foul language was also used towards arguments. Participants were
attacked for their positions or opinions. In the following example,
the participant was assaulted for his/her comment about the magni-
tude of US pollution, claiming that the US was responsible for only
fve per cent of the world’s pollution. Te argument was demolished
in a disrespectful way: “WTF?!!??!!”. Capital letters, exclamation and
question marks emphasized the level of outrage and made this com-
ment even more ofensive.
Respectful expressions in the sample in general were more frequent
than ofensive ones. Tis might be a good sign, suggesting a high-
er quality of public discussions. Respectful language in many cases
was used in order to support previous arguments and included such
phrases as very well said, I fully agree, happy to hear that, brilliant,
etc. For instance, to the comment criticizing US president Obama, a
participant replied: “Tanks, XXX. We're on the same page. Obama
is doing lots of talking, but taking no action”.
Results are somehow close to the fndings reported by Caluwaerts
(2012). Te author elaborated that probably participants were look-
ing for more respectful ways to express their disagreements: instead
of using foul language they more frequently tended to explicitly and
respectfully agree with one group in such a way, demonstrating their
opposition and disagreement with other groups and avoiding con-
fict. On the other hand, the discussions between ex-combatants
demonstrated much lower levels of respect. Although participants
did not ofend each other very ofen (0.9%), surprisingly they were
even less engaged in a respectful manner (0.8%). It is likely that pain-
ful events of the past determined a closed manner of discussions be-
tween past enemies, where participants did not want to either start a
fght nor make friends with the other side. Meanwhile, my example
also contributes to the idea that people in general are more likely
to agree than disagree. However, in my case, this data might be ex-
plained in diferent terms of online cultures and instead of indicating
a higher level of respect, might be an important sign of audience po-
larization and hate/support group formation online.
Overall, the results in this section were rather surprising. I expected
the discourse to be much more ofensive because of well known char-
(Dis-)respectful public discussions online: insights on audience polarization and formation
of radical hate or support groups
acteristics of online discursive spaces (e.g., anonymity), global origin
of the discourse (leading to more diverse attitudes, experiences, and
positions), and contradicting origin of the topics under discussion.
However, relying on our data, it seems that, probably, direct ofen-
siveness towards participants is not a major problem for a well-func-
tioning public sphere to exist, instead, there are other concerns.
Foul and respectful language type II: Already, in the initial phase of
study, I observed that strong, angry, or ofensive language was more
ofen pointed towards outside individuals than towards direct par-
ticipants of the discussions. Later on, this remark was supported by
empirical evidence. I counted comments expressing foul language
towards outside actors and their ideas and found that in 118 com-
ments (4.2%) participants spoke about outside individuals using foul
language and in 118 comments (4.2%) foul language was used to-
wards their ideas or thoughts (see Table 2). Caluwaerts (2012) and
Ugarriza (2011) did not measured FL II and RL II.

Politicians, governments, local and global institutions, experts, me-
dia, and scientists were the most frequently ofended actors. For in-
stance, during the conference, one participant expressed his/her dis-
satisfaction about the performance of the governments of the world
in the Summit. S/he posted: “Stupid governments of the World: <…>
Use the money you are wasting on talks and begin building shelter
cities, detention camps and food reserves <…>.”
On the other hand, respectful language towards outside individu-
als or groups was used similarly, compared to respectful language
towards discourse participants. In those cases, politicians, media,
investors and others were supported in a respectful way. In many
examples the president of the US, Barack Obama, was respectfully
supported and encouraged for major steps. For instance, one par-
ticipant replied to the wall-post under the headline “Obama putting
3.4 billion US dollars toward a 'smart' power grid”. Te participant
Table 2.
and relative
distributions of
foul language
Media Transformations 49
expressed his/her excitement and support for Obama – “Nice Job
Obama!” Te exclamation mark indicates that the participant was
highly excited. Although rare, I found some examples where inves-
tors were also applauded. In the following comment, a participant
expressed his/her support for the US investor George Soros who an-
nounced that he would invest one billion US dollars in clean energy
“It's a great investment from Soros for longevity of life on
earth. Hope and wish Like XXX, there are stringent watch-
dogs to oversee the framing of right policies and subse-
quently their powerful implementation with the strong will
of top politicians in every nation to aggressively drive this
drive to its logical conclusion”.
Following fndings in this section, my assumptions about audience
polarization and hate/support group formation might be support-
ed: participants tended to treat each other in a more respectful way
which is characteristic for polarized audiences, and at the same time
fostered each other’s (positive and negative) emotions about outside
actors (by referring to them using foul or respectful language) in turn
forming and maintaining radical support or hate groups.
Now that we know the basic characteristics of the sample, we may
proceed to more comprehensive explanations of the data and explore
what efects diferent factors might have on the category of respect.
In particular, let me explain how the level of respect was infuenced
by the external factor of time. In light of the general context of the
conference, I explain the variation of respect in three time periods:
pre-conference (20 April, 2009 – 7 December, 2009 or 223 days),
during-conference (8 December, 2009 – 18 December, 2009 or 11
days), and post-conference (19 December, 2009 – 27 September,
2010 or 283 days) (see Table 3).
Data indicated that the majority of the wall-posts were generated be-
fore the Summit. Tat was not surprising because the pre-conference
period was long (yet not the longest). It started on 20th April, 2009
and lasted for 226 days. On average, every second day the modera-
(Dis-)respectful public discussions online: insights on audience polarization and formation
of radical hate or support groups
tor(s) introduced new wall-posts, which were followed by a total of
1553 comments. Moderator(s) actively stimulated discussions with
new wall-posts likely aiming to inform, engage publics, and retain
the pace of discussions. Te rather low level of the public’s participa-
tion might be explained by the fact that it took some time to attract
the public’s attention, gather Facebook users around the discussions,
and engage them into the discourse before the event started.
Te data indicated that foul language towards discourse participants
or their arguments (FL I) was used similarly across the three time
groups and no signifcant diferences were found. Meanwhile, fre-
quency of foul language towards outside actors and their positions
(FL II) was signifcantly diferent before, during, and afer the con-
ference (p<0.001)
. Specifcally, ofensive expressions towards out-
side-discourse individuals or their positions were signifcantly more
frequent afer the event compared to time periods before (p<0.001)
and during (p<0.001) the Summit (Table 4). Probably, this can be
explained by the fact that afer the event, moods changed to the
negative side: participants were not satisfed with the Copenhagen
Accord, and in turn, disappointment was openly demonstrated and
outside actors and their ideas were addressed with foul expressions
aiming to express disappointment, distrust, and resentment.
Similarly, respectful language towards discourse participants (RL
I) or their arguments did not demonstrate any signifcant frequen-
cy diferences in the three time groups. Hence, afer having looked
at foul and respectful language towards discourse actors, we can be
brief - there were indeed no signifcant diferences over the three
time periods and, in general, participants tended to be more respect-
ful than disrespectful towards each other.
Table 3.
Wall-posts and
within three
Categorical varia-
bles were compared
using Pearson’s
Chi-Squared test.
Signifcant difer-
ences were followed
by post-hoc analysis
using Pearson’s
Chi-Squared test or
Fisher’s exact test
when appropriate.
Value of p<0.005
was considered
statistically signif-
cant, and if p≥0.005
but p<0.01, it was
considered that the
diference indicated
Media Transformations 51

In the meantime, we also found the frequency of respectful language
towards outside individuals or groups (RL II) was signifcantly dif-
ferent (Table 5). While usage of foul language type II increased over
time, respectful language type II – decreased. Specifcally, respectful
language type II was more ofen used before the conference, com-
pared to during (p=0.01) and afer (p=0.002) the event. Te data sug-
gests that before the conference participants were positive about the
up-coming event and expected it to succeed. Positive moods were
expressed in respectful language towards outside-discourse individ-
uals, addressing them with trust, respect, and encouragements.
Hence, in the sense of respect towards outside actors (RL II), dis-
course before and during the conference was relatively more respect-
ful compared to the discussions afer the event. In other words, it
seems that before the event pro-environmental support groups dom-
inated discourse: a majority of participants were united in expressing
support for global governments and political leaders, expecting the
COP15 to succeed. Yet, sad and disappointing outcomes of the event
signifcantly shifed the direction of the discussions: all the support
Table 4.
and relative
distributions of
foul language
(type I and type
II) within three
Table 5.
and relative
of respectful
language (type
I and type II)
within three
(Dis-)respectful public discussions online: insights on audience polarization and formation
of radical hate or support groups
participants expressed earlier was changed by dissatisfaction – hate
groups changed support groups.
To summarize the results, - it can be said that in the analysed case,
self-moderated discussions on Web 2.0 based communication envi-
ronments are not qualitative enough in terms of respect and they
cannot be useful for policy-makers; instead it seems that audienc-
es in these environments are polarized and tend to foster formation
of hate and support groups, which encourage dogmatic and narrow
thinking without acknowledgement of other possible options; there-
fore, the main precondition of qualitative deliberation – force of bet-
ter argument – cannot be exercised. In other words, they do not lead
to a consolidation of democratic processes, rather to the destabiliza-
tion of public sphere and democratic processes in general.
In this paper I did not demonstrate a direct link between the cat-
egories of respect and audience polarization online, because I did
not analyse the actual structure of discussions and did not consider
participants’ characteristics; however, leaning on some theoretical
assumptions, this link can be obvious. Specifcally, polarized en-
vironments tend to support one side and do not involve diferent
positions, which most likely would stimulate confrontations and
disrespectful behaviour (unless the discussions are of a very high
deliberative level, which is not very likely online), this was a case in
my sample. Moreover, polarized environments can be easily trans-
formed to hate or support groups. It was evident in the sample. Al-
though participants were rather respectful to each other, they tended
to be more disrespectful towards outside actors. Tis possibly means
that participants supported each other while confronting some other
positions articulated in the general COP15 discourse.
Te next concluding remark of this paper is related to the variations
of level of respect. Namely, support or hate groups are very reactive.
Tey closely follow the general context and refect the most recent
events. Data demonstrated how quickly support groups could be
transformed into hate groups.
Another important discovery of this study is that when assessing
the level of respect of Web 2.0 based online communication envi-
Media Transformations 53
ronments, it is not enough to simply follow DQI and measure only
frequency of foul or respectful language towards discourse partic-
ipants, instead, more importantly, respect towards outside partici-
pants should be considered, as it may help to draw some important
conclusions about the structure and climate of online discussions.
For the very end I want to highlight that, in general, Web 2.0 commu-
nication environments do provide citizens with a new kind of power;
however, in order to use it in a good way a number of characteristics
of online communication culture have to be recognized and solved.
Armstrong, J., and Zúniga, M. M. (2006). Crashing the Gate: Net-
roots, Grassroots and the Rise of People Powered Politics. Vermont:
Chelsea Green Publishing Company.
Bächtinger, A. N., Neblo, S., Steenbergen, M., Marco, R., Steiner, J.
(2010). Symposium: Towards More Realistic Models of Deliberative
Democracy. Disentangling Diversity in Deliberative Democracy:
Competing Teories, Teir Blind Spots and Complementarities. Te
Journal of Political Philosophy, Vol. 18 (1), 32-63.
Benkler, Y. (2006). Te Wealth of Networks. How Social Production
Transforms Markets and Freedom. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Bennett, T. (1998). Culture: A Reformer’s Science. Tousand Oaks,
CA: Sage.
Bennett, W. L. (2012). Te Personalization of Politics Political Identi-
ty, Social Media, and Changing Patterns of Participation. Te Annals
of American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 644 (1), 20-
39. DOI:
Birbilaitė, I. (2013). Manifestations of Deliberative Democracy Online:
Measuring Quality of Global Public Discussions on Climate Change
on Facebook. Doctoral dissertation. Kaunas: Vytautas Magnus Uni-
Caluwaerts, D. (2012). Confrontation and Communication. Experi-
ments on Deliberative Democracy in Linguistically Divided Belgium.
Doctoral dissertation. Brussels: Vrije Universiteit.
(Dis-)respectful public discussions online: insights on audience polarization and formation
of radical hate or support groups
Cox, R. (2013). Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere.
Tousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.
Dahlgren, P. (2005). Te Internet, Public Sphere, and Political Com-
munication: Dispersion and deliberation. Political Communication,
Vol. 22, 147-162.
Dutton, W. H. (2009). Te Fifh Estate Emerging through the Net-
work of Networks. Prometheus, Vol. 27 (1), 1–15.
Gentzkow, M., and Shapiro, J. M. (2010). What Drives Media Slant?
Evidence from U.S. Daily Newspapers. Econometrica, Vol. 78 (1),
35–71. DOI:
Habermas, J. (2006). Political Communication in Media Socie-
ty. Does Democracy Still Enjoy an Epistemic Dimension? Te Im-
pact of Normative Teory on Empirical Research. Communication
Teory, Vol. 16, 411–26. DOI:
Kenix, L. J. (2008). Te Internet as a Tool for Democracy? A Survey
of Non-Proft Internet Decision-Makers and Web Users. First Mon-
day, Vol. 13 (7), 1–17.
King, M. A. (2009). A Critical Assessment of Steenbergen Et Al’s Dis-
course Quality Index. Roundhouse: A Journal of Critical Teory and
Practice, Vol. 1 (1). Retrieved August 21, 2012 from http://round-
Landis, J. R., and Koch, G. G. (1977). Te Measurement of Observer
Agreement for Categorical Data. Biometrics, Vol. 33, 159–174.
Norris, P. (2011). Democratic Defcit: Critical Citizens Revisited. New
York: Cambridge University Press.
O’Brien, L. (2009). Te Discourse Quality Index. A Critical Assess-
ment of the Applications of Habermas’ Discourse Ethics to Political
Deliberation. Roundhouse: A Journal of Critical Teory and Practice,
Vol. 1 (1), Retrieved October 17, 2012 from http://roundhouse.leeds.
Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling Alone: Te Collapse and Revival of
American Community. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Media Transformations 55
Reynolds, L., and Ball, C. A. (2006). Exactions and the Privatization
of the Public Sphere. Journal of Law & Politics, Vol. 21, 451–476.
Steiner, J. (2012). Te Foundations of Deliberative Democracy. Em-
pirical Research and Normative Implications. New York: Cambridge
University Press.
Sunstein, C. (2001). Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univer-
sity Press.
Talpin, J. (2011). Schools of Democracy: How Ordinary Citizens
(sometimes) Become Competent in Participatory Budgeting Institu-
tions. ECPR Press.
Ugarriza, J. E. (2011). Potential for Deliberation Among Ex Combat-
ants in Colombia. Doctoral dissertation. Bern: Universität Bern.
Xenos, M., and Bennett, W. L. (2007). Te Disconnection in Online
Politics: Te Youth Political Web Sphere and US Election Sites, 2002–
2004. Information, Communication & Society, Vol. 10 (4), 443–464.
Artists and digital culture: (The strain of) self-promotion in social media
ISSN 2029-865X
Stacey May KOOSEL
Doctoral Candidate and Lecturer
Department of Art and Design
Estonian Academy of Arts
Tallinn, Estonia
ABSTRACT: Te topic of digital identity is gaining greater academic attention with
the increasing popularity of user created Internet content (referred to as Web 2.0)
and social media networks. A seismic technological and cultural shif occurred with
the rise of digital culture, where perceived relevance and meaning shifed from so-
mething that solely existed in the corporal, or real, world to the increasing impor-
tance or perceived relevance of information found on the Internet. Tese emerging
forms of communication and social interaction have placed media theorists in new
frontiers of interdisciplinary research to understand and explain the phenomena. In
our technologically determinist culture, we increasingly depend on digital media
for validating ofine information, which places us in a paradigmatic shif where the
ofine (real) loses importance while the online (virtual) gains meaning. It can be ar-
gued that virtual existence via digital identity has become exponentially popular be-
cause of a culture that associates technology with progress, while largely ignoring the
social ramifcations and the efects on the individual, in our new media ecology. Tis
study merges theoretical sources on the discussion of digital identity in such felds
as: media ecology, virtual ethnography, narrative identity theory and the philosophy
of technology with qualitative research on how artists associated with the Estonian
Academy of Arts or the Estonian Academy of Music and Teatre, utilize social me-
dia networks like Facebook to negotiate a professional and social reputation.
KEYWORDS: digital culture, social media, digital identity, media ecology, virtual
ethnography, and identity narratives
Media Transformations 57
Te most reproduced New Yorker cartoon, that amused and in-
trigued cultural researchers over the last decade, was frst published
on July 3, 1993. It was a single panel cartoon by Peter Steiner that
portrayed two dogs talking, one sitting behind the computer, the
other on the foor. Te caption read, “On the Internet, nobody knows
you’re a dog”. Te cartoon has been interpreted in many diferent
ways, some have viewed it as a snapshot in time that managed to
capture the moment the Internet became entwined in our lives as
well as our sense of self-identity. Others have mused that it por-
trayed the historical shif that took place in the early 1990s when
the Internet went from being confned to the domain of business,
governments and universities to being available and accessible to the
general public, literally anyone and their dog. Other interpretations
of the cartoon, bring us back in communication history to the early
Internet and pre-Internet ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects
Agency Network) phenomena of MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons),
which were text based, fantasy role playing environments that gave
early Internet users the ability to alter their identity by creating new
personas and new characters to interact with others online.
In the beginning there was the ‘handle’, an alias that was used in
interactive settings like MUDs and Usenet newsgroups, a diferent
form of authenticity and self-representation than what we are used to
today in social networks. Facebook’s system of only ofcially allow-
ing ‘authentic’ accounts has been a topic of criticism – which some
have referred to as an identity lock-in (Nicholas Carr) or a form of
radical transparency (danah boyd). As Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s
CEO, stated in 2009: “You have one identity… Te days of you hav-
ing a diferent image for your work friends or co-workers and for
the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty
quickly… Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack
of integrity” (Kirkpatrick, 2010). Zuckerberg’s defnition of user au-
thenticity on Facebook is black and white, you are either authentic or
you are not, you have integrity or you do not. However things were
not always seen this way.
Te concept of user authenticity and misrepresentation, or playing
with self-representation, on the Internet has been portrayed as be-
Artists and digital culture: (The strain of) self-promotion in social media
Stacey May KOOSEL
ing problematic by some (Zuckerberg), and therapeutic by others
(Turkle). Te idea that you are who you say you are online and that
a person essentially ‘types themselves into being’ (Sundén, 2003) is
facilitated by the nature of the environment, where identity informa-
tion does not exist in the corporal sense and instead must be com-
municated through other mediums, such as text, photo, video, audio
and so forth. In real life, identity information is multi-sensory – we
read others through their physical characteristics (sex, race, age, size,
clothing, tools and accessories), their movements, mannerisms and
expressions – all this information is communicated before anyone
even opens their mouth. Another level of identity information can
be communicated on the oral-aural level, such as tone of voice, lan-
guage spoken, accent and choice of words.
Te phenomena of computer users creating virtual representation
of themselves on the Internet led to a myriad of terms used to cap-
ture, describe and analyse the activity. Terms such as digiSelf, online
identity, digital identity, virtual self, and cyberself were discussed by
Internet researchers in the 1990s. Te idea of a cybernetic fusion be-
tween man and machine led to speculation on everything from cy-
borgs to ‘computer cross-dressing’ (Trend, 2001). One of the frst ex-
plorers in the new feld of social research, who picked up on the new
phenomena of identity play of individual users in MUDs, was Sherry
Turkle in her 1995 work, ‘Life on Screen’. Te Internet researchers of
the 1990s explored the idea of using computers to re-negotiate our
identity, which was applying earlier identity theories and post-mod-
ern philosophy into actual social practice. Te post-modern belief of
pluralism, or ‘incredulity towards meta-narratives’ (Lyotard, 1984)
was applied to identity as not a singular, fxed entity but instead con-
sisting of multiple personas, identity as being fragmented (Giddens,
1991) and identity as liquid (Foucault, 1998). Identity was discussed
as something that required tailoring to appropriately pass in diferent
situations and contexts – such as interpersonal interactions or difer-
ent social environments.
In this sense, self-presentation was metaphorically referred to as
performance, adopting terms from dramaturgy such as actor, stage
and audience. Erving Gofman used micro-sociology to describe
self-presentation in everyday life, using the smallest change in facial
expression in the context of human interactions as part of diferent
Media Transformations 59
stages (audiences), which demanded diferent performances from
the actors. Gofman referred to such stages as; front stage (public),
back stage (private) and of stage or side stage (to confdants). Ken-
neth Burke, a literary theorist and philosopher, referred to his social
rhetorics and study of communication as dramatism. Burke’s dram-
atistic pentad consists of: act, scene, agent, agency and purpose, has
been compared to Marshall McLuhan’s sense of fgure and ground (a
phenomenological approach to medium and context), which McLu-
han adapted from Gestalt psychology (McLuhan and Zang, 2013).
Ernest Becker, a prominent cultural anthropologist also used drama-
tistic terms to describe the roles that are socially constructed and cul-
turally enforced that lead to states of anxiety and self-disconnection,
that ultimately stem from a denial of death (Becker, 1962).
Te theatric or dramatistic approach to language, applied to
self-identity and self-representation, are nothing new and have been
discussed since the Socratic Dialogues and Plato’s discussion of ‘the
great stages of human life’ in Te Philebus to Shakespeare’s musing
on the diferent acts in human life, comparing the world to a theatre:
“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players,
Tey have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time
plays many parts” (Shakespeare, As You Like It).
Te cultural and social theories of the pre-Internet, pre-personal
computer, ‘electric age’ (McLuhan, 1964) are ofen discussed when
analysing life online and when examining identity negotiation and
authenticity and its relevance in virtual environments (see Gof-
man, Becker, Burke and McLuhan). In many ways these dramatistic
self-representation and identity theories set a methodological lan-
guage, with terms like “performance” and “audiences” ofen used in
social media contexts. Te social media user can be seen as a per-
former who has easy access to tools of mass communication, to an
unlimited worldwide audience of Internet users – or a micro-public
of curated ‘friends’ on networks like Facebook. Te audience can dic-
tate or shape the behaviour of the social media user. Tough there
are certain discomforts in mixed audiences – when it is a collection
of individuals who do not necessarily know each other, have com-
mon interests or interact in real life. A haphazard mix of friends,
family, co-workers, school mates, acquaintances, friends of friends,
private businesses and strangers are ofen thrown into a homogenous
Artists and digital culture: (The strain of) self-promotion in social media
Stacey May KOOSEL
mass audience – which can lead to a communication breakdown or
self-censorship as the performer (social media user) may fnd them-
selves unable to customize their performance to that audience.
Te following interview excerpts are from a qualitative study on so-
cial network use, ‘Artists, Identity and Facebook’ (2012). Tese in-
terviews were conducted with artists, all of whom were or currently
are associated with the ‘Estonian Academy of Arts’ or the ‘Estonian
Academy of Music and Teatre’ between May and August of 2012.
Te interviews were conducted in face-to-face conversations, which
were audio recorded and transcribed. Te subjects were asked the
same set of standard questions, but were encouraged to elaborate and
discuss their own ideas and interpretations of how they use Face-
book, how they present themselves and read (interpret) the profles
and self-representation of others. All the subjects interviewed lived
in Estonia at the time of the study, although not all subjects are Es-
tonian nationals. Because of the small population of Estonia (ap-
proximately 1.3 million people) and relatively small population of
artists associated with the academies, the age and nationality of the
interview subjects have not been provided, to ensure their promised
I like the pluralism of Facebook, because this is the idea of
Facebook. For example if I’m interested in the art scene,
or something diferent – I still like seeing lots of diferent
things that are going on, on my Facebook wall. And I’m not
stressed about people putting pictures of ‘her giving birth’
and the babies. Why not? It always gives you something to
talk about, how people are crazy and annoying. People are
what they are, and you can’t change them – you can just ob-
serve them. And if they like to put things like that, they are
that kind of person who likes to share that kind of infor-
mation. But this is information for me, about them (Artist,
Te identity narrative, when mediated through social networks, of-
ten takes the shape of a ‘status update’ or a ‘post’ which when collect-
ed together over time, can represent many fragmented, short stories
about the self. Tese autobiographical narratives blur the line be-
tween authenticity and relevance, as self-presentation to a mass au-
Media Transformations 61
dience can amplify distortion, with subjective truths, abstract sym-
bolism, group identity, and ‘meaning making’ difering even within
a select audience of Facebook friends. Authenticity and integrity be-
come complex when dealing with subjective, abstract notions such
as self-identity and identity narratives. It is a generally held belief
in narrative studies that every person has their story – and that the
absence of this story results in confusion and chaos – for example,
those who sufer from memory loss and are unable to remember
who they are and what their life story is. A three-pillar approach is
acknowledged for one to socially exist and to interact with others -
identity, memory and narrative (Eakin, 2008). Creating authenticity
in an online environment is merely a mediate, virtual form of iden-
tity formation and communication – where identity narratives have
become content for social media networks such as Facebook, as well
as blogging platforms like Blogger and Wordpress, and micro-blog-
ging at Twitter.
If Peter Steiner’s “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” cap-
tured the zeitgeist of a culture about to turn digital in 1993, Roz
Chast’s 2010 one panel cartoon represents where we fnd ourselves
now, in a new era of digital dependence. Te Ungooglable Man was
published on April 8, 2010, in the New Yorker. It depicts a man walk-
ing down a sidewalk, the man, though attired normally, looks a lit-
tle disturbed – he has stubble on his chin and his eyes are open a
little too wide, his mouth pinched in a grimace. Te caption reads
‘Te Ungooglable Man’ and captions dart around him, sensationalist
style, like headlines in pulp fction: “Even the most powerful search
engines cannot detect him!” another headline reads “No Facebook
page... No Myspace page…No Nothing!” the last headline concludes
“And yet He Walks Amongst Us!” Te man walking down the street
is depicted as an anomaly, the fact that no search engine can fnd any
information about his existence and no social network has him as a
user – creates an existential crisis: Can he really exist? If there are no
traces of his existence on the Internet, how can he exist at all? Te
fact he can still ‘walk amongst us’ creates an almost ghost-like exist-
ence: where he is both seen and unseen, real and unreal – satirically
speaking, an abomination of nature.
Artists and digital culture: (The strain of) self-promotion in social media
Stacey May KOOSEL
Te cartoon captures an apt observation of our current culture of
digitized relevance and how we increasingly depend on digital media
for validating ofine information. Tis is not just checking who in-
dividuals are, but also, to a much larger extent, about businesses and
organizations. Websites that ofer a platform for users to write and
read reviews, for example Yelp, allow people to review (warn or en-
dorse) businesses like restaurants and other service industries. Other
user review websites, like Tripadvisor, allow users to rate their trips
and vacations, by giving reviews of hotels, restaurants and travel des-
tinations. In our social media age, businesses who have a high rating
(of positive reviews) will proudly display their Tripadvisor ranking
in their place of business as it lends their business a sense of prestige,
relevance and authenticity.
Te irony in this situation is that this particular form of authenticity
and relevance is very easily manipulated by any party with a vest-
ed interest. Tis shif of perceived relevance stems from the growing
trend of basing our knowledge and trust in the online world of user
created content, whether in the form of hotel reviews on Tripadvisor
or professional qualifcations listed on Linked-In. Te need to vali-
date ofine, ‘real life’ information, on the Internet is part of a larger
cultural transformation in what is perceived as important, prestig-
ious and authentic as opposed to what is perceived as dubious, dan-
gerous or a scam. Tis places us in a paradigmatic shif where the
ofine world (the real) loses importance while the online world (the
virtual) gains perceived meaning and relevance. It can be argued that
virtual existence via digital identity has become exponentially more
popular because of a culture that associates technology with progress
with a cult-like following of trends in technological tools and social
media platforms. Te social ramifcations of media efects are rarely
discussed or understood. Media ecologists and Marxist theory would
describe this drive as a ‘push’ on the consumers rather than following
the classic ‘supply and demand’. Finding a use for things we never
asked for or wanted, and didn’t know we needed, is arguably part of
the technological imperative.
Te Chinese discovered gunpowder but chose not to develop the gun.
We in the West generally accept the notion of the technological im-
perative which, like natural selection and evolution, inevitably leads
where it will and precludes purposeful change, directed progress.
Media Transformations 63
Te imperative implies that the invention of a new technique de-
mands its adoption and development, and although there are count-
less examples of ‘useless’ inventions that no one wants and which
are not developed but fade away, the general tendency has been to
pursue possible developments for their own sake. Te technological
imperative concerns that self-motivated pursuit and implies that it is
somehow inevitable (Shallis, 1984).
Te technological imperative, or inevitability thesis, is an idea in the
philosophy of technology that once a tool is introduced into a cul-
ture, it cannot be removed or stopped. (Chandler, 1995) During the
interviews with artists and academics about how they use Facebook,
the dissatisfaction with Facebook as a tool of communication was
expressed rather explicitly:
I don’t even use (Facebook) as a networking place, I’m just
part of other people’s network (Artist, Male).
However, no matter how ‘useless’ a person found Facebook to be for
them, they had no plan to delete their profles and leave the social
networking site, as they saw Facebook as an uncomfortable necessity,
something they were a part of, whether they liked it or not.
Another idea in the philosophy of technology and media ecology
that could explain the perceived need or relevance to make use of
something we do not necessarily want or need is explained by the
theory of technological determinism. Technology’s ability to infu-
ence how we think, feel, view and interact with others is the founda-
tion for technological led theories of social change. As the guru of the
electric age Marshall McLuhan succinctly noted, “We shape our tools
and aferwards our tools shape us” (McLuhan, 1964). In historical
contexts we understand how the technology of past eras re-shaped
everything from the daily life of the individual to more sweeping so-
cial and cultural shifs. A well-known example being the social and
cultural changes that occurred around the time of the Gutenberg
press and mechanical (movable) type. Te Gutenberg press ushered
in a new era, with a shif from an oral-aural, non-literate culture to
literacy, mass publishing and a spread of printed materials (such as
Te Gutenberg Bible) which created new standards, norms and ideas
– ‘an agent of change’ (Eisenstein, 1980).
Artists and digital culture: (The strain of) self-promotion in social media
Stacey May KOOSEL
Technological determinism can be further subcategorized into hard
determinism, sof determinism, technology as neutral and technol-
ogy as non-neutral. Tese four sub-theories are part of a larger ana-
lytical approach when attempting to measure or describe the infu-
ence or efects of technology on the individual and society (Postman,
1993). Te only diference between hard or sof technological deter-
minism and technology as a neutral container being varying degrees
of perceived autonomy or free will of man when interacting with
technology, which can be problematic as “Tools insist on being used
in particular ways” (Mowshowitz, 1976).
Te opposing idea is that technology is neutral, which is to say tech-
nology is not inherently good or bad – but it is in how we use it that
determines its meaning and efects. For example, a knife being able
to spread butter on a piece of bread or stab and possibly kill another
human being. However, though technically the use of a tool or tech-
nology as neutral can be demonstrated, for instance, using a gun to
keep peace, as apposed to wreck havoc, the theory of technology as
neutral largely ignores cultural symbolism, human cognitive grasps
and other contextual and social factors.
For when we deal with meaning and culture, we inevitably move to-
ward another ideal… To insist upon explanation in terms of “causes”
simply bars us from trying to understand how human beings inter-
pret their worlds and how we interpret their acts of interpretation
(Bruner, 1990).
Te way that technology, in this case social media networks such as
Facebook, can afect our perception or interpretation of the world
around us, and how we view ourselves (our self-identity) is demon-
strated satirically in Roz Chast’s ‘Ungooglable Man’. Where human
existence in the real world has taken a backseat to Internet rep-
resentation – a shif in the interpretation and understanding of who
or what is relevant and who or what is real.
Both artists and academics acknowledged the construction of a dig-
ital identity online to be an essential part of the self-promotion re-
quired to add perceived value to their careers, and relevance within
their own community.
Media Transformations 65
Although academics may appear to be attached to older traditions,
they are more accurately at the vanguard of this reconstruction of
the way that information moves through a culture and its correlative
reorganization of reputation, value and esteem (Barbour & Marshall,
Much like artists, academics inhabit an environment where having a
good reputation, being held in esteem by their peers and being rec-
ognized by their own community will construct their relevance and
importance to the larger, general public. Social media platforms have
provided creative professionals and academics with a place to freely
and instantly share their ideas and work, without being restricted by
geographical and institutional limitations, such as exhibitions, con-
ferences and publications.
When discussing the social media environment, and its efects on the
users of social media - the private and public aspects are quite ofen
addressed. Te paradox of wanting privacy and publicity at the same
time, is no longer restricted to the realms of famous celebrities and
has now become the plight of every social media user as they struggle
to receive the attention they crave while maintaining enough privacy
to not feel invaded. Facebook recently (in 2009) made it easier to
leave other users positive feedback, in the most passive form possi-
ble: by pushing a ‘Like’ button; there is no ‘Unlike’ button.
But of course the desired efect, of sharing a photo or a pro-
fle picture, is the number of likes you can get (Artist and
Academic, Male).
Te ‘Like’ button motivates people to share more with each other
in hopes of entertaining their audience and receiving positive rein-
forcement or reception of the content they posted, and in doing so,
creating a sense of camaraderie or community.
Te sharing of personal information in an online environment helps
the Internet user to create an identity to enable social interaction or
recognition. Perhaps it is the nature of the social web itself that ofers
a free (that is to say a no-charge) platform which provides a blank
slate for Internet users to share their information about themselves
on websites such as Facebook, Wordpress, Twitter, Blogspot and
Youtube. Social networking sites, such as Facebook, provide their
Artists and digital culture: (The strain of) self-promotion in social media
Stacey May KOOSEL
users with many diferent blanks to fll with their personal, real life
information. Tese range from basic identity information like names
and birth dates, to more detailed information about place of work,
family relationships and friendships, as well as favourite consumer
products, businesses, organizations and groups.
Self-promotion in social media can lead to relationship strains for
the artists and academics who use Facebook as a platform to share
information and invite others to their public events and exhibitions.
Facebook allows users to make their profle and event invitation pag-
es either private or public. An invitation to a select group of ‘Friends’
(a Facebook term for those allowed to view information) can cause
certain tensions to arise when an individual does not receive the sup-
port they would like from their peer group. As one artist and ac-
ademic explained, the new digital environment de-humanized and
devalued an artist’s invitation to their event.
But really there is nothing useful (about Facebook) unless,
maybe when I’m organizing something, then I can inform
people. If I have an event, I can send invitations through
Facebook. But still, for me, Facebook is not very useful in
a sense, you send invitations to everybody, but it’s not like
face to face communication and people know that. So you’re
not sure if these people actually saw the invitation or if they
saw it but just ignored it, they didn’t want to come. I feel in
this sense Facebook is useless because it just gives people an
excuse to avoid something if they don’t want to say “no” to
your face. So, I feel that it makes things more complicated
than they should be (Artist, Female).
Another example of the strain of self-promotion in social media are
the feelings of rejection or frustration when an invitation to an event,
such as an exhibition, is ignored. Te Facebook interface, such as
the chat program, intensifes the problem, as it allows users to see
who (of their friends) is online at any given point in time. Tis can
lead to the situation where the artist sending the invitation becomes
convinced that the invitation is being ignored not by mistake, but
So sometimes I invite people (hesitating), for example, if I
post some event that I have and then I can see who is online
Media Transformations 67
at the same time. So if I see these people don’t come to my
event…. Ten I think you must have saw my invitation, why
didn’t you come, you know? (Artist, Female).
Te disappointment expressed by this particular artist at invitations
to an exhibition not being accepted or even acknowledged – was a
common theme in the questioning of the perceived bond or rela-
tionships between a Facebook user and their ‘Friends’. ‘Friends’ is a
slippery term, as it takes on diferent connotations in the social me-
dia or SNS (social networking site) context. Friends on SNSs are not
the same as “friends“ in the everyday sense; instead, Friends provide
context by ofering users an imagined audience to guide behavioural
norms (Boyd and Ellison, 2007).
Te diferent types of relationships between users on social network-
ing sites can be subcategorized into diferent groups such as close
friends and family (that you actually have a personal relationship
with) versus people with whom you have a real life connection (but
not a personal relationship) to complete strangers. Friendship on
social networking sites can be subcategorized into diferent reasons
of why a particular person can be added or accepted as a Friend or
contact. David Fono and Kate Raynes Goldie defned these friend-
ships on LiveJournal (a social network that provides a platform for
blogging and journaling) in the following terms: friendship as trust,
friendship as courtesy, friendship as declaration and friendship as
nothing. A trust friendship means trusting someone enough to view
your personal information or profle, whereas friendship as decla-
ration is more of a public demonstration of a relationship, that may
have more signifcant meaning in ofine contexts, e.g. a real life
friendship (Fono and Raynes-Goldie, 2006).
Accepting ‘Friend Requests’ on Facebook, out of courtesy and not
wanting to ofend the person who extended the request can lead to
situation where a Facebook user feels estranged from their own net-
work. As their list of friends or contacts grow, the group can become
more anonymous, which may result in an unease with the idea of
sharing personal or trivial information with people whom you do
not know, trust or feel comfortable around.
Artists and digital culture: (The strain of) self-promotion in social media
Stacey May KOOSEL
I used to share personal photos, but I don’t anymore – as
the circle has become bigger – I have over 500 friends, when
I frst started I had 100 close friends and so I shared more
pictures, as you would among friends – but now I’m not so
interested in sharing with everybody. I feel that for a lot of
people, Facebook is for professional use, and they are may-
be mixing their professional and personal life. Te biggest
private gallery (names gallery) has their own circle of artists
who they work with: there are other private galleries but this
one represents artists best. Te two people who are the head
of this gallery are extremely socially active, and I met one
of them just once. Of course he knows me, because I’m an
artist and he knows the Estonian art life, but suddenly he
put me as one of his friends. Of course he wants to widen
his professional and social scene, so of course I accepted. It’s
tactical – but maybe more for him. Tis is just one example
but there is a lot of this happening, but it doesn’t disturb me.
It’s just this kind of place, if I want I can share my photos and
my private life in a diferent place (Artist, Male).
Te urge to share the private self, as an individual as opposed to a
public or professional persona – is an experience that can place strain
on artists who use Facebook as a professional networking platform.
When the social network audience, which some referred to as ‘the
circle’ became too big and anonymous it dampened the urge to share
more personal information. Some respondents noted that there are
diferent parts of their personality that are mediated through Face-
book, that if they are a shy and reserved person in real life – they
act the same way on Facebook. And though being an artist involves
public interaction in exhibitions, interviews and press coverage – it
is never about their personal life, it is only about their professional
life. Te tabloid factor only appears when the artist’s artwork is over-
shadowed by their own persona – when they become a celebrity in
their own right.
Another reoccurring theme that comes up with artists-academics
when discussing how they read or interpret another individual’s so-
cial networking profle, is the idea of relevance by association. Tat is
Media Transformations 69
to say, the belief that you can denote an individual’s relevance within
their own community (for example the Estonian art community) by
seeing who is listed as a friend or contact on social networking sites.
Te frst thing I look at when looking at someone’s profle
on Facebook, is who our common friends are. Tis gives me
a good idea because Estonia is so small. Maybe it’s like this
everywhere. I see who he knows and this gives me a good
idea of what kind of person he is (Artist, Male).
Tis interpretation of being able to ‘read’ or interpret the identity of
others in relation to their friends and associations, is commonly re-
ferred to as a ‘social identity’ or ‘group identity’ by media and cultural
researchers (Zeng, Huang and Dou, 2009). Group afliation or cohe-
siveness and interpersonal ties can infuence the perceived relevance,
authenticity or importance of a user by other social network users.
Tese friendships or connections may only exist online, as declara-
tions of belonging to certain social circles of artists, galleries, cura-
tors, critics and academies.
Facebook users in this study, mostly articulated an understanding
that the main use of social networking sites are decidedly profession-
ally oriented, and not a network for private individuals to keep in
touch with friends and family and other ofine ‘real life’ contacts.,
though there were many instances where professional and private
personas would overlap. When a social network user connects and
presents themself to an audience or network of ‘relevant associates’
that does not necessarily match the users ofine, ‘real life’ social
group, we can see how a communication tool has restructured hu-
man interaction. Or at the very least social networks can be seen as
platforms to demonstrate social and professional allegiances. Tis
phenomenon, has been referred to by cultural researchers as ‘net-
worked publics’, which can be defned as “publics that have been re-
structured by network technology” (Boyd, 2010).
‘Artists, Identity and Facebook’(2012) utilized an ethnographical ap-
proach to fnd out how artists associated with Estonian Academies
interpret and construct identity information on Facebook. Te prob-
lems, or strains, associated with self-promotion in social media were
felt mostly in relation to establishing relevance within a community
of peers and having to censor themselves in order to construct a pub-
Artists and digital culture: (The strain of) self-promotion in social media
Stacey May KOOSEL
lic persona that would engage, or not ofend, their networked public.
Which is of course only one example of how social media networks
have brought about cultural transformations that have restructured
our social and professional relationships and our sense of self.
Barbour, K., Marshall, D. P. (2011). Persona and the Academy: Mak-
ing Decisions, Distinctions and Profles in the Era of Presentational
Media. World Congress on Communication and Arts, April 17–20,
2011, São Paulo, Brazil. Retrieved March 21, 2013, from https://www.
Becker, E. (1962). Te Birth and Death of Meaning: A Perspective in
Psychiatry and Anthropology. New York: Te Free Press.
Boyd, D. (2010). Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Afor-
dances, Dynamics, and Implications. In Z. Papacharissi (ed.), Net-
worked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network
Sites, pp. 39–58.
Boyd, D., Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social Network Sites: Defnition, His-
tory, and Scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communica-
tion, Vol. 13(1). Retrieved March 21, 2013, from http://jcmc.indiana.
Bruner, J.(1990). Acts of Meaning. Cambridge: Harvard University
Burke, K. (1969). A Grammar of Motives. University of California
Chandler, D. (1995). Technological or Media Determinism, Septem-
ber 18. Retrieved March 21, 2013, from
Chast, R. (2010). “Te Ungooglable Man” Cartoon. Te New Yorker,
April 8. Retrieved March 21, 2013, from
Media Transformations 71
Carr, N. (2010). Te Shallows, What Te Internet is Doing to Our
Brains. New York: Norton.
Fono, D., Raynes-Goldie, K. (2006). Hyperfriends and Beyond:
Friendship and Social Norms on LiveJournal.In M. Consalvo, C.
Haythornthwaite (eds.), Internet Research Annual Volume 4: Selected
Papers from the Association of Internet Researchers Conference. New
York: Peter Lang. Retrieved March 21, 2013, from
Foucault, M. (1998). Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel
Foucault. Boston: University of Massachusetts Press.
Eakin, P. J. (2008). Living Autobiographically: How We Create Identity
in Narrative. New York: Cornell University Press.
Eisenstein, E. (1980). Te Printing Press as an Agent of Change and
the Structure of Communication Revolutions. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in
the Late Modern Age. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Gofman, E. (1959). Te Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New
York: Anchor Books.
Kirkpatrick, D. (2010). Te Facebook Efect: Te Inside Story of the
Company Tat Is Connecting the World. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Lyotard, J. F. (1984). Te Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowl-
edge. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Shakespeare, W. As You Like It (2.7.138-42).
Shallis, M. (1984). Te Silicon Idol: Te Micro Revolution and its So-
cial Implications. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Steiner, R. (1993). On the Internet Nobody Knows You’re a Dog Car-
toon. Te New Yorker, July 3. Retrieved March 21, 2013, from http://
Artists and digital culture: (The strain of) self-promotion in social media
Stacey May KOOSEL
McLuhan, E., Zhang, P. (2012). Pivotal Terms in Media Ecology: A
Dialogue. et Cetera; 69, 3; Pro Quest pg. 24. Jul 1. Retrieved March
21, 2013 from
McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding Media: Te Extensions of Man.
Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Mowshowitz, A. (1976). Te Conquest of Will: Information Processing
in Human Afairs. Reading: Addison-Wesley.
Postman, N. (1993). Technopoly: Te Surrender of Culture to Technol-
ogy. Vintage: New York.
Sundén, J. (2003). Material Virtualities. New York: Peter Lang.
Trend, D. (2001). Reading Digital Culture. London: Blackwell Pub-
Turkle, S. (1995). Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet.
New York: Simon & Schuster.
Zeng, F., Huang, L., Dou, W. (2009). Social Factors in User Perception
and Responses to Advertising in Online Social Networking Commu-
nities. Journal of Interactive Advertising, Vol. 10 (1). Retrieved March
21, 2013, from
Interviews conducted with artists and academics, who are associated
with the ‘Estonian Academy of Arts’ or the ‘Estonian Academy of
Music and Teatre’ in Tallinn, Estonia between May and August of
2012. Te study is entitled ‘Artists, Identity and Facebook’ (2012) and
is in the possession of the author.
Media Transformations 73
Local radio - an endangered species? The polish case
ISSN 2029-865X
Leon Koźmiński University
Warsaw, Poland
Urszula DOLIWA
Assistant Professor
University of Warmia and Mazury
Olsztyn, Poland
ABSTRACT: A great majority of broadcasters in Poland have local licences. Howe-
ver, it does not mean they play roles typical of local radio. Similarly to other coun-
tries the networking process has its negative impact on this sector. Networking leads
to unifcation of the programme and a signifcant reduction of the local content.
What is more, there is no fully recognized third sector which could be a supplement
to commercial local broadcasting. In this paper special attention is paid to public
and community stations as providers of localness disappearing from the airwaves.
Te authors, taking into account global trends concerning these two sectors, try to
analyse what the chances and the limitations of the development of local radio in
Poland within these two sectors are. Tis analysis is based on ofcial documents,
results of public consultations regarding the third sector of broadcasting as well as
observations of the functioning of local public radio made by one of the authors
working as the Chairman of the Board of the Polish Radio. However, the authors
would also like to characterize the current situation of independent local broad-
casting in Poland as a whole, specify what the main obstacles in local broadcasting
development are, speculate what can be done to improve the situation of this sector.
KEYWORDS: radio, local radio, community radio, and media in Poland
Media Transformations 75
Tere is a growing tendency around the world of networking local
radios and then having them overtaken by big media groups. Such
an activity is more proftable than running a single, small local sta-
tion. However, such a process has a negative impact on the ‘locality’
of broadcasters. Taking advantage of the fact of having a network,
such local radios ofen reduce the local content and broadcast sever-
al universal programmes for all members of the network. Also, the
local content itself is ofen standardized and very similar in every
station. What is more, such networks are ofen run by foreign con-
cerns, which are far from the local problems and needs of local com-
munities. It is worth stressing that when we are talking about local
radio we should think about locality in the broader context. In many
authors’ opinions, it is not only the ‘local content’ that is a factor
of locality in the station. What seems to be especially important is
also the way this local content is produced. As Hugh Chignell un-
derlined, “Radio localism refers to the degree to which a station is
locally sourced and refects the needs, interests and culture of the
local community” (Chignell, 2009: 132). Tis idea is also supported
by Michelle Ndiaye Ntab, who stated that “Local content is mate-
rial conceptualized, produced and packaged by people using their
own instruments (languages, values, beliefs)” (Ndiaye Ntab, 2004).
Should we be surprised that the commercial sector is interested in
maximizing benefts from its activity? Of course not. Tis is one of
the key features which constitutes a commercial sector - such media
are run for proft.
However, local media also have other, non-economic goals to ful-
fl. As Michelle Ndiaye Ntab underlines, local content is a source of
identity and development, and it enables cultures to fourish. More
importantly, it “provides the communities with the relevant infor-
mation necessary for their development” (Ndiaye Ntab, 2004). Te
relation between the condition of local media and the local democ-
racy was well described by Jerzy Jurecki, the chief editor of one of
the bestsellers in the local press market in Poland entitled ‘Tygodnik
Local press is a foundation of local democracy. Te con-
trol of local government and public money – these are our
Local radio - an endangered species? The polish case
priorities. It is easy to recognize places where a good local
press is present. Tere is better control, the local authorities
spend public money in a better way and, in general, function
better. Tey feel we are breathing down their necks (…). In
Zakopane, everyone from Warsaw would like to have a plot
of land and there is always an ofcial ready to take a bribe.
But there is a fear of our weekly and it is easy to feel when
you are talking to them (Jerzy Jurecki cited by Igor Janke,
Local media refect, to some extent, the condition of democracy. In
the societies really active in their communities, local media have a
better environment for development; more people are interested in
creating such media and there are more consumers interested in lo-
cal issues. But it also works the other way around. Because of having
local media, the community at the local level works better. Tese are
some of the reasons why locally originated and locally sourced media
should be protected. What is worth stressing, such media may exist
not only within the commercial sector but also the public and com-
munity ones which are not so much commercially driven.
Te beginnings of radio are closely related to local broadcasting.
KDKA from Pittsburgh in 1920 – ofen reported as the frst radio
station in the world - was defnitely a local station. It had a 100-watt
transmitter and a range of less than 40 miles (Chignell, 2009: 131).
Te growth of radio networks in the USA and a centralized model
of broadcasting in Europe caused a decrease in localness in radio.
European broadcasting in the late 70s and early 80s was marked by
two contradictory dimensions: on the one hand, the planned devel-
opment at the European level of cross-border broadcasting using
new technologies, and on the other hand, the explosion, sometimes
anarchic, sometimes controlled, at the local and regional level of an
‘alternative’ approach to programming (Vittet-Philippe and Crook-
es, 1986: 1). Tere were diferent groups involved in the local radio
movement: local communities, minorities, students, volunteers,
trade unions, but frst of all were the young people who did not ac-
cept the state monopoly system. (Vittet-Philippe and Crookes, 1986:
14). Tey were fghting for a radio close to its audience, dealing with
Media Transformations 77
important problems of the community. Local radio in Europe had to
struggle to emerge.
Te situation looked completely diferent in the USA, where local
radio had been present from the very beginning. In the USA, the
community radio movement started in the late 60s and found its
identity in radical opposition to the values of commercialism and the
wasteland of market-dominated radio (Vittet-Philippe and Crook-
es, 1986: 14). In Europe, ‘free radio’ and local radio in the mid-70s
and early 80s sought to establish themselves mainly against political-
ly-controlled or establishment-dominated public service monopolies
or commercial/public service duopolies (Vittet-Philippe and Crook-
es, 1986: 14).
In the late 70s and early 80s, several non-public radio stations were
founded. From this time, radio in Europe stopped being a national,
centralized, public service or government controlled monopoly. For
example, the beginnings of local radio in Britain date back to 1967,
when local public radio stations were established, but the true change
in the broadcasting landscape of Great Britain was connected with
the introduction of commercial local radio in 1973 (Chignell, 2009:
Te appearance of radio in Europe had far-reaching consequences.
Radio started to be an active element in regional development as a
‘region-building’ tool in traditional cultural terms (regional aware-
ness, cultural and linguistic identity) but also in terms of economy
(provision of jobs, sensitization of the public to communication tech-
nologies, dynamization of local markets, etc.). Local radio strived to
introduce a degree of ‘horizontality’. It strived to multiply opportuni-
ties of access (Vittet-Philippe and Crookes, 1986: 11). Vittet-Philippe
and Crookes call local radio a ‘prime mover’ of the communication
system in the late 70s and early 80s (Vittet-Philippe and Crookes,
1986: 3).
But paradoxically local radio in Europe soon became endangered
mainly because of the rapid development of commercial radio and
the process of networking. In many countries, no more than 10 years
afer starting such initiatives, local radio was downgraded to a sup-
porting role or even became endangered by extinction. Local stations
started to undergo such processes as professionalization, network-
Local radio - an endangered species? The polish case
ing and globalization (Vittet-Philippe and Crookes, 1986: 14). Te
growing audience of such radio stations endangered functioning of
local, bottom up initiatives. Peter Lewis and Jerry Booth, in their
book Te Invisible Medium: Public, Commercial and Community Ra-
dio published in 1989, warned that the economies of scale and the
distance-shrinking reach of new technologies work against localism
in communication (1989).
In Chignell’s opinion, Te Broadcasting Act 1990 (UK) and the Tel-
ecommunications Act 1996 (USA) had devastating efects on the lo-
calism of the radio stations, allowing them to remain ‘local’ in name
only (Chignell, 2009: 133). Tis phenomenon is well described by
David Hendy in his book Radio in the Global Age:
Each station, or brand station, will present itself as unique,
through its particular arrangements of records, jingles,
speech, weather reports and news bulletins, in a set running
order that difers from rival stations. But the basic ingredi-
ents will remain the same: the same records, the same pre-
senter idioms, the same sources of news, arranged slightly
diferently but with broadly the same concern for pace and
fow and the rhythms of daily life – news on the hour, trafc
updates every 20 minutes, and so on. Even the jingles, which
inevitably use a diferent melodic hook and catchphrase,
will probably adopt the same production ‘feel’ (…) In this
view, interactivity and personal choice in the radio stations
we select become rather meaningless concepts, since there is
little that is fundamentally diferent (2000: 65).
Te process of disappearance of local content from the airwaves
continues and is raised not only by media experts but also jour-
nalists from the popular press. In February, 2005, in Die Zeit, the
study about the condition of radio in Germany, Rettet das Radio was
published. Its author, Ulrich Stock, reported that depending on the
region, in Germany it is possible to fnd on a radio set about 30 vari-
ous radio stations, but they mostly broadcast a programme he called
Dudelsupe (Stock, 2005). It is also a scheme well-known on Polish
air: weather forecast, news about trafc jams and information about
awards in radio contests. Beside this, music prevails. Krystyna Lubel-
ska, in her article published in Polityka in 2005 entitled Usta milczą,
Media Transformations 79
gra muzyka, underlined that spoken word programmes are disap-
pearing from Polish air (Lubelska, 2005). As a rule, commercial radio
stations dedicate at most 3-4 minutes per hour to ‘the spoken word’.
Facing a global tendency of local commercial radio becoming less
and less local (in terms of ownership, content, mission etc.) local
public media and the still growing community media sector remain
the mainstay of localness.
According to analysts of McKinsey (PSB around the world, 1999), in
spite of many unfavourable, or even alarmist, predictions formulated
a few years ago, many public broadcasters have adapted quite well to
the new market situation. One of the most important factors of their
success was the reinforcement of the meaning of the public ofer of
the program of own local stations (regional) – this applies to the larg-
est extent to Great Britain, Germany and Sweden.
In Sweden, the development of public regional radio was connected
with the programme of decentralization of the country. Only in 1987,
however, the public provider of three nationwide channels, Sverig-
es Radio (SR), decided to start local broadcasting stations, working
under the common name of SR4 (Nordstrom, 2010: 89). 24 regions
of broadcasting were sectioned in the whole country, and the whole
venture, although it was very expensive, turned out to be meeting the
audience’s needs connected to the locality of media. During the week,
SR4 broadcasts local programmes, while at the weekends – common
programmes spread from Stockholm. In Germany, the structure of
radio and public television corresponds to the federalist structure of
the country. In Great Britain, where there are 44 local public stations,
the structure of a local public radio was determined by the cultur-
al and linguistic diversifcation of Great Britain, as well as the pro-
cess of decentralization of the BBC itself. Local stations emerged in
Great Britain in 1967, 5 years afer the Pilkington Committee Report
(Husband, Chouhan, 1985: 282). Regardless, there are still regional
stations present in Great Britain: Radio Scotland, Radio Wales, Ra-
dio Cymru, Radio Ulster, and local stations rendering services of the
opt-out type in Scotland, Wales and Ulster.
Local radio - an endangered species? The polish case
Te rule of maintaining pluralism in the media is the guarantee of
the basic rights of a democratic country – freedom of speech and
information access. In the accomplishment of this goal, the role of
the media is not to be underestimated. In the European grounds, this
dependency is underlined by the statements of the European Court
of Human Rights, interpreting the art. Ten of the European Con-
vention of Human and Citizens Rights, as well as the series of un-
ion documents, among them the recommendation no. R(99)1 of the
Committee of Ministers of the European Council, defne the term
of pluralism in media and pay attention to the resources promoting
pluralism in media (Council of Europe Publishing, 2007). Essential,
especially here, would be the cultural aspect of pluralism and em-
phasizing the necessity to present in the media the cultural variety
of society, especially on the regional and local level, where it is much
easier to break the rules of pluralism.
With the phenomenon of pluralism there are connected two other
items, constituting a peculiar opposition. On one side the concentra-
tion of the media and on the other, as its opposite – diversity of the
media and its contents.
Apart from the proper number of subjects on the market, diversity
is most important in order to maintain pluralism. To reach this goal,
the role of public and social broadcasters, or environmental ones, is
essential. What is crucial for maintaining pluralism on the regional
and local markets is the concession politics which supports the pro-
tection of regional and local media. Tese politics also includes the
rules concerning the access of national and ethnical minorities to the
media and the protection of regional languages.
Hence in France, which does not run any active politics towards mi-
norities, pointing to the rules lying at the basis of the republic, Radio
France is obliged to promote regional languages (Kuhn, 1995: 153).
In Germany, where the federal constitution guarantees the freedom
of speech and protection of the minorities’ rights, in most lands
minorities may broadcast their own programmes in the so-called
open channels. Representatives of the minorities are members of the
Boards of Trustees of public and private broadcasters. In Great Brit-
ain, language minorities (Welsh, Irish, Gaelic, Cornish, Asian) have
wide access to the electronic media, e.g., the Welsh language in the
Media Transformations 81
public Radio Cymru has 100 hours a week, in Gaelic there are 45
hours a week available on the BBC radio. Te Asian Network’s pro-
gramming is prepared primarily in English, however it also broad-
casts in a range of South Asian languages (BBC, 2013).
In Italy, according to the law enacted in 1999 regarding minority lan-
guages, there are 12 protected languages and the task of RAI in the
contract with the Ministry of Communication is to broadcast pro-
grammes in these languages in particular regions of Italy.
In the Czech Republic, a country relatively homogenous in national
terms, the Czech Radio has a responsibility to broadcast programmes
for minorities and it broadcasts many of them with the participation
of minority representatives, most of all in regional broadcasting sta-
tions (EU Accession Monitoring Program, 2002: 180).
In Hungary, there exists a developed system of protection of nation-
al, ethnical and language minorities. Te law about RTV imposes on
the public TV a duty to present the culture and language of minori-
ties and a regular broadcast of information programmes for them. It
also provides a possibility to sponsor those programs. Magyar Radio
is currently producing the programme for 13 minorities (Magyar Ra-
dio, 2013).
To prevent local radio, which is close to local audiences, and local
problems from disappearance there was a third radio sector creat-
ed, additional to the public and commercial. Tis sector is usually
called a ‘community radio sector’. However, there are plenty of dif-
ferent names for this kind of radio as well as diferent defnitions of
the term ‘community radio’ itself or, broadly speaking, ‘community
media’. Yet, the permanent feature of this sector consists in diversi-
ty and variety of forms, sizes and formulas of functioning. It is well
summarized by Janey Gordon:
Just a little research in the area of community radio shows
that anybody with any kind of interest in radio knows ex-
actly what community radio is. Ironically, almost everybody
disagrees. Very strong views are held about community ra-
Local radio - an endangered species? The polish case
dio. Tere seems to be a general consensus that a communi-
ty station is a radio station, run primarily by volunteers on
a not-for-proft basis, but that seems to be where the agree-
ment ends (2006).
However, undoubtedly there are some defnitions which play a pri-
mary role, when characterizing what the community media are. In
the European context one should include, in the set of these defni-
tions, frst of all the one from Te Community Radio Charter for Eu-
rope adopted on 18 September 1994 in Ljubljana, Slovenia at the frst
AMARC Pan-European Conference of Community Radio Broad-
casters. According to this document, community media stations:
1) promote the right to communicate, assist the free fow
of information and opinions, encourage creative expression
and contribute to the democratic process and a pluralist so-
2) provide access to training, production and distribution
facilities; encourage local creative talent and foster local tra-
ditions; and provide programmes for the beneft, entertain-
ment, education and development of their listeners;
3) seek to have their ownership representative of local geo-
graphically recognisable communities or of communities of
common interest;
4) are editorially independent of government, commercial
and religious institutions and political parties in determin-
ing their programme policy;
5) provide a right of access to minority and marginalised
groups and promote and protect cultural and linguistic di-
6) seek to honestly inform their listeners on the basis of in-
formation drawn from a diversity of sources and provide a
right of reply to any person or organisation subject to seri-
ous misrepresentation;
7) are established as organisations which are not run with
a view to proft and ensure their independence by being f-
Media Transformations 83
nanced from a variety of sources;
8) recognize and respect the contribution of volunteers, rec-
ognise the right of paid workers to join trade unions and
provide satisfactory working conditions for both;
9) operate management, programming and employment
practices which oppose discriminations and which are open
and accountable to all supporters, staf and volunteers;
10) foster exchange between community radio broadcasters
using communications to develop greater understanding in
support of peace, tolerance, democracy and development
(AMARC, 1994).
It is worth underlining that the importance and role of community
was noted by the pan-European institutions – frst of all the Europe-
an Parliament, which in 2008 adopted a resolution of the European
“Community Media in Europe” (2008/2011(INI)), preceded by the
report prepared by Peter Lewis Promoting Social Cohesion (2008). In
the resolution, the community media were defned as:
1) non-proft making and independent, not only from na-
tional, but also from local power, engaging primarily in
activities of public and civil society interest, serving clear-
ly defned objectives which always include social value and
contribute to intercultural dialogue;
2) accountable to the community which they seek to serve,
which means that they are to inform the community about
their actions and decisions, to justify them, and to be pe-
nalised in the event of any misconduct, so that the service
remains controlled by the interests of the community and
the creation of ‘top-down’ networks is prevented;
3) open to participation in the creation of content by mem-
bers of the community, who may participate in all aspects
of operation and management, although those in charge of
editorial content must have professional status (European
Parliament, 2008).
Local radio - an endangered species? The polish case
Te Community Media Forum Europe – an organization founded
to strengthen the participation of the “Tird Media Sector” in Euro-
pean discussion – estimates on a global scale that community radio
outnumbers radio stations in the public and the commercial sectors
put together (CMFE, 2012). In plenty of European countries, this
sector can be characterized as very vivid, with such leaders as France
with as many as 600 community broadcasters and Great Britain with
more than 200 such stations. But still in some European countries –
mostly in Eastern Europe (and this is also partly the case in Poland),
the community based media, if it exists at all, are still regarded as part
of the private commercial media sector.
Community radios are mainly small scale, ofen extremely local, sta-
tions. As Donald Browne underlines there is a strong preference for
locally produced and oriented materials among community radio
stations because they believe that it reinforces a ‘sense of community’.
Tey understand it is important from the listeners’ point of view and
make them reliable (Browne, 2012: 161).
Te Australian McNair Ingenuity survey showed that local news an-
nouncers who sound like ordinary people/like one of us, local news,
and local artists as a local voice on the airwaves are very important
reasons why people are listening to community radio (2011: 28).
Tey provide local content not necessarily in the form of a local news
bulletin. News and information are provided within diferent pro-
grammes, as well as through announcements and local music.
Te close relation with the audience is also possible because an
open, participatory character and the relatively small scale of such
media. Members of the community have a chance to participate in
the functioning of the stations in diferent felds: in programming,
management, ownership and funding (Fröhlich, Däschle, Geerts and
Jannusch, 2012: 1). Tanks to such a model of operation, the sta-
tion feels accountable to the community it serves and the other way
around - the community ofen feels responsible for the sustainabili-
ty of such stations without which the life of the community may be
poorer or more complicated.
However, as Guy Starkey suggests, localness in the framework of a
community media sector has its obvious limitations. Te frst one is
the small scale of such radios, which are ofen dedicated to and ac-
Media Transformations 85
cessible by niche audiences. Te other feature of this kind of broad-
casting is the fact that such stations mostly depend on voluntary
work, which may cause the quality of local content broadcast by such
stations to be far from a ‘professional standard’ and lead to a lack of
credibility and the outfow of listeners (Starkey, 2011: 170).
Local broadcasting in Poland dates back to the interwar period
when several regional public radio stations were born. In this period,
also, the Catholic priest Maksymilian Kolbe had attempted to start
a non-public radio station in the monastery in Niepokalanów but
WWII broke the work on this project as well as stopping the func-
tioning of the whole network of local public broadcasting. Te state
controlled Polish Radio Network was quickly rebuilt afer WWII. In
1957, there was also only one legal radio station founded which was
functioning outside the Public Radio structure – it was Rozgłośnia
Harcerska. Tis station belonged to the state controlled scouting or-
ganization. But in general, similar to other countries from the region,
Poland had a state monopoly on broadcasting. Except for some pi-
rate radio broadcasts, prepared by the opposition to the government
Radio Solidarity, Polish society had to wait till the breakthrough year
1989 for non-public radio stations on the airways in diferent parts
of Poland. Afer 1989, not only nationwide private broadcasters but
also plenty of independent local radio stations were created. Because
there was no legal framework for such broadcasting, they broadcast
illegally, ofen jamming each other. Tey were created mostly as bot-
tom up initiatives by local enthusiasts and activists. Te situation
changed in 1992, when the Broadcasting Act was passed by the Pol-
ish Parliament. Tis Act ofcially abolished the state monopoly on
broadcasting. Many local radios were given a chance to legalize their
Te great majority of broadcasters have local licences in Poland. Ac-
cording to the National Broadcasting Council, there are more than
284 licensed local radio broadcasters and this number is still grow-
ing. However, it does not mean they all play roles typical of local ra-
dio. Similarly to other countries, the networking process has its neg-
ative impact on this sector. According to the National Broadcasting
Council (Krajowa Rada Radiofonii i Telewizji), in 1997 there were
Local radio - an endangered species? The polish case
140 independent local commercial radio stations on the air while in
2010 - only 53 such broadcasters.
A great majority of local radio stations are members of one of the
big radio networks like RMF MAXX, Złote Przeboje, Plus, or Eska.
Tey play a dominant role in the radio market, not only when we are
talking about the number of stations but also their incomes. Howev-
er, when it comes to local independent radio stations, the situation
is becoming more and more stable. Te number of independent ra-
dio stations in Poland has not decreased in the last few years. Afer
several years when these stations reported a loss, most of them have
become proftable (National Broadcasting Council Annual Report
Te existing local independent broadcasters are a mainstay of cre-
ativity and local content on the Polish airwaves. As the report pre-
pared by the National Broadcasting Council 2012 entitled Te Per-
centage Of Local Content In Licensed Local Radio Stations On Te
Basis Of Research Conducted In Years 2009-2011 showed, the pro-
grammes broadcast by independent local radio stations in Poland are
signifcantly more diverse, with local content broadcast during the
whole day with almost no repetitions. Local networked broadcasters,
controlled by big media groups, provide localness in a very tricky
way: almost half of the local content is repeated and broadcast out-
side prime time when very few people listen to those stations (such
as very early in the morning or at weekends).
Te number of independent broadcasters is small and it is close to
impossible for a group of local enthusiasts to start a new local ra-
dio station, mostly because of signifcant fnancial barriers and lack
of free frequencies. Te answer to the question how to increase the
sum of localness and prevent the localness from disappearing may, to
some extent, be found in the development of the community broad-
caster sector and the protection of local public broadcasters.
One can ask the question: If, in Polish conditions, the regional public
radio broadcasting is currently, and can be in the future, an efective
means of maintaining pluralism and cultural diversity of the socie-
ty, then how should it be organized for these goals to be achieved.
Media Transformations 87
Te situation of Regional Broadcasting Stations of the Polish Radio
should be considered in the context of the general situation of the
whole system of public radio broadcasting.
Te new legal situation in which public radio broadcasting found it-
self afer the enactment of the Law about RTV of 29 December 1992,
meaning obtaining the full fnancial, organisational and program in-
dependence by the Polish Radio and Regional Broadcasting Stations,
made maintaining the integrity of the public radio broadcasting a
foreground issue. In Poland, there are 17 regional broadcasting sta-
tions, creating the companies of the State Treasury, which broadcast
17 round-the-clock programmes in the areas of their operation,
while 5 companies broadcast urban programmes in Wroclaw, Zielo-
na Gora and Gorzow, in Koszalin and Poznan.
Regional public radio stations broadcast a lot of ‘spoken word’ pro-
grammes - an average of 41% of the annual programme. More than
half of the ‘spoken word’ comprises local content. 11 of 17 regional
stations broadcast special programmes for national and ethnic mi-
norities as well as people using regional languages (National Broad-
casting Council, 2013).
Currently, although in a form far from a desired condition, Polish
Radio is cooperating with Regional Broadcasting Stations in the
programme sphere; however, the development of this cooperation is
counteracted by local ambitions, institutional and personal interests.
Te valid law on radio and television broadcasting does not contain
any duties, consisting of the cooperation of the companies of public
radio or rules creating relations of dependency between particular
What is more, the law brought about a phenomenon unpredicted by
the legislation: Polish Radio SA and Regional Broadcasting Stations
found themselves in the situation of rivals on the market, if we ac-
cept the term of a rival, introduced by the amendment to the Law
on the Counteraction to Monopolist Practices of 24 February 1990
(Parliament of the Republic of Poland, 1990). Te rivalry takes place
in three dimensions: on the radio market for the listener, on the radio
commercials and in the eforts for the participation in the licence
Local radio - an endangered species? The polish case
Here also the valid Law on Radio and Television Broadcasting (Par-
liament of the Republic of Poland, 1992) neither contains norms of
rivalry between the companies on the radio market and commercial
market, nor does it specify the character of the resolution on the
division of licence fee incomes.
Tis merely indicates the dysfunctionality of the existing system of
public radio broadcasting. If we add the necessity to maintain the
excessively expanded authority bodies within companies, as well as
creating, in particular, the companies’ investment and disintegrated
technological platforms inadequate to the needs, established by the
“Law on Radio and Television Broadcasting” of 1992, the system of
public radio broadcasting should be evaluated as very expensive, not
using, as it happens in the private sector, possibilities which are cre-
ated by consolidation, efect of synergy and economy of scale.
Any new locations of the previous Regional Broadcasting Stations
cannot, however, mean the loss of the values which were brought by
the Regional Broadcasting Stations working for 20 years in the new
organisational shape, promoting regionalism and locality as the pe-
culiar type of social capital of regional broadcasting stations.
Te fundamental question today, in reference to regional radio, is in
what way the system of regional public broadcasters should be built
in the decentralised country, and how to make them become the real
media for promoting and developing the local and regional identity.
If we move this concept to the area of contemporary media, aspir-
ing to the creation of a technological and program network with-
in one organisation which would be cheaper and more efective in
management, the experiences of the German ARD can be an in-
spiration. Although it was created in the federalist political system
which favoured diversity of the media, when it was brought to life as
a network, it meant to consist of state-independent self-government
regional stations. Public RTV stations were created by decisions of
lands, because the issues of the media belonged to their competence.
At the same time, ARD, as the Community of Public Radio and Tel-
evision Institutions, was created based on decisions of the national
broadcasting stations about mutual co-operation, which was to de-
crease the costs of operation, preparation of programmes and their
Media Transformations 89
Unfortunately, in Poland there is no fully recognized non-commercial
sector which could be a real supplement to commercial local broad-
casting. Admittedly, in 2001 a new category of broadcast media was
introduced - ‘social broadcaster’. However, this regulation provided
an opportunity of development in the third sector only in theory. In
practice, only religious radio stations happened to be benefciaries of
these regulations. In 2012, there were only eight social broadcasters
and all of them were related to the Church. Despite a legal opportu-
nity to join this sector no other entity is interested in doing so. Te
main reason is the fact that such stations are totally excluded from
the advertising market. Tere are also no other sources of fnancial
support for such initiatives indicated by the law. It occurred that the
exemption from the licence fee is not a sufciently important im-
pulse to make the appearance of more broadcasters within this legal
framework possible. Many broadcasters with a noticeable non-com-
mercial trait decided to exist within the commercial sector. Tese are
stations like: student, local government, NGOs and religious radio
stations, without the ‘social broadcaster’ status. However, they fulfl
at least some of the community media goals.
Te fact that the regulation concerning ‘social broadcasters’ does not
really support development of this sector of the media was noticed
by the regulator which, in 2012, announced public consultations on
broadcasting related issues, including a ‘social broadcaster’ status.
It declared it was interested in changing the situation and creating
a better environment for community broadcasting and flling a gap
between the public and commercial sector. Tis general idea was also
supported by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in the
letter which was sent by Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski as a reply to the
public consultations. Te National Broadcasting Council suggested
that, to achieve this goal, the necessary changes include: expanding
the number of entities which are allowed to apply for such a status;
reducing fees for such broadcasters; access to advertising with some
limitations; concrete programme restrictions and non-proft nature
of such initiatives. All these issues became a subject of discussion
during public consultations (National Broadcasting Council, 2012a).
Local radio - an endangered species? The polish case
Te call for social feedback received a signifcant response – 503 let-
ters were sent by political parties, local broadcasters, social broad-
casters, NGOs, individuals and one academic, however 477 respons-
es had the same content. What is interesting is that these public
consultations about the third sector of broadcasting coincided with
a similar discussion in the Czech Republic. Te Council for Ra-
dio and Television Broadcasting, the Czech regulatory body in the
broadcasting feld, opened a public debate on Community Media by
commissioning a report indicating some pathways for introducing
a non-commercial media sector in the Czech Republic, where now
only two broadcasting sectors are recognized: public and commer-
cial (RRTV, 2012).
Te Polish consultations showed how much the general concept of
community broadcasting is misunderstood in the Polish society and
how ofen it is confused with only religious broadcasting. 477 iden-
tical letters, which were sent to this part of the public consultations,
raised the problem of the presence of Telewizja Trwam – a non-com-
mercial, religious, nationwide TV station on the digital multiplex,
which had little in common with the main subject of the consulta-
tions. What is more, the authors of this letter postulated including
not only community, but also religious education content, as a neces-
sary element of this kind of broadcasting. In some responses, a strik-
ing opposition between social broadcasters and local broadcasters
was created, for example in the one sent by Polska Izba Komunikacji
Elektronicznej and supported by the participants of the First Forum
of the Local TV Broadcasters, which took place in Jachranka from
21-22 May 2012, and in the letter written by a journalist from the
local TV station Gostynin.
Te authors of those letters suggested that many local broadcasters
were small, not proftable, serve local communities and bring them
a social gain. Tey suggested that they might fnd themselves in a
very bad situation, when more support would be ofered to the ‘social
broadcasting’ sector whereas in the authors’ opinion, such stations
were perfect candidates to join this sector and take advantage of this
Te consultations also showed that for some people in Poland, local-
ity in broadcasting is an important and - in the perception of people
Media Transformations 91
taking part in these consultations - endangered issue. Marcin Stel-
maszyński, who plans to open a local station, explains in his letter the
reasons why he decided to take part in these consultations:
I would like to support locality. Unfortunately, today in the
existing legal reality it is impossible. I hope that it is possible
to work out such a model of social broadcasting which will
keep the big commercial radio stations away from taking
advantage of this regulation (2012).
However, putting small scale local broadcasting into the framework
of the ‘social broadcaster’ status may prove, in Poland, somehow dif-
fcult. It must to be said that some of the existing social broadcast-
ers have strong transmitters and wide coverage. One of them, Radio
Maryja, is a nation-wide broadcaster. It will be difcult to change the
broadcasting rules for present broadcasters. Tat is why the postu-
late to create another category for community broadcasting is worth
taking into consideration. In some letters, one can fnd a suggestion
that there is an urgent need to introduce special regulations for ‘local
broadcasting’ itself.
It is also worth mentioning that the World Association of Communi-
ty Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) answered the public consultations
about the ‘social broadcaster’ status in Poland. Tey sent very inter-
esting recommendations based on some ‘best practices’ and regulato-
ry models already existing in Europe and recommendations formu-
lated in documents about community media broadcasting prepared
by the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and UNESCO.
Te summary of these consultations, prepared by Krajowa Rada Ra-
diofonii i Telewizji, suggested that the most important postulates for
the development of community broadcasting were identifed as: the
need to broaden the catalogue of entities entitled to apply for such a
status, exemptions from fees for the licence and for the frequency, re-
liefs for copyright fees, special programme requirements, including
those aimed at local community needs, limitations in advertising, as
well as a requirement for participation of the society in the function-
ing of those stations and the transparent character of their activity
(National Broadcasting Council, 2012b).
Local radio - an endangered species? The polish case
However, one of important elements is missing in this summary.
Apart from some exemptions from fees there is no other public sup-
port mentioned. No suggestions included in letters sent by AMARC
and academics and supported by NGOs involved in broadcasting,
like splitting public service broadcasting licence fees, splitting private
broadcasters’ advertising revenue or creating a public fund, were tak-
en into account. It is important, because in most countries with an
established community radio sector such support is provided.
As underlined by Henry Loeser, recognition is the natural frst step
in the ultimate establishment of a vibrant community media sector
(Loeser, 2012). A good example showing how important the legal
framework is for community media development is Great Britain,
where special regulations concerning community broadcasting were
implemented in 2004 by Community Radio Order. In 2009 the Brit-
ish regulator in the broadcasting market Ofce of Communications
(OFCOM) reported that the number of community broadcasters ex-
ceeded 130 (OFCOM, 2009). In 2011 there were 231 such stations
(OFCOM, 2011). Now, Great Britain is one of the European leaders
when it comes to community broadcasting. It is worth stressing that
public consultations announced by the regulator in Poland concern-
ing the third sector of broadcasting, and some recommendations
prepared as the result of this consultation, may be treated as a step
in the right direction. However, the implementation of even a few
of them is questionable, since the regulator in Poland does not have
legislative initiative.
When analysing the situation of local broadcasting in Poland it is
worth highlighting some key factors which characterize the local
radio landscape in Poland. First of all, it must be said that the ra-
dio market as a whole is dominated by big media groups. It is also
the case in local broadcasting. Independent local commercial radio
stations have survived mostly in smaller towns, which are not such
attractive markets for big media concerns.
However, there are some positive signals observed in independent
local commercial broadcasting. Te situation of this kind of station is
more and more stable. Te number of such stations is not falling and
more and more of them are becoming proftable. It may be treated as
Media Transformations 93
a part of a more complex phenomenon. Within Polish society there
is a growing interest in local issues. Despite a decrease in the national
press readership, local and sub-local titles are still popular and some
of them even increased the number of issues sold (Janke, 2012).
For public radio the coming years will be critical, as now the very
expensive transition to new technology must be fnanced. It involves
incurring costs (in the case of radio, lasting longer than for televi-
sion), simulcasting (simultaneous broadcasting in analogue and dig-
ital technology), and also paying the costs of testing new technologies
of transmissions, costs of promoting new platforms, etc. It is known
that these costs will not be incurred by the commercial sector of ra-
dio. All these costs are worth incurring, as it is almost certain that
the public radio will be the main benefciary of radio digitalization.
In this situation, many public radio broadcasters in Europe are look-
ing for new sources of fnancing the costs of digitalization, being cre-
ated both ‘on the side’ of the programme and ‘on the side’ of trans-
mission. Te example of new possibilities of obtaining resources to
fnance digitalization may be a paid service of the radio on demand
in reference to using the archive collections, starting online shop-
ping, and paid sub-castings including specialist contents outside the
routine programme, or using the possibilities which are created by
public and legal partnerships.
Of course, in the crisis observed in Poland concerning fnancing, it
is necessary to create for the public radio broadcasters more legal
possibilities of fnancing other than only the licence fee sources of
fnancing. To the greatest extent, this concerns the Regional Broad-
casting Stations of Polish Radio, as they are 85-90% supported from
the licence fee. In this sphere, a fundamental question in reference to
the regional public radio is how to provide a proper relation between
the scale and costs of its operations and the fnancing possibilities.
Development of the third sector of broadcasting is gaining more
and more recognition. It is proved not only by public consultations
concerning ‘social broadcasting’ status but also by a reference to the
community media as an important element in the fulflment of the
main goals defned in Te Strategy of the Development of the Social
Capital in Poland (Ministry of Culture and Social Heritage, 2012).
Some very promising recommendations on how to change the reg-
Local radio - an endangered species? The polish case
ulations concerning the local and community sector were also in-
cluded in the information about the main problems of radio and
television prepared by the National Broadcasting Council (2013).
However, despite these positive signs, it is worth stressing that there
is a long way to go from including these recommendations in the
documents to implementing them.
It seems that local radio in the commercial, community and public
form may be endangered without support. As Guy Starkey rightly
While radio’s future may well be bright, preserving and stim-
ulating localness may ultimately depend entirely on the will
of legislators and regulators to keep it alive, wherever in the
world it may be found. Distinctiveness may cost dispropor-
tionate amounts of money, and the preservation of heritage
– both cultural and radiophonic – may require efort and
expenditure as well as political will. Te big prize remains
the expression and stimulation of cultural diference, yet it
may just slip from our hands. Regulation of both ownership
and content, as well as provision of support funding, may be
essential to stem the tide of local radio going global (2011).
As far as the problem of the local broadcast media preservation is
concerned, there are some documents of note. In 2005 the National
Broadcasting Council drew up a special document Te Strategy of
the National Broadcasting Council for the beneft of the local charac-
ter and the pluralism in the programme ofered. Tere were some key
suggestions formulated as to how to prevent the local content and
independent local broadcasters themselves from disappearing.
In this document, there were also possible ways of supporting local
broadcasters specifed, like defning features and requirements local
programmes must meet, directing local advertisements mainly to
local broadcasters, defning rules connected with creating and func-
tioning of radio networks, including their programme and adver-
tisement activity, reliefs in licence fees, frequency fees, copyrights,
preferences in the selection of frequencies for local broadcasters.
However, most of these postulates have not been put into practice.
Media Transformations 95
As for now, local radio in Poland has to struggle to survive. It is worth
stressing that some needed changes in the legislation of local broad-
casting may and should be supported by the society. Te more active
and visible local broadcasters and local communities, the brighter fu-
ture of local radio will be. Without a bottom up movement for locally
routed, small scale radio, the idea of a local, powerful media in Po-
land, serving the development of democracy, may never be fulflled.
AMARC (1994). Te Community Radio Charter for Europe. Re-
trieved September 12, 2012, from
Anon (2011). McNair Ingenuity Research 2010/2011. Retrieved
March 13, 2013, from
BBC (2013). Public Purposes: Refecting UK Audiences. Retrieved
September 10, 2013, from
Browne, D. (2012). What Is ‘Community’ in Community Radio? A
Consideration of the Meaning, Nature and Importance of a Concept.
In J. Gordon (ed.), Community Radio in the Twenty First Century.
Oxford: Peter Lang Publications, pp. 153–173.
Chignell, H. (2009). Key Concepts in Radio Studies. London, Tou-
sand Oaks, Calif: SAGE.
Community Media Forum Europe (2012). Community Radio/Tele-
vision Stations in Europe - January 2012. Retrieved January 9, 2013,
EmWdGNi RFhqRnJ a a 2c 3NXRhNXpSZUhkQmc &s i n-
Council of Europe (2007). Freedom of Expression in Europe. Case-
Law Concerning Article 10 of the European Convention on Human
Rights. Strasbourg: Council of Europe Publishing.
European Parliament (2008). Resolution of 25 of September of
2008 of the European Parliament on Community Media in Eu-
Local radio - an endangered species? The polish case
rope (2008/2011(INI). Retrieved March 15, 2013, from http://
EU Accession Monitoring Program (2002). Monitoring the EU Acces-
sion Process: Minority Protection. Budapest: Open Society Institute.
Fröhlich, J., Däschle, D., Geerts, A., Jannusch, S. (2012). Community
Participation at Local and Community Radio Stations. An explorative
study in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacifc. Retrieved June
25, 2012, from
Gordon, J. (2006). A Comparison of New British Community Ra-
dio Stations with Established Australian Community Radio Stations.
3CMedia. Journal of Community, Citizen’s and Tird Sector Media
and Communication, Vol. 2. Retrieved September 10, 2013, from
Husband Ch., Chouhan, J. (1985). Local Radio in the Communi-
cation Environment of Ethnic Minorities. In T. A. van Dijk (ed.),
Discourse and Communication: New Approaches to the Analysis of
Mass Media Discourse and Communication. Walter de Gruyter, pp.
Hendy, D. (2000). Radio in the Global Age. Cambridge, UK, Malden:
Polity Press; Blackwell Publishers.
Janke, I. (2012). Potęga prasy powiatowej. Rzeczpospolita, Plus Minus
9, 14–15.
Kuhn, R. (1995). Te Media in France. London: Routledge.
Lewis, P. M. and J. Booth (1989). Te Invisible Medium. Public, Com-
mercial, and Community Radio. Washington: Howard University
Lewis P. (2008). Promoting a Social Cohesion – the Role of Community
Media. Retrieved September 13, 2012, from
Media Transformations 97
Loeser, H. (2012). Community Radio for the Czech Republic – Who
Cares. Retrieved February 19, 2013, from
Lubelska, K. (2005). Usta milczą, gra muzyka. Polityka, Vol. 41, 66–
Magyar Radio (2013). Magyar Radio. Retrieved August 10,
2013, from
McKinsey & Company (1999). Public Service Broadcasters around
the World. A McKinsey Report for the BBC. Retrieved March 10,
2013, from
Ministry of Culture and Social Heritage (2012). Strategy of the Devel-
opment of the Social Capital in Poland. Retrieved May 12, 2013, from
National Broadcasting Council (2013). Information about Main Prob-
lems of Radio and Television in 2012. Retrieved July 10, 2013, from
National Broadcasting Council (2012a). Konsultacje ws. wybranych
kierunków zmian prawa medialnego. Retrieved August 10, 2013, from,650,zakon-
National Broadcasting Council (2012b). Podsumowanie konsultac-
ji publicznych w sprawie modernizacji prawa medialnego. Retrieved
September 10, 2013, from
National Broadcasting Council (2011). Information about Main
Problems of Radio and Television in 2010. Retrieved September 10,
Local radio - an endangered species? The polish case
2013, from
National Broadcasting Council (2005). Te Strategy of the Nation-
al Broadcasting Council for the Beneft of the Local Character and
the Pluralism in the Programme of Local Broadcast Media. Retrieved
September 9, 2013, from
Ndiaye Ntab, M. (2004). Building Content and Capacity in Communi-
ty Radio. Retrieved March 8, 2013, from
Nordstrom, B. J. (2010). Culture and Customs of Sweden. Santa Bar-
bara: Abc-clio.
OFCOM (2012). Community Radio: Annual Report of the Sector. Re-
trieved April 13, 2013, from
Parliament of the Republic of Poland (1990). Law on the Counterac-
tion to Monopolist Practices. Retrieved March 8, 2013, from http://
Parliament of the Republic of Poland (1992). Law on Radio and Tele-
vision Broadcasting. Retrieved March 8, 2013, from http://www.krrit.
RRTV (2012). Materiály k veřejné diskusi. Retrieved July 8, 2013,
Starkey, G. (2011). Local Radio, Going Global. Basingstoke, Hamp-
shire: New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Stock, U. (2005). Rettet das Radio! Die Zeit, Vol. 9, 17–21.
Vittet-Philippe, P., Crookes, P. (1986). Local Radio and Regional De-
velopment in Europe. Manchester: European Institute for the Media
in association with the European Centre for Political Studies.
Media Transformations 99
The point of no return: Belarusian audience refusal to use Western broadcast media after
exposure to their content eir content
ISSN 2029-865X
Dzmitry YURAN
PhD Candidate, Graduate Teaching Associate
College of Commination and Information
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville, USA
ABSTRACT: Audiences in Belarus, an authoritarian country, are facing the situation
of limited media choices when it comes to socio-economic and political informati-
on, which can slow down the process of democratic transformation. With electronic
media (radio and television) in the country controlled by the state and independent
print media facing numerous impediments from the state, Western media broadcas-
ting in Russian and Belarusian languages (the native languages for the most of the
country’s population) can potentially become a valuable source of socio-economic
and political news. However, these media do not enjoy high popularity. Te purpose
of this research is to explore the nature of relationships between Western broadcast
media and Belarusian audiences. Using the method of long interview, the study lo-
oks at reasons for Belarusian audiences not to return to using Western media once
exposed to their news content. Although the participants were mostly talking about
their criteria for news content, they also mentioned the associations they had with
the outlets themselves. Tat and the context of Belarusian media market made it
possible to infer that issues with the Western media go far beyond their news con-
KEYWORDS: Belarus, Western media, long interview, selective exposure
Media Transformations 101
When present on a media market in an authoritarian regime where
domestic outlets are controlled by the state, foreign media may en-
joy high popularity as a source of alternative news to that provided
by controlled media. Tese outlets can even serve as an engine for
political transformations (Kern, 2011). Audiences in Belarus, an au-
thoritarian country, face the situation of limited media choices when
it comes to socio-economic and political information, which can
slow down the process of democratic transformation. Audiences for
foreign broadcast media in Belarus are limited (Manaev, 2009). De-
spite the fact that the media market inside the country is strictly con-
trolled (Manayeva, Aniskevich and Dinerstein, 2011) and alternative
media broadcasting in Belarusian and Russian languages are present
in the market, their audiences seem unreasonably small (Yuran and
Manayeva, 2012). It is important to understand the underlying pro-
cesses that drive audiences’ media preferences in a situation of limit-
ed choices. By exploring the reasons for Belarusian audiences not to
return to the use of foreign broadcast media afer being exposed to it,
this study is set to start understanding such processes.
In a given country, various factors (e.g., cultural characteristics of
the audience) can afect interactions of the foreign media and efec-
tiveness of such interactions with a specifc audiences (Leonard, Van
Scotter and Pakdil, 2009). Manaev (2009) has attempted to describe
the audience for Western media in Belarus, including their values,
attitudes, and beliefs, based on data from public opinion polls in the
country. He demonstrated that Western and Russian media in the
country promoted diferent values while consolidating and express-
ing opinions and ideas of their audiences, who difered in their at-
titudes toward democracy as well as their position on the country’s
geopolitical course. Yuran and Manayeva (2012) set out to further
develop the topic by looking at public opinion data on media use
and news content of the Belarusian Service of Radio Liberty. Con-
tent analysis of the news published on the radio station’s website and
analysis of public opinion data (news consumption, political views)
revealed a discrepancy in content provided and the views of audienc-
es. While the analysed news content seemed mostly imbalanced and
skewed toward supporting opposition, the audience of the Western
broadcast media did not appear to difer signifcantly from the rest of
102 Dzmitry YURAN
The point of no return: Belarusian audience refusal to use Western broadcast media after
exposure to their content eir content
population in terms of their views of the regime. Tese fndings did
not support the idea of Western media consolidating and express-
ing opinions of their audience. Both studies did not provide enough
evidence to link sociological characteristics of Belarusian audiences
directly to media use. Even though some research tried to explain
the role and infuence of foreign media in post-Soviet countries, and
Belarus in particular, no attempts were made to approach the topic
from the audience’s perspective. Literature is lacking explanation of
audiences’ reasoning for foreign media use (or refusal to use such
media). Tis research is set to start flling this gap by shedding light
on the issue of users’ refusal to continue using foreign broadcast me-
dia in Belarus once exposed to their content.
Te Republic of Belarus attained independence in 1991. Elected as
the country’s frst president in 1994, Alexander Lukashenko, self-per-
petuating ruler of the young state, has turned it into “an example of a
‘façade regime’ in which democratic ‘scafolding’ conceals a dictatori-
al style of polity building” (Korosteleva, Lawson and Marsh, 2003: 5).
According to Freedom House’s report Nations in Transit 2010, “He
restored Soviet-era symbols, reduced the Parliament and judiciary to
rubber-stamp bodies, abandoned term limits for the presidency, and
took control over local administrations and security forces. President
also curbed media freedom, suppressed political op-
position, and reasserted state control over the economy” (Freedom
House, 2011). Freedom House (2011b), Reporters Without Borders
(2011), IREX (2011), and other organizations characterize the media
system in Belarus as unstable and not free. Both non-proft organiza-
tions and scholars (Korosteleva, Lawson and Marsh, 2003) speak of a
retreat to authoritarianism in the country that could be observed in
the example of the Belarusian media system.
Despite a signifcant number of formally independent media outlets
in Belarus (according to ofcial data, as of December 2011, out of
1,394 print media registered in the country, 988 were not owned by
the state, out of 243 electronic media, 73 were privately owned (Min-
istry of Information of the Republic of Belarus, 2011)) “there aren’t
more than 30 registered non-state socio-political media in Belarus
nowadays” (Belarusian Association of Journalists, 2011: 4). Tose
Two diferent spell-
ings of president
Lukashenko’s last
name come from
the two ofcial in
Belarus languages,
Russian (Lukashen-
ko) and Belarusian
While ofcial press
releases, issued
by the president’s
admiration, use the
the Belarussian
spelling would
regularly show up in
publications and in
a number of reports.
Media Transformations 103
few independent print media outlets that cover socio-political issues
could not successfully compete with state-run newspapers for audi-
ences due to various tactics (control over infrastructure, state subsi-
dies to state-run media, constantly changing media law, and other
ways to victimize independent media, to name a few) (Manayeva,
Aniskevich and Dinerstaein, 2011) used by the state to control free-
dom of the press. As an illustration, Sovetskaya Belorussia (Soviet
Belarus), the largest state-run newspaper, has a weekly circulation
of approximately 2,000,000 (Manaev, Manayeva and Yuran, 2009),
while Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will), the most popular independ-
ent newspaper, circulates 23,000 copies a week (Kirchick, 2011).
As the Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press 2010 report stated,
state-run media maintain a virtual monopoly on the national mar-
ket. With the majority of ofcially registered electronic media in the
Republic of Belarus belonging to the state (170 out of 243), and in-
dependent (or not owned by the state) TV and radio channels being
“fully controlled by the local and national governmental authorities,
due to the existing system of broadcast licensing in Belarus” (Bela-
rusian Association of Journalists, 2011, p. 4), and print media being
constantly silenced, harassed, and oppressed, access to alternative in-
formation on socio-political and economic issues looks grim.
In this situation, the availability of Western media outlets ofering
alternative information seems crucial for the public. As Kirchick
(2011) stated, while the state-controlled media remain a tool of po-
litical propaganda, and the independent voices inside the country are
silenced, part of the Belarusian public is turning to foreign broad-
casting outlets (such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Belaru-
sian Service or the Polish-sponsored Belsat television) as the alter-
native sources of information. Te question remains, however, as to
why these foreign media are not really a viable alternative source of
information. Why are these media not as popular as they could be
in a situation of limited choice? How do their potential audiences
perceive these media, and why do these perceptions prevent the for-
eign media from becoming a viable alternative source of information
used on a regular basis? All these questions could not be answered
in a single study. However, this research can lay a foundation for fur-
ther exploration of the topic; it can provide a frst insight on the us-
ers’ view of the issue but looking into reasons why media consumers
104 Dzmitry YURAN
The point of no return: Belarusian audience refusal to use Western broadcast media after
exposure to their content eir content
choose not to continue to use foreign broadcast media in Belarus
once exposed to their content.
To explore the abovementioned area, the research utilized the method
of long qualitative interviews. Te method allows for direct inquiry
into the ways respondents see and experience the world (McCrack-
en, 1988). Such an approach provides for a better understanding of
media consumers’ reasoning in their choice of news sources.
Participants for the research were selected using the snowball sam-
pling technique, “a technique for fnding research subjects. One sub-
ject gives the researcher the name of another subject, who in turn
provides the name of a third, and so on” (Vogt, 1999: 268). Such an
approach made it possible to identify potential participants overseas
without being actually present there. Screening interviews with the
recommended interviewees were then conducted via Voice over IP
services (Skype and Google Talk). Conversations with participants
who had experience with Western media broadcasting for Belarus
and with an online presence in Russian and Belarusian languages,
but did not choose to use these outlets on a regular basis were con-
ducted via Skype and recorded in mp3
format using the “Skype re-
corder” sofware. Files were saved on a password-protected portable
drive, which was stored in the researcher’s ofce when not in use.
Later, interviews were fully transcribed and analysed.
Four participants, whose identities are not to be revealed in this pa-
per, provided information for the analysis: three male participants
and a female participant, all living in the Republic of Belarus, all with
at least a bachelor’s degree, and all employed when the interviews
were conducted. As public opinion data in Belarus demonstrated,
audiences of the Russian- and Belarusian-language Western news
outlets (radio stations, in particular) were more educated than peo-
ple who did not consume such media products
(Yuran and Manaye-
va, 2012). Tese participants are likely audiences of the Western me-
dia and thus their reasoning for not using the media on regular basis
could be of special interest.
Participant A, one of the two participants the snowball started with,
is a male in his mid-20s, a native Belarusian, and fuent in 4 lan-
Even though,
interviews were
conducted using
video conference
capabilities of Skype,
when the Internet
connection on
both ends allowed
to, only audio data
were recorded for
further analysis.
For this study, facial
expressions and
other visual data
were not considered
as a valuable enough
source of informa-
tion on audience’s
preferences in
news sources and
reasoning not to
use Western media
55.1 percent with
higher or special
secondary education
among the listeners
vs. 41.8 percent of
Media Transformations 105
guages with basic knowledge of two more. He has a bachelor’s and
a master’s degree in social sciences and is interested in politics. Par-
ticipant B, the other “snowball starter” has a bachelor’s degree in the
hard sciences and works as an IT specialist in the banking industry.
Participant C, a male in his early to mid-20s, has a bachelor’s degree
in the hard sciences and works as a programmer for an IT company.
Participant D, a female in her mid-50s, has a master’s degree in the
social sciences; she is working on her PhD while teaching at a uni-
versity, doing consulting, being involved in social work, and rearing
Interviews were conducted in Russian, the participants’ native lan-
guage. None of the interviews used for the analysis were conducted
in Belarusian (the other ofcial language of the country) or other
languages. Conversations were transcribed in Russian. Most of the
transcriptions were not fully translated into English, but rather
quotes selected for illustrations. Te interview guide (see Appendix
A) prepared for the research was not strictly followed but used as
a general guideline. Interviews started with general questions about
participants’ daily routines and time management in order to assess
the background. Tese inquiries were followed by broad media use
questions that lead to the topic of the study, for example “How big of
a place does media take in your life?” From general questions about
participants’ background to their media consumption habits, to their
experiences with foreign (and Western, in particular) media, to de-
tailed discussions of reasons not to use Western media on regular
basis, the funnel design (Hesse-Biber and Leavy, 2008) was adopted
for the interview guide in order to broaden the scope of conversa-
tions and detect potentially valuable points for discussion. Partici-
pants lead conversations; following questions were mostly based on
previous responses, recouping facts mentioned and employing the
language used by the participants.
Before getting to the research question, it makes sense to discuss
some fndings that contribute to the understanding of the broader
context in which participants refuse to consume Western socio-po-
litical and economic news product on a regular basis. Te analysis
revealed several commonalities as well as diferences in the ways par-
106 Dzmitry YURAN
The point of no return: Belarusian audience refusal to use Western broadcast media after
exposure to their content eir content
ticipants consume news product.
All four participants followed the news, all four had their media out-
let preferences, and those preferences were similar for all of them.
Tis phenomenon might be rooted in the sampling technique used
in this study – early participants were suggesting their acquaintances
as potential interviewees. Te suggested acquaintances were likely to
share some views and habits with the original participants who rec-
ommended them (Lazer et al., 2010). However, some other mecha-
nisms may be at play in this situation. Tat is potentially a subject for
another study. Crucial for the topic of this research was the homoge-
neity in technology and source preferences among the participants.
For example, Participant D, when asked, how much time in her busy
schedule she devoted to media, replied:
(…) I don’t read newspapers; don’t watch the TV for, per-
haps, fve years or so. Rarely, I would listen to the radio in
my car, but only music though. I look at news on the Inter-
net – using news websites or following my friends’ recom-
mendations – the links they share. I also receive a newsletter
from [the] embassy, which aggregates references to the Re-
public of Belarus in media. If a title interests me I ask them
to send me the full article. Well, that’s about it.
Respondent C said, that the Internet was the main source of informa-
tion for him as well. Respondent A had the same idea: “As a matter
of principle, I do not watch television, don’t listen to radio – I get
everything primarily via Internet”.
Similarly, Respondent B used Internet resources exclusively to get his
daily news: “I don’t read newspapers, don’t watch the TV, don’t listen
to the radio. Everything is quite simple”. However, when it comes to
the “simplicity” part of it, reasons for the respondents to use the In-
ternet as the main news source are not entirely identical. Motivations
to use Internet could be categorized as following: convenience of ac-
cess/ftting busy schedules, choices of sources ofered by the medi-
um, and control over content/personalization of news. Te frst two
were present in all four responses, whereas the last theme was unique
for Respondent’s B views:
Media Transformations 107
Let’s say, on TV or on the radio, information is presented
in such a way that you can’t speed nor can you slow it down
in order to get to understand it better. In other words, it is
delivered in real time, but it is not what I really want to say.
In general, there is fowing sound or picture that you can’t
control. When you read the news online, however, you can
do it at your own pace. You can, for example, re-read some
information; you can just glance over an article, realize that
it doesn’t really interest you, and just close the page. In other
words, the freedom of perception is diferent.
All four participants noted convenience of web resources. Respond-
ent A says about it: “Mainly I use Internet [for news], of course. It is
convenient for me, because I always go there [online] at work. My
job is basically working on a computer all the time. (…) I do many
things online and, at the same time, I can glance over some news
portals, or simply search for some interesting information”. For him,
it was “obvious,” that the Internet was the main source of news, as it
was for Respondent B: “I am quite an active Internet user. It doesn’t
even come to my mind - to read newspapers (…) I read news mainly
at work. Say, my work day starts, and before I start working, I look
through news”. In their busy schedules participants of this study try
to make time for news. It is convenient to go over main events at work
before attending to job related activities. As Participant C noted: “I
read news in ofce, usually; about half an hour or so before work”. In
a situation of limited media choices, Internet provides virtually lim-
itless potential as a communication channel. Western media do have
a presence on the Web and are easily accessible. In this situation,
the fact that users refuse to come back afer accessing the sources
could not be explained by the eforts on the regime’s side to control
the channel. Participants are active Internet users for whom gaining
access to Western media is not a problematic task. As it becomes
more obvious later in the analysis, media/audience relationships in
this case do not directly involve the regime.
Besides being at hand and ftting busy schedules, the Web ofers a
variety of news channels: news portals, social networks, email and
chat (to share links to news), blogs and subscriptions. All four partic-
ipants actively use most of the opportunities to get information; they
don’t limit themselves to a few sources. In all that variety, however,
108 Dzmitry YURAN
The point of no return: Belarusian audience refusal to use Western broadcast media after
exposure to their content eir content
they do have their favourite news channels. Tey all named,
a Belarusian Internet-portal, as their frst choice.
Participant A (when describing news sources he uses regu-
larly): “Periodically, I visit, sometimes I’d look over
western [foreign language] media”.
Participant B: “News sources? Usually, frst of all, I look over”.
Participant D:“ (…) and I load up every day
in any case”.
When describing their motivation for using as their main
news source, among other things, interviewees mentioned objectiv-
ity of its content:
Participant D: “(..) well, it [] is the most extensive
resource. And there was a period when it was the most unbi-
ased one. Tey’d just provide the news instead of comments,
they wouldn’t impose comments (…)”.
Participant A: “(…) [presence of] in-depth [information] is
important as well. But, as a bare minimum, it [news article]
has to be balanced and diversifed in order to interest me in
any way (…)”.
Participant C: “I like neutral [news] materials, with no em-
bellishment, so that I can come to my own conclusions. I
don’t like when someone concludes for me, when someone
tries to force some conclusions on me”.
Unbiased delivery and objectivity were described as the main criteria
for news selection in relation to the content of and as general
standards for quality news. However, a good portion of the news ma-
terials published by the portal is not written by their staf and comes
from various sources, including the Western media under scope of
this study. In this situation, it seems peculiar that in the participants’
view, objectivity was seen as something provided, but seen as
lacking in the Western media broadcasting for Belarus in Russian and
Belarusian. When talking about news content, participants concen-
trated mainly on surveillance motives, while those were not neces-
Media Transformations 109
sarily the main factor in their choices of media. Research within the
uses and gratifcation approach demonstrated that “one and the same
set of media materials is capable of serving a multiplicity of needs
and audience function” (Katz, Blumler and Gurevitch, 1974: 517).
While ofen exposed to the very same content, even via the same
channel (Internet), participants preferred one medium over another.
How much do the concerns of the respondents have to do with the
source’s content and how much of it has to do with the source’s image
and associations? Tis potentially is a topic for another study, but
further analysis may shed some light on the question. Troughout
the interviews it seemed the participants were talking more about
what quality media and media product should be, in their opinion,
and less about the actual news product they consumed.
A larger theme emerged from the analysis of interviews with regard
to negative qualities of Western news product in Russian and Belaru-
sian – “delivery of opinions rather than information”:
Participant B: “I can say to it [a general questions about use
of Western media broadcasting in Russian and Belarusian]
right away, that they are biased”.
Participant D: ”Tey are all biased. I don’t really want to
waste my time searching for a grain of sense in a fow of
biased information”.
Participant C: “Teir news has an embellished character. For
example, Syria (..) – very much one-sided”.
Several more specifc subthemes frame the bias theme in participants’
responses. Te frst concern, expressed by all four participants, had
to deal with Western media imposing their point of view. And this
point of view was not necessarily similar to that of the participants of
this study. In Participant A, such behaviour of these media evoked a
rather emotional response:
Tey always talk about some sanctions; they say that the re-
gime is bad, that there is no freedom, and that everything
here should be changed. Do they ask what Belarusian cit-
izens themselves would want? Do they ask “how to help
YOU”? “Is it going to work for you if we change things this
110 Dzmitry YURAN
The point of no return: Belarusian audience refusal to use Western broadcast media after
exposure to their content eir content
way? Maybe you have some needs?” No, they don’t study
Belarusians. Tey try to bring here what they need and not
what we need.
Participant D has also brought up his characteristic of the Western
media in a quite direct form. She showed it as the main reason not to
consume news product of these media on a regular basis:
Well, they impose their point of view. Te point that our way
of life is wrong (…); that we are all busy with wrong things,
we tolerate things that we shouldn’t be tolerating; that things
here should be done in this particular way. Well, I agree that
things should be done this way. And if I know their position
already, why would I read more? (…) Tey only transmit
one position that serves their interests but not the interests
of my people and my own.
She also expressed another concern, another structural element of
the “bias” theme: “Tey manipulate the facts and fll them up with
negative emotional contents. Why would I need that?” Tus, yet an-
other characteristics of the “one-sidedness” of Western media is their
bias towards negativity. Participant B had an almost identical view of
the issue: “[I don’t like their content] because, well, everything seems
so bad and terrible. You would ofen see distortions [in articles]”. An-
other element of the “bias” theme emerged from the conversation
with Participant A:
Let’s take BBC, a very good example. So, they have both
Russian and English versions. And all the events are pre-
sented a little diferently, the news are diferent for diferent
languages. (…) I ofen don’t understand, why is there is one
thing written here and another thing written there.
Tus, the issue with the outlets that have special services in the coun-
try’s native languages is that the news content in those sections is
special as well. Usual media practice – to adapt their product for the
audiences – becomes an issue for participant A. Tere could be more
to it than just the content that participants criticized so extensively.
Tey all admitted that their exposure to this content was not lengthy,
however, a brief acquaintance with it was enough for them to form
an opinion of the Western media. It could be that they have had a
Media Transformations 111
predisposed view of the outlets before exposing themselves to their
content and that had a signifcant impact on their attitudes toward
the news product of these outlets.
Besides the issues with the news content of the Western media, anal-
ysis revealed problems that participants had with news outlets as a
whole. Te theme of negative image of the Western media broad-
casting for Belarus in Russian and Belarusian consists of several ele-
ments. Participant A had voiced the frst concern:
I don’t even know what I mean when saying “them” [about
people presented as expert by the Western media]. In gen-
eral, there were mostly near-oppositional activists, so to
speak. (…) Participants of those shows were only talking
about how bad everything was, and that everything had to
be changed. Here is all their approach”.
Participant A, as well as the rest, saw a clear association of the West-
ern media with inactive, non-constructive, and in his view, oppo-
sitional forces. Participant B described this association as a major
factor that made him lose interest in Western news product: “Tey
ofen transmit only one point of view – a radically oppositional one.
Accordingly, it is just a radical point of view, and ofen things like
that are not interesting for me”.
Mechanisms described by selective exposure scholars come into play
here. Back in 1960, Klapper noted that “the tendency of people to ex-
pose themselves to mass communications in accord with their exist-
ing opinions and interests and to avoid unsympathetic material, has
been widely demonstrated” (Klapper, 1960: 19–20). Later research
in the area showed that people’s political beliefs are related to their
exposure to media (Stroud, 2008). However, political beliefs alone
could not entirely explain people’s choice of media. It is obvious that
other factors are at play here. In the case of the participants of this
study, we can see an interrelationship of at least three elements. On
one side we have the audience’s views and beliefs (political in this
case); on another side is media content that has to relate to these
beliefs and views in order to attract their attention; however, but not
the least, element is the image of the media itself in the eyes of the au-
dience. “Appearance” of the messenger plays a very important role in
how the message is perceived; it could have a very signifcant impact
112 Dzmitry YURAN
The point of no return: Belarusian audience refusal to use Western broadcast media after
exposure to their content eir content
on a person’s choice to expose or not to expose oneself to the content
at all. All three elements need to be studied to draw a fuller picture of
the relationships between Belarusian audiences and Western media.
Other players (opinion leaders, political forces inside and outside the
country, competing media, etc.) could be reviled in the process of re-
search, and their impact will have to be studied as well. At this point,
it is obvious that it was not simply incompatibility of the Western
media content with the participants’ criteria that drove them away.
Another theme, the theme of insignifcance of the Western media,
could be better described in Participant’s B words:
For me they are just like Belarusian Television [state-run]
but with an opposite sign, plus or minus - it does not matter.
Because, just like there, “everything is bad, everything is ter-
rible”; you see a lot of distortions in their content. And only
one point of view is presented, a very radical point of view.
And that is very uninteresting for me.
Tat illustrates that Participant B did not really see the Western me-
dia as an alternative source of news information. It was all the same
for him. Both Participant B and Participant A explained the fact that
they ofen did not remember sources of “oppositional news” or did
not come back for news to the Western media on a regular basis be-
cause of insignifcance of their content and ideas. Here is how Partic-
ipant A talked about it, when asked if he came across “decent” (in his
words) information in the Western media:
I don’t even remember any more. If I don’t remember, than
there probably was nothing interesting there, because usual-
ly I remember things that are interesting for me. I absolute-
ly can’t remember what they talked about. (…) I can’t even
remember topics of their runners and stories. I am not sure
what it tells [you]. It either was uninteresting, or unimpor-
tant, or insignifcant for me. Again, there were reasons for
not to make account of it, right?
Tese last quotes bring us one step closer to understanding the un-
derlying meaning of users’ refusal to use Western media that broad-
cast in Russian and Belarusian languages on a regular basis. While
talking extensively about the issues they had with the content of the
Media Transformations 113
media, none of the participants had prolonged exposure to the con-
tent. By the end of each conversation, accents shifed toward associ-
ations around the outlets from the content and its quality. Positions
and attitudes of the participants, combined with collective image of
the media “on the other side,” may have formed the perceptions of
the media content. Criteria could have been formulated later to jus-
tify the choices.
Even though specifc reasons not to return to the use of Western me-
dia that broadcast for Belarus (and have presence online) in Rus-
sian and Belarusian slightly difered for the four participants, all the
interviewed people stressed issues with the content of these media
and their obvious association with opposition political forces in the
country. Approving (or not) of ideas and actions of opposition, in-
terviewees did not accept one-sided delivery of news. Tose were
not practical reasons (i.e., accessibility or format preferences) but the
issues with the media and their content that drove the respondents
away. In participants’ words, content and its delivery did not ft their
criteria of quality news. However, it was not clear from the interviews
if the criteria were formulated by the participants to justify their
choice of media or if their choices were actually based on the criteria
they mentioned. Research shows (Knobloch-Westerwick and Meng,
2009) that people who have greater interest in politics are more likely
to expose themselves to information that may contradict their be-
liefs. Loss of interest in politics (expressed by the participants), along
with pre-existing beliefs, preconceived images of the media may all
lessen the importance of the news content itself in selection of media.
Tis research was not designed to answer defnitively why in a situa-
tion of limited media choice Western media in Belarus do not enjoy
high popularity. Its value is in questions raised and new areas for
research pointed out. While demonstrating that the regime’s control
over the media landscape is not the sole reason (it was not mentioned
by participants at all) for the unpopularity of the outlets under study
(which in a situation of limited choices could have enjoyed larger
following), and questioning the dependence of the unpopularity of
these outlets on quality of their content, this research should be con-
sidered a frst step in exploration of the nature of relationships of
114 Dzmitry YURAN
The point of no return: Belarusian audience refusal to use Western broadcast media after
exposure to their content eir content
Belarusian audiences and Western media that broadcast and publish
news in Russian and Belarusian in the country. Analysis of the news
content is necessary to evaluate and explore participants’ claims
about it. It is crucial to include other groups in the study (i.e. people
who consume Western media product on a regular basis, people who
never used it and may or may not still have an opinion about it). Both
qualitative inquiries into deeper meanings of users’ motivations in
their media choices and social scientifc analysis of media content
and public opinion will advance the understanding of the issue.
Multiple limitations of this study may have infuenced the results.
Computer-mediated communication can involve certain issues, such
as distraction caused by technical difculties, availability of distract-
ing materials; limitation by the web-camera visibility and eye contact
can make abstractions look less impolite; sound quality, limitation by
hardware, and speed of Internet connection could have served as an
aggravating factor thus afecting quality of responses. A seven-hour-
time diference and the need to be in front of a computer for the
entire time of interview (which took over an hour and a half in one
case and over an hour in another) could have worked as additional
inconveniencing agents.
Belarusian Association of Journalists (2011). Mass Media in Belarus
Annual Report 2010. Retrieved June 11, 2013, from
Freedom House (2011a). Nations in Transit 2010. Retrieved June 11,
2013, from
Freedom House (2011b). Freedom in the World 2010 Annual Report.
Retrieved June 11, 2013, from
IREX (2011). Media Sustainability Index 2010: Te Development of
Sustainable Independent Media in Europe and Eurasia. Retrieved
June 11, 2013, from
Media Transformations 115
Kern, H. (2011). Foreign Media and Protest Difusion in Authoritar-
ian Regimes: Te Case of the 1989 East German Revolution. Com-
parative Political Studies, Vol. 44, 1179–1205. DOI: http://dx.doi.
Kirchick, J. (2011). Surviving Lukashenko. Index on Censorship, Vol.
40, 101–106. DOI:
Korosteleva, E., Lawson, W., and Marsh, R. (eds.) (2003). Contempo-
rary Belarus: Between Democracy and Dictatorship. New York: Rou-
tledge Curzon.
Hesse-Biber, S., and Leavy, P. (eds.) (2008). Handbook of Emergent
Methods. New York: Guilford Press.
Lazer, D., Rubineau, B., Chetkovich, C., Katz, N., and Neblo, M.
(2010). Te Coevolution of Networks and Political Attitudes. Politi-
cal Communication, Vol. 27, 248–274. DOI:
Leonard, K., Van Scotter, J., and Pakdil, F. (2009). Culture and
Communication: Cultural Variations and Media Efectiveness.
Administration & Society, Vol. 41, 850–877. DOI: http://dx.doi.
Manaev, O. (1991). Te Infuence of Western Radio on the Democ-
ratization of Soviet Youth. Journal of Communication, Vol. 41(2),
72–91. DOI:
Manaev, O. (2009). Belarus on ‘Te Huntington Line’: Te Role of
Media. In M. Dyczok and O. Gaman-Golutvina (eds.), Media, De-
mocracy and Freedom: Te Post-Communist Experience. Bern: Peter
Lang, pp. 129–158.
Manaev, O. (2011). Становление гражданского общества в
независимой Беларуси. Социологические опыты: 2006-2010.
Книга третья. [Emerging of Civil society in Independent Belarus.
Sociological Experiences: 2006-2010] Vol. III. St.-Petersburg: Nevski
Manaev, O., Manayeva, N., and Yuran, D. (2009). Spiral of Silence in
Election Campaigns in Post-Communist Society: A Case of Belarus.
116 Dzmitry YURAN
The point of no return: Belarusian audience refusal to use Western broadcast media after
exposure to their content eir content
International Journal of Market Research, Vol. 52, 319–338.
Manayeva, N., Aniskevich, A., and Dinerstein, A. (2011). Mass Me-
dia under the Eye of Big Brother: Governmental Control over Mass
Media in Belarus. Questions of Journalism, Vol. 54 (3–4), 3–19.
McCracken, G. (1988). Te Long Interview. Newbury Park: Sage.
Klapper, J. (1960). Te Efects of Mass Communication. New York:
Free Press.
Ministry of Information of the Republic of Belarus (2011). Registered
Print Media Outlets. Retrieved June 11, 2013, from http://www.min-
Reporters without Borders (2011). World Press Freedom Index 2010.
Retrieved June 11, 2013, from
Snyder, T. (2003). Te Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine,
Lithuania, Belarus. 1569–1999. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Urban, G. (1997). Radio Free Europe and the Pursuit of Democracy:
My War within the Cold War. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Vogt, W. (1999). Dictionary of Statistics and Methodology: A Nontech-
nical Guide for the Social Sciences. London: Sage.
Yuran, D., and Manayeva, N. (2012). Broadcasting Country to Its Cit-
izens: Belarusian Services of Western Broadcast Media and Belarusian
Audience. Paper presented at the Central and East European Com-
munication and Media Conference, April, Prague, Czech Republic.
Katz, A., Blumler, J., and Gurevitch, M. (1974). Uses and Gratifca-
tions Research. Te Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 4, 509–523. DOI:
Stroud, N. (2008). Media Use and Political Predispositions: Revis-
iting the Concept of Selective Exposure. Political Behavior, Vol. 30,
341–366. DOI:
Knobloch-Westerwick, S., and Meng, J. (2009). Looking the Other
Way: Selective Exposure to Attitude-Consistent and Counterattitu-
Media Transformations 117
dinal Political Information. Communication Research, Vol. 36, 426–
448. DOI:
APPENDIX A. Interview guide
• What is going on in your life at this moment of time?
• What do you do, how do you use your time?
• How big of a place do media take in your life?
• Tell me about media that you usually use?
• What drives your choice of news and media?
• Why is that you chose these criteria (name the criteria, ask
about each, see if they can explain in detail)?
• You think people you know (family, friends, co-workers,
etc.) may have diferent criteria in mind? Why is that those
don’t work for you?
• Tell me about your experience with foreign broadcast media
in Belarus (give examples, see which they used and for how
long, during which period [political activities in the country or
abroad, or special events in their lives]).
• Do you remember when and how you decided to use the
foreign media?
• Can you tell about the frst time you used the media?
• Tell me about your experiences with these (this) media (me-
• Why did you decide they were appealing to you back then?
• Tell me about specifc instances of use of these media?
• Tell about the last time you used the media?
• Why don’t the foreign media don’t ft (do ft) the criteria we dis-
cussed earlier?
• If they do ft your criteria, why then don’t you use these me-
dia anymore?
• What else might you be able to tell me that would help me better
understand you media consumption habits and reasons for you
not to use foreign broadcast media on a regular basis?
Two realities of one revolution: Coverage of mass protests of 2011 in state-run and inde-
pendent Belarusian media
ISSN 2029-865X
Ph.D. Student
Missouri School of Journalism
University of Missouri
Columbia, USA
ABSTRACT: Tis study examines the way the Revolution through Social Networks
(the series of mass protests organized with the help of social media in Belarus in
2011) was covered in Belarusian press. Afer the overview of the news representati-
on and ideology concepts, it looks at the diference in the nature of discourse on the
Revolution through Social Networks in major Belarusian state-run and independent
newspapers. Ten it addresses the question of the diversity of voices presented in the
articles. A total of 72 news stories from four Belarusian newspapers were examined
with the help of discourse analysis methods. Te study revealed that state-run and
independent Belarusian media constructed two distinct realities of the event and
their representations were ofen in contradiction with each other. Te state-run ne-
wspapers covered the event occasionally and explicitly favoured pro-government
perspective. Tey never allowed the participants of the rally to speak on their pages
and represented them as a detached and dangerous group of people. In their articles,
anti-oppositional and anti-revolutionary ideological standpoints were disseminated
and the image of stability in the country was supported. Independent media cove-
red the event more systematically, presented diverse voices, and discussed diferent
aspects of the mass protests. Tey made attempts to evaluate the phenomenon, and
attached to it a signifcant importance. At the same time, the use of the frames of the
authoritarian regime, idealized representation of protesters as well as appealing to
emotions could have infuenced the reporting in the independent media.
KEYWORDS: Belarus, mass media, news representation, ideology, and diversity of
Media Transformations 119
In June 2011, a new phenomenon – Revolution through Social Net-
works (Революция через социальную сеть) – emerged in Belarus
when a series of protests erupted in several big and small cities of the
country. Public discontent with Belarus’ long-time president Alex-
ander Lukashenko was triggered by the economic and political situ-
ation in the country. In early 2011, Belarus faced its worst economic
crisis in the last twenty years. Te Belarusian government and the
president appeared to be under growing domestic and international
pressure because of human rights abuses and economic crisis in this
former Soviet republic (Kramer & Mitchell, 2011). Another reason
for criticism of Lukashenko was a crackdown on opposition party
leaders afer the presidential elections in December 2010, when sev-
eral hundred protesters and journalists, who disputed the legitima-
cy of his re-election, were jailed (Mijuk, 2011). Te purpose of this
discourse analysis is to describe the characteristics of coverage of the
Revolution through Social Networks (RTSN) in Belarusian state-run
and independent media.
Te Revolution through Social Networks started with Russian-lan-
guage social network VKontakte and progressed later on Facebook
and Twitter. Te initiative called for countrywide actions to oust the
president of the country using the Internet as the means of com-
munication in an attempt to replicate the Arab Spring uprisings in
the Middle East (Mijuk, 2011). Starting on June 8, 2011, protesters
began to gather on the main squares and streets in diferent Belaru-
sian cities to participate in silent protests. People did not have any
banners or fags but only clapped hands to express their discontent.
Nonviolent rallies took place every Wednesday from early June to
August 2011. People used social media (VKontakte, Facebook, Twit-
ter) to inform each other about rally locations and strategies, giving
the protests the name Revolution through Social Networks (or Silent
Revolution because of the peaceful and silent nature of the protests).
Police forces reacted by detaining protesters and journalists (BelaP-
AN, 2011). Also, police blocked websites of the initiative and chased
. By the end of July, nearly 2,000 people were detained for
participating in rallies, or passing by or standing near the people
who were clapping; more than 500 received sentences of 5 to 15 days
In 2012, Reporters
without Borders
named Belarus among
other 11 countries in
the list “Enemies of
Internet” for content
fltering, access
restrictions, and track-
ing of cyber-dissidents
(Reporters without
Borders, 2012).
Two realities of one revolution: Coverage of mass protests of 2011 in state-run and inde-
pendent Belarusian media
in jail (Mouzykantskii, 2011). According to the annual report made
by the Belarusian Association of Journalists, more than 95 journalists
were detained during the “silent protests.” Some of them were bat-
tered, and their professional equipment was damaged. Twenty-two
journalists stood trials and 13 of them were sentenced to administra-
tive arrests (BAJ, 2012).
In late July/early August the number of protesters began to decline
and the last rally happened on August 3, 2011. Te next attempt to
unite the people was in September/October 2011, but it was not suc-
According to Jarolimek (2009), the main shortcoming in the research
on the mass media transformation in Central and Eastern Europe in
recent years is the lack of published in-depth studies of media cover-
age. With the existing restrictions on academic freedom in Belarus,
especially in the felds that involve inquiries that could challenge the
dominant ideology (Shaton, 2009), the study of content of the Be-
larusian mass media is particularly important as it helps to better
understand the way mass media function in this country today.
Analysis of the Revolution through Social Networks coverage in
Belarusian media calls for attention due to several factors. First, the
phenomenon of the Revolution through Social Networks was nota-
ble and unique for Belarus because the protests “created a precedent
for the efective use of social media for communication” (Manaev,
Manaeva, Yuran, 2011: 108). Tis uniqueness, along with the num-
ber of the participants, was the reason for intense discussion of the
event both by authorities and mass media. Second, with the increas-
ing gap in the way the news is covered in state and independent Be-
larusian newspapers (Jarolimek, 2009), analysis of discourse on the
Revolution through Social Networks will help to understand what
ideological standpoints journalists and news outlets developed to-
wards the rallies and protesters and how they difer. Concepts of
news representation and ideology will help to identify these difer-
ences and understand how the specifc ways of seeing the reality are
constructed and justifed by state-run and independent Belarusian
mass media. Also, analysis of the sources used by journalists of state-
run and independent newspapers will help to evaluate coverage of
the event in terms of the diversity of voices presented in news stories
Media Transformations 121
and see how newspapers fulfl their role of presenting diferent views
and opinions on the matter.
Te theoretical framework of analysis includes an overview of the
concepts of news representation and ideology that helps to under-
stand the diference in the nature of discourse and diversity of voices
presented in media reporting. Representation is broadly defned as
“a set of processes by which signifying practices appear to stand for
or depict another object or practice in the ‘real’ world” (Barker, 2004:
177). Several theoretical traditions, such as semiotics, structuralism
and post-structuralism elaborated on the idea of representation as
the cultural construction of reality (Orgad, 2012). Mass media play
an important role in the process of selection the ways of seeing and
excluding other ways of seeing in news representation. Frames and
angles, as well as use of language, structure and hierarchy, are impor-
tant aspects in portraying an event or practice by the mass media. In
this process, the mass media play a signifcant role in communicat-
ing and reinforcing ideologies as a “naturalized, a taken for granted,
common-sense view about the way the world works” (O’Shaughnessy
& Stadler, 2008: 176). In this regard, cultural studies speak about “a
‘politics of representation’” (Barker, 2004: 177).
O’Shaughnessy and Stadler (2008) suggest that ideological meanings
in news texts can be identifed by looking at the values, beliefs, and
feelings that help to make sense of the world. Ideology is also defned
as an overarching aspect of the text that is embedded in all elements
and characteristics of the text, such as actors, language, rhetoric, and
discursive strategies (Carvalho, 2008).
According to the Marxist paradigm, ideology is linked to the ruling
class and is the part of the superstructure regulated by the economic
base (Shoemaker & Reese, 1996). Political theorist and philosopher
Antonio Gramsci developed theories of hegemony and described
the press as the most signifcant and dynamic part of the ideological
structure aimed to defend and develop the ideological base for main-
taining power by the dominant group (Gramsci, 1985). Marxist phi-
losopher Louis Althusser (1970) described two types of mechanisms
Two realities of one revolution: Coverage of mass protests of 2011 in state-run and inde-
pendent Belarusian media
that are used to make people accept the dominant or ruling ideology:
the repressive state apparatuses (government, army, police, courts,
etc.) and the ideological state apparatuses (educational and religious
institutions, press, arts, etc.). Cultural studies combined some aspects
of political economy and the Marxist structuralist approach and re-
jected a simple base/superstructure connection, but rather ofered to
look at relationships between media and society more closely (Shoe-
maker & Reese, 1996). Today, the concept of ideology stands for the
“’binding and justifying ideas’ of all social groups” which defne and
produce one way of understanding the world and excluding others
(Barker, 2004: 98).
Te development of mass media systems in post-Soviet countries
took diferent paths afer the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics (USSR). Some countries managed to accommodate and
implement democratic traditions of freedom of the press and plu-
rality, but others are not so willing to part with the Soviet heritage
(Jakubowicz, Sukosd, 2008). In Belarus, the transition toward greater
transparency in terms of a Western perspective failed and the coun-
try still did not develop some major democratic fundamentals (Jar-
olimek, 2009). Te characteristics of social and political life in the
country are government control, absence of transparency, and lack of
public involvement in political discussions (Miazhevich, 2007).
In the early 1990s, like most of the former communist-led societies,
Belarus experienced a short period of democratization. But, afer the
election of Aleksandr Lukashenko as president “on the wave of mas-
sive expectations ‘for change’” in 1994, the country regressed toward
authoritarianism (Manaev, 2009: 131). Supported by cheap energy
deliveries from Russia in exchange for rhetoric about being an an-
ti-Western outpost, the regime has proved to be long-lasting, despite
demands for democratization from the European Union and other
Western organizations (Sahm, 2009). Over the last 15 years, the gov-
ernment of Belarus has used legal and economic means to control
the media and close independent outlets whose reporting challenged
the status quo (Sys, 2007). Te state has a monopoly on printing,
distribution and broadcasting services, and the mass media are used
by the government not only to create and support the picture of a
Media Transformations 123
prosperous country, but also to control and limit information about
the situation in Belarus from abroad (Bekkerman, 2005).
According to the report Freedom of the Press 2011 by the Freedom
House organization, Belarus had a score of 93 on a scale from 10
(most free) to 99 (least free) and was placed between Iran (91) and
North Korea (97) (Freedom House, 2011). Te state has monopo-
lized major broadcast media;
it owns the main newspapers and has
adopted several policies that limit the activities of the non-state press
(Klaskouski, 2011). Tere is a practice of suspending media outlets
afer three warnings by the Ministry of Information. Usually, the
frequency of warnings increases before signifcant political events
(Jarolimek, 2009). Government control over the mass media is done
through means such as libel law, politicized registration and licens-
ing of mass media outlets, and diferent types of economic pressure
(Manaeva, Aniskevich, Dinerstein, 2011). Another method used by
the government to control information fow is a system of accredita-
tions that largely limits access to ofcial information for independent
Since the 1990s, the mass media in independent Belarus has been
characterized by the coexistence of two major forms of mass me-
dia: state-run media (which constitute the majority of socio-polit-
ical print outlets, TV and radio stations) and independent media.
Tese two types of mass media led to the emergence of two diferent
journalistic settings, including two distinct associations of journal-
ists, which are the Belarusian Union of Journalists and the Belarusian
Association of Journalists Te gap between these two forms of jour-
nalism is increasing (Jarolimek, 2009). Accordingly, the events are
presented in state-run and independent media in a very distinct way.
As of November 1, 2011, 1,394 periodical print media were regis-
tered in Belarus, including 406 state-run and 988 non-state print
media (Ministry of Information of the Republic of Belarus, 2011).
Te authorities purposefully emphasize that a minority of the print
periodicals are owned by the state, but they fail to note that the ma-
jority of non-state print media deal with specifc areas such as enter-
tainment, advertising, etc. and are apolitical (Jarolimek, 2009). Ac-
cording to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, no more than 30
registered independent socio-political mass media exist in Belarus
According to the
Belarus Media
Sustainability Index
report by IREX, in
2011 there were 139
state-owned radio
stations versus 23
private radio stations
in Belarus. Out of 82
television channels, 50
were private, but their
reach was signifcantly
limited (IREX, 2012).
Two realities of one revolution: Coverage of mass protests of 2011 in state-run and inde-
pendent Belarusian media
(BAJ, 2011). In the circumstances of economic and political pressure,
independent newspapers cannot get close to matching the state-run
newspapers’ circulation numbers. Te combined weekly circulation
of the two major state-run newspapers Belarus Today and Te Repub-
lic is more than 2,750,000 compared to combined weekly circulation
of less than 60,000 for the two major independent newspapers Nar-
odnaya Volya and Belarusians and Market (Manaev, Manaeva, Yuran,
2010: 322).
Teoretical concepts of news representation and ideology will be
helpful in the analysis of the coverage of the Revolution through So-
cial Networks in Belarusian state-run and independent media as well
as fnding the answers to the following research questions:
RQ1. What is the diference in the discourse on the Revolu-
tion through Social Networks in major Belarusian state-run
and independent newspapers?
RQ2. Whose voices were presented in the news coverage of
the RTSN in the state-run and independent newspapers?
RQ3. How can each type of mass media (state-run and in-
dependent) be described in terms of the ideological view-
Journalism is a discursive re-construction of reality and language
plays a central role in this process (Carvalho, 2008). When meaning
is being constructed, discourse is determined by the use of words,
pictures, layout, design, format and editing (Sullivan, 2008). Dis-
course analysis is defned as “a form of linguistic investigation that
inquires into the workings of stretches of the text” (Barker, 2004: 55).
It allows the study of naturally occurring text within its global and lo-
cal context. Tis method helps to understand the “description, infer-
ence, interpretation and criticism or evaluation” of the messages (p.
55). A discourse analysis of the coverage of the Revolution through
Social Networks (RTSN) in four Belarusian newspapers (Belarus To-
day, Respublika, BelGazeta and Narodnaya Volya) was used as the
Media Transformations 125
method that helps to analyse coverage and understand the ideologi-
cal viewpoints of Belarusian mass media organizations.
Two state-run and two independent Belarusian newspapers were
chosen for analysis based on two criteria:
1. Te newspapers had to have countrywide distribution.
Tis criterion was set because of the country-wide nature
of protests of the Revolution through Social Networks. Te
protests did not take place only in the Belarusian capital city,
2. Te circulation of the newspapers should be more than
20,000 copies. In summer 2011, the circulation of Belarus
Today was more than 400,000 copies; the circulation of
Respublika was more than 95,000 copies; the circulation of
BelGazeta was more than 20,000 copies; and the circulation
of Narodnaya Volya was more than 20,000 copies. Te min-
imum limit was set with the rationale that in the summer
of 2011 there were no independent Belarusian newspapers
with a socio-political orientation that had a circulation
more than 30,000 copies. Te circulation numbers were
determined based on the issues of the print versions of the
newspapers published within the period of analysis.
All news stories that covered the events of the Revolution through
Social Networks from June 8, 2011 to August 31, 2011 were exam-
ined. Te time frames for selecting news stories are justifed by the
chronology of events (see Table 1).
Table 1.
Main events of
the Revolution
through Social
Networks in
Two realities of one revolution: Coverage of mass protests of 2011 in state-run and inde-
pendent Belarusian media
Due to the fact that the attempt to repeat rallies in September and
October 2011 was not successful and therefore did not receive broad
coverage in newspapers, news stories from that period were not an-
Te news stories for analysis were retrieved from the online versions
of the newspapers on their websites (,, Belgaze- and Te online versions of the news stories
were compared with the versions in print editions of the newspapers.
No diference in the headlines or content of the articles was found.
Te total amount of 72 items (56 items in the independent news-
papers and 16 items in the state-run newspapers) included all news
stories, editorials, letters from the readers, and speeches from press
conferences in the specifed time.
For this study, the framework developed by Carvalho (2008) for the
analysis of media discourse was used with some modifcations rele-
vant to the study. Te layout and accompanying images in the online
versions of the newspapers did not always match up to the printed
editions, so those elements were not analysed.
Several codes were identifed as potentially efective in the process of
open-ended reading of the texts. Te framework for the analysis of
media discourse includes two stages (textual analysis and contextual
analysis) as listed below and explained in this section:
I. Textual analysis
1) Actors (protesters; police forces; journalists; other peo-
2) Representation of actors
3) Language and rhetoric (rhetoric; tone of the writing; writ-
ing style)
4) Discursive strategies (selection; composition; position-
ing; legitimation; de-legitimation; politicization; de-politi-
II. Contextual analysis
1) Comparative-synchronic analysis

In this study, the term “actors” refers to “social agents (someone who
has the capacity of doing something) and characters in a (staged)
Based on the
framework devel-
oped by Carvalho
Media Transformations 127
story,” in other words they are both subjects and objects of the story
(Carvalho, 2008: 168). Representation, in its turn, means how the
media use a language system to construct and evaluate the world and
reality (O’Shaughnessy & Stadler, 2008).
Language and rhetoric are important aspects in the process of mean-
ing construction in mass media. Carvalho (2008) suggests that while
examining language and rhetoric a researcher should look both at
formulations of social actors and at the discourse of journalists. Also,
discursive strategies are linked with the actors and their representa-
tion in the articles and could be defned as “forms of discursive ma-
nipulation of reality by social actors, including journalists, in order
to achieve a certain efect or goal” (p. 169).
Contextual analysis of the text helps to understand the social context
in which the discourse on the event was constructed. Here, the num-
ber of texts about the event in a particular medium shows the im-
portance assigned by the mass media outlet. Between the two types
of contextual analysis ofered by Carvalho (comparative-synchron-
ic and historical-diachronic) this study used the comparative-syn-
chronic analysis. Tis approach involves examining the diferent
representations of the event – Revolution through Social Networks
– at the same time. In this way, the comparison of the alternative
representations of reality helps to identify discursive strategies of the
news outlets more clearly. Finally, as Carvalho suggests, ideology
serves as an overarching aspect of the text embedded in all elements
and characteristics of the framework.
For this study, the web application Dedoose, for qualitative, quan-
titative and mixed methods research, was used. Two descriptor sets
were used to assist in the process of comparison of the intensity of
coverage by the state and independent media:
I. Mass media
a) Ownership of the mass media
b) Name of the mass media
II. Timeframe
a) Month when the news story was published
Two realities of one revolution: Coverage of mass protests of 2011 in state-run and inde-
pendent Belarusian media
Application of these descriptors helped in evaluating the intensity of
coverage (by analysing the total number of stories depending on the
ownership of the media and the distribution of news stories in time).
To answer the research question about the voices presented in the
news coverage, all stories were analysed in terms of what sources
were used in the articles. For that purpose, all quotes, direct or in-
direct, were identifed and connected to sources, which were pro-
testers/participants, ofcials, police, experts, other people/witness-
es or readers. Ofcials in the news stories were the president, the
minister of the interior, the prosecutor general, the spokesperson for
the Minsk police, etc. Other people/witnesses were both people who
either witnessed the protests themselves or had heard about it and
shared their opinion with journalists. Voices of readers were present-
ed in the letters published in the newspapers. Finally, by comparison
of the alternative representations of reality one can identify discur-
sive strategies of the news outlets and understand ideological stand-
points they present.
Te frst research question addressed the diference in the nature of
discourse about the Revolution through Social Networks (RTSN) in
major Belarusian state-run and independent newspapers. Te anal-
ysis revealed several observations that are reported in the following
It was noted that on the level of actors, the main diference is in how
roles were assigned to either subjects or objects of news stories. Te
most signifcant observation here is related to the protesters as ac-
tors. In the independent media, protesters are both subjects (they
act or their opinion is presented) and objects (they are observed).
In the state-run media, most ofen they are presented only as ob-
jects that are discussed by the journalist or characterized by other
actors: ofcials, other citizens or experts. Te independent newspa-
pers ofen reported from the rallies and protesters were subjects and
interviewees in this reporting. Te state-run media preferred general
opinion writing (in this case, the opinion of a journalist is taken for
Media Transformations 129
granted), talking to experts or publishing speeches from press con-
ferences. Tese practices also explained the specifcs of using other
people as actors of news stories. In the state-run media, other people
are never the people who witnessed the rallies directly. Most ofen
they are readers or people who share their opinion about the Revo-
lution through Social Network in a discussion with a journalist. Te
distribution of roles in terms of subject or object in the stories where
the police forces are presented is similar to the described distribution
of roles regarding protesters. In the independent media, policemen
act and talk ofen, while in state-run media they are represented in-
Analysis of the way the four major types of actors are represented
in the media showed a signifcant diference in the nature of dis-
course. Te Revolution through Social Networks as a phenomenon
itself was represented in the state-run media most ofen as a fash-
mob. Journalists wrote about it as the “strange fashmobs with mo-
bile phones,”
provocative acts that “wreak havoc in our society,”

“rat race,”
“small actions,”
an “insult not only to the government
but to the nation”
and as an action organized by Western countries
On the other hand, the independent media presented the RTSN as a
“creative peaceful rally of the progressive youth”
saying that “there
was nothing criminal, nothing anti-authority, and nothing aggressive
about it.”
Tey also presented it as an expression of discontent. In
June, when the protests began, some journalists characterized it as
fun for people and wrote about it as the “public saunter,” “fashion,”
and “new amusement.”
Later, afer more people joined the rally, and
police began to intervene, this type of representation was discontin-
ued. Two important characteristics of the RTSN representation in
the independent media were attempts to analyse it and place in the
socio-political context. Also, the independent media wrote about the
momentum of the rallies and reported from other cities of Belarus
(state-run media never mentioned that protests happened in several
cities in the country, thus supporting the image of the RTSN as a
gathering with a small amount of participants).
Te representation of the protesters in the newspapers makes the
above described discourses even more apparent. In the state-run
media, protesters are portrayed as young people and are character-
ized as those who have “youthful extreme views and the tendency to
Belarus Today,
August 02, 2011.
Respublika, July 02,
Belarus Today, June
18, 2011.
Belarus Today, June
18, 2011.
Belarus Today, June
18, 2011.
All translations in
this section were
made from Russian
and Belarusian
Narodnaya Volya,
June 17, 2011.
Narodnaya Volya,
June, 17, 2011.
BelGazeta, June 20,
Two realities of one revolution: Coverage of mass protests of 2011 in state-run and inde-
pendent Belarusian media
nonconformity that are typical at that age.”
Tey are also presented
as initiators of disorder who “need chaos and mess in our country,”

as idlers “with no studies or work to do,”
or people looking for fame
with the desire to “make history.”
On several occasions, the pro-
testers were described as “cannon fodder,”
or people who are used
by, or belong to, the opposition forces. In the independent media
reports, these characteristics are mentioned only in quotes from the
press conferences or other speeches of the president when the news-
papers tried to evaluate the interpretations of the RTSN by the state
ideological machinery. Both BelGazeta and Narodnaya Volya repre-
sented the participants of the rallies as ordinary citizens who did not
necessarily belong to the opposition. Protesters were described as an
“educated computer-literate generation.”
Later, several stories ap-
peared in the newspapers that indicated older people participated
in the rallies. Both independent newspapers created positive, and to
some extent idealized, images of protesters and ofen presented them
as brave and spirited people (“I saw many faces – nice, intelligent,
and thoughtful”
Police forces in the stories published in the state-run outlets are pre-
sented as a hand of justice that reacts adequately to a threat, and their
actions are in line with internationally accepted law enforcement
practices. At the same time, reporters of the independent newspa-
pers witnessed the reaction of the police and described it as a harsh
and not appropriate: “[Tey detain] everybody without distinction:
women, old men, teens, journalists [and] … bystanders.”
Tere are
plenty of examples of irrationality and the detention of bystanders
Also, journalists of Narodnaya Volya mentioned violation of the Be-
larusian Constitution several times in their news reports. In particu-
lar, they made claims about the violations of the Constitutional right
of assembly, journalists’ rights to acquire information, and the viola-
tions of the Constitution by the plain-clothes police forces. Also, in
several stories journalists of the independent newspapers reported
about incidents when some policemen demonstrated support for the
Other people presented in the news stories were readers who ex-
pressed their opinion in letters to the editor, experts who discussed
the phenomenon, ofcials, and other citizens who acted specifcally
or spoke about the event. In the state-run newspapers, all these ac-
Belarus Today,
August 30, 2011.
Belarus Today, July
02, 2011.
Respublika, June
25, 2011.
Respublika, August
30, 2011.
Respublika, June
25, 2011.
Narodnaya Volya,
June 17, 2011.
BelGazeta, June
20, 2011.
BelGazeta, July 11,
One of the most
signifcant stories
was the one about
a handicapped man
without a hand who
was detained for
“clapping hands,” see
BelGazeta, July 11,
Media Transformations 131
tors were presented as antagonistic to the RTSN. Tey spoke about
the protesters as “freaks from the Internet.”
Also, journalists as ac-
tors in the articles (not the authors themselves) were portrayed in
the state-run media most ofen as those who ofen report untruthful
information and disturb the stability in the country. In this way, the
mass media were presented as a threat. In the independent media
outlets, other people were presented most ofen as either being neu-
tral to the protesters or supporting them: “I am proud of our young

In the process of constructing the images of the Revolution through
Social Networks, the state-run newspapers used various fgures of
speech in their writing. For instance, they used similes by comparing
the “virtual revolution” to a “toy” for kids.
Also, they used proverbs
and oxymorons, such as “silent talkfest,”
more ofen than the inde-
pendent newspapers. Tese rhetorical fgures of speech were used
to emphasize ideological meanings in the discourse (for example,
the above mentioned structures emphasize the insignifcance of the
RTSN). When appealing to emotions, news outlets were very ofen
either promoting antagonism toward protesters (this was done by the
state-run newspapers), or appealing to compassion toward detained
and battered people (this was done by the independent newspapers).
Te tone of writing in the news stories that appeared in the state-
run media was most ofen serious, sarcastic (for example, the pro-
testers were called “our homegrown revolutionists”
), patronizing,
and/or threatening: “Te state has resources and power to call down
those who break laws and infract the Constitution.”
Te independ-
ent newspapers, as an alternative to that, ofen wrote with irony, for
example, when they reported about the “preventive dancing in the
centre of the city,”
and also expressed optimism: “But our children
are better, more brave and dignifed than us. Tat is why there will be
As for the writing style, both types of mass media ofen
applied a conversational and narrative style. However, the independ-
ent outlets ofen used analytical and descriptive styles of writing in
many of their news stories that reported about the protests.
Belarus Today,
August 02, 2011.
Narodnaya Volya,
July 19, 2011.
Belarus Today,
August 02, 2011.
Belarus Today,
August 05, 2011.
Respublika, June 25,
Belarus Today, July
02, 2011.
BelGazeta, July 04,
Narodnaya Volya,
July 07, 2011.
Two realities of one revolution: Coverage of mass protests of 2011 in state-run and inde-
pendent Belarusian media
Based on the above observations, the newspapers’ discursive strat-
egies emerged. Both state-run and independent newspapers used
selection, composition and positioning. However, it was noted, that
selection and composition were used by the state-run media rath-
er blatantly. One of the demonstrative examples is the story “Trash
from the Net.”
It was a report about a neo-Nazi teenage girl who
committed suicide. Te story discussed the reasons for racial hatred,
the legislation that was adopted to curb extremism, and how simi-
lar dangerous trends are disseminated in the world via the Internet.
Within these frames, the second part of the story was about the po-
liticized youth who use the Internet for communication. With the
help of this “transfer” technique, the article puts the protesters into
the position of alienated persons who represent a threat to the coun-
try and could be compared to the threat constituted by neo-Nazism.
Tis strategy of placing all people who do not accept pro-government
opinion among the “other” or “enemy” is another discursive strategy
ofen applied by the state-run media (Miazhevich, 2007). Also, by
emphasizing the young age and small amount of protesters, state-run
media represented the event as something temporary and insignif-
cant. Tis served to confrm the vision of stability in the country.
Here is another example of the selection, composition, and posi-
tioning discursive strategies from the Belarus Today. In a published
speech of the president,
it was mentioned that the protesting youth
want to initiate disorder, and people were reminded about the Minsk
metro bombing in spring, 2011. Te event was still heatedly dis-
cussed in Belarus. Such manipulations of facts and appealing to the
emotions of people, while positioning the participants of the rally as
detached and dangerous people, is further supported by the discur-
sive strategy of de-legitimation of the RTSN as expressed in an opin-
ion of an expert in one of the articles in Respublika: “I do not think
a revolutionary situation is possible in Belarus.”
Also, the state-run
media used the discursive strategy of politicization in reference to
the RTSN: “Oppositional politicians want to use the street protests to
accumulate critical mass.”
Tese strategies serve as the excuses for
violent suppression of the possible revolution, thereby “saving” the
country. Tese observations helped to reveal another important ide-
ological characteristic of the state-run outlets: strong anti-opposition
Belarus Today,
June 28, 2011.
Belarus Today,
June 18, 2011.
Respublika, August
12, 2011.
Belarus Today,
June 26, 2011.
Media Transformations 133
and anti-revolutionary pathos.
Tough the independent media also applied de-legitimation discur-
sive strategies, they did not direct it towards the RTSN and protesters,
but rather towards the political order, police actions and violation of
the Constitution. Journalists legitimized the peaceful rally and the
right of assembly of Belarusian citizens by describing the character
of the rally and presenting protesters as educated, rational people
who do not constitute a threat to the country and can unambigu-
ously explain the reasons for their discontent. By reporting about the
protests in the diferent cities of the country and the momentum of
rallies, the independent newspapers attached greater signifcance to
the protests.
It is important to note that the two types of newspapers were using
discursive strategies of politicization (state-run media), or de-polit-
icization of the event (independent media) by describing protesters
either as opposition forces or everyday people.
As demonstrated in Figure 1, there were far more news stories about
the Revolution through Social Networks in the independent newspa-
pers than in the state-run newspapers: 56 stories in comparison with
16 stories. Tis diference is especially signifcant because the sam-
ple included many articles from the state-run newspapers that were
written based on the press conferences of Lukashenko or his inter-
views and speeches during working trips (fragments or full speeches
were published).

Tese numbers allow for the evaluation of the importance assigned
Figure 1.
Number of
news stories
depending on
the type of the
mass media.
Two realities of one revolution: Coverage of mass protests of 2011 in state-run and inde-
pendent Belarusian media
by the media outlets to the RTSN. For the independent media, it was
a major event discussed in almost every issue during that time. Con-
versely, the state-run newspapers did not cover it so intensively or
systematically. Tis minimal coverage supports the idea of the dis-
cursive strategy of further de-legitimation of the phenomenon.
Another observation is the distribution of news stories in time as doc-
umented in Figure 2. Te independent media followed the develop-
ment of events and covered the Revolution through Social Networks
according to the momentum of the rallies, refecting the growth and
decrease of the number of protesters, and according to the amount
of the events related to it during a specifc time. Te state-run news-
papers covered the event with nearly the same intensity in June, July,
and August, which confrms their inconsequential coverage.

A considerable time gap was discovered in the way all four mass me-
dia started to cover the events of the RTSN. Afer the frst protest on
June 8, 2011, the stories in the independent newspapers appeared
on June 17 (Narodnaya Volya) and June 20 (BelGazeta). Both news-
papers presented stories about the frst (June 8) and second protest
(June 15). Te state-run media wrote about the protests later, afer
the press conference of president Lukashenko on June 17, during
which he expressed a strong negative opinion about the rallies and
participants. In the several days afer the press conference, both
state-run newspapers published articles that confrmed the position
of the government and reinforced the negative image of protesters
(Respublika – on June 25 and Belarus Today – on June 28). Tis prac-
tice is common for the state-run media, and it suggests their inability
to act independently, without the prior approval of the president or
other top government ofcials.
Figure 2.
The intensity
of coverage
depending on
the type of the
mass media
(distribution of
news stories in
Media Transformations 135
To answer the second research question, all news stories were an-
alysed in terms of sources used in the articles. Te analysis of the
sources used by the state-run media confrmed they favoured
pro-government perspectives in their stories. As shown in Table 2,
journalists of the Belarus Today and Respublika never allowed partic-
ipants of the rally to speak. Furthermore, they never cited policemen
who were detaining people or witnessed their colleagues doing so. In
their reports about the RTSN, there was only one conversation with
an expert about the protests. In two letters from the readers that ap-
peared in the state-run media, pro-government opinion and antag-
onism towards the protesters was expressed. Most ofen, journalists
either quoted ofcials, or expressed their own opinion and attitude
towards the event and the people who participated in it.

Te independent media used other people or witnesses and protest-
ers or participants most ofen as their sources. Also, ofcials and
policemen were cited frequently in both Narodnaya Volya and Bel-
Gazeta. Tough there were only four letters to the editor in the inde-
pendent mass media (all of them were published in Narodnaya Vol-
ya), this lack of readers’ opinion was ofen balanced with the opinion
of witnesses of the rallies that appeared in the reporting.
In their reporting, the state-run and independent newspapers con-
structed and justifed two very distinct ways of seeing the signifcant
political event, Revolution through Social Networks. In fact, they
Table 2.
presented in the
news stories by
the two types of
mass media.
Two realities of one revolution: Coverage of mass protests of 2011 in state-run and inde-
pendent Belarusian media
constructed two distinct realities of the event and their representa-
tions were ofen in contradiction with each other.
Te anti-opposition and anti-revolutionary ideological standpoints
of the Belarusian state-run media were revealed in the eforts to al-
ienate the audience from the opposition forces and transfer char-
acteristics of extreme acts, such as terrorism and fascism, to them.
News stories in the state-run media served to confrm a negative
opinion of the RTSN expressed by the president and other top of-
cials. Te state-run newspapers represented protesters as a detached
and dangerous group of people and therefore justifed harsh sup-
pression of the rallies by the police. Tese eforts ofen resulted in
the broken logic of the coverage in the state-run media, where the
opposition was characterized as insignifcant and, at the same time,
very dangerous. Te characteristics of the rallies as temporary and
insignifcant served to support the image of stability and control in
the country, which is one of the main ideological standpoints of the
government in Belarus.
Te state-run media avoided presenting voices of the participants
of the rallies or anyone supporting them. Both Belarus Today and
Respublika did not allow participants of the rallies to speak on their
pages. Limited coverage and lack of diversity of presented voices
and the reliance on the commentaries of state ofcials resulted in a
pro-government perspective in the state-run media, which did not
present or discuss alternative opinions. Te anti-opposition and an-
ti-revolutionary ideological standpoints of Belarusian state-run me-
dia demonstrate the constant fear of political changes in Belarus.
Te ideological viewpoints presented in the studied independent
media difered signifcantly from those in the state-run outlets. Te
independent mass media covered the Revolution through Social Net-
works more systematically and presented diverse perspectives on the
silent protests. By reporting from the rallies, the independent media
presented most actors as subjects of the news stories. Coverage in-
cluded opinions of both sides of the stories and representation of dif-
ferent aspects of the events, such as irrationality and unlawfulness of
certain actions of state ofcials and police. Tey also reported about
the harsh suppression of protests and perceived violations of certain
constitutional rights of the people. Te independent media made an
Media Transformations 137
attempt to assess the initiative and strengths and weaknesses of the
RTSN in discussions with experts. Criticism of the current political
regime was ofen combined with explicitly or implicitly expressed
desire for change.
Another characteristic of the independent media is its use of the
frames of the authoritarian regime of Lukashenko in the coverage
of the events and facts. Tese frames, along with the idealized rep-
resentation of the people who share the same views as the news out-
as well as paying more attention to graphic details of the deten-
tions rather than the reasons for the uprisings, could have infuenced
the quality of reporting in the independent media. Appeals to the
strongest emotions of the audience or, adversely, ironical writing
could mean inconsistency or indicate uncertainty on the part of the
media organizations in their assessment of the event.
Te results suggest some topics for future studies related to the sub-
ject of reality construction by state-run and independent mass media.
Perception of the mediated messages by the audience is one potential
area of future studies. Aspects of credibility and trust are particularly
important in the Belarusian society where the media market is not
established and continues to experience changes.
With the Internet
becoming a more afordable and popular source of information in
Belarus, it is also important to examine the representations of the
independent and state-run media on the Internet and social media,
as well as the content and journalism practices of Belarusian online
Althusser, L. (1970). Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses. In
Brewster, B. (transl.), Lenin and Philosophy and other Essays (1971),
pp. 121–176. Retrieved March 2, 2013, from http://www.marxists.
BAJ (2011). Mass Media in Belarus 2010. Annual Report by Belaru-
sian Association of Journalists. Retrieved December 3, 2011, from^sub-
Tis was noticed in
the coverage of the
RTSN made by Nar-
odnaya Volya where
protesters were ofen
represented as brave,
clever, and heroic.
According to
the Minister of
Information Oleg
Proleskovsky, it is
planned to reorganize
fve main republican
newspapers into one
socio-political media
holding (Belarusian
Telegraph Agency,
Two realities of one revolution: Coverage of mass protests of 2011 in state-run and inde-
pendent Belarusian media
BAJ (2011). Violations of Journalists’ and Mass Media Rights in 2011.
E-newsletter Mass Media in Belarus. Retrieved March 20, 2012, from
Barker, C. (2004). Te SAGE Dictionary of Cultural Studies. Tou-
sand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Bekkerman, G. J. (2005). Te End of the Last Dictatorship in Europe:
Four Keys to a Successful Color Revolution in Belarus. [Tesis]. Re-
trieved December 3, 2011, from
Belarusian Telegraph Agency (2012). Retrieved March 5, 2013, from
BelaPAN (2011). Polish Foreign Ministry Condemns “Brutal” Crack-
down on Protests in Belarus. July 5. Retrieved March 24, 2012, from
Carvalho, A. (2008). Media(ted) Discourse and Society: Rethinking
the Framework of Critical Discourse Analysis. Journalism Studies, 9
(2), 161–177. DOI:
Cottle, S. (2011). Media and the Arab Uprisings of 2011: Re-
search Notes. Journalism, Vol. 12, 647–659. DOI: http://dx.doi.
For Free and Fair Media in Belarus (2009). Mission Report: Interna-
tional Fact-Finding Mission to the Republic of Belarus, September 20-
24. Retrieved December 3, 2011, from
Freedom House (2011). Report on the Freedom of the Press. Retrieved
March 23, 2012, from
Gramsci, A. (1985). Selections from Cultural Writings. D. Forgacs, G.
Nowell-Smith (eds.), W. Boelhower (trans.), Cambridge, MA: Har-
vard University Press.
Media Transformations 139
Jarolimek, Stefan (2009). In the Absence of Light, Darkness prevails.
Media Freedom and Plurality in Belarus. In Dyczok, M., Gaman-Go-
lutvina, O. (eds.), Media, Democracy and Freedom: Te Post-Commu-
nist Experience. Bern: Peter Lang.
Jowett, G. S., O’Donnell, V. (2012). Propaganda and Persuasion (5th
ed). Tousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Klaskouski, A. (2011). Media Policy of Belarusian Regime: Sweep-
ing Purge, Filtration, and Damocles’ Sword of Self-Censorship. Bela-
rusInfo Letter, Vol. 4, 1–4.
Kramer, D. J., Mitchell, A. W. (2011). Europe’s Last Dictator. Te Wash-
ington Post, July 8. Retrieved December 2, 2011, from http://www.
Manaev, O. (2009). Belarus on the ‘Huntington Line: Te Role of
Media’. In Media, Democracy and Freedom: Te Post-Communist
Experience. Bern: Peter Lang.
Manaev, O., Manaeva, N., Yuran, D. (2011). More State then Nation:
Lukashenko’s Belarus. Journal of International Afairs, Vol. 65, 93–
Manaev, O., Manaeva, N., Yuran, D. (2010). Te ‘Spiral of Silence’
in Election Campaigns in a Post-Communist Society. Te Case of
Belarus. International Journal of Market Research, Vol. 52, 319–338.
Miazhevich, G. (2007). Ofcial Media Discourse and the Self-Rep-
resentation of Entrepreneurs in Belarus. Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 59,
Mijuk, G. (2011). Discontent Growing in Belarus. Te Wall Street
Journal (Online), October 6. Retrieved November 3, 2011, from Pro-
QuestNational Newspapers Core (Document ID: 2476487151).
Ministry of Information of the Republic of Belarus (2011). Retrieved
December 3, 2011, from
Mouzykantskii, I. (2011). In Belarus, Just Being Can Prompt an Ar-
rest. Te New York Times, July 29. Retrieved March 25, 2012, from
Two realities of one revolution: Coverage of mass protests of 2011 in state-run and inde-
pendent Belarusian media
Orgad, S. (2012). Media Representation and the Global Imagination.
Malden, MA: Polity.
O’Shaughnessy, M. & Stadler, J. (2008). Media and Society. 4th ed.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Reporters without Borders (2012). Beset by Online Surveil-
lance and Content Filtering, Netizens Fight On. Retrieved
March 10, 2013, from
Sahm, A. (2009). Civil Society and Mass Media in Belarus. In Back
from the cold? Te EU and Belarus in 2009. Paris: Institute for Secu-
rity Studies.
Shoemaker, P. J., Reese, S. D. (1996). Mediating the Message: Teories
of Infuences on Mass Media Content. New York: Longman.
Sullivan, A. (2008). Te Maori Party and the Media: Representations
in Mainstream Print Leading to the 2005 Election. Pacifc Journalism
Review, Vol. 14, 131–149.
Sys, S. (2007). One Man’s Anarchy. Index on Censorship, Vol. 4, 86–
87. DOI:
Media Transformations 141
Media Transformations (ISSN 2029-865X) is a peer-reviewed acade-
mic journal of media and journalism studies, particularly focusing on
the comparative aspects of media transformations. We invite papers
addressing a wide range of topics around the global and local transfor-
mations of media and journalism, including technological difusion
and convergence of media industries, commercialization and homoge-
nization of journalism, changing media values and policies, journalism
training and media education. Contributions which address the above
mentioned topics from the conceptual, empirical and methodological
point of view are welcome.
Manuscripts should be submitted electronically as e-mail attachments
to the Editors ( in MS Word format. If you are
using another word-processing program, please save the fle as Word
for Windows documents. To facilitate blind review, names and aflia-
tions of authors should be listed on a separate fle.
Manuscripts should include the following:
 Name, position, degree, institution and e-mail address of the author(s)
(on a separate sheet)
 Title of the article
 Abstract in English of no longer than 250 words
 Keywords including no more than 6 words
 Body text of the article should not exceed 50.000 characters 8000 words
 References should be listed alphabetically in the following standard
 Acknowledgements may include information about fnancial support
and other assistance in preparing the manuscript (indicate them at the end
of the manuscript).
Manuscript should be single-spaced, 12 pt, typed in Times New Ro-
man and justifed on the lef and right margins. All tables, fgures and
photos should be clearly described, indicating the source. Tables and
fgures should be numbered consequently with an appropriate capti-
on, e. g. Table 1, Table 2, Figure 1, Figure 2, etc. Footnotes should be
indicated consequently through the text. Do not lay out (design) your
Media Transformations 143
manuscript. Do not format text beyond the use of italics or, where ne-
cessary, boldface.
Headings in articles should be concise and descriptive and should not
exceed 100 characters. A few basic formatting features (larger font,
bold) should be used to make clear what level each heading is. Ma-
jor sub-heads should appear on a separate line; secondary sub-heads
appear fush lef preceding the frst sentence of a paragraph. Do not
number headings and subheadings.
Material quoted directly from another source should be in double
quotation mark or set in a separate paragraph in italics with increased
indent when longer than 300 characters.
Te basic reference format is (McNair, 2002). To cite a specifc page
or part – use (McNair, 2012: 125). Use “et al.” when citing a work by
more than three authors. Te letters a, b, c, etc. should be used to dis-
tinguish diferent citations by the same author in the same year. Use
“n.d.” if the publication date is not available. When you include more
then one reference use a “semicolon” to separate references (Castells,
2009; McNair, 2002). All references cited in the text should be listed
alphabetically and in full afer the text.
For books:
Hallin, D., and Mancini, P. (2004). Comparing Media Systems: Tree
Models of Media and Politics. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge Uni-
versity Press.
For articles:
Eide, M. (2007). Encircling the Power of Journalism. Nordicom Re-
view, Vol. 28, 21-29.
In the bibliography of scholarly articles submitted by the author, one
should indicate DOI numbers of all cited sources if they are attributed
to them. When a concrete DOI number is given to an article, the refe-
rence should look like this:
Curran, J., Iyengar, S., Lund, A., and Salovaara-Moring, I. (2009). Me-
dia System, Public Knowledge and Democracy: A Comparative Study.
European Journal of Communication, Vol. 24(1), 5-26. DOI: http://dx.
For book chapters:
Holtz-Bacha, C. (2004). Political Communication Research Abroad:
Europe. In L. L. Kaid (ed.), Handbook of Political Communication Re-
search. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 463-477.
For online publications:
Hume, E. (2007). University Journalism Education: A Global Challenge.
A Report to the Center for International Media Assistance. Retrieved
September 10, 2010, from
All unsolicited articles undergo double-blind peer review. In most
cases, manuscripts are reviewed by two referees. Te editor reserves
the right to reject any unsuitable manuscript without requesting an
external review.
Phone: +370 37 327891
ISSN 2029-865X
VMU Press / Order No. K13-126 / Edition of 30 copies
Vytautas Magnus University
Faculty of Political Science and Diplomacy
Department of Public Communications
K. Donelaičio St. 58, Kaunas LT-44246