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European public spheres, civil society and civic mass media

An international conference on European Public Spheres, Civil Society and Civic Mass Media was organized as a part of the CINEFOGO Network of Excellence on April 13-14, 2007 in Kaunas, Lithuania. Several European researchers, activists of transnational and national NGOs, media institutions as well as young scholars and doctoral students joined the conference to discuss the role of civil

Two plenary speeches were held by Hannu Nieminen from the University of Helsinki, Finland and by Bridgette Wessels from the University of Sheffield, UK. Afterwards 12 working sessions concerning civic mass media and civil society were organized. European Public Sphere as Social Networks Hannu Nieminen presented her idea on how the European Public Spheres should be been seen. Since Nieminen concluded that national public spheres are conflicted by nature and maybe even critical to European framework, she suggested that “the European Public Space should better be seen as an intersection of a multiplicity of different European networks and their public spheres. In the same manner, national public spheres should be understood as intersections of geographically determined networks and their public spheres”. However, it should be mentioned that this kind of understanding of public sphere can have several implications which challenge traditional ways of conceptualising European level democracy and democratic legitimacy. Dialogue through the concept of ‘Proper Distance’ Bridgette Wessels held a plenary lecture on the notion of the Europeanization of public spheres and civil society in fostering a culture of dialogue through the Concept of ‘Proper Distance’. She discussed the difficulties in making a European Public Sphere due to diversity of national identities and differences within nation states in Europe. She emphasized that the traditional media plays a role in the public sphere because they mediate the voices of the civil society. However, the majority of the traditional media has a national perspective due to audience systems. Wessels concluded that some new media and communication forms can be innovative in a way that can create dialogue in Europe. She suggested Silverstone’s concept of ‘proper distance’ as method to ensure dialogue and participation in the European public sphere. Low public and media engagement in European public affairs Tuomo Mörä from the University of Helsinki, Finland, held a working session about the European public sphere ideals and the EU journalism. Her empirical study on foreign correspondents in Brussels shows that many features in journalism, EU governance and EU structures hinder a development of a European public sphere. She emphasized that: “The problems in EU level are much bigger than in national level and not only because of the often mentioned linguistic and cultural reasons”. The challenges seem to lie in a low public and media engagement in European public affairs. Media form criteria and the EU structure and governance don’t go along very well. As she discuss: “agendas, processes and actors seem distant to citizens, signs of “pan-European” public discussion are scarce and the forums for such discussion hardly exist. It seems that the problems of public sphere in EU level are manifold compared to the problems of public sphere in national level, which is already far from ideal situation.” The conference was summed up by the discussions about the guidelines for media policy in the EU on civic culture, citizenship and social cohesion. The Cinefogo Network of Excellence is moreover working on a book proposal concerning the role played by different actors – civil society groups, institutions and media- in the development of the European Public Sphere. The proposed book will combine theoretical and empirical perspectives in order to address in a comprehensive way three relevant issues that are marking the European communicative landscape: the role of media and journalism in shaping the European debate, the function of Public Communication in promoting institutional activities and the implications of processes of inclusion to and exclusion from the Public Sphere. Source web:


Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, United Kingdom