Media for democracy – democratic media
A robust, independent and transparent media landscape ensuring a plurality of views is an essential part of a functioning democracy. Through control and criticism, offering a stage for the competition of ideas and interests and promoting political participation, inclusion and responsible action of citizens, the media can be a powerful source of legitimation and external check on incumbent authorities. As recalled by the recent European Democracy Action Plan adopted by the European Commission[[https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/new-push-european-democracy/european-democracy-action-plan_en]], media plays a central role as the “fourth pillar of democracy” by informing citizens and holding public institutions and businesses to account as well as by enhancing democratic values such as pluralism and tolerance.
Media accountability (enacted by mechanisms such as press and media councils, ombudspersons, etc.) and professional journalism have a key role in democratic societies for safeguarding a free and responsible media. In light of an increased economization of media communication, increased market concentration, and the accelerated technological changes including automatised content selection and sharing processes, the established system of media accountability seems to be at a crossroads that requires innovative ideas for improvement. Research should thus examine the political role of traditional and new digital media in performing key democratic functions and reaching out to all segments of society, including women as well as minorities and disadvantaged groups. The cultural and creative sectors may be actively involved in the research.
Proposals are expected to address some of the following: they should examine under what conditions, including training, career and working conditions, traditional and new media organizations and journalism operate in modern European societies. Research should analyse whether and how they serve the public interest, and how this could be improved through better training, reinforcing ethical standards and competences (including those related to journalists' professional dilemmas), media regulation and rules, and cooperation between stakeholders (including professional training institutions, media houses, industry). Proposals should focus on the implications of modern, technologically mediated configurations for the political agency of citizens. Relevant foci could be media participation and civic engagement, journalists’ professional and ethical standards, the role of education and training in fostering critical media literacy, persuasive technology, inequality (including gender inequality) and exclusion, institutional politics and activism, and populism. Changes in media markets and the role of economic, commercial, technological as well as political forces in shaping current changes in the role of media should be analysed. Proposals should bring together, in a holistic manner, academic research, practitioners’ reflection, and citizens’ views on the relationship between media and democracy. They should analyse how recent transformations in journalism and media technology have affected individuals and communities concerning participation and democratic discourses and, conversely, how a shifting political landscape, with increased polarisation as a major trait, have affected the media. Research should propose digital media design improvements that effectively increase transparency and accountability of media and contribute to reinvigorating democracy.