Saturday, January 15, 2011

Comparing media systems - Hallin & Mancini (2004)

Hallin, Daniel C., and Paolo Mancini. 2004. Comparing media systems : three models of media and politics. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.

As clearly noted in the book, the authors want to make follow-up study of Siebert et al's “Four theories of the press,” one of the classics investigating the relationship between the form of the press and the characteristics of social/political institutions. While Siebert et al's classic book provided very simplified stereotypes of media system due to the influence of cold war, their book was very insightful because media system is not separated from its larger social system. The basic research question of this book is not much different from its theoretical antecedent, while the dimensions and presented three models of media system are more empirically representative.

There are three parts in this book. The first part introduces the concepts and models. Probably the most important thing in the first part is the theoretical definition of four dimensions: (1) the development of a mass press, (2) political parallelism, (3) professionalism, and (4) the role of the government in media system. Based on the degree of a nation-state's score on each dimension, the authors extract three ideal-types (although the authors clearly want to admit internal heterogeneity within each ideal type): (a) Polarized pluralist model, (b) Liberal model, and (c) Democratic corporatist model.

In the second part, the authors describe the histories and social/economic/institutional reasons of nation-states in each idealized model.

In the third part, the authors discuss the underlying similarity between three models, especially recent rampart of Liberal model (e.g., more professionalism, less dependent on political parties or patrons) in terms of differentiation theory.

Very good book, I believe. However, some limitations I felt were: (1) Each model is highly clustered within the spatial boundary. The authors also knew this spatial clustering and concluded the underlying reason is the shared history and mutual influences between coterminous nation-states. I also agree with the authors' conclusion, but this finding, to me, seems to weaken the persuasive power of four dimensions the authors theorized in the first part. In other words, if the spatial clustering is the main force, then the four dimensions are not the explanatory factors to understand the differences between media system, but the explained phenomena caused by shared histories.

(2) Relating to the first point, the book has to emphasize the history (e.g., the invasion of Napoleon into Mediterranean countries), rather than formal social structure or others. In European contexts, it seems okay, I believe. However, it seems highly problematic when the authors' model is applied in Asian or Arab countries. Probably, the prior imperialistic countries wielded higher influence on the form of media system in prior colonized countries. Probably true, but this unilateral influence has to sacrifice or deny the voluntary development in each country.

However, it is still very good book containing many important insights and theories between media and society.

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