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10 - Politics and Media

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Summary

Introduction

Media democracy, fake news and filter bubbles are some of the terms to describe the dominant position of the media in politics. The terms certainly do not express appreciation for the functioning of the old and new media in the current democratic systems, far from it. Many observers worry about the developments of the last decades and vehemently reject the ways in which journalists report on politics nowadays. Former D66 leader Hans van Mierlo (1931-2010) indicated in 2000 that he was concerned about the displacement of traditional news values by entertainment values (Van Mierlo 2000). Other politicians accuse the media of having an eye only for the short term, for a sensational or provocative statement, and worry about over the top statements, generalisations and personal opinions from journalists.

Citizens are also dissatisfied. The NOS Journal, television news of the public broadcasting organization, sometimes gets complaints that it is on the left and that its reporting on non-Western minorities in Dutch society is ‘politically correct’. Others argue, by contrast, that the media pay too much attention to the views and contentions of populists, critics of the EU, and those who are against admitting large groups of refugees. After the 2016 Ukraine referendum in the Netherlands, the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom, and Donald Trump's victory in the United States, many observers blamed the media. Some accused them of not knowing what the people's concerns were, others stated that the media didn't subject the arguments of the other side to a sufficiently rigorous critique.

Criticism of the media is certainly not new, as is clear from the following complaint:

Reading the newspapers has taught me, especially after the war, that normal reporting is almost always quite exaggerated. Articles highlight the desire for sensation … If someone says, as proof that their story is true because it was in the papers then the best response these days is: Well, then it was all lies, or some gross exaggeration.

The quote comes from a 1954 survey of 500 members of the Dutch political elite (Prakke 1954: 54-55). The language has changed, but even then, many people judged media coverage as harmful.

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Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2017

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