Media policy for small emerging democracies : distinctiveness, vulnerabilities, and development
Cao, Yuan Yuan
Date of Issue2018-02-06
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
Media would be expected to play a functional role. Crucial to proper functioning of communication media, independence is determined by several factors. How media are financed may determine whether they may or may not avoid interference. However, media in small emerging democracies face multiple obstacles caused by “smallness” and the state of “late democratization.” “Smallness” raises the question of how to develop financial independence in these countries. “Late democratization” gives rise to the challenge of maintaining political independence. In general, small emerging democracies lack an environment that can enable a culture of independent media. This study selected two Eastern European countries–Slovenia and Macedonia, with a population of about 2 million each, and two Asian countries–Bhutan and Timor-Leste, with populations of around 740,000 and 1.2 million respectively. They all emerged in the “Third Wave” of democratization and were characterized by features of underdeveloped political institutions, insufficient public discourse, and financial vulnerability according to the previous scholarly work (Kennedy, 2009; O’Donnell, 1999). Based on literature review, the researcher found that smallness, along with confounding factors of national identity and economic context, shapes the way media policy is envisioned and developed. Three research questions were posited to study how cultural context and media economics shape media policy in small emerging democracies. The ultimate objective is to provide a conceptual framework to guide the study and development of media policy in countries with similar concerns. Using a mixed methodology of interview and documentary research, the researcher found that the reaction of small emerging democracies to the sudden social and political changes tended to have patterns, although they differed in the paths to democratization. Furthermore, the role of media as a watchdog is undermined by the financial dependence on the government of the day.With respect to media governance, the four countries are all marked by the hierarchical mode of governing. This casts light on the fact that media policy should be constructed with input from private sectors and civil societies. A conceptual framework provided by this study can work as an analytical tool for researchers who are interested in studying similar-sized countries. Therefore, researchers could take a cautious step in drawing experiences and models from other countries and ultimately ensure that media may perform their functional role in a particular context.
Nanyang Technological University