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Media saturation challenges confidence in European democracy

‘European flag, Picasso style’ Abstract artwork by AI via

Between doomscrolling and misinformation, our media-saturated world makes it hard to know who to trust. To mark today’s International Day of Democracy, we spoke to a journalism researcher about the role of the media in a healthy democracy.

Media is this layer that exists everywhere in our lives,’ said Dr. Tanya Lokot while explaining the term ‘mediatized’ to Horizon magazine. He gives it the title of the seven-country research project he runs from Dublin City University (DCU) School of Communications.

‘It’s not just something we do for an hour or two.’ We are drenched in media. In our personal, work, social and family life, the media have an important role to play.

MEDIATIZED EU is examining the role of the media in society and how it influences people’s perceptions of the EU and the European project. It does this by analyzing media discourses in the EU member states of Ireland, Belgium, Portugal, Estonia, Hungary, Spain and non-member Georgia.

The researchers are monitoring and evaluating media coverage and conversations mentioning European democracy and the European Union in the target countries of the study. ‘We wanted to investigate how people think and how their beliefs about the EU are formed. How do people Europeanize? What does it mean to be more European or less European?’ said Dr. Locomotive.

“Bringing all these countries together and looking at how different but also how similar the concerns are between policy makers, media professionals and the public has been really enlightening for us,” he said.

public conversation

When 90% of the EU population has access to the Internet, the media is ubiquitous. Television provides its news to 75% of Europeans. Together, taken collectively, all the world’s media devices create something intangible, a public conversation, that allows opinions to be formed and exchanged.

“In a way, the media is co-creating the space where people come to interpret what it is like to live in Europe, what it means to be European, to share European values ​​and to be part of the European Union,” he said. locomotive dr.

The first step in learning to live with our media-saturated environment is “recognizing that media, not just social media but any type of media, plays an extremely important role in societies,” said Dr Locomotive.

From the research so far, the feeling is that the idea of ​​Europe is “a constant work in progress”, and perceptions of Europeanization are shaped by the media as well as political elites and public opinion, Lokot revealed. There is also widespread concern about the spread of disinformation. Along with constructive discourse, the media has plenty of room to promote extremism and polarized opinion.

People in all EU countries have sophisticated concerns about the risks of media manipulation. “They understand the connection between the disinformation being spread by malicious actors in the media and the threat to democracy,” said Dr Locomotive.

spiral of cynicism

Populism and media manipulation can lead to a ‘spiral of cynicism’ in any media debate. As a result, even in countries with high levels of trust in the media such as Ireland, Spain and Portugal, people often do not know where to put their trust.

“It’s because the way disinformation works has also changed,” Lokot said. The new type of information warfare is not about persuading or convincing people, it is about destroying public trust. It works to convince you that “there’s no one here to tell you the truth,” according to Dr. Locomotive.

The generation of mistrust originates from external actors, but also sometimes within the EU. In this climate, people “stop believing that there is a ‘European idea’ that unites people, and then they get lost,” said Dr Locomotive.

“Once you stop believing in some kind of shared values, you really don’t know what else you have in common with these people who live on the same continent as you.”

While each country has specific issues of concern, one major new trend unites them all: “Until Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Georgia and Estonia were much more concerned about Russian disinformation than the other countries.” in our project,” he said. dr locomotive.

“Since February, concern has skyrocketed everywhere.”

Disinformation campaigns targeting Estonians and Georgians, along with their Ukrainian neighbors, imply that they were better off under Soviet rule, that the EU is weak, that they belong to Russia’s sphere of influence and not to the European community. The conclusion of that thought process is strong.

“Now we get to the point where Ukraine is not only being told, for example, that you are not a European country, but that you are not a real country at all,” he said. “You are actually part of Russia and no one cares about you if you cease to exist,” said Dr. Locomotive.

“We are seeing an escalation of disinformation narratives across the region.”

displacement of doom

But should people take personal responsibility for their media activity? Consume the news of terrible events for endless hours of ‘Doomscrolling’ has been identified as unhealthy behavior.

The constant barrage of news and misinformation hits home for Ukrainian native Dr. Lokot, who has been working at DCU in Ireland for the last seven years. ‘I am Ukrainian and I live in the EU. So, you know, I haven’t been doing anything but doomscrolling not only since February, but since 2014 because my country has been at war much longer than just the last six months,” said Dr. Locomotive.

A constant stream of bad news is exhausting “and it’s also about how we structure media diets,” said Dr. Locomotive.

Could there be a need for social media companies to make their algorithms more transparent?

Companies like Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, need to create a space where people can access information and exchange opinions in a healthy and constructive way, argues Dr Locomotive. “They need to realize the impact the media ecosystem has on people and people’s lives,” he said.

online citizens

Good online citizenship where you check sources and reserve a certain amount of skepticism about content is important in a democratic environment. Regulation also has a role to play, for example with laws on transparency in political advertising.

Nor is it about control or unrestricted access. ‘We want people to understand that as citizens they have rights, they have responsibilities, but they also have agency,’ he says.

The next step is to conduct in-depth research on the other elements of the MEDIATIZED EU triangle that you have identified as being made up of a relationship between citizens, media and elites. Talking to media editors and policy makers, as well as conducting public opinion polls, the researchers will seek to understand the role of the media in shaping perceptions and opinions about the EU from their points of view and how everything is connected.

The research could help inform policymakers at all levels. Looking ahead, the ideally informed imaginary EU citizen of 2035 might be living in a media environment with a more democratic flow of information, one that leaves little fertile ground for disinformation. Hopefully, ‘we will also live in a much less polarized Europe than it is today,’ Dr Lokot concludes.

California is the first to make companies disclose their social media policies

Provided by Horizon: the EU magazine for research and innovation

This article was originally published on horizonthe EU research and innovation magazine.

quotes: Media Saturation Challenges Trust in European Democracy (2022, September 16) Retrieved September 16, 2022 from

This document is subject to copyright. Other than any fair dealing for private study or research purposes, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.


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