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«MEASURING MEDIA CONTENT, QUALITY, AND DIVERSITY APPROACHES AND ISSUES IN CONTENT RESEARCH ROBERT G. PICARD EDITOR A PUBLICATION OF THE MEDIA ...»

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MEASURING MEDIA CONTENT, QUALITY,

AND DIVERSITY

APPROACHES AND ISSUES IN CONTENT RESEARCH

ROBERT G. PICARD

EDITOR

A PUBLICATION OF THE MEDIA ECONOMICS, CONTENT AND

DIVERSITY PROJECT, FUNDED BY THE MEDIA CULTURE

RESEARCH PROGRAMME OF THE ACADEMY OF FINLAND

AND THE MEDIA GROUP, BUSINESS RESEARCH AND

DEVELOPMENT CENTRE, TURKU SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS AND

BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION

MEASURING MEDIA CONTENT, QUALITY, AND DIVERSITY

APPROACHES AND ISSUES IN CONTENT RESEARCH

Publisher Media Economics, Content and Diversity Project and Media Group, Business Research and Development Centre, Turku School of Economics and Business Administration Turku School of Economics and Business Administration Business Research and Development Centre Media Group PL 110 FIN-20521 Turku, Finland Tel. +358 2 3383 548 Fax +358 2 3383 515 Publication Year 2000 ISBN 951-738-827-6 UDK 303.1, 303.7 Editor Robert G. Picard Printer Kirjapaino Grafia Oy, Turku CONTENTS 1 PREFACE

2 PETER GOLDING--ASSESSING MEDIA CONTENT:

WHY, HOW AND WHAT WE LEARNT IN A BRITISH

MEDIA CONTENT STUDY

2.1 The Ecology of Broadcasting in Europe

2.2 Getting the Measure of ’Tabloidisation’

2.3 Some Practical Lessons

2.4 A Final Thought

3 STEPHEN LACY--COMMITMENT OF FINANCIAL

RESOURCES AS A MEASURE OF QUALITY

3.1 Financial Commitment Models

3.2 Financial Commitment Research

3.2.1 Step One Research

3.2.2 Step Two Research

3.2.3 Step Three Research

3.2.4 Step Four Research

3.3 Theoretical Propositions about the Financial Commitment Process

3.4 Propositions about Measuring Content Quality

3.5 New Propositions aboutIndividual Media Users and Content Quality

3.6 Summary

4 JAN VAN CUILENBURG--ON MEASURING MEDIA

COMPETITION AND MEDIA DIVERSITY: CONCEPTS,

THEORIES AND METHODS

4.1 Introduction

4.2 The Concept of ‘Media Diversity’

4.2.1 Reflective Dversity and Oen Diversity

4.2.2 Levels of Diversity Analysis

4.2.3 Dimensions of Media Diversity

4.3 The Concept of ‘Media Competition’

4.3.1 Competitive Market Structure and Competitive Behaviour

4.3.2 The Concept of ‘Relevant Market’

4.3.3 Media Markets Tend Toward Heterogeneous Oligopolies

4.4 Measuring Media Competition

4.4.1 Two Models of Market Competition

4.4.2 Measuring Media Competition Intensity

4.4.3 Some Empirical Results from the Dutch Daily Press

4.4.4 A Dutch Press Barometer

4.4.5 The Netherlands Television Market in the 1990s

4.5 Measuring Media Diversity

4.5.1 Statistical Diversity Measures

4.5.2 Some Results from Old Dutch Media Diversity Studies

4.5.3 Diversity in Dutch television Broadcasting in the 1990s

4.6 Media Competition and Media Diversity: A Complex Relationship

4.6.1 Competition and Media Quality

4.6.2 Hypotheses on Competition and Diversity

4.7 Future trend: More and Less Competition at the Same Time

4.7.1 More Content Providers, More Media Outlets

4.7.2 Some Competition on Content, Most on Price

4.7.3 Monopolistic Media Competition and Oligopoly?

4.8 Concluding Remark: Media for an Open and Receptive Society

5 KLAUS SCHÖNBACH--FACTORS OF NEWSPAPER

SUCCESS: DOES QUALITY COUNT? A STUDY OF

GERMAN NEWSPAPERS

5.1 How Our Study Approached Content, Design, and Success

5.2 What We Found

5.3 What We Learned About Factors in Newspaper Success

5.4 Practical Thoughts for Researchers Contemplating Such Studies

6 ROBERT G. PICARD--MEASURING QUALITY BY

JOURNALISTIC ACTIVITY

6.1 Difficulties in Defining Quality

6.2 Problems of Measuring Defined Journalistic Quality

6.3 Assessing Journalistic Quality by Activity

7 JENS CAVALLIN--PUBLIC POLICY USES OF

DIVERSITY MEASURES

7.1 The Conceptual Space of Media Pluralism: Some Explorative Observations

7.1.1 A Defence of Conceptual Exercises

7.1.2 Use of Definitions in Conceptual Discourse

7.1.3 Use of Circumscription in Conceptual Discourse

7.1.4 Some Consequences

7.2 A Lexicon of Media Policy

7.2.1 Content

7.2.2 Diversity

7.2.3 Measure

7.2.4 Quality

7.2.5 Policy and Politics

7.2.6 Public

7.3 Some Other Methodological Issues

7.3.1 Hopes for Exactitude





7.3.2 Compensatory Phenomena and Measurement of Pluralism

7.4 Public Policy and Diversity Measurement: Risk Management and Early Warning Systems

7.5 Risk and Proof: The Issue of Media Concentration in Public Debate

7.5.1 Risk and Regulation: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

7.5.2 The Dimension of Representativity

7.5.3 What is Risk?

7.6 Measuring Pluralism and Public Policy.

7.6.1 Hopes of Politicians

7.7 Outline of an Operative System of Media Pluralism Risk Management

8 AUTHOR INFORMATION

1 PREFACE This book contains chapters selected from presentations at the Measuring Media Content, Quality and Diversity Seminar held in Turku on March 27-28, 2000. The conferences was sponsored by the Media Group of Turku School of Economics and Business Administration and the Media Economics, Content and Diversity Project funded by the Media Culture Research Programme of the Academy of Finland The project is a two-year study designed to explore how changes in Finnish media structures produced by policy decisions, technology developments and new competition have affected the strategic and operational choices of media firms, and how these have been manifested in changes in the content provided Finnish citizens and residents. These results will be used to help interpret how future developments will affect the structures and economics of existing media and the new opportunities and problems they will create for media firms and how they are likely to affect the content of media.

The Media Economics, Content and Diversity Project is made up of coordinated studies that build upon each other to provide a broad understanding of the nature and scope of media industries and branches in Finland and how the media structures and operations affect and will affect the type and range of content received. The ultimate issues of the project are how diversity and pluralism are altered by such changes.

It is a broad project unified by a common approach in which the various aspects build upon and draw from the work of other portions of the project. The common approach stems from the philosophy that the economic structure of media dictates the conduct of media firms and the extent to which they perform the social, cultural and political roles they are expected to play in society.

The seminar that produced the chapters in this book was intended to provide an overview of techniques and research methods to explore relations among economic and financial aspects of media, managerial choices, content, and social and cultural outcomes. We believe that theses topics have wider interest and have produced this publication to allow others to consider the approaches taken by different scholars and researchers.

2 ASSESSING MEDIA CONTENT: WHY, HOW

AND WHAT WE LEARNT IN A BRITISH

MEDIA CONTENT STUDY1

Peter Golding This book seeks to examine the means and implications of monitoring the media and by doing so offer a measure of the quality and diversity of the information and culture they provide. My purpose in this contribution is to present as an illustration of one empirical attempt to address this question some of the findings of recent research conducted by the Communication Research Centre at Loughborough University.

Such a task has a particular resonance at this stage in the history of communications institutions. This is so because of what I term the communications paradox. On the one hand we are, it is claimed, better informed than ever before. We live as the victims, or beneficiaries, of a communications explosion, surrounded by and recipients of a veritable deluge of information on every subject and delivered by ever increasing delivery technologies. Moreover as educational levels rise we are better equipped to digest and intelligently select from and consume this material. Yet, even if this is true (and it begs a number of crucial questions), we seem to witness many indicators that democracy is far from healthy. Voters in many industrial societies, if not all, display a cynicism about the political process, which in turn is reflected in low participation in the exemplary ritual of that process, notably voting, and in a generalised hostility to and scepticism about political institutions.

Of course these two observations may not be at all paradoxical. People may indeed be better informed such that they recognise the ugly and unedifying realities of political systems and processes, and are deterred and distressed by what they learn. But it is equally questionable that this cynicism, if such it is, results from more adequate information, and at 1This chapter is based in part on a paper co-authored with S. McLachlan, in C. Sparks and S.

Splichal (Eds.) Tabloid Tales. Hampton Press, 1999. The empirical basis for the paper draws on research supported by the ESRC grant no. L126251016 very best it signals some concern for the general vitality and effectiveness of political communication systems.

Information overload, for example, begs many questions. Does a greater flow of information produce more knowledge? Plainly this depends on the quality of the information, its diversity, reliability, accessibility, meaningfulness, veracity, and so on. The huge proliferation of information flows is not a source of increased knowledge (meaningful information) without these qualities. And is it really more, or are we seeing a growth in the frequency with which the same material is recycled or delivered through repetitive channels of delivery? If it is more, then we need to assess: more of what? One undoubted source of this growth, apart from the commercial expansion of entertainment media, and their voracious but unmatchable appetite for ’content’, is the emergence of the ’public relations state’, with its plethora of ’spindoctors’, public relations specialists, and communications experts.

The theory behind the relation between information and democracy is

straightforward. It is voiced well by Charles Curran, a former directorgeneral of the BBC:

"It is the broadcaster’s role, as I see it, to win public interest in public issues... If broadcasting can arouse public interest it can increase public understanding... Broadcasters have a responsibility, therefore, to provide a rationally based and balanced service of news which will enable adult people to make basic judgements about public policy in their capacity as voting citizens of a democracy."2 How well do the media measure up to this ambitious standard? Our study formed part of a wider research project on ’Information and Democracy’ which was part of the ESRC ’Media Economics and Media Culture’ programme. The study monitored all national press and broadcasting news bulletins for two years, from 1997-1999. In that period 86,987 news items were coded, from 3,550 separate media. The main news categories are shown in Table 1.

2Curran, C. (1979). A Seamless Robe: Broadcasting - philosophy and practice. London:

Collins p.114 Table 1. Main News Categories

–  –  –

Some key characteristics of news emerge from this data. Crime, human interest, and entertainment together occupy about one third of the news items. Domestic social policy issues, including education, health, welfare, and so on, only form about half of that total. Within the category of crime, crimes against the person (murder, violence) significantly outweigh crimes against property (damage, theft etc).

The dramatis personae of news also displays a distinct picture. The prime minister appears in 2.9 per cent of all stories, while other ministers appear in 11.4 per cent. These together form 70 per cent of all political actors coded. The presentational advantages of office, and most of all, of high office, are manifest. The agenda of news is increasingly dictated by the activities and pronouncements of government. Government announcements of one kind or another formed the basis of 11.5 per cent of all news stories.

As a spin-off concern in a project whose primary purpose was to develop methods for the routine audit of public policy news in the UK media, we decided to address empirically the claims made within the debate about ’tabloidisation’. The charge has been that news media, previously committed to the serious purpose of informing public debate about public issues, have been drawn into a nether region of ’dumbed down’ popular coverage more obsessed with audience ratings than citizenship.

Intertwined in this debate are a variety of assumptions that need unpacking. Notions of ’accessibility’, ’popular’, ’serious’, and so on are left largely unchallenged and intact. Our immediate task was a simpler one, however. If the charges are to be understood at all our first task was to translate them into some adequate analysis of media performance. In order to do this we decided to operationalise ’tabloidisation’ into four

indicators:



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