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In the Television Studios of Europe

Freedom of Public Speech in Televised Debates in Europe

What can we learn from television talk shows about the norms regulating freedom of public speech in the various countries of Europe?
What part of these programmes, and of news programmes more generally, is devoted to European Union coverage, and what is the tone of this coverage?
What lessons can be drawn from such television programming concerning a dawning supra-national public media space which would correspond to the supra-nationality of the televisual medium?

These are the three lines of questioning pursued by a collective research effort spearheaded by a research team from the CNRS' research unit “Communication et Politique”, coordinated by Guy Lochard (faculty member at the University of Paris III). This pluridisciplinary project brings together Danish, English, Spanish-Catalan and French research groups as well as one from Romania and one from Quebec. This variety facilitates intra-European comparisons between northern and southern countries, or eastern and western countries, as well as an external point of comparison from another geo-political context which itself is characterised by intense questionings concerning identity.

The study of the production context (types of operators, etc.) and of the ways programme mechanisms seek to conform (identities, status and role of participants, ways exchanges are handled) has revealed similarities and differences among countries. Pooling each group's findings has underscored significant East/West differences as well as certain particularities arising from specific sociocultural traditions. That being said, the project also uncovers a disturbing convergence among the countries under study. The generalised model of debate is characterised by a trivialisation of themes and a popularisation of ways of treating these themes (analysis replaced by theatrical polemics, experts no longer consulted, etc.).

This observation led project researchers to take a look at the Internet. How much credence to give to claims of an “electronic democracy” replacing an outmoded “cathode democracy”? This line of questioning has spurred studies on the Banat (a Euro-region in the center of Europe) and on Quebec. The next step is to pursue these questions at a cross-media level.




Guy Lochard
Laboratoire Communication et politique

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