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Session No. 1. Introduction Basic Concepts and Theoretical Foundations of Media Accountability. Photo: imago/ecomedia/robert fishman. Why Media Accountability matters: The News of the World scandal and the Leveson Inquiry. Road map for Session No 1.

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Session No. 1

IntroductionBasic Concepts and Theoretical Foundations of Media Accountability

Photo: imago/ecomedia/robert fishman

Why Media Accountability matters:
  • The News of the World scandal and the Leveson Inquiry

Session 1 - Introduction

Road map for Session No 1.
  • Basic Concepts and Theoretical Foundations of Media Accountability

Session 1 - Introduction

Media Accountability: Challenges for Journalism

“We recommend that the members of the press engage in vigorous mutual criticism. Professional standards are not likely to be achieved as long as the mistakes and errors, the frauds and crimes, committed by units of the press, are passed over in silence by other members of the profession.”

Who will hold the media accountable?

Session 1 - Introduction

Media Accountability (MA): Definitions + Instruments

“Any non-State means of making media responsible towards the public.”

(Bertrand 2000: 108)

“Voluntary or involuntary processes by which the media answer directly or

indirectly to their society for the quality and/or consequences of publication.”

(McQuail 2005: 207)

Media self-regulation instruments (professional + organizational level):

Press codes + press councils

Media criticism

(trade journals + mass media)


Newsroom + journalists‘ blogs

Media accountability instruments (involving the audience)

Users‘ Comments

Media users‘ blogs

Social Media (Twitter, Facebook)


Low cost of criticism in digital age

Session 1 - Introduction

Media Accountability in transition (?)

See Session No. 5 & 6

See Session No. 9 & 10

Media Accountability

Offline Online

eEditor at Norran (Sweden)

Tagesschau-Blog (Germany) (Spain)

Error Button at Berliner Morgenpost (Germany)

Session 1 - Introduction

Media Accountability online – CaseStudy:

„Editors‘ Blog“ of the BBC News (UK)

1. Short description

The “Editors’ Blog”, where editors from across BBC News share (their) dilemmas and issues, started in May 2006 as part of an effort to improve transparency and accountability. The BBC values openness and accountability and offers the audience the possibility to interact with its staff. This blog aims at explaining the editorial decisions and dilemmas faced by the teams running the BBC's news service (incl. radio, TV, online).

2. Money/Time/Resources

Most of the blog posts are fairly brief and they are written by many different contributors from across BBC TV and radio, respectively the online service. In 2011, there were 70 blog posts.

3. User participation

In some cases, the blog posts are responses to feedback, comments and criticism the BBC may have received from the public over the way it had handled certain news stories. Each post also allows for moderated response.

4. Why is it a best practice example?

The types of articles posted on the blog fall into two general categories – updates about BBC News (a new newsroom, an app, viewing figures, etc.) and responses to feedback. For example, in December 2011, the BBC was criticized over its coverage of a European Summit in Brussels (notably by the Eurosceptic media), which led to the BBC Director of News issuing a response which then received a further 200 comments.

5. Why is it important for media accountability?

Responding to criticism, and being open to further criticism, is an excellent way of showing actor, newsroom and production transparency – especially for the publicly funded BBC.


Source: Bichler et al. 2012

Session 1 - Introduction

How effective is media self-regulation?Observations from research
  • Media journalists – who cover media issues for quality media – shy away from criticizing their colleagues and supervisors (e.g. Fengler 2002; Malik 2004; Porlezza 2005).
  • Studies dealing with ombudsmen reveal similar self-imposed restrictions (e.g. Evers et al. 2010).
  • Broadcasting stations tend to criticize the print media and vice versa, often with a political bias with regard to specific industry interests regarding media policy. (e.g. Krüger/Müller-Sachse 1998; Weiss 2004)

 Collective and individual self-interests of mediaprofessionals obviouslyrestrict the impact of established media self-regulation instruments. New models may be needed to hold the media to account more effectively.

See Session No. 3

Session 1 - Introduction

Political relevance
  • Self regulation and coregulation are general principles of EU policy
  • Policymakers(EU, EP, OSZE, UNESCO) increasingly broach the issue of media self regulation
  • The transformation societies of Eastern Europe and the Arabic states perform under special frame conditions of Media Accountability
  • The EU High Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism presented a ground breaking report in 2013 and suggested among otherrecommendationsto drastically expand the sanctioning potential of existing press councils, which provoked fierce response by industry representatives and lobbyists across Europe


Does the traditional model of media self-regulation dating back from the 1950s, with press councils as its core institution, still suffice for today’s converging media world – which is ever so much more competitive?

Session 1 - Introduction

July 2013

Session 1 - Introduction


Journalism cultures (Hallin/Mancini 2004)
  • The liberal model (e.g. Great Britain, United States) is characterized by highly deregulated media markets, little state interference in the media sector, and a highly developed culture of professionalism among journalists (Hallin and Mancini 2004: 198).
  •  The democratic corporatist model (e.g. Scandinavian countries, Germany, Austria) is also associated with high professionalism among journalists, but differs from the liberal model with regard to the influential role that public broadcasting plays in those countries (Hallin and Mancini 2004: 143).
  •  Distinctive features of the polarized pluralist model (e.g. Italy, Spain, France) are the high influence of political actors on both private and public news organizations, a weak professional culture among journalists, and the somewhat marginal role of the print media (Hallin and Mancini 2004: 89).

Session 1 - Introduction

Media Accountability as informal institutions of media regulation (North 1990)

Media regulation



Session 1 - Introduction

Media Accountability: Functions for Stakeholders

Media society: Enlightenment

Media audience: Media literacy

Media politics/economics: Transparency

Media actors: Quality control

Media products: Orientation

(Beuthner/Weichert 2005)

Session 1 - Introduction

Classification of Media Accountability

(Shoemaker/Reese 1996)

Journalist Training

Journalist Blogs

Trade Journals

Journalists (Individual Level)

Press Councils

Organizational Ethic Codes

Newsroom blogs

Professional Standards (Media Routines Level)


Newsroom, media organization (Organization Level)

Social Networks


Extramedia Level

Source: Model adapted from Shoemaker and Reese 1996, amended by Fengler et al. 2013

Watchblogs by Citizens

Transnational Level

Session 1 - Introduction

Media Accountability instruments: a typology

high degree of institutionalization

Press councils

Codes of ethics




Letters to the editor


Media journalism

Online comments



Entertain-ment formats

Media criticism in social networks

Citizen blogs

Journalist blogs

low degree of institutionalization

Session 1 - Introduction

Modes of Media Accountability
  • (Bardoel and d’Haenens 2004)

Accountability to the state (1)

Accountability to the market (2)

Professional accountability (3)

Public accountability (4)

Source: Developed from Bardoel and d’Haenens (2004) by Heikkilä, Domingo, Pies, Głowacki, Kuś and Baisnée (2012: 6)

Session 1 - Introduction

Research project „Media Accountability and Transparency in Europe“ (MediaAcT): Comparative study in 14 countries
  • Analysis of status quo of media self-regulation and media accountability in Europe
  • Survey of journalists‘attitudes towards media accountability
  • Key interest 1: Impact of established and innovative media accountability instruments
  • Key interest 2: „Cultures“ of accountability in Europe and comparison with exemplary Arab states

Session 1 - Introduction

Road Map

Session 1 - Introduction

  • Bardoel J. and L. d’Haenens. 2004. “Media responsibility and accountability: New conceptualizations and practices.” Communications 29: 5–25.
  • Bertrand, C.-J. 2000. Media Ethics & Accountability Systems. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
  • Beuthner, M. and S. A. Weichert. 2005. Die Selbstbeobachtungsfalle. Grenzen und Grenzgänge des Medienjournalismus. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.
  • Bichler, K., H. Harro-Loit, M. Karmasin and Daniela Kraus. 2012. “Best Practice Guidebook”. MediaAct Workingpaper No. 14/2012.
  • Evers, H., H. Groenhart and J. Groesen. 2010. “The News Ombudsman: Watchdog or Decoy?” In Studies for the Netherlands Press. Diemen: AMB.
  • Fengler, S. 2002. Medienjournalismus in den USA. Konstanz: UVK .
  • Heikkilä, H., D. Domingo, J. Pies, M. Glowacki, M. Kuś and O. Baisnée. 2012. “Media Accountability Goes Online. A transnational study on emerging practices and innovations.” MediaAct Workingpaper No. 14/2012.
  • Krüger, U. M. and K. H. Müller-Sachse. 1998. Medienjournalismus. Strukturen, Themen, Spannungsfelder. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag.
  • McQuail, D. 2005. McQuail's Mass Communication Theory. 5th Edition. London: Sage.
  • North, D. C. 1990. Institutions, institutional change and economic performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Porlezza, C. 2005. “Zwischen Selbstbeweihräucherung und Konkurrenzkritik. Medienjournalismus in der Schweiz – drei Fallstudien.” Medienwissenschaft Schweiz 1: 64-68.
  • Puppis, M. 2009. Organisationen der Medienselbstregulierung. Europäische Presseräte im Vergleich. Köln: Herbert von Halem Verlag.
  • Shoemaker, P. and S. D. Reese. 1996. Mediating the Message: Theories of Influences on Mass Media Content. 2th Edition. White Plains: Longman.
  • Vike-Freiberga, V., Däubler-Gmelin, H., Hammersley, B. Maduro, M. 2013. A free and pluralistic media to sustain European democracy. The Report of the High Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism

Session 1 - Introduction