Barely has the dust settled after the prolonged formation of the government until the debate starts about how democracy is affected. According to SVT/Novus, people's confidence in politicians has decreased, and the president hopes that the political scientist evaluates the process. In the short term, certainly people trust in individual politicians and political parties weakened. But in the long term, it is other changes that affect democracy in the foundation. Some of these long-term trends are analysed in a new book by political scientists and media researchers from Sweden, Finland, Lithuania and Poland: ”Close and Distant: the Political Executive–Media Relations in Four Countries” (Nordicom).
In the centre of the study is the symbiosis between senior politicians, their press secretaries and spinndoktorer on the one hand, and the political reporters at leading media outlets on the other. The book is based on 80 in-depth interviews in the four countries, as well as many examples of interdependence in the policy elitdivision. It looks different in the four countries, but the direction of the trend is the same – a new type of political control of the medieflödet be developed when the government pr machinery is being built at the same time as the media resources are thinned out. The balance of power is changing, and it affects the political processes.
. Both sides need each other in the daily work at the same time that there are conflicts of interest in the fight over the control of information flows. Both sides need a certain amount of proximity but also distance and roles. Journalists and their sources exercise a daily trading information in exchange for publicity – a negotiation built on power and contact. This exchange ratio has implications for modern democracy and its institutions, with respect to transparency, accountability, legitimacy, and power relations in the political process.
International scientists warn that this governance increases the cynicism among the citizens, to the strengthening elites and create a ”thin” democracy.
In all four countries in the study, governments have controlled their flow of information, not to uncover the flaws and disagreements. The strategy can be understood in the light of a more aggressive media coverage as well as the specific requirements to hold together a coalition government. It also has its logic in a time where the pace of life in politics increased, which the media contributed to. Thus, the prime minister's office strengthened its grip over the communication, with more co-ordination and governance from a growing group of ”policyprofessionella” in the political center of power.
As a press secretary in the Swedish government put it in an interview: ”I would say in general that it is more centralised and co-ordinated... But I would also say is a product of the spirit of the times and the requirements placed on keeping better track of what the different parts do, the requirements on the answer...”
In the 1990s, discussed the media's increasing power, the political scientist Olof Petersson, coined the concept of ”what journalism is all about” to describe the ideology that he saw to have an ever greater influence in the public debate. Today, twenty years later, the picture is a different and more complicated. The specific logic that governs the media is strong and permeates society, more than ever, all the players who want to be seen on the public stage must abide by the medielogikens rules of the game. But it does not mean that the media and the journalists control.
These ”semi-finished” fills the newscasts and newspaper pages, at the same time as the reporters trying to keep up with the political game. An example is the political release of the state budget – in the 1990s chased the reporters for leaks to get budgetnyheter, in day portions, the government's press secretary out of the db into small parts to selected editorial offices or in a well-directed medieevents to get the maximum attention.
In the Swedish case study, we describe the relationships between journalists and sources as a professionally symbiotic; yields are close to, but with the recognition of each other's professional roles. The analysis shows a common culture of political communication that is based on standards and practices. Within this culture is, however, a daily struggle over the control of information flows. It is difficult to draw general conclusions about which side is the strongest, but political sources have a large influence over the agenda by controlling information. The sources are trying to actively, and through a variety of methods to affect how news is produced. Our interviewees points out consistently the increased resources on the political side at the same time that they are coherent, both the press secretary and reporters, highlighting the dwindling nyhetsredaktionerna.
More news to be produced for the digital platforms, for example, prior to the elections shows all the types of media house live hearings, partiledardebatter and duels. For politicians, this means another opportunity to influence public opinion at the same time as it makes the electoral process even more intense, and pushes up the tempo further. As well as in other countries, we see a palpable medial personfixering. The growing need for communications resources is at the same time a reflection of ”the permanent campaign” where strategy and tactics will have a larger place in the media and in politics at the expense of ideology and sakpolitisk discussion.
This long-term development has importance for democracy. It has of course consequences on the strong professionaliserade political sources contributes to increased transparency, or if they changed redrawn power relations rather than leading to a reduction in transparency and a stronger governance from the political sphere. What we see is that the players in the political realm not only has adapted to the medielogiken, but also greatly alters the balance in the relationship between politics and the media.
the Development towards a more effective governance of political communication is evident in all the four countries examined, but it has gone furthest in the nordic countries. In Poland, the control of the nationalist government, the public service directly, by replacing managers, and journalists, in the nordic countries takes place mediehanteringen with more gentle methods in a continuous interaction between the regeringskansliernas sources and the media. International researchers dutchman Cees Hamelink warned that this governance increases the cynicism among the citizens, to the strengthening elites and create a ”thin” democracy. Something that in the long run, benefit the populist parties that have profiled themselves to stand outside the political-media establishment.