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About this book

This book explores the different ways Francophone research on news media has faced the challenges of dependence and independence from three complementary perspectives. The first is economics - how can sustainable business models be developed and to what extent can crowdfunding help to maintain the financial and editorial independence of newsrooms? Secondly, in a time where the role of journalism in the public sphere is more questioned than ever, the authors evaluate to what extent news media can embody the needs of their readers. Thirdly, the authors consider the historical and political context of publication in the light of the ‘Arab Spring’. This book deals with major, contemporary evolutions of news media, bringing together research that considers the media in France, Canada, and the Arab region (notably Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Egypt). Using numerous case studies, this book helps to define how complex the question of independence is today.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Introduction

The aim of this book is to present recent research on media independence by French-speaking researchers. The contributions bear witness to a dynamic field of research, which over the past 20 years has profoundly renewed media studies in the French-speaking world. The choice of the media independence theme was both a necessity and an opportunity—a vital necessity for the media, because the deep economic crisis they are facing cannot be resolved without a thorough reflection on the importance of media independence and the forces that jeopardise it; an opportunity for research, because independence is less a concept as such than the result of various intersecting issues. This is why this book approaches it from three interrelated and complementary perspectives: the economy, the relationship to media readers and the political context.
Loïc Ballarini

Political Economy of the Media in the Age of Crowdfunding


Chapter 2. Funding Print and Online News Media in France: Developments and Challenges

Franck Rebillard studies the major changes and socio-political issues affecting the financial resources available to print and online media in France. In order to overcome its funding crisis, the news media have recently seen crowdsourcing platforms as an alternative source of financing. Such an approach, however, meant that a number of important aspects have been overlooked. First, the scale of crowdfunding remains quite small for both print and online media. Second, the importance of State assistance, which currently accounts for 15% of media revenues in France, is too often discounted. Lastly, the appearance of new sources of media financing calls into question the role of the State in supporting media pluralism. Google—a major beneficiary of the transfer of advertising budgets to oligopolistic Internet platforms—has invested millions of euros in supporting online media, while during the same time support from the French government has decreased accordingly.
Franck Rebillard

Chapter 3. French Media: Can Crowdfunding Serve Pluralism?

The study presented here by Loïc Ballarini, Emmanuel Marty and Nikos Smyrnaios examines the reasons which led French media organizations to conduct crowdfunding campaigns between 2013 and 2016, and places them within a larger social and historical context. The issue of the extent to which revenue sources and capital ownership affect content has indeed been brought to the fore since the early twentieth century. This is what the authors refer to as “the quest for clean money”, or the search for funding that guarantees independent news production in accordance with journalistic ethics. This quest has taken many forms throughout the twentieth century, with the most recent one being crowdfunding. Interviews with journalists reveal that while the aims are still the same, and as with previous solutions, crowdfunding also has its limits and seems to be used only by niche media or for special ventures.
Loïc Ballarini, Emmanuel Marty, Nikos Smyrnaios

Chapter 4. Crowdfunding: Does It Make a Significant Contribution to Community and Independent Media in Quebec?

Anne-Marie Brunelle and Michel Sénécal analyse how Quebec’s community and independent media use surprisingly only rarely crowdfunding, although “participation” is a fundamental part of their definition and history. To understand this apparent paradox, it is necessary to have another look at the way in which the financing of these media is structured, and at the way in which they use the four main categories of resources identified by the authors: public, private, autonomous and participatory financing. It then appears that crowdfunding is only one type of financing among others. And if it has not had the same success in Quebec as in other countries, it is because other methods of financing, which can also be described as participatory, have already existed for a long time and can only be replaced by crowdfunding if it brings a real advantage in a given context.
Anne-Marie Brunelle, Michel Sénécal

Journalism and the Public Sphere


Chapter 5. Audiences and Readership of Revolutionary Leftist Media: The “Media Leader” Hypothesis

One of the key challenges that any media outlet faces is “establishing an audience”. In other words, how can media “represent” their audiences? How can they articulate their recipients’ implicit expectations through the words of a locutor? Using anthropologist Christian Geffray’s reading of Sigmund Freud, Vincent Goulet develops what he calls the “media leader” hypothesis. When mass political protest is necessary to fulfil a desire, hitherto unarticulated, but expressible, media can potentially take on a leadership role if the Ego image they offer can be substituted for the “Ego Ideals” of the individuals making up their audiences. This hypothesis is verified through four case studies of revolutionary media that garnered considerable audiences or readerships, enabling individuals to participate in a collective reality beyond themselves: Le Père Duchesne (1791–1794), Le Cri du peuple (1871), the Lorraine Cœur d’Acier radio station (1979–1981), and the Spanish TV program La Tuerka (2010–).
Vincent Goulet

Chapter 6. Occupation: “Net Cleaner”—The Socio-economic Issues of Comment Moderation on French News Websites

For discussion spaces to exist online, the news media need invisible hands: these of the comment moderators. Rapidly overwhelmed by the scope of the task and the resources required to do so, the media that did not close their comment spaces often outsourced this job to specialists. In France, moderating is an oligopolistic market, where only three companies operate. Emmanuel Marty and Nikos Smyrnaios studied the one that does not offshore its business—meaning the moderators are more informed of the cultural context and current affairs, and have better working conditions. In the months following the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, researchers collected their data in two stages. They conducted semi-structured interviews with employees of the company, and did a computer-assisted analysis of more than 29,000 published and unpublished comments sent to three media. In this way, the authors reveal four rationales that govern access to visibility: the sociopolitical context, the legal framework, the medias’ editorial and marketing strategies and the economic strategies of the moderation services.
Nikos Smyrnaios, Emmanuel Marty

Chapter 7. The Local Press as a Medium to Create Diversion

The press with the largest circulation in France—and which is virtually unknown abroad—are regional newspapers (around 50 dailies and 150 weeklies). In this chapter, Loïc Ballarini explores the content in these newspapers. Through an analysis of more than 1500 articles, he examines how the French regional press can claim (or not) to reflect the geographical area it covers. Despite the apparent diversity of news, the research shows a strict hierarchy of local information, which is voluntarily complacent about those in power and almost never critical. As if it were stuck in the consensus-based model that made it successful a century ago, the local press is unable to put its finger on long-term shifts and changes in the region. The author describes it as a diversion of attention away from social dynamics towards extremely simplified social constructs.
Loïc Ballarini

Chapter 8. Media Coverage of the Coalbed Methane (CBM) Controversy in Lorraine, Northeast France: How the Regional Daily Press Boosted the Social Acceptability of an Unpopular Project

The regional daily press is often the first place where readers learn about controversies, especially concerning the environment. While these may appear to be circumscribed within a local geographical area, they may become issues of general interest because of the risks involved. How then does the press react when a controversy arises? That is the question that Marieke Stein asks, by analysing the media coverage of the project to extract coalbed methane (CBM) through hydraulic fracturing in Moselle, in the eastern region of Lorraine, France. Over a period of 12 years, from 2006 to 2018, a study of all articles published on the topic in the only local daily shows that the newspaper mainly supports the company, giving itself a great social responsibility in the way the controversy is brought to the public.
Marieke Stein

Before and After the Revolution: Media in the MENA Region


Chapter 9. The Transnationalisation of Information and Journalism: The Case of Arab Media

Between late 2010 and mid-2012, the “Arab Spring” led to the fall of leaders in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen, as well as to a new constitution in Morocco. For so much change to happen in such a short period, the movement’s roots had to have been well established for some time. Such was the case for the news media, as Tourya Guaaybess explains in this chapter. Going back over the phenomena of the transnationalisation of information and media flows that started in the 1990s, she explains how what she calls a “sociological transition” of news-media professionals and users took place, within a broader context of globalised information exchange, and within a regional context characterised by an Arab-speaking audience and dissemination strategies that transcended country borders.
Tourya Guaaybess

Chapter 10. A Conditional Offer: The Strategies Employed in the Field of Power in Morocco to Control the Press Space

In this chapter Abdelfettah Benchenna and Dominique Marchetti consider the socio-historic transformations that have taken place in the methods employed by the field of power in Morocco to control the press. From the 1950s, an initial phase involved direct political control over the news and its distribution methods. Thereafter, there were two periods when the media landscape really opened up: the creation of non-partisan printed press in the 1990s, then the development of online news starting in the 2000s. However, even then, the political field continued to exercise a form of control over the news, mainly through economic pressure and various mechanisms that, in appearance, are compatible with freedom of the press that is now part of the constitution.
Abdelfettah Benchenna, Dominique Marchetti

Chapter 11. The Algerian Press: Deregulation Under Pressure—The New Forms of Control or the “Invisible Hand” of the State

In Algeria, the printed press was owned by the State until the 1990 Information Code was promulgated, thus giving the authorisation to create private press companies. Tens of newspapers were then founded, owned by entrepreneurs or journalists’ cooperatives, and competed with those newspapers that were still owned by the State. In this chapter, Cherif Dris studies the paradoxical liberalisation of the Algerian press market, based on the systemic approach of Daniel C. Hallin and Paolo Mancini, which links four variables that prevented the media field from being isolated from other social fields, particularly political and economic. These variables are the market, the alignment of the press with the political field, the role of the state and the professionalisation of journalists.
Cherif Dris

Chapter 12. Tunisian Post-2011 Private Presses: Economic and Political Mutations

In this chapter, Enrique Klaus and Olivier Koch study the history and current state of what they have dubbed the Tunisian “private presses”, which have been pluralised in order to highlight the diverse nature of these daily, weekly and pure-play media. The first Tunisian private newspapers indeed date back to the colonial era, and one also remained during the one-party period after the independence. Although the real opening-up of the media is due to the “Arab Spring” after which over 200 publications were authorised, freedom does not necessarily mean prosperity. Today, the Tunisian media face two main challenges: the government’s attempts to keep the former players in a dominant position, and the strategies of advertising investors, who tend to favour social media sites over the traditional media.
Enrique Klaus, Olivier Koch

Chapter 13. Fortune and Misfortune of the Egyptian Private Press: Sociohistorical Study of a Place of Production of Information

The opening up of the Egyptian press is not linked to the “Arab Spring” revolutionary movement but goes back to the 1990s and a specific form of alliance between businessmen who were nevertheless close to the regime and young journalists. To explain how this convergence took place, Bachir Benaziz uses Michel de Certeau’s idea of a “place of production”, which enables us to understand how a type of journalistic message can slot into a particular historical situation. Although financed by businessmen who owed their success to the regime, these newspapers paid special attention to social movements, human rights organisations and associations, while keeping their distance from official sources. Two case studies illustrate this development: the weekly newspaper al-Dustûr and the daily newspaper al-Massry al-Youm.
Bachir Benaziz


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