Soft Power, Hard News: How Journalists at State-Funded Transnational Media Legitimize Their Work

Soft Power, Hard News: How Journalists at State-Funded Transnational Media Legitimize Their Work

Kate Wright, Martin Scott, Mel Bunce | Sage Journals
Published: May 2020

How do journalists working for different state-funded international news organizations legitimize their relationship to the governments which support them? In what circumstances might such journalists resist the diplomatic strategies of their funding states?

We address these questions through a comparative study of journalists working for international news organizations funded by the Chinese, US, UK and Qatari governments. Using 52 interviews with journalists covering humanitarian issues, we explain how they minimized tensions between their diplomatic role and dominant norms of journalistic autonomy by drawing on three – broadly shared – legitimizing narratives, involving different kinds of boundary-work. In the first ‘exclusionary’ narrative, journalists differentiated their ‘truthful’ news reporting from the ‘false’ state ‘propaganda’ of a common Other, the Russian-funded network, RT. In the second ‘fuzzifying’ narrative, journalists deployed the ambiguous notion of ‘soft power’ as an ambivalent ‘boundary concept’, to defuse conflicts between journalistic and diplomatic agendas. In the final ‘inversion’ narrative, journalists argued that, paradoxically, their dependence on funding states gave them greater ‘operational autonomy’. Even when journalists did resist their funding states, this was hidden or partial, and prompted less by journalists’ concerns about the political effects of their work, than by serious threats to their personal cultural capital.

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Public Broadcasting: The Latin American Exception

Public Broadcasting: The Latin American Exception.

The Political Economy of Communication 7(1), 105–109.

Martín Becerra


An edited version of a talk at the panel The Future of Public Broadcasting: How to Win Back our Hearts? Forum Media and Development, Berlin, November 2018.

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Public Service Broadcasting in the Digital Age

Public Service Broadcasting in the Digital Age

Journal of European Television History and Culture. Volume 8 – Issue 16 – 2019. Special Issue

Jérôme Bourdon, Mette Charis Buchman and Peter B. Kaufman (eds.)


This special issue proposes a reexamination of public service broadcasting (PSB) in the light of the most recent technological, political and economic developments. Traditional public service broadcasters, ideally designed to serve citizens rather than consumers to inform the national conversations in well-informed democracies, face the double challenge of commercialization (since the 1980s) and digitization (since the 1990s). The question of their survival in this context has been posed again and again. The need for a redefinition seems inevitable.

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Public Service Media & Digital Innovation: The Small Nation Experience

Credit: Nordicom

Public Service Media & Digital Innovation: The Small Nation Experience

Ruth McElroy & Caitriona Noonan

This chapter from Nordicom’s 2018 publication Public Service Media in the Networked Society, emphasises the role of public media in providing minority language services in small nation states. 

This excellent paper explores the way Irish Language Broadcaster,TG4, and Welsh language broadcaster, S4C, use digital platforms to achieve objectives that are core to their public service mandate, while negotiating the “asymmetry of power in the network society”. They note that significant structural issues remain, which require the intervention of policy-makers to ensure “linguistic vibrancy and media plurality”.

Measuring the reach of "fake news" and online disinformation in Europe.

Comprehensive factsheet by the team at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) highlighting top-level usage statistics for the most popular sites that independent fact-checkers and other observers have identified as publishers of false news and online disinformation.

The factsheet was compiled by  Richard Fletcher, Alessio Cornia, Lucas Graves and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen. The report focuses on Italy and France as both are widely seen as facing particular pressure from for-profit and ideologically/politically motivated online disinformation.

Follow the link below for the full report.


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Public service media, universality and personalisation through algorithms: Mapping strategies and exploring dilemmas


Sage Journals


This contribution compares personalisation strategies of public service media (PSM) and how these are reconciled with PSM’s core values, especially universality. To this end, it combines mapping of a sample of PSM with in-depth analysis of Flemish VRT and Norwegian NRK.

Find out more and access the full text via the Sage Journal website. University/Institutional login may be required.

[Text sourced from Sage Journals]


Far-Right Nationalism and Populism in Europe: Assaults on Press Freedom

New research from the University of Vienna shows that growing support for far-right groups and populist politicians poses a severe threat to journalism across Europe.

The report explores the threat posed by far-right groups and populist political figures to press freedom and the watchdog role of independent journalism in 12 European democracies. The report covers the years of 2012-2016, which has been recognised as a period of significant growth in the support of such groups. Countries examined in this timely report include Austria; Bosnia & Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; France; Germany; Hungary; Italy; Montenegro; Poland; Romania; and Serbia.

The report examines a broad range of criteria that contribute to the term “assault on the media”, including legal action, physical attacks, intimidation verbal and online abuse, the use of employment as leverage and so on.

This timely report concludes by offering recommendations to governments and media owners as to how to best to avoid growing assaults on press freedom by the growth of far right nationalism and populist politics.

The report was published in May 2017 and authored by a team from the Media Governance and Industries Research Lab at the University of Vienna. It was funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.


Public Television in Latin America: Changing to the Digital Age

(Florence Toussaint, published 2017)

This research article tracks the history of public television in Latin America and its journey towards digital transition.

This research briefly explores the history of public television in Latin America, a history that is strongly linked to the government and the political history of each state. Overall, the author highlights that only one public media institution across the region has full editorial independence, financial autonomy or financial support from their viewers. However, television (both public and private) has always held a crucial role in Latin American society as a mediator between the consumption and production of culture.

The birth and growth of public media in Latin America can be traced from the 1950s, but each country evolved differently with regards to growth and the model they chose to transition to the digital world. Countries adopted different digital models, some choosing from the American ATSC (Advanced Television System Commitee), others chose the Japanese-Brazilian ISDB-Tb (Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting-Terrestrial), the European DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial) and the Chinese model.

Some of the data analysed or displayed in the article are not official, but it’s nonetheless useful in highlighting trends and varying situations across the region.

Public television in Latin America continues to be characterised by pluralistic and fragmented media systems and is influenced by just as diverse an array of technologies. Public television will have to transition to the digital world to change and survive especially as quality becomes compromised and viewers head towards new, private options to be entertained, informed and educated.

The complete digitisation of the whole region could take up to 2021, with a few countries already halfway in the process of digitisation.

The full paper and more information can be found below.

(Toussaint Alcaráz, 2017)

Reference: Toussaint Alcaráz, F. (2017) ‘Televisión pública en América Latina: su transición a la era digital’, Revista mexicana de ciencias políticas y sociales, ISSN-e 0185-1918, Vol. 62, No. 229, 2017, págs. 223-242, 62(229), pp. 223–242.


Obeying His Masters’ Voices

Managing Independence and Accountability in Public Service Media Between Civil Society and State

Christian S. Nissen

Chapter from: Managing Media Firms and Industries

Springer Link



‘Obeying His Masters’ Voices: Managing Independence and Accountability in Public Service Media Between Civil Society and State’ is a chapter from Managing Media Firms and Industries, edited by Gregory Ferrell Lowe and Charles Brown.

The chapter focusses on governance issues of public media organisations, particularly the juggling act of “guarding editorial independence and securing accountability” towards the public, the stakeholders of PSM. This will be explored within the context of maintaining an independent organisation and editorial independence whilst many face growing interference from government.


Making Sense of Innovation

Process, product, and storytelling innovation in public service broadcasting organisations

Sandra K. Evans

Taylor & Francis Online 

Department of Communication, California State Polytechnic University, USA



This article addresses the following question: “how do employees and managers make sense of innovation within their organizations in relation to a rapidly evolving digital media environment?”.

With a focus on public radio organisations in an increasingly digital, multi-platform media landscape, this article uses data from interviews with 56 employees from 11 public radio stations. The results, according to the author, “show how people in public media organizations make sense of innovation by relying primarily on process-oriented, rather than product-oriented frames”.