New Media, Old Issues: Political Economy of Online News in Croatia

Monday, 11 July 2016: 10:15
Location: Hörsaal 23 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Pasko BILIC, Institute for Development and International Relations, Croatia
Ivan BALABANIC, Catholic University Zagreb, Croatia
The global internet is witnessing increasing concentration of power in the hands of only a handful social media companies. Despite the sublime promises of digital technologies for social change (Mosco, 2004) in digital discourses (Fisher, 2011) of online liberation, creativity and freedom, digital possibilities are mostly shaped by market realities (Murdock, Golding, 2002). Additionally, political interests in shaping debates and directing public opinion expand to the internet. However, this unidirectional thesis cannot always be described in terms of conspiracy or conscious intent (Murdock, Golding, 1973). In other words, control of media production is a complex interplay between intentional action and structural constraint (Murdock, 1982). The goal of this paper is to explore how these structural constraints shape online news media in Croatia. We will study the reporting on motorway monetization in Croatia in news production of exclusively online media organizations. The motorway monetization case displays strong government attempts to privatize publicly owned infrastructure with open resistance through organized civil society campaigns. An analysis of online news reporting of established print, radio and television media in Croatia showed a tendency of political parallelism (Bilić, Balabanić, 2015) and alignment between the editorial views of their off-line organizational policies and ownership structures. Based on interviews with editors and journalists as well as content analysis of articles published on the topic of motorway monetization, we will focus on: (1) the influence of advertising and citizen engagement in discourses of media production; and various aspects of online news reports including (2) headline tendency, (3) cited persons and (4) mentioned actors. The goal is to explore whether there are any differences, or similarities, between various ownership structures in terms of political alignment of attitudes towards government policies and/or civil society and whether the lack of pre-existing, offline ownership structures affects the type and style of reporting.