I det senaste numret av European Journal of Communication recenserar James Stanyer, Loughborough University, boken Communicating Politics. Political Communication in the Nordic Countries (Nordicom, 2008), redigerad av Toril Aalberg, Mark Ørsten och mig själv. Det var trevlig läsning ;-). Hela recensionen återfinns nedan.
In a field largely dominated by US scholarship, political communication research in the Nordic countries has often been overlooked. Communicating Politics seeks to address this shortcoming not only by publicizing the latest Scandinavian research but also challenging some assumptions about Nordic democracies, principally their categorization by Hallin and Mancini as indistinguishable examples of democratic corporatism. The editors rightly observe that while Scandinavian countries share similar traits there are significant differences which deserve to be explored in detail.
With the aim of avoiding naive generalizations, the book provides a comparative examination of the political communication systems of the five main Nordic states. The collection is organized in two parts. Part 1 provides background on Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, assessing the extent to which the elements of the democratic corporatist model are present. The chapters reveal that unifying features are not as apparent as they maybe were, political parallelism is certainly weaker, press circulation is declining in some countries and state intervention in the media system varies considerably between states, with some countries even exhibiting features of Hallin and Mancini’s liberal model. In all, the authors in Part 1 should be congratulated on their succinct yet informative chapters on the political and media systems of the various countries. These provide useful background detail.
Unlike Part 1, there is no single underlying theme unifying Part 2, which was the product of a call for contributions by the editors. The eight chapters, though, reveal a
conceptual richness and a healthy diversity of methodological perspectives in Nordic communication scholarship. For example, in addition to straight empirical analyses,
some of the chapters employ discourse and semiotic analysis which adds to the book’s strengths. Although there is no formal grouping of chapters, certain clusters emerge; for instance, quite a few focus on election campaign coverage in traditional and new media. Carlson and Strandberg’s study examines the evolution of Finnish party/candidate websites and questions of information inequality. On the one hand, the research identifies continuing gaps over time between the sites of the candidates of the major parties and the rest but also finds shrinking gaps between male and female candidates’ websites or those of old and young candidates. Johansson’s chapter looks at news coverage over nine Swedish election campaigns. It reveals there has been a movement towards what he terms a popularization of news with leaders having a higher profile in contemporary campaigns than in the past on both commercial and public service outlets. Andersson’s chapter, which draws on the findings of a research project on Swedish media coverage of European Union parliamentary elections, finds that few people watch coverage, most are disengaged from the campaign and those who do vote do so either along party lines or for an appropriate national ambassador. He suggests that the problem lies not with the voter but with political parties and the media’s inability to communicate the relevance of the contest in a rational manner. Kjeldsen’s chapter, and that by Have and Waade, although focused on elections, depart from the standard empirical examination. Kjeldsen uses the visual topoi of Danish printed political adverts to probe the changing ways that political parties in Danish elections seek to elicit a response from voters. Have and Waade’s study examines the emotional strategies used by two leading Danish politicians through exploring aestheticization in two political documentaries.
The remaining chapters are focused on broader contextual issues, such as public relations strategies, regulatory frameworks and changing journalistic regimes. Ihlen and
Allern, drawing on three case studies, examine the struggle between political advocates and media professionals to shape media frames in Norway. The chapter finds that success often depends on the frame sponsor’s ability to cater for media needs and blend issue-specific frames with generic news frames. Also in Norway, Thorbjornsrud examines the lack of regulation of campaign coverage and the way this shapes source media relations. The chapter shows how low levels of regulation allow national broadcasters to make significant ratings-driven interventions in campaigns to the potential detriment of political advocates. Djerf-Pierre and Weibull present the results from a project on changing Swedish broadcast journalism. The chapter identifies four phases each with specific genres or modes of political representation – what the authors term regimes. The chapter shows how Swedish journalism has not been a linear development, but more a case of regimes disappearing and reappearing. For example, the pursuit of the audience not only characterizes contemporary political communication but also that of the 1950s. Although there is no overall theme, there are several subthemes that run throughout the second section. One key one, which unites most chapters, is change, with each chapter endeavouring to question taken-for-granted assumptions and empirically document the transitions in political communication that have taken place. It is perhaps a subtheme that could have been made more of throughout the collection and especially in the conclusion.
In sum, this collection represents a clearly organized response to Hallin and Mancini’s model at the same time as throwing light on Nordic political communication scholarship for a global audience. It is well crafted, avoiding the sins of less structured offerings and it succeeds in addressing its aims. This reader certainly felt more knowledgeable about the national political communications systems of the various Scandinavian countries and better informed as to some of the latest scholastic developments in this region of the world.