Local newspaper competition and the means of diversity: A historical-comparative study of policy, content and audience in Norway and Sweden
This project will explore the nature of local newspaper competition in the democratic corporatist media systems of Norway and Sweden. My goal is to investigate local newspaper competition in light of diversity ideals in press policy (through document analysis of white papers, 1965-2013), in light of content diversity (through content analysis of eight newspapers, 1985, 2000, 2015) and in light of audience exposure (through survey analysis of local news exposure in two-paper cities).
While the press support system in Norway and Sweden are both extensive and similar in their form, the political aim of supporting and preserving newspaper diversity on a local level has been challenged in different regards. Whereas most of the Swedish no. 2-newspapers have been acquired by the owner of their local competitor, the number of competing local newspapers in Norway is in great decline. Additionally, the scope of ownership concentration and ownership changes has also blurred the traditional distinction between liberal/conservative no. 1-papers, and social democratic no. 2-papers. Changes in publishing formats, changes in printing hours and not least the emergence of the Internet as a joint publishing platform may also be taken as as examples of a more institutionally homogeneous newspaper sector. Thus, one may ask, how do such structural changes affect the democratic means of local newspaper competition? Are the Norwegian and Swedish two-paper-cities losing their position as so-called “bastions of diversity, competition and choice”?
The main hypothesis which guides this proposed work is the following: “An increasingly market oriented media system interferes with the democratic means of local newspaper competition”. The hypothesis will be explored through these research questions:
i) How has the diversity concept been understood, justified and defined during the history of modern press policy in Norway and Sweden?
ii) Whether and how do the degree and forms of content diversity vary according to historical and national differences within the competitive newspaper markets? Does intercity newspaper competition contribute to increased content diversity in local newspaper markets or within competing newspaper ?
iii) How do the specific logics of online news affect the degree and forms of content diversity among local competing newspapers? Are the newspapers more or less diverse online?
iv) What kinds of demographic, socio-economic and ideological variations can be identified among readers of two competing local newspapers, and to what extent is
there a correlation between diversity in content and diversity in exposure?
This project will draw on previous works on media diversity, both as a policy objective and as an empirical measure. The empirical data will be analyzed in light of theories on media and democracy and Hallin and Mancinis work on media systems.