Helle Sjøvaag

Helle Sjøvaag

Participant in 2007

Phd Projects

2007

News in the Digital Switchover

News production processes impacts on how the news market functions. In particular, the digital switchover – the process of moving news distribution from analogue to digital platforms – questions the continued validity of the social contract as the basic ideal of news production. The social contract ideal, which encompasses the theory of the 4th estate, journalistic idealism, legitimacy conventions and liberal theories of democracy and the press, is – in this digital context – in a state of flux. Consequently, the conventional rules of how news media legitimacy is attained and maintained may no longer apply. This project investigates the digital switchover and its consequences for legitimacy in the Norwegian news market, with particular emphasis on the strategies of the number two channel in the television market – the commercial public service channel TV 2. The reality of the digital switchover creates market fluctuations that pose a particular challenge for broadcasters. As a commercial public service broadcaster, TV 2 has certain obligations in terms of fulfilling a state-issued licensing agreement. At the same time, TV 2 is a business venture whose bottom line needs to satisfy shareholders. As such, developments in the news market indicate discrepancies in the relationship between reality and principle in terms of social contract theory and how the news market actually functions. In order to position itself in the digital television market, TV 2 has launched a number of niche channels – among which is the 24/7 news provider TV 2 News Channel. Strategies for gaining and maintaining legitimacy in the digital news market are examined through a comparative case study of TV 2 News Channel and the news production efforts of the state-owned public service broadcaster – the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK). The channels are subject to differential analysis through interviews and qualitative and quantitative content analyses. In addition, the increasing number of specialist channels in the digital terrestrial transmission system indicates a dispersal of public service broadcasting ideals. This suggested consequence of the digital switchover is in need of international contextualisation. Public service broadcasting issues are central to European broadcasting, and a comparative perspective will enable the contextualisation of the destabilisation of the social contract ideal. My analysis of these issues is accompanied by the development of a theory of social contract that seeks to account for the role of journalism and professional ideology in the digital news market.

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