transfer 22(4) » Journalismus

How media structures inhibit their own modification by journalists

A qualitative in-depth research on journalists’ autonomy in Chile based on Giddens’ structuration theory

Despite several high restrictions on media freedom, the Chilean media system usually achieves very good scores in international media freedom rankings. Several scholars have already criticized the predominant focus of Freedom House or Reporters Without Borders on political constraints of media freedom. This thesis therefore openly investigates which major principles explain the autonomy of journalists in Chile. Through the lens of Giddens’ structuration theory both social structure and human agency were regarded combining qualitative expert interviews with a document analysis.

The results showed how market forces such as an extremely high media concentration, dependency on advertising and precarious working conditions in combination with the internalization of fears prevailing from the military dictatorship lead to self-censorship of journalists. Besides the thesis revealed how societal position decides over having a voice in the media. The Chilean case therefore exemplifies that selfregulation in itself, as practiced in neoliberal markets, is no guarantee for journalistic autonomy. On the contrary, it underlines the necessity of pro-pluralism communication policies enforcing, among others, stricter competition regulations, improved access to the media for all groups of society and safer working conditions.