Behind the right ideas : Comparing populist party views on public service media in Northern and Southern Europe

  1. Nord, Lars 2
  2. Arriaza Ibarra, Karen 1
  1. 1 Universidad Complutense de Madrid

    Universidad Complutense de Madrid

    Madrid, España

    ROR 02p0gd045

  2. 2 Mid Sweden University

    Mid Sweden University

    Sundsvall, Suecia


International Association for Media and Communication Research Conference, Lyon, July 9-13, 2023

Year of publication: 2023

Type: Conference paper


The growth of populist parties in Europe entails new challenges for public service media and hasadded new dimensions to media policy debates in many countries. Traditional left-right wingpolitical conflicts about the mission and role of public service media, in particular in relation tocommercial media competitors in the digital era, have now been supplemented by right wingpopulist attacks questioning public service media as such: their content, impartiality and links tothe established political system and elite groups in society. Public service media has thus becomesomewhat of ‘a special target’ for populist parties in Europe (Holtz-Bacha, 2021).While the more interest-oriented market liberal and private media opposition to public servicemedia have been extensively covered and discussed in media and communication research for longtime, the driving forces behind a more ideologically oriented criticism from the far right has beenless investigated and remains somewhat unclear. On one hand, this criticism matches populismperfectly, as public service media is portrayed as the representatives of a political elite distancedfrom the perspectives of ‘ordinary people’. On the other hand, public service media also brings thenational culture, language, and values that populist parties repeatedly identify themselves with.This paper aims to shed new light on populist party views on public service media by comparingthe standpoints of the populist right wing parties in Northern Europe (Denmark, Norway, andSweden) and Southern Europe (France., Italy, and Spain) during the period 2018-2022. Partycommunication on the topic is analyzed through qualitative text analyses using three basic sourcesin both regions: news media content, parliamentary debates and documents, and party congressmaterial. The comparison between polarized pluralist and democratic corporatist countries alsoallows for the analysis of possible media system importance for understanding populismstandpoints on public service media (Hallin & Mancini, 2004).Theoretically, this paper adheres to previous research traditions to study the role of ideas inexplaining media policy. In contrast to traditional interests and institutional approaches whereregulations are perceived as results of group self-interests, structures and social processes, theforce-of-idea perspective focuses on actors’ normative beliefs and cognitive understandings ofcausal relationships. It has been argued that the roles of ideas should be more emphasized andintegrated in interest and institutional approaches when explaining media policy positions (Künzler,2012). As populist parties have gained political importance and become more influential in manycountries in Europe, policy implementation in distinctive areas is also highly relevant to analyze.Media policy is one such area and this comparative study intends to offer new insights aboutmotives and driving forces behind the formulation of ideological populist right wing parties’positions in relation to public service media.