Media as political actors and normative demands on the public sphere – The case of Liechtenstein

Main Research Area:

A content analysis of the daily newspapers for the years 2006 and 2014 based on political science and public sphere theory.

If media follow an ideology based political agenda, they can be defined as political actors. Research on media as political actors has so far focused on the question of whether media represent autonomous positions and thus raise their own voice in the political process. However, an independent voice of the media could not be confirmed. The media rather act as representatives respectively advocates for the political interests of already existing ideology or even party based positions. Following this finding, the question arises as to what extent media as political actors are able to fulfill basic normative demands in their political reporting.

The Liechtenstein daily newspapers reach approximately 90 percent of the population. Due to its wide reach, the two daily newspapers are the constituent element of the formation of opinion in Liechtenstein. The high influence of the daily newspapers on the formation of opinion was empirically validated several times in the context of post-election surveys. According to the self-description in their statutes, the Liechtenstein daily newspapers serve as an information source for all social groups and on the other hand act as a mouthpiece for the two largest parties "Progressive Citizens’ Party” (FBP) and "Patriotic Union"(VU). The Liechtensteiner Volksblatt maintains a close relationship to the FBP and the Liechtensteiner Vaterland to the VU. Due to this close connection with the large parties, the daily newspapers can be defined as political actors. When media take up the role of political actors, the risk that the political reporting is stained by a strong party-political bias is rather high. Thus normative claims can probably only be fulfilled partially.

Based on a quantitative content analysis of the coverage on the political elites (head of state, government, parliament and political parties), the parliamentary reporting and opinion contributions (commentaries and letters to the editor) of the years 2006 and 2014 will be analyzed in regard to the fulfillment or non-fulfillment of democratic requirements in the political reporting. Normative frame of reference is the representative-liberal model of the public sphere (Gerhards/Neidhardt), which is relatively modest in regard to normative requirements in comparison to the discursive-deliberative model (Habermas), but more realistic. Apart from the respectful interaction between the political actors, a certain openness to all political ideas and the conclusion of the debate, the normative elements of the representative-liberal model are an elite dominance, proportionality, transparency and expertise.

Keywords: Liechtenstein, daily newspapers, democracy, public sphere, normative claims, parliamentary reporting, opinion contributions