The politicisation of journalism in Spain: three obstacles to the professional autonomy of journalists

Andreu Casero-Ripolles, José Vicente García Santamaría, José Fernández-Beaumont

Abstract

Political journalism plays a key role in current democracies. However, its functional features and dynamics change depending on the geographic context within which they are set. One of the distinctive features of the Spanish case is the high level of political commitment on the part of the media. The aim of this paper is to analyse the main problems that currently result from this high level of politicisation and, consequently, the obstacles it produces for the proper functioning of democracy. Thus, this issue is analysed in depth in terms of three fundamental aspects: soundbite journalism, the influence of press offices, and the television coverage of electoral campaigns based on the proportion of parliamentary representation.

The methodology is based on in-depth interviews conducted with a sample of 45 individuals (22 journalists, 16 political actors, and 7 spin doctors). The results show that the three obstacles defined are factors that boost politicisation. They limit journalism’s traditional functions of observing and supervising politics and pave the way for political actors to control the media through interference in their productive routines. Similarly, significant differences are detected when assessing these interferences depending on the actors involved. Journalists assess these interferences negatively due to their involvement in reducing their professional autonomy. However, they recognise their inability to provide a joint response to these obstacles. Politicians deploy a double discourse. They lament how widespread these practices are but also justify their existence as a lesser evil or deflect responsibility towards journalists, whom they blame for their current presence.

 

Keywords

political journalism; political communication; Spain; politicisation

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