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Democratic Renewal Working Group - Rome

  • Date(s)
    14 May 2004
  • Location

The working group on democratic renewal held its third meeting – Democratic Renewal: Politics and the Media - on the 15th and 16th of May in Rome, co-organised with the Italian think tank Italianieuropei.

As the co-chair Stéphane Boujnah commented, this was the first meeting of the group to take place outside of the UK and this helped shape the international nature of the discussion on politics and the media. Members of the group, joined by experts from the UK and Italian media debated the different situations in their respective countries and the shared themes emerging in all of them.

The first meeting of the group in London had discussed the problem of a lack of public trust in politics and politicians, as well as a lack of engagement in traditional political activities. The group now concentrated on to what extent the media should bear responsibility for this, the extent of the phenomenon, and the culpability of politicians. Members of the political and media communities called for more responsibility and self-criticism. Yet the role of a free press was also defended as crucial to democracy.

Discussion papers, produced by the group members led to a “fruitful amount of disagreement”. The papers by John Lloyd, Jürgen Krönig and Michiel van Hulten were developed into articles  published in Policy Network’s latest journal Progressive Politics – Vol 3.2.  John Lloyd reported on the working group in an article for the Financial Times Magazine and Jürgen Krönig developed his arguments further in The Guardian.

Jürgen Krönig’s paper tackled the failure of the information revolution to deliver on its early promises. He raised the question of whether there can be too much democracy. Krönig argued that the Fourth estate is more powerful than ever. The mass media has come to represent the ‘gut instincts’ of the public. Marketisation and hyper-commercialisation lead to sensationalism and simplification. The politics of long term reform is difficult to convey in the medium of sound bites. However, there is a positive potential in the media if it can be linked up with civil society.

John Lloyd, as rapporteur, described a disjunction between the political and media spheres which leads to much of the distrust between the two. The media is becoming more polemical, scandalous and personal while politics is becoming more mediated and more constrained. This accounts for much of the tensions and hatred, and the distrust between the two. He suggested increased training,frankness, and engaging citizens in civic affairs.

Michiel van Hulten, vice-chair of Policy Network and a Dutch former MEP spoke in defence of media freedom. As Michiel showed, the media performs a very positive role. Enrique Guerrero supported this by explaining the impact of the media in the recent Spanish elections.

The most examined case-studies were the role of the media in Italy, Spain and the UK. Yet examples were added from Dutch reporting of the European Union to being able to watch Italian football on television in New York.

The Italian Case:

The afternoon discussion was designed to draw on the knowledge of a very high level panel of Italian media experts. They explained the relationship between politicians and the media in Italy, describing the context of the recent Gasparri Law enacted by Silvio Berlusconi. Lucia Annunziata described her resignation as President of RAI in protest over political interference.
While the debate generated useful points of disagreement (the usefulness of self-regulation for example) there was much constructive self-criticism from both the political and journalistic professions. All participants observed that “the power of the media has undoubtedly increased and deference has diminished.”

The working group will continue its work at its next meeting, which will take place in Lyon in November, and will focus on the issues of local governance and directly elected Mayors.
More details on this upcoming session will be available on the website shortly. For more information about Policy Network’s work on democratic renewal please do not hesitate to contact Francesca Sainsbury (fsainsbury@policy-network.net).

List of participants:

Giuliano Amato, former Vice-President of the Convention on the Future of Europe. Former Italian Prime Minister, co-founder of the Fondazione Italianieuropei.
Peter Mandelson, Chair of Policy Network
Stéphane Boujnah, co-founder of En Temps Réel, a Paris based progressive think tank.
Matthew Browne, Director of Policy Network and Editor of Progressive Politics.
Hans Anker,director of Anker Solutions, a political research and strategy firm.
Antony Beumer,Secretary General of the Party of European Socialists
Federica Caciagli,research assistant at Italianieuropei
Enrique Guerrero,sub-Director of Zapatero’s Cabinet in Spain.
David Halpern,senior policy adviser at the British Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit.
Jürgen Krönig,UK Editor of the German weekly paper Die Zeit
François Lafond,deputy director of Policy Network
Olivier Lavinal,Chief of Staff of Gérard Collomb, the Senator-Mayor of Lyon.
John Lloyd,freelance journalist and editor of the FT magazine
Greg Power,special adviser to the Right Hon Peter Hain, Leader of the House of Commons.
Andrea Romano, Director of Italianieuropei,
Francesca Sainsbury, Policy Officer for the Democratic Renewal working group at Policy Network, and also Publications Manager.
Dr. Tibor Szanyi, Hungarian Political State Secretary for Agriculture.
Michiel van Hulten, Vice Chair of Policy Network and a former MEP.

Italian Special Guests:
Lucia Annunziata, former President of RAI, the Italian public broadcasting company.
Guido Rampoldi, chief foreign affairs editor of “La Repubblica”.
Antonio Polito, Director of “Il Riformista”.
Franco Venturini, chief foreign affairs editor of “Il Corriere della Sera”.

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