On the way to dumbing down… The case of Central Europe
Angelika W. Wyka
(Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Germany)
ABSTRACT: The initial assumptions that foreign capital, know-how and experience would contribute to the development of the East Central European media in terms of their content, quality and professionalism only in a positive way were found to be wrong. Five years after Eastern and Central European countries “achieved” membership to the European Union, the unfortunate characteristics of East Central Europe’s media have, inter alia, been devaluation of quality journalism, homogenization of media content, standardization of media content, uncritical reporting and commercialization/tabloidization. Private media’s desire is to achieve commercial success and to have the largest audience possible.
In large part, hunting for this public audience has been accomplished by providing it with imported low-quality programming, sensationalist stories, talk and reality shows and so on (broadcast media). In other words, foreign investors are pushing their own agenda on consumers by importing serials, soap-operas and talk-shows. As for print media, homogenization (internationalization/europeization) of the business model has resulted in so-called carbon copies or clones of the Western publications (for instance: tabloids Fakt, Blikk or Blask).
At the end of the day, it must be acknowledged that this all influences the overall quality of journalism. Indeed, efforts are concentrated at making profits at the expense of quality. Furthermore, commitments to ethical standards, which would be regarded as a minimum requirement in the home country, are frequently neglected in the host country.
This paper will draw attention to the impact of foreign investment into the press and broadcasting on media performance in the East Central Europe’s region five years after the EU enlargement. Ultimately, it will demonstrate how foreign investors are dulling public awareness – “dumbing down” to make profit.