Ethnic Media And Democracy: From Liberalism To Agonism 3030164918, 9783030164911

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Ethnic Media And Democracy: From Liberalism To Agonism
 3030164918,  9783030164911

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Ethnic Media and Democracy From Liberalism to Agonism John Budarick

Ethnic Media and Democracy

John Budarick

Ethnic Media and Democracy From Liberalism to Agonism

John Budarick Department of Media University of Adelaide Adelaide, SA, Australia

ISBN 978-3-030-16491-1 ISBN 978-3-030-16492-8  (eBook) © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG, part of Springer Nature 2019 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover image: April30/Getty images Cover design by eStudioCalamar This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland


This book first took shape during six months of special study leave generously provided by the Faculty of Arts at the University of Adelaide. It was during this time that I was able to explore further my long-standing interest in the relationship between ethnic media and wider political and social theories. I owe a great deal of gratitude to the many participants who have generously volunteered their time for my research over the years. In particular, members of the African-Australian community provided me with hours of interview data, as well as access to their media and cultural organisations. Important feedback on several chapters was provided by Associate Professor Gil-Soo Han from Monash University and Doctor Robert Palmer from the University of Adelaide. I thank them both. I would also like to thank the external reviewers for their feedback on earlier drafts of the book. In particular, I owe thanks to Associate Professor Andrea Hickerson from Rochester Institute of Technology for her constructive and encouraging reviews of the manuscript. Finally, I would like to thank my wife Rita and son Patrick for their patience and understanding throughout the writing of this book.



1 Introduction: Media, Democracy and Difference 1 Media and Democracy: Locating Difference 10 A Renewed Interest in Ethnic Media? 15 Chapter Outlines 18 References 21 2 Ethnic Media 27 Conceptualisations of Ethnic Media 27 Towards a Definition 32 References 38 3 Liberal Democracy 43 Liberal Democracy: The Market, Democracy and Pluralism 43 Race and Racism in Liberal Democracy 47 Media in Liberal Democracy 49 Neoliberalism 54 Ethnic Media and Neoliberalism 60 Conclusion 68 References 70 4 Deliberative Democracy and the Public Sphere 75 Habermas and the Public Sphere 75 Multiple Publics and Rational Debate 80 vii



Multiple Publics, Political Efficacy and Understanding 83 Conclusion 92 References 94 5 Agonistic Pluralism 97 Discourse, Hegemony and Antagonism: Toward Mouffe’s Agonistic Democracy 100 Agonistic Pluralism, Foundations and a Shared Political Space 105 Media and Mouffe’s Agonism 109 The Prioritisation of the Political 120 References 122 6 Understanding Ethnic Media Through Agonism 127 Journalistic Professionalism as Sedimented Hegemony 128 The Social and Discursive Construction of Journalism 130 Challenging and Reinterpreting Journalistic Discourse 139 Ethnic Media as Counter-Hegemonic? 142 Engaging the Political: Media Policy 149 Pluralism or Pluralisation 154 Conclusion 159 References 160 7 Conclusions and Ways Forward 165 Ethnic Media, Multiculturalism and Post-multicultural Diversity 165 Revisiting Democratic Approaches 177 Concluding Remarks 183 References 184 Index 187


Introduction: Media, Democracy and Difference

The relationship between media and democracy is undergoing a series of rapid transformations. Fragmentation and diversification of both political communities and the media environment have led to a splintered political and social landscape, characterised by more divisive and less civil political discourse. The once broad stage of general democratic consensus is becoming increasingly thinner, as extreme positions stretch it further from the centre. How politics should be conducted, and reported are matters of intense and at times vitriolic debate. With this, journalists face a more complex and less certain political terrain. At the very least, the current climate seems to have well and truly moved beyond any neat relationship between the public and the media (Karppinen, 2013a). For many in the liberal-democratic west, these changes signal a moment of deep concern. As with all current ‘crises’, there is a tendency to overlook historical precedents. For many critics, the media’s role in democracy has for a long time included a series of failed promises and unmet ideals (Cunningham, 2000; Curran, 2011; McChesney, 1999). Noble liberal values of a free press, independent of the state and reflective of a genuine plurality of views in an autonomous ‘marketplace of ideas’, are, and have been for some time, little more than cover for heavily privatised media systems that prioritise profit and commercial interests over public service journalism (Phelan, 2014b). Media structures are dictated by commercial imperatives and characterised by concentration, inequality and a deficiency in their role as the fourth estate (Cammaerts, 2015; © The Author(s) 2019 J. Budarick, Ethnic Media and Democracy,



Curran, 2011). The promise of the digital remains unfulfilled, if anything being used to exploit the failure of traditional media and to provide avenues for a litany of extremist and undemocratic perspectives. The current crisis, however, is said to signal something new. A different relationship between journalism and politics has emerged that is fundamentally damaging to democracy. It is defined by a lack of trust in experts, the rise of fake news, and a deteriorating relationship between political leaders and journalists. It makes itself felt most obviously in populist political movements, wherein ideologies take precedence over facts, and the language of division reigns supreme over the language of unity. Remedies for this malaise often coalesce around a rediscovery of core journalistic values, a re-emphasis of facts over ideologies, of truth over opinion. Journalism must re-emphasise its privileged role in democracy, its position as the fourth estate, as the critical, fact-based defender of the public. Without a broad, commonly shared reality and set of facts and values to draw upon, consensus politics is doomed to fail. While this response has merit, what it, and other responses to the failures of media democracy have in common is a focus on the most powerful sectors of the media landscape—corporate and public service media, traditional ‘mainstream’ journalism—and a preoccupation with well-­ established models of the media’s role in democracy. In this book, I also look at the relationship between media and democracy, but do so from a different perspective. I focus on ethnic media, and in doing so insert race, ethnicity and cultural diversity into an analysis of media and democratic theory. Looking at the relationship between media and democracy from the perspective of ethnic media invites a new engagement with social and political theory, and a new way of imagining and understanding ideal models of media democracy in relation to ethnic diversity. Taking the politics of race and ethnicity seriously means acknowledging the ways that media practices and political systems considered democratic have been constituted through racist exclusions and inequalities. It means questioning some of the dominant understandings of the democratic role of media, and rethinking several of the popular responses to the current crisis in journalism. Race has largely been ignored in democratic theory. The constitutive role of racial inequality in the development and maintenance of liberal democracy fades from view when modern racism is greeted with shock and dismay in contemporary public and political discourses



(Gould, 2000; Khiabany & Williamson, 2015; Mills, 2017). The p ­ olitical ignorance of racism as anything other than individual transgression of ­normative political values is articulated by Lentin and Titley (2011, p. 49): Racism persists because there has been no serious effort made the interconnections between the idea of race and the and structures of the modern nation state. Race has been conquered, but it remains deeply engrained in the political structures and practices of ‘the West’.

to challenge institutions semantically imaginaries,

As central ‘institutions of the modern nation state’, media have played a key role in the constitution, definition and structuring of difference (Nolan, Farquharson, & Marjoribanks, 2018). Despite continuing claims of mere ‘representation’ of an objective reality, “media and journalism practices are deeply political”, and the media of the dominant ethnic group help to construct, legitimise and naturalise powerful political structures, social relationships and cultural practices (Phelan, 2014b, p. 59). As with democratic theory, explanations of racism in the media often locate the cause in a breach of proper journalistic values and practices, rather than as potentially the outcome of those same practices (Downing & Husband, 2005; Lentin & Titley, 2011). Similarly, public and political forms of racism and ethnically based inequality continue to be detached from historical, political and social contexts when reported in media, and are often understood as exceptions to a liberal-democratic system based on individual equality and freedom. When we consider the media, democracy and ethnicity, then, we need to think about the ways in which different democratic models contemplate race and ethnicity, and the tools they provide for developing a media system perhaps more capable than present of challenging racism and discrimination on a structural level. I argue that to undertake such a task, one needs to consider the relationship of media and democracy from the perspective of those that sit outside its centres of power. Ethnic media are yet to be analysed in their full relationship to democracy and democratic theory. While they have been considered as providing the spaces for the construction of alternative identities and communities in ways that challenge dominant understandings of ethnicity, race and culture, unlike other forms of media, they have rarely been discussed within the context of the explanatory and normative power of democratic and social theory (Couldry & Dreher, 2007;


Husband, 1998). And yet, engaging with ethnic media as the starting point of analysis raises different questions of democratic and social theory than does a concern with their public, commercial and digital counterparts: questions around the avenues of interaction between groups and people with disproportionate levels power based on deeply entrenched biological, socio-cultural and historical forms of knowledge; questions around the nature and role of ethnic and racial identity in politics and society; and questions around the nature of hegemonic forms of media practice that coalesce with dominant understandings of what it is to be a native, a migrant or a ‘legitimate’ member of the political community. Ethnic media are also deeply implicated in the politics of difference and questions over the nature of democracy (Young, 1990). For over a century, they have been involved in debates concerning cultural, religious and linguistic identities, political rights, integration and nationalism (Gilson & Zubrzycki, 1967; Matsaganis, Katz, & Ball-Rokeach, 2011). They make visible and give collective shape to people, practices and cultures that are—in different contexts and to different extents— marginalised and rendered silent through both formal and informal forms of political belonging (Brubaker, 2010; Colic-Peisker, 2018). They can be both conservative and radical, maintaining inter-group hierarchies and relations while challenging social inequalities in the broader society (Browne, 2005). They are implicated in, and can tell us much about, many of the defining political and social issues of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, such as migration, multiculturalism and ethnic relations (Meer & Modood, 2012). Their role in the democratic state is as important as ever. Democracy’s struggle with diversity and the media’s struggle with race and ethnicity are as evident as ever. The relationship between the symbolic and the political is born out in the re-invigoration of race politics in much of North America, Europe and Australia, and in the ‘cultural turn’ in such politics that justifies racism via the gloss of pernicious calls to cultural difference, incompatible value systems and dangerous religious or political ideologies (Lentin & Titley, 2011). Such a cultural turn does not constitute the replacement of race with culture, but rather a dangerous “post-racialism”, in which race and racism are said to be things of the past, remnants of a less enlightened mid-twentieth century world. Racism is now polished with the gloss of an intellectually based concern with cultural incompatibility, normalised as a coherent



and logical interrogation of the limits of tolerance. In this approach, concerns with difference are tied less to a series of ‘objective’ biological criteria, and more to a set of values, cultures and ways of life said to pose problems for the liberal-democratic state (Lentin & Titley, 2011). This incomplete evacuation of the biological in discussions of racial and ethnic diversity has opened room for competing meanings to emerge in debates over difference. The meanings of terms such as pluralism, liberty and equality are contested in overlapping academic, political and public spaces. In both philosophical form and actually applied policy, ethnic diversity, migration and multiculturalism have become fertile ground for discourses that attempt to make sense of changes and attribute to them a series of social and political causes and effects (Kymlicka, 2015; Lentin & Titley, 2011; Siapera, 2010). Although far from politically passive, the power of ethnic media to shape political cultures does not compare with that of mainstream media (Curran, 2011). The post-racialism of the current political climate implicates a media sector that emphasises language, ethnicity and culture rather than stable, ‘objective’ biological criteria. Ethnic media’s simultaneous focus on maintenance and transformation, on ethnic identity as empowering rather than restrictive, entangles them within culturalised debates over fragmentation and integration, over cultural determinism and individual agency (Browne, 2005). Ethnic media face a political scene in which the very tools they use to construct positive ethnic identities—cultural fluidity, enabling and positive traditions, strong and open communities—may be transformed into pejorative and accusatory claims of cultural incompatibility, backward traditions and illiberal and overdetermining communal cultures. Ethnic media thus face the challenge of a set of inequalities and divisions attributed not to historical political structures, but to the inability of particular, essentialised cultures to understand and appreciate the values and opportunities of modern democracy. What I am interested in this book are the deep-seated questions that lay at the base of the nexus of ethnic media, journalism, diversity and democracy. These are questions that revolve around the existing and ideal nature of plurality, the extent to which difference should be embraced or managed, the nature of our relationships with others, and the nature and form of political and social solidarity (Habermas, 1996; Mouffe, 1993, 2000a, 2013; Taylor, 1998). These are also questions that can and should involve ethnic media. I therefore want to


bring democratic theory into dialogue with ethnic media. In doing this, I move slightly away from—or perhaps more accurately, see it in a new light—an ethnic media research concern with identity, culture and community, and instead engage with democratic theory in order to relate the various practices that surround and characterise ethnic media to wider questions of social structures and democratic politics. Democratic theory, although necessarily examined in selective form in this book, is in many ways about relationships and communication—between people, people and the state, people and political bodies. That media are key to these relationships is now a firmly accepted fact of media and political research (Curran, 2011). And yet, despite the politics of race and migration taking centre stage in the international political arena, ethnic media have rarely been thought about with reference to democratic theory. My aim in this book therefore is to interrogate and think about a democratic theory that may provide an effective model for ethnic media, a democratic theory in which diversity and inequality are acknowledged and addressed, and in which a plural media system is facilitated. I do this in three stages. Firstly, I engage with the existing systems of liberal democracy and neoliberalism. I then discuss arguably the most commonly used democratic theory in media studies; deliberative democracy and the public sphere. Finally, I suggest another model, agonistic pluralism, which I argue is most capable of looking at media and democracy from the periphery, from the point of view of the marginalised. The aims of this book are therefore less about understanding the use of ethnic media by particular ethnic minorities, with an eye to issues of identity and the negotiation of cultures, languages and traditions. Nor are they necessarily related to the production practices of particular ethnic communities, although these issues no doubt factor in any discussion of ethnic media and democratic theory and practice. Rather, my aims are attuned to a broad interrogation of the relationship between democracy and the structures and social roles of ethnic media, through a focus on three democratic models. This is a project that aligns with a concern with media politics and the analytical relationship between theory and media (Dahlberg & Phelan, 2011; Hesmondalgh & Toynbee, 2008; Karppinen, 2013a; Raeijmaekers & Maeseele, 2015). I draw upon theory as well as primary and secondary data. Research on ethnic media from around the world will be engaged with, along with my own work talking to various ethnic groups and ethnic media producers in Australia over the past 10 years (Budarick, 2013; Budarick &



Han, 2015). The book focuses predominantly on select regions of the world. The major focus will be on liberal-democratic states such as Australia, the UK, parts of Europe and North America. There is a practical reason for such a restricted focus. The majority of work on ethnic media has emerged in recent years from these regions. This itself perhaps reflects the combination of media industry changes, migration patterns and democratic/political debates that have shaped the ‘West’ recently. There is also a theoretical reason for this limited scope. While certain ­values of liberal democracy have spread throughout some parts of the world and found (forced?) their way into developing countries, the other democratic theories engaged with in this book are insufficiently developed in terms of the specific historical, social and political patterns of the non liberal-democratic world to be applied there (Kapoor, 2002; Wingenbach, 2011). Indeed, the work of Chantal Mouffe, a theorist of agonistic democracy, has been described as “a decidedly Western-focused theory relying on Western philosophical traditions” (Kapoor, 2002, p. 476). I do not claim to provide an exhaustive account of each of the democratic theories examined, their application through policy, nor the complex political philosophies and histories behind them. Rather, I relate them to ethnic media in order to test their explanatory power in regards to the existing roles of ethnic media in society, and their modelling power in terms of providing criteria against which to judge ethnic media’s democratic potential (Karppinen, 2013b; Raeijmaekers & Maeseele, 2015). Each democratic model discussed in this book has had a different relationship with media, in both policy and academic spheres. Raeijmaekers and Maeseele (2015, p. 1044) suggest that: The liberal model and its basic values still provide a basis for contemporary media policy and media research. However, much of the discussion in academic debates on media and democracy nowadays leans on the framework of deliberative democracy. The agonistic model, lastly, has recently gained prominence within political philosophy, but has only been used sporadically in media studies.

Liberal democracy is broadly understood as aligning most closely to the current and emerging political and economic systems of much the West. Charles W. Mills describes it as “the dominant political outlook of the modern age” (Mills, 2017, p. 2). As such, it provides the most scope for thinking about the actually existing application of democratic theory


to media. Leaving aside for the moment the multitude of differences between political systems across western states, there are some broad patterns that have been identified in media research as impacting the nature of communications systems. For instance, in a range of applications, from basic economics to communication rights, liberal pluralism’s “general affirmation of individual freedom and pluralism over any collective substantive idea of the common good” has shaped the media landscape, including that of ethnic media (Karppinen, 2013a, p. 30; Kosnick, 2007). Critics contend that original liberal philosophical ideas of dissipated power and a rejection of monism have been subsumed under an increasingly powerful market logic of media ‘choice’ (Freedman, 2008). Under such a framework, the technologies that promised to democratise the media environment by breaking down the old hierarchies of print and broadcast stand instead as justifications for further deregulation of the market. What is more, the spectre of neoliberalism, as an extreme form of faith in market based principles as able to manage all areas of social, political and economic life, has emerged in recent decades, and has been extensively engaged with in sociological, political and media analyses (Couldry, 2010; Freedman, 2008; Phelan, 2014a). One of the main academic responses to neoliberalism has come in the form of arguments for deliberative democracy, and the use of the public sphere as a normative model employed to rescue media policy from its individualist orientations (Habermas, 1984, 1989; Raeijmaekers & Maeseele, 2015). As it has been applied to media, the public sphere has acted as a bulwark against the market, a way in which to foreground and emphasise the social role of media beyond a mere market commodity. Those advocating for deliberative democracy are quick to point out that the state is not the only threat to communicative equity and health, and that the neutrality of the so-called free market is a myth. They prescribe instead a communicative environment defined by rational and free deliberation, leading to the development of legitimate consensus around important social issues. The public sphere, as the “god term of democratic discourse theory”, has had a large impact on ethnic media research, particularly as a democratic concept against which to judge the roles of ethnic media, and the policies that shape them (Gitlin, 1998, p. 168). It has been significantly re-imagined over the years, and in its use in ethnic media studies has been opened up and fractured through a recognition of the multiple discursive publics that make up complex, multi-ethnic societies



(Husband, 1998). Through a recognition of social differences and inequalities, and a problematisation of rational deliberation as the universal foundation of public dialogue, deliberative democracy has come to be seen more in terms of the relationships between diverse publics in forming public opinion, rather than the reaching of rational consensus through the bracketing off of difference. Ethnic media are understood as providing a voice for those excluded from the original bourgeois public sphere (Browne, 2005; Budarick & Han, 2015; Fraser, 1990; Husband, 1998). In this sense, questions over the relationships between different publics have emerged as some of the most pressing concerns in this field (Butsch, 2007; Fraser, 1990; Husband, 1998). The final perspective, agonistic pluralism, approached in this book largely through the work of Chantal Mouffe, lacks both the existing application of liberal democracy, and the academic popularity of deliberative democracy (Karppinen, 2007). As Wenman (2013, p. 3) suggests, this is not because the approach is undeveloped or inherently flawed, but “because agonism is less conventional, in terms of both the modes of argumentation typically invoked by agonistic democrats and the prescriptions they offer for the renewal of democracy”. It does, however, share certain similarities with deliberative democracy in a prognosis of a “crisis of liberal democracy” and a “need to deepen or extend democracy” in the face of political disengagement, nationalist and fundamentalist movements, and the present exclusionist nature of political regimes that nonetheless claim democratic inclusion (Kapoor, 2002: 459). Both Mouffe and Habermas are cautious about the role of mass media and digital media in strengthening democracy, either through agonism or deliberation (Karppinen, 2013a). Much of Habermas’ later work has also accepted the importance of plurality and the idea of different, overlapping publics that maintain a political dialogue with each other. Where the approaches differ is at the ‘ontopolitical’ level, with the agonistic approach questioning the existence of foundational political values outside of constitutive discourses, and therefore denying the possibility of the transcendence of situated difference in political debate through adherence to an ideal communicative process (Mouffe, 2000a; Wingenbach, 2011). At the heart of Mouffe’s work is the notion that political identities are constituted through ineradicable difference. Rather than see dissensus as a moment that requires the establishment of a space for rational consensus building, she sees it as a formative part of social and political reality. Consensus is the hegemonic imposition of


one particular social objectivity over others, and instead of being strived for should be exposed for its contingency and continually challenged through counter-hegemonic discourses (Mouffe, 1993, 2012, 2013). Agonistic pluralism, I will argue, offers fertile and unexplored territory for thinking through the extant and potential place of ethnic media in democracies (Mouffe, 2013). The theory does not necessarily explain ethnic media in its totality and intricacy, but it does provide the conceptual subtlety to help better understand the relationships between ethnic media and wider social and political processes—relationships that are sometimes cooperative, sometimes antagonistic, and that often articulate difference. It is for this reason that I spend substantial time engaging with this theoretical approach and relating it to examples of ethnic media policy, structure and practice. During the research for this book, my attitudes towards ­ agonistic pluralism have changed as I have engaged with complimentary and ­ critical literature. Fundamental questions and issues have arisen, such ­ as the inherent tensions of attempting to maintain a critical analysis of media practices and structures through an approach based on radical contingency (Dahlberg & Phelan, 2011). Ultimately, I will aim to demonstrate that Mouffe’s version of agonistic pluralism is able to illuminate much about the necessary conditions for support of ethnic media, and to explain the importance of ethnic media in multi-ethnic and m ­ ulticultural societies. It is an approach that can be employed to navigate the tension between consensus and plurality, recognising both the i­mportance of a shared space of politics, but also the dangers of ideological ­closure—a position that I argue is particularly important to ethnic minorities (Karppinen, 2013a, 2013b). However, there are still many questions that remain in terms of the theory’s applicability to actual media practices and structures. The deeper one’s engagement with agonistic pluralism, the more questions emerge around its practical application to media texts and processes, its rather loosely defined limits on pluralism, and the necessary but ill-defined pathways through which cultural practices can be institutionalised in sustained political form (Jane, 2017; Wingenbach, 2011).

Media and Democracy: Locating Difference Several authors have called for a more robust connection between media studies and social and political theory (Dahlberg & Phelan, 2011; Hesmondhalgh & Toynbee, 2008; Karppinen, 2013a, 2013b).



The power of democratic theory, in particular for media studies, is that “different theories of democracy imply different normative frameworks for evaluating media performance”, to the extent that democracy has become somewhat of a catch-all term in media studies that look beyond the text and towards wider social issues (Karppinen, 2013b, p. 1). As Karppinen (2013b) points out, however, democracy as an evaluative framework is a fluid and evolving concept, and democratic theories are diverse and overlapping. For Curren (2011), much democratic theorising can be seen as “cluster(s) of associated ideas that hover uncertainly between description and prescription” (Curran, 2011, p. 80). In media studies, there is an understandable habit of prioritising media systems and communicative practices when discussing democratic principles and systems. This may in part explain the predominance of deliberative democracy and public sphere theory when discussing media. As Karppinen (2013b, p. 10) states in his analysis of the most frequently used democratic theories in media research, deliberative democracy’s emphasis on public communication and debate implies a privileged ­position for the media as central democratic institutions. Deliberative and participatory models of democracy can thus be interpreted to reflect the aim in much of media and communication studies to deepen democratic practices beyond formal, representative institutions.

In focusing on ethnic media in this book, I am able to engage with issues that cut across both media and politics. Wingenbach (2011, p. 153) captures one such issue in what he calls the ‘dilemma of representation’. Representative politics has been challenged through claims that officially elected representatives speak for only a small portion of the electorate. The fragmentation of ‘the people’ and an increased recognition of ­multiple political claims and positions has led political theorists to think about new forms of representation, including that by “self-authorized representatives” (Wingenbach, 2011, p. 153). This issue will be revisited in the final chapter of the book, but it is worth briefly discussing it here, particularly as it is pertinent to the relationship between different mediated forms of representation and a diverse political landscape. The media’s role in politics has expanded to encompass a more ­chaotic, fragmented and diverse landscape of media, speaking to smaller political communities (Keane, 2013). In this context, new understandings of journalism, of politics and of democracy have emerged


(Shudson, 2015). Some authors point to a culture of transparency that has been enabled by the rise of advocacy groups, special interest groups and grassroots organisations, all drawing on the web of ­communications technologies available that allow the constant oversight of ­ political power. Michael Schudson traces a growing culture of exposure and ­visibility in politics in the United States, tying such processes to John Keane’s work on ‘monitory democracy’. Monitory democracy is defined by a proliferation of organisations that, through media and communications networks, observe and monitor democratic institutions and governments. It is built on a particular communications environment ­ that Keane defines as ‘communicative abundance’. This is an environment distinguished from earlier media landscapes defined by national broadcast, print and limited spectrum availability. Political messages are now open to constant interpretation and re-interpretation, power is exposed to scrutiny through a multitude of monitoring mechanisms and groups, and there is a shrinking arena of privacy, free from politics, within which public figures can hide. If Wikileaks has shown us anything, it is that the active oversight, exposure and monitoring of politics is no longer only under the purview of traditional news organisations. The potential here, clearly, is for greater representation of minority issues through this wider range of monitoring organisations. Traditional news journalism has been nudged aside in a landscape that is “much more rough and tumble, to the point where professional news journalism is now just one of many different types of power-scrutinising institution” (Keane, 2013, p. 47). In this environment there is a transformation of well-established understandings of the relationship between journalism, politics and democracy, once based on the solid ground of political consensus and a set of clearer lines demarcating the space of ‘professional’ journalistic practice. In its traditional guise, this is a system in which a middle ground representing large swathes of the citizenry is spoken with and for by an established media system defined by a set of testable and ­measurable ideals and values. In the traditional journalistic language of democracy, media are the fourth estate, watching over the finite ground of consensus politics, charged with defending the citizenry from excesses of the state. This is the media of control, of order, of community (Karppinen, 2013a). At the start of this chapter, many of the transformations that challenge the relationship between traditional journalism and democracy were



framed in the language of crisis, with objective and universal values and practices becoming less stable as structures to guide the complex work of journalism. Hence, the responses discussed earlier: a re-emphasis of truth, facts, autonomy and independence. However, the nature of these changes, and the responses proposed to them, may be evaluated differently depending on one’s ability to access and shape the norms of journalism and media under threat. If we consider the positions of ethnic and racial minorities, a response in the form of a longing for the safe space of consensus politics and objective journalism may hold limited comfort (Munoz-Torres, 2012; Schudson, 2001). For some, the emergence of a wider and more plural set of political positions and identities are part of a welcome diversification of the political environment. Seen from the margins, from the perspectives of those excluded, oppressed and victimised by established political structures and media systems, the mediated fragmentation of the citizenry and the breaking down of journalistic claims to universal forms of authority are not in themselves inevitably regressive. Instead, such processes expose the language of traditional politics and media as being part of the articulatory practices through which social order and inequality are naturalised. According to this view, challenges to political constellations, social structures and journalistic norms are a necessary part of a healthy democracy, and of challenging the inequalities inherent in those systems. For those concerned with the injurious nature of race in western social, cultural and political histories there is little comfort in pining for a time of political consensus and journalistic authority without a critical appreciation of the injustices of those very same ideologies and ideals. For migrants and ethnic minorities, the politics of belonging are far from an objective process, but are rather based on a series of historically located, flexible but powerful articulations of what it means to be a citizen, to belong, to enjoy equal status with those deemed to be ‘true’ members of the imagined national community (Colic-Peisker, 2018). Seen from the margins, then, the emergence of a re-invigorated political xenophobia is not a novelty of a twenty-first century breakdown of middle ground politics. Its intensity and visibility may be new in certain parts of the West, but there is nothing unique about race and difference as objects and subjects of political debate and antagonism. Indeed, to ­separate the current climate of political racism from its historical antecedents, and to treat, as much of the mainstream media has, the new extreme right movements as confusing, perplexing and complex novelties, is to ignore the deep historical context of centuries of mediated


race politics in liberal democracies (Khiabany & Williamson, 2015). A response, then, cannot be based on a return to previous systems that hid racial inequalities more effectively. Nor can it be located only within media systems themselves. It is in this sense that the political environment is important for the way it provides the structure within which different media work. The media and political environment in which ethnic media sit is beset by inequality. From the perspective of those on the margins, media ­proliferation may mean little without the requisite ability to challenge and change political and social structures (Dean, 2009). In the ­context of greater political exposure, one could ask how much power ethnic media have in shaping political decisions, how much ability they have to connect with wider social and political spheres (Matsaganis & Katz, 2014; Yu, 2016; Yu & Murray, 2007). In this regard, power is not simply a result of the resources available to different media organisa­ tions or movements, but is contextualised and framed by the comparative power of other media, as well as that of dominant social and political norms. If looked at from the margins, it is not enough to rely on media systems and practices that have failed to address racial inequality at a structural level over time. Nor, however, is it enough to rely on fragmentation of media forms without also interrogating the journalistic norms that rest on racialised ideals of autonomy, of neutrality, and of the dispassionate observation of politics that “stops short of partisan advocacy and is restrained by precepts of professional journalistic practice….” (Christians, Glasser, McQuail, Nordenstreng, & White, 2010, pp. 125–126). Media proliferation in itself is meaningless unless the surrounding political and cultural system is also open to change. The relationship of ethnic media to democracy cannot be read from the amount or type of media available. The prioritisation of certain forms of communication, certain media systems and particular norms of journalistic practice within different political cultures impacts emerging and marginal forms of politics and media. We must think about how open particular systems are to new voices and perspectives, how flexible and challengeable naturalised and institutionalised practices are, and the extent to which different democratic theories provide space for the emergence of new identities and positions through media (Cammaerts, 2015; Wingenbach, 2011).



A Renewed Interest in Ethnic Media? It would be a stretch to say that ethnic media are the focus of widespread academic attention. In the field of media studies, research on ethnic, migrant, foreign language and even diasporic media still maintain a rather marginalised position. Bubbling beneath the surface, however, has been an interest in ethnic media that has mirrored a growth in alternative media forms in much of the world (Deuze, 2006; Matsaganis & Katz, 2014). A 2004 State of the News Media report in the US “signalled a rapid growth of commercially successful independent ethnic media with a distinct local focus” (Deuze, 2006, p. 263). A 2006 Pew Report states that along with the growth of foreign born people in the US, ethnic media production and consumption is growing (Pew Research Centre, Journalism and Media Staff, 2006). According to the report, polls have found that around 29 million adults prefer to get information from ethnic, rather than mainstream media, with the Latino media market growing significantly. According to Allen (2009 in Matsaganis, Katz, & Ball-Rokeach, 2011) nearly 60 million Americans get news from ethnic media on a regular basis. Further, the New America Media website claims to be “the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 3,000 ethnic news organisations”, and that ethnic media is the “fastest growing sector of American Journalism” ( Although the transient nature of much ethnic media makes problematic any attempt at up to date cataloguing, research in parts of Europe and Australia also points to numerous ethnic media outlets in print, broadcast and digital form. A report by Myria Georgiou in 2002, for example, pointed to a “lively, diverse and fast changing” minority ethnic media landscape in the UK, including a host of ethnic print, radio and television outlets (Georgiou, 2002, p. 29). In Australia, the publicly funded multicultural broadcaster, SBS, is joined by approximately 130 community radio stations that broadcast programmes in a non-English language ( Ethnic media have also had periods of growth in the Netherlands and Eastern Europe (Deuze, 2006; Gross, 2006). Importantly, ethnic media also feature in recent political discussions, including debates over international policy in arenas such as the European Parliament, and in human rights publications (Deuze, 2006). The reasons for this abundance are various and debated (see Deuze, 2006). Undoubtedly, patterns of migration—not only in number but also in terms of the financial, social and cultural capital of those


migrating—impact on the establishment and longevity of ethnic media (Georgiou, 2002; Matsaganis et al., 2011). As Georgiou (2002), drawing on Husband, Beattie, and Markelin (2000) suggests, a viable market is necessary for commercial ethnic media to survive. This can include connections to home countries, either in the form of an expanded market of consumers, or through assistance with content provision and financial support (Gao & Zhang, 2017). The policies towards migration, diversity and media of different countries will also impact ethnic media sectors around the world, as will the cultural, social and political needs felt by first and subsequent generation migrants. Deuze (2006) takes a slightly different approach, relating the growth in ethnic media to wider participatory media cultures. Rather than being a specifically ‘ethnic’ phenomenon, ethnic media, he suggests, can be understood as part of a wider diversification of the media field in general and a greater shift towards user generated media. At the same time, much ethnic media continue to struggle for funding and resources (Budarick & Han, 2015; Lay & Thomas, 2012). A more recent Pew state of the media report pointed to ethnic print media sharing many of the same problems as their ‘mainstream’ counterparts in the form of falling sales and circulation levels (Pew Research Centre, 2016). In New York city, home to nearly 100 ethnic newspapers reaching approximately three million people, El Dario, the country’s oldest Spanish daily, has faced layoffs and a bleak economic outlook (Khurshid, 2016). A 2018 Nieman Lab report indicates that news audiences for AfricanAmerican and Hispanic broadcast and print media have declined. These patterns of precariousness are reflected also in Europe, Scandinavia and Australia (Browne, 2005; Camauer, 2003; Yu, 2016). Thus, much like the non-ethnic media landscape, ethnic media are experiencing dynamic times. One can also read into ethnic media a series of public concerns that revolve around migration, race, ethnicity and difference (Hegde, 2016). In many common understandings, ethnic media seem to play one of two roles. They have, on the one hand, been heralded for their contribution to tolerant and open multicultural and multi-ethnic societies, to the point that Kosnick (2007) has critiqued the focus on migrant self-­ representation and the concomitant ignorance of the complex conditions under which migrant media come into being. On the other hand, they have been accused of fostering separatism, ethnic ghettos and in extreme



cases—most commonly during times of conflict—of being dangerous and subversive elements acting on behalf of a foreign power (Gilson & Zubrzycki, 1967). Although questionable, these extreme prognoses do have real political impacts. Each tends to view ethnic media in relation to a stable and pre-existing political culture, as supporting an accepted form of cultural diversity or as threatening a national culture. There is, however, an observable history of ethnic media as occupying a slightly different role. This is a role of engagement and resistance, a space in which foundational structures, institutions and norms are engaged with and challenged, in which the role of ethnic media becomes something other than integration into a solid, pre-existing social structure, or the development of a separate set of practices, social relationships and norms. Ethnic media, like migration itself, can be seen here as shaping—even if only in small ways—and being shaped by, the wider social and political environment (Garcia-Rios & Barreto, 2016; Gilson & Zubrzycki, 1967; Matsaganis et al., 2011; Yu, 2016). Opening up the processes through which political landscapes are formed and reformed in a way that encompasses those who sit at the edges of political communities is an ongoing task. It in no small part involves “diversifying the forums where immigrants’ stories can be told and heard”, so as to problematise neat assumptions of foundational political constellations and pluralise the space of ‘legitimate’ political debate (Apostolidis, 2008, para. 39). As several writers have pointed out, and as is implied in Apostolidis’ quote above, this requires more than speech, but also listening and understanding (Dreher, 2009; Glover, 2011; Husband, 1998). As such, it requires an analytical focus on the moments of migrant self-expression, storytelling and the ways they explicitly and implicitly challenge established political cultures (Connolly, 1995; Dreher, 2009; Glover, 2011), as well as the wider conditions that shape, inhibit or facilitate these ‘moments’ and practices. As Glover (2011, p. 213) suggests, re-imagining politics in the context of migration “requires the construction of multiple spaces for non-citizen testimonial and narrative, in addition to their formalisation through social movements, global governance and international law”. In this sense, a culture of communication that embraces an openness to the other needs to be culturally embraced and structurally supported (Dean, 2009; Dreher, 2009; Husband, 2009).


Chapter Outlines In Chapter 2 I establish a working definition of ethnic media and ­discuss the rich global literature in relation to these media forms and ­organisations. It is immediately evident that what I have referred to thus far as ‘ethnic media’ are conceptualised in different ways around the world. As such, I will in this chapter attempt to differentiate—for the purposes of the analysis in this book—ethnic media from related terms such as migrant media, foreign language media, ethnic minority media and diasporic media. This is not to imply that these latter terms are in any way misguided, but is rather designed to clarify the main object of analytical focus in the book. I will also in Chapter 2 discuss research traditions that have been central to research on ethnic media and their related incarnations. In particular, the often implicit and subtle relations these research traditions have to ideas of democracy and society will be teased out. Approaches to ethnic, migrant and foreign language media reflect different social and political values based on particular temporal and geographical contexts, as terms such assimilation, integration, hybridity and diversity are employed or rejected in different literature. I will argue that between the dominant narratives of integration and ­self-representation there is room for a more robust engagement with democratic theory when thinking about the relationship of ethnic media to wider social and political institutions, practices and structures. Chapter 3 is the first of three chapters in which I bring democratic theory into conversation with ethnic media. I begin with a focus on liberal pluralism, the approach that perhaps best encapsulates the present and emerging media policy cultures in the geographical areas under analysis in this book. There are, of course, significant differences between regions and countries (Curran, 2011). Nonetheless, liberal democracy has been connected to media in a significant amount of research through a concern with the widening scope of the market as an arbiter of effective economic, cultural, political and social policy. More recently, the spectre of neoliberalism has raised its head, with several prominent theorists describing it as one of the most important political philosophies of our time (Couldry, 2010; Dean, 2009; Garland & Harper, 2012). It is a highly contested term, and there is less than total agreement on its conceptual clarity and analytical scope (Garland & Harper, 2012). Nonetheless, neoliberalism’s importance to the shaping of media politics



and industries is undeniable, and thus warrants attention for the ways in which it simultaneously affects dominant and marginalised media sectors and cultures. Liberal democracy’s current application in much of the areas focused on in this book means this chapter will engage with theoretical foundations as well as critiques of actually applied liberalism. In Chapter 4 I discuss deliberative democracy, and the public sphere, as theoretical tools to challenge the market logic of neoliberalism. As part of an analytical (re)focus on the inter-subjective nature of rationality, and a project to rescue rationality itself from its pejorative conceptualisation in the theorising of the Frankfurt school in the early to mid-­ twentiethth century, Jurgen Habermas argued for political legitimacy through the transcendence of difference in a discursive space free from power and coercion (Habermas, 1989). The public sphere, arguably the most prominent democratic theory within media studies (Karppinen, 2013b), re-imagines relationships between citizens and representative politics beyond mere representation. Habermas’ work has been employed in ethnic media research, but often in a way that reflects the development of public sphere theory over the years since its original construction. In particular, the bourgeois public sphere, as separate from the state and the private realm, has been challenged by theorists who have argued that it is restrictive in both the definition of important political issues, and the appropriate modes through which rational consensus can be reached (Eley, 1990; Fraser, 1990, 2000). These critiques have been important for ethnic media researchers, and those working in related areas, who have argued for the existence of multiple publics, with differing understandings of political issues and norms of deliberation, competing and interacting within a wider, dominant space of politics and policy (Browne, 2005; Budarick & Han, 2015; Butsch, 2007; Couldry & Dreher, 2007). This approach to multiple publics raises its own issues around political efficacy, and the impact of traditionally marginalised publics on consensual politics. As I will demonstrate in this chapter, important questions remain as to the nature of cross-public deliberation in multi-public societies (Husband, 1998). Rounding out the discussions of political theory, in Chapter 5 I will examine agonistic pluralism. I argue that agonistic pluralism, though not without its faults, offers a unique and powerful, and as yet underresearched, platform through which to understand and explain much about the potential and existing democratic role of ethnic media. Its most intriguing insight, and the source of much of its controversy,


stems from its search for a new way of balancing pluralism and consensus (Mouffe, 2000a). My primary engagement with Chantal Mouffe’s version of agonistic democracy, among a raft of overlapping yet differing choices, stems largely from her insistence on the necessity and inevitability of some form of shared grounding and boundaries, upon and within which democratic interactions can take place. That Mouffe wants these foundations consistently questioned, exposed and challenged, rather than abandoned altogether, differentiates her from more radical proponents of an agonism that refuse any form of collective governance or the formation, even temporarily, of shared rules and spaces for democratic dialogue (Wingenbach, 2011). These latter approaches, I suggest, pay less attention to one of the fundamental aspects of Mouffe’s writing, and an aspect of central importance to (ethnic) media studies—the management of interaction in plural societies in a way that rejects political closure and yet acknowledges the importance of institutional support for agonism and difference. As will be demonstrated, applying Mouffe’s work to concrete analyses of media has proved challenging. On one hand, identifying and categorising agonistic practices, in which openness to difference supersedes the search for consensus and agreement, requires a set of prescriptive guidelines not always clearly articulated in the work of theorists of agonism (Jane, 2017). On the other hand, the relationship of agonistic pluralism to policy and structure is also a point of contention (Wingenbach, 2011). Thus, although Mouffe makes clear that an engagement with ‘the political’ is vital, and that media pluralism and agonism cannot simply emerge from anywhere, what exactly an agonistic and plural political institution would look like is less clear, particularly considering the need, under the logic of agonism itself, for any such institution to be considered a temporary constellation of dominant political discourses (Dahlberg, 2011; Wingenbach, 2011). There is, also, clearly the need for more robust theorising of the role of media in agonistic theory. In Chapter 6 I seek to address this gap by applying agonistic pluralism to ethnic media. I do this by looking at ethnic media from two perspectives; the existing hegemonic structures and norms that can be identified through an agonistic approach, and the ethnic media practices that may constitute counter-hegemony in practice. These perspectives are applied to ethnic media in three ways: through a critique of journalistic professionalism as hegemonic discourse; via a case study of minority ethnic media production in Australia which demonstrates its counter-hegemonic potential



and limitations; and through an analysis of media policy discourses and their relationship to ethnic media. I suggest that looking at journalistic professionalism as the hegemonic sedimentation of particular discursive constructions of journalistic identity reveals much about the sometimes subtle ways that ethnic minority journalists are marginalised in dominant media culture (Carpentier, 2005; Husband, 2005). These are not exclusions that are always visible under a political-economy approach, with its concerns over ownership and control. Instead, they gain their power through the language of neutrality and the imperceptibility of their contingent foundations (Phelan, 2014b). The case study of ethnic media practice will draw on my own research into African media production in Australia, and I will interrogate the way media workers in this sector challenge hegemonic constructions of race through diverse means. I will also draw on secondary data from other research in this area. Finally, in taking an agonistic approach to policy, I focus on the notion of pluralism, and the way it differs from more common concerns with diversity in media policy analysis. Establishing and sustaining a media environment open to ‘pluralisation’ is one of the key challenges in this area (Connolly, 1995; Karppinen, 2013a). Finally, in Chapter 7 I engage with some key questions facing ethnic media today. These include its constantly shifting relationship with multiculturalism. Pertinent here are questions over pluralisation, and in particular the extent to which ethnic media are able to reflect diverse positions within ethnic communities. Although I cannot pay sufficient attention to the wide literature on multiculturalism in this chapter, I do engage with debates on the role of culture in restricting or facilitating individual autonomy. I present some tentative answers to the question of how we might best understand and reconcile ethnic media’s role in multiculturalism within democratic states (Baumeister, 2003; Kosnick, 2007).

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Ethnic Media

Conceptualisations of Ethnic Media Ethnic media are highly diverse. They range from small, independent grass-roots print or community broadcasters, to large, commercially viable and globally connected corporations with large audiences (Camauer, 2003; Matsaganis, Katz, & Ball-Rokeach, 2011). Any attempt at tracing research traditions or approaches in a field as diverse as ethnic media is therefore bound to result in simplifications of themes and a somewhat clumsy reduction of research into certain categories. As Lobera, Arco, and Gimenez (2017, p. 41) suggest, “The plurality of concepts found in the literature highlights the diversity of theoretical approaches in which the confluence of communications media and migratory processes can be studied”. Reflecting this diversity is the continued debate over the labels given to these media. How they are conceptualised and the way they are studied is shaped by factors such as: present and past policy towards media, diversity and migration; wider media infrastructures; and the disciplinary traditions of researchers (Husband, 2015). Further impacting studies of ethnic media are technological changes that pose new opportunities and challenges for ethnic media production and consumption (Cover, 2012) and shape the emerging landscape of ethnic media around the world (Deuze, 2006). A quick snapshot of labels used gives an interesting indication of the relationship between politics and media, although these labels in no way determine the research traditions in each country or region. © The Author(s) 2019 J. Budarick, Ethnic Media and Democracy,



In France, where differences between people are based on citizenship status, rather than ethno-racial characteristics, minority media is the preferred term (Matsaganis et al., 2011). In Germany, with its nationalist past, and in the context of complex debates over policies and labels such as Gastarbeiter (guest-worker) and Auslander (foreigner), Kosnick (2007) employs the term migrant media when analysing Turkish media in Berlin. In general, Deuze (2006) suggests that Europeans prefer the term minority media while Americans prefer ethnic media. Although, at least one famous study from the early twentieth century employed the term immigrant media (Park, 1922). Indeed, according to Browne (2005) the terms ethnic minority did not enter the US vocabulary until the second half of the twentieth century. In areas with strong multicultural agendas and platforms, notions of hybrid and fluid identities and cultures have had a large impact on ethnic media research (Gillespie, 1995; Hopkins, 2009; Sreberny, 2005). In Australia, the label ‘ethnic media’ is used in academic research (Budarick & Han, 2015; Cover, 2012) and by certain representative bodies (The National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcaster’s Council). But other terms, such as multicultural media, migrant media, or diasporic media are also employed to refer to overlapping but slightly distinct forms of media, a situation no doubt reflected in other countries (Couldry & Dreher, 2007; Cover, 2012; Fleras, 2015). Although my focus in this book is on broad theoretical issues, it is important to recognise the different political climates within which ethnic media research has taken place. A historically and theoretically informed picture of ethnic media will provide useful for contextualising discussions of these media and democratic theory. Such a perspective helps to locate “the intensities of racist exclusions” and the “obstacles to and resources for combatting racism”, including those that affect ethnic media, in various countries (Cunningham, 2000, p. 468). Thus, according to Cunningham (2000) differences in political and social systems in Europe, North America and Australia impact anti-racist strategies, and as such impact the discourses and movements ethnic media can draw upon and speak to. Multiculturalism in Canada and Australia, for example, provides a powerful yet contested discourse in challenging racism and intolerance based on ethnicity and culture. In Europe, different interpretations of citizenship shape racism and its responses. I map and conceptualise ethnic media research here primarily through the ways in which the role of ethnic media in society has been theorised,



explained and conceptualised (Johnson, 2010). There are, of course, several other ways to categorise and discuss ethnic media research (see Browne, 2005, for just one example). As can be expected of such a diverse field, ethnic media studies have been shaped by a series of wider theoretical and conceptual traditions and themes, among them assimilation, integration and segmentation (Arnold & Schneider, 2007; Caspi, Adoni, Cohen, & Elias, 2002; D’Haenens & Ogan, 2007; Park, 1922; Trebbe, 2007; Viswanath & Arora, 2000; Zhou & Cai, 2002); the public sphere and deliberative democracy (Browne, 2005; Budarick, 2017; Budarick & Han, 2015; Couldry & Dreher, 2007; Cunningham, 2001; Hopkins, 2009; Husband, 1998); diaspora studies and related notions of cultural identity (Alghasi, 2009; Cunningham & Nguyen, 1999; Georgiou, 2005; Karim, 1998; Miladi, 2006; Sreberny, 2001, 2005) and studies that centre on policy and professional norms, particularly when focusing on ethnic journalism and news media (Camauer, 2003; Lindgren, 2015; Shumow, 2012; Yu, 2016; Yu & Murray, 2007). For some, ethnic media research can be usefully divided into two broad “analytical foci”: the distinction between inward and outward looking perspectives (Lobera et al., 2017, p. 41), or what Hickerson and Gustafson (2014), in looking specifically at the immigrant press, would call a difference between assimilationist and anti-assimilationist positions. The assimilationist position is made most famous through the work of Robert Park in his The Immigrant Press and Its Control (1922). Park argued that assimilation occurs when immigrant newspapers inevitably report on issues and events within America, providing a range of knowledge and resources for migrants to better understand and become accustomed to American society. Park also recognised the financial realities of the immigrant press. In a precursor to studies today that point to the tenuous advertising situation for much ethnic media (Yu & Murray, 2007), he suggested that the economic necessity of gaining advertising revenue from American companies selling American products would further inculcate readers into an American ‘way of life’. Park’s focus on integration and his use of the nomenclature ‘immigrant media’ reflect the social and political concerns of the time, and the language available (Browne, 2005). The later adoption of the term ethnic minority, and the use of the term ethnic media, reflect a continuing focus on integration—as does the use of the terms in Scandinavia— albeit in a ‘softened’ form (D’Haenens & Ogan, 2007; Viswanath & Arora, 2000; Zhou & Cai, 2002). Understandings of integration have


become more nuanced, and softer terms such as acculturation have joined the lexicon of such research. Migrant settlement is now seen as occurring through a sharing of cultures under a common value system, rather than the disappearance of one culture into another (Arnold & Schneider, 2007). Authors such as Viswanath and Arora (2000), Zhou and Cai (2002) and D’Haenens and Ogan (2007) continue to focus on the integrative function of ethnic media, but do so in ways that reflect an increased recognition of the role of ethnic media in maintaining specific cultural and linguistic traditions at the same time that they may assist in certain forms of cultural and social settlement. These studies complicate the place of belonging, understood in both geographical and cultural terms, and recognise that ‘integration’ is not a one-way teleological process, but a series of exchanges and adaptations that may go on indefinitely. Theoretical framings in the areas of the public sphere, diaspora studies and journalistic practice respectively have also moved the study of ‘ethnic’ media further away from a simple assimilationist perspective (Browne, 2005; Couldry & Dreher, 2007; Cunningham, 2001; Georgiou, 2005; Hopkins, 2009; Miladi, 2006; Sreberny, 2001, 2005). Whether referred to as ethnic, diasporic and migrant media, there is widespread recognition that the role of these media in the lives of migrants and ethnic minorities is best seen through terms such as negotiation, hybridity and adaptation. These media are not necessarily agents of social integration, nor of nostalgia, although they certainly can be. Often, however, they are part of a process that combines elements of cultural maintenance and adaptation, social and political change, and the development of always fluid and changeable collective identities and communities (Browne, 2005; Georgiou, 2005). It is important also to remember that there is evidence to suggest that ethnic media have played diverse social roles for well over a century, and have responded to, resisted and sought to transform social and political cultures in a way that problematises attempts to construct distinct categories and definitions. In their argument for immigrant media and journalism “as a unique construct, separate from ‘ethnic’ and ‘transnational’ journalism and media”, for example, Hickerson and Gustafson (2014, p. 2) tend to base differences on a picture of media playing only one role, whether that is assimilation or diversification. Early ethnic print in Australia, Europe and North America, however, were involved in struggles over cultural and linguistic preservation, ethnic rights and freedom



from persecution. They were also involved in movements for social and political inclusion and cross-cultural understanding (Gilson & Zubrzycki, 1967; Matsaganis et al., 2011). The inherently open nature of the symbolic belies any attempt at anchoring ethnic media to one social role. For example, Yu (2015) insists on seeing ethnic media as inherently dialectic, as involving outward connections to wider social institutions. Fleras’ (2015, p. 30, emphasis in original) definition of multicultural, ethnic and migrant media is based on their performing “reactive and ­proactive as well as outward and inward” functions. They react to negative mainstream media coverage of migrant and ethnic issues, while celebrating their own community’s achievements. They also create bonds within the ethnic group, while constructing outward linkages towards wider society. Such understandings are important if we are to avoid the misleading notion that ethnic media exist within defined boundaries and networks, working only to integrate migrants into the territorially bounded national community, or to facilitate ‘parallel lives’. More recent work on ethnicity itself, and understandings of ethnic ‘communities’, reflects a cultural turn in these areas that has opened up the possibilities of how ethnic media may function in society. One of the many contributions of authors in this general area (Aksoy & Robins, 2000, 2003; Fleras, 2015; Georgiou, 2005; Gillespie, 1995, 2006, 2007) has been to connect the use and production of media to the development, negotiation and adaptation of collective and individual cultural and political identities. A more nuanced understanding of media use, for example, is part of such literature, in which migrants and minorities use media strategically, as part of a wider, omnivorous diet shaped by political and social concerns, including racism, belonging and xenophobia (Deuze, 2006; Gillespie, 2006, 2007). This literature pulls media away from ethnicity by introducing a series of intervening factors in the relationship between the two, such as politics, religion and culture. There is then, no single, essential role and function of ethnic media. Just as there is no single role of mass media, or digital media, or any other media form. Nonetheless, it is still important that I provide a reasonably developed definition of what I mean by ‘ethnic media’. I do this, if nothing else, to signal that I do not claim to cover the range of media forms related to migration and diversity in this book, but rather to analyse a particular type and its relationship to democratic theory.


Towards a Definition Within the context of overlapping categories in which migration, ethnic diversity and media are implicated there are several working definitions of ethnic and related media. Indeed, the extent to which the defining criteria of different categories overlay each other seems to make debates over labels somewhat redundant. Thus, in discussing minority media, Camauer (2003, p. 69) touches on elements that could be applied to all of ethnic media, immigrant media and multicultural media when she says that: they may be produced by commercial, community or public service actors, appear in the language of minorities, the language of the country of settlement, or a combination of both, be information-centred, entertainment-centred, or a combination of both, and have output that relates to the country of origin, to the local, national or diasporas context, or to all of these.

Georgiou (2005, p. 482), this time discussing diasporic media, maintains this broad and open approach, and also overlaps with many definitions of ethnic media, when she states that: Diasporic media are of various sizes, levels of professionalism, success and lifespan…and have different entrepreneurial, cultural and political goals. What they all have in common is that they address particular ethnic, linguistic and/or religious groups that live within broader and diverse multicultural societies.

In their text book on ethnic media—still one of the few, comprehensive introductions to this area of media—Matsaganis et al. (2011, p. 6) also take a broad approach, and address ethnic media specifically as “media that are produced by and for (a) immigrants, (b) racial, ethnic, and linguistic minorities, as well as (c) indigenous populations living across different countries”. Such a definition allows them to capture a variety of media based on the place of the audience and the location of production practices, the language used, funding patterns and the location and size of the organisation. Although I seek to distinguish ethnic media from related media forms (see below), it is important to allow for the dialectical nature as outlined by Yu (2015) above. Just as ethnic identities are not fixed and



essentialised, nor should understandings of ethnic media rest on primordial and promethean relationships between culture, language and identity. One can usefully borrow here from a ‘multi-perspectival’ definition of community media, while remembering that ethnic media can be successful commercial enterprises also. Carpentier, Lie, and Servaes (2003) provide just such an approach, combining perspectives on community and alternative media, civil society and rhizomatic theory. Community media serve a community, whether defined geographically or based on shared interests, ideologies and political perspectives. The power of this community aspect is that it becomes a constitutive part of a relationship between media and identity in which “community is actively constructed by its members and those members derive an identity from this construction” (Carpentier et al., 2003, p. 54). There is a unique, two-way relationship between a community and ‘their’ media, which reflects ethnic media definitions based on serving racial, ethnic, linguistic or cultural groups. That such identifications are not completely free from external influence is evidenced in the ‘alternative’ nature of both community and ethnic media, whereby many of their structures and practices are formed in opposition to a ‘mainstream’ media culture (Carpentier et al., 2003). Nonetheless, ethnic, like community media, exist in a mutually constitutive relationship with their audience. Importantly, Carpentier et al. (2003) also connect community media to civil society. They distinguish community media from state and ­commercial media, and, in doing so, connect it to potential democratic practices, via both a democratisation of media, and democratisation through media. Thus, they articulate community media as ‘third sector’ media within the context of civil society, occupying a position between, but not separate from, the market (commercial media) and the state (public media). The ‘alternative’ nature of community media consists of a direct challenge to, and re-imagining of, dominant, undemocratic media practices and structures. As they suggest, “Community media can overcome the absolutist interpretation of media neutrality and impartiality, and offer different societal groups and communities the opportunity for extensive participation in public debate…thus entering the realm of enabling and facilitating micro-participation” (Carpentier et al., 2003, p. 60). At its most basic level, the importance of this connection with civil society is that it mitigates against a false separation of community media—and for my purposes ethnic media—from wider social structures and systems. Carpentier et al. draw upon the contingency and inherent


interconnectedness of Deleuze and Guattari’s Rhizomatic approach to explain the interconnections between community media and the spheres of the market and the state. The rhizome is characterised by multiple connections that lack any necessary predictability or pattern. Community media, “tend to cut across borders and build linkages between pre-existing gaps”, and therefore penetrate both market and state at various times and in various forms (Carpentier et al., 2003, p. 61). The alternative nature of community and ethnic media should thus not be taken to signify a parallel distinction from wider society. Alternative does not always constitute opposition. This central role of articulation between competing interests, of locating the crossroads between different positions and groups, is perhaps one of the least studied functions of ethnic media. That they are defined via reference to culture, language and ethnicity tends to diminish a view of them transcending communities. However, just as Carpentier and company expand beyond the alternative functions of community media, so too is it important to open space for a perspective of ethnic media that is not anchored to particularistic notions of language, culture or ethnicity. My own working definition of ethnic media borrows elements from the various definitions and approaches discussed above, particularly their openness to different media forms and languages, their openness to the diverse roles and intentions of the media producers, the generally open nature of conceptualisations of the audience, and the different f­unding and production environments that are brought into consideration. However, in certain respects, no doubt due to the differing intents of my work, I also refine and expand different aspects of the above definitions. I therefore define ethnic media here as media produced by and for (although not exclusively) a self-identified, non-Indigenous ethnic group, wherein the majority of content is produced within a particular political territory that houses the media workers and producers. My inclusion of a caveat, regarding by and for whom the media are produced, reflects the nature of my own work with ethnic media and one of the central interests in this book. In this regard it is necessary to include in conceptual understandings the possibility that some ethnic media (quite possibly a substantial amount) are implicitly or explicitly designed and produced with a wider audience in mind, and that the work of these media, if not the direct messages themselves, have an impact beyond their ethnic audience (Yu, 2015). Indeed, it is these practices and intentions that can reveal much about the nature of the



relationship between ethnic media and democratic processes, s­tructures and practices. To see ethnic media as being only ethno- or cultural-­ specific is to risk overlooking the multiple ways in which these media, though their very existence and through their practices, are bound-up with wider social, political and cultural processes and questions. My definition is in some senses therefore quite broad. It does not stipulate that the media need to be in a specific language, as the conceptualisation foreign language media stipulates (Cormack, 1998, 2005). As Johnson (2010) suggests, language is an important but not over-determining factor in ethnic identity formation and/or media use (see also Caspi & Elias, 2011). A definitional reliance on language excludes certain forms of ethnic media that deliberately use a particular language to address linguistically diverse groups that nonetheless identify with each other in certain socio-political environments. I am reminded here of the use of English as a broadcast and written language among some African media in Australia in order to reach a pan-African, and non-African audience (Budarick & Han, 2015). Further demonstrating the ­connection between ethnic media and policy, the language of ethnic media in Australia has at times been dictated by external forces, through requirements that print media provide a certain percentage of their content in English, and through funding being tied to language requirements (Gilson & Zubrzycki, 1967). When Caspi and Elias (2011) attempt to distinguish between media for and media by ethnic minorities, minority language is used only as an extreme possibility for defining the latter, with an implicit acknowledgement that much media by minorities is ­produced in the majority language for commercial and political purposes. The related term of ethnic minority media is also commonly used. I do not employ it here only because in its broad approach the book will be open to ethnic media that, in some situations and locations, actually represents an ethnic group no longer in the minority, numerically speaking (Johnson, 2010; Matsaganis et al., 2011). Lay and Thomas (2012) use the acronym BME to refer to Black and Minority Ethnic media, implying a distinction between ethnic categorisations and labels. Johnson’s (2010) and Wilkinson’s (2000) suggestion that the term minority should not be used due to its pejorative framing around issues of powerlessness is also applicable at times. However, there are certain situations wherein the term minority is an important indicator of the marginalised and subjugated position of certain ethnic groups.


This is not to suggest impotence in the face of such marginalisation, but rather the fact that as well as numerical ratio, the label of minority can indicate the exclusion of certain ethnic groups from the most powerful cultural mechanisms in society (Husband, 1994). I choose not to use the label immigrant or migrant media. As discussed above, this is a specific term that is predominantly applied to those who have physically migrated. As such, it tends to see migration as a linear process with a beginning and an end. These implications of linearity in assimilation and integration literature may simplify otherwise complex patterns of media use and production. Those who have not migrated, but are otherwise identified—externally, internally or both—as ethnic minorities also do not fit easily into this label, particularly when considering their production of ethnic media. What is also missing from a focus on immigrant media is an appreciation of incentives to produce ethnic media that have less to do with successful integration, and more to do with continuing cultural, social and political practices and relationships that exist well after settlement. It should also be remembered that, as with the case of Jews in Germany, assimilation and integration is no guarantee against racism and hatred (Lentin & Titley, 2011). The explosion of diasporic and transnational media studies over the past three decades has inevitably led to some confusion over the boundaries between ethnic and diasporic media. There is good reason for this, as transnational networks fundamentally shape local ethnic media production in terms of content, funding and identity formation. Locally produced ethnic media may indeed also be consumed overseas, and content may be produced with an international audience in mind. Georgiou (2005, p. 483) navigates through this conceptual landscape by locating diasporic media on a “universalism-particularism continuum”. Diasporic media cultures form, and are present within, transnational, national and local regions, and the particular and universal are intrinsically interlinked and mutually constitutive. For some locally embedded ethnic media, connections to the wider diaspora serve as a vital network of financial, political and cultural resources. Additionally, the communities these media construct and address, and the concomitant political and social claims they make, may often be articulated with reference to both universal and particular forms of politics, culture and community (Glover, 2011). Like Georgiou, I want to avoid reifying a universal/particular distinction. This means recognising that the values, claims, movements and practices that transcend nation-states come to be implicated in ethnic media, whether highly localised and parochial or more globally attuned. However,



rather than see these phenomena as parts of an emancipatory global ethos in which parochialisms are overcome through reference to a set of universal values, I take them as being part of the ongoing articulation and re-­ articulation of political borders, the nature of which is the subject of much theory with which this book engages. My engagement with ethnic media, then, does not deny the importance of the transnational and diasporic in political, economic and social life in the twenty-first century. However, in its focus on theory and politics, I do inevitably cast my analytical gaze on the place of ethnic media within still defined, yet constantly changing, social, cultural and political spaces. The focus of this book also complicates the relationship between ethnic media and transnational political and cultural processes. Significant questions remain over the application of deliberative democracy and agonistic democracy to transnational politics (Kapoor, 2002). The public sphere has been expanded to try and incorporate global politics through a transnational or ‘global’ public sphere. Fraser (2014) has identified problems with such an approach, in particular concerning political efficacy and the exact institutions that could be said to represent, and respond to, global public opinion. The political organisations that are tasked with acting on the outcomes of the deliberative process are still centred primarily within the nation-state. Just which organisations a transnational public sphere would ‘talk to’ then, are unclear. Also unclear is the potential for Habermas’ transcendental rationality to overcome extreme cultural, social, religious and linguistic differences. This issue will be fleshed out in a later chapter, but critiques of the Bourgeois public sphere have centred on its formation around what are contingent, rather than universal, forms of public deliberation. Mouffe’s particular version of agonistic democracy is also local, refusing to entertain the notion of transcendent, universal norms. For her, any judgement of just, democratic action can only be made with reference to the extant political topography within which such action takes place. There can be no external foundational principles to act as stable, evaluative benchmarks. As such, making the necessary judgements around rights at a transnational scale proves problematic. I am also aware of the importance of state-based mechanisms in the ethnic media space, including the state’s remaining power over policy and regulation in the relevant areas of migration, ethnic relations and media and communications (Flew, Iosifides, & Steemers, 2016; Freedman, 2008; Matsaganis et al., 2011). Indeed, while there is clearly a transnational element to all of these areas, some have argued that the state has increased its


intervention in global financial, cultural and technological flows, manipulating regulatory and trade environments, often under the guise of deregulation (Garland & Harper, 2012). Finally, I have chosen to distinguish between ethnic media and Indigenous media. In many countries, Indigenous media have developed in different policy and cultural contexts than the media of migrant groups. Differing claims to citizenship and political autonomy have also characterised ethnic and Indigenous groups. For example, while sharing some commonalities with the media of migrant groups, Indigenous broadcasting in Australia also developed in the context of unique policy and colonial history (McCallum & Waller, 2017). As McCallum and Waller (2017, p. 105) have argued, the “indigenous media sector is a product of Australia’s colonial past and its complex political and policy history”, and Indigenous media studies has largely developed separately from ethnic media research. There are also questions around the differing attitudes to policies of multiculturalism between migrant and Indigenous groups. This is particularly vexing issue in Canada, but is also felt in Australia (Meer & Modood, 2012). No doubt reflecting my own intellectual surroundings, I therefore see much to be gained from distinguishing between the two media forms for the purposes of clearer analysis. Part of the task of this book, then, is to examine how well each of the three democratic theories included explains and addresses the diverse roles of ethnic media, as well as which aspects of ethnic media each values and strengthens. As evaluative frameworks for analysing the role of media, democratic theory makes demands on media, and at the same time places emphasis on certain aspects of the media environment over others. The rise, and subsequent challenge to, cultural diversity in many of the world’s liberal democracies has led to the re-conceptualisation of questions over the values of ethnic diversity. The task of locating ethnic media within these debates, and within wider political theoretical frameworks, is therefore as important as ever.

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Liberal Democracy

Liberal Democracy: The Market, Democracy and Pluralism In this chapter I seek to introduce liberal democracy through some of its broad foundational principles, before I look more a closely at how these principles have been related to normative ideals of the functioning of media in society. I cannot hope in such a space to sufficiently cover the range of different perspectives of liberalism available (Audard, 2006; Wolterstorff, 2012). Instead, I cast a critical eye on the way certain fundamental features of liberal democratic theory have been applied to media, and how this has positioned ethnic media in the wider ­communications landscape. Liberal democracy maintains a complex and sometimes contradictory relationship with media studies. Many of its central tenets, most notably pluralism, freedom and equality, have been embraced as important aspects of a healthy media system (Karppinen, 2013b). Liberal democracy’s focus on the dispersion of political power and the rejection of a single, unchallenged claim to truth aligns the approach with an insistence that minority issues and marginalised groups are able to contribute to political and social debate. The defence of a plural political sphere thus remains a powerful ideal in ethnically diverse and multicultural societies. It is in this sense that both public sphere theorists and agonists construct their own theories with reference to foundational principles of the

© The Author(s) 2019 J. Budarick, Ethnic Media and Democracy,



liberal democratic model, albeit challenging many of its principles and interpretations.1 On the other hand, according to some critics, liberal democracy’s ignorance of racial inequality has left it largely unable to accommodate structural inequality in its logic. As I will show in this chapter, this issue has ramifications for the establishment of democratic norms upon which modern media systems are built. Liberal democracy also “constitutes [the] very conditions of possibility” of the overwhelming focus of critique in media theory today—neoliberalism (Garland & Harper, 2012, p. 420). A selective interpretation of certain foundational liberal figures, and an embracing of a particular strand of conservative liberalism, has seen an increased focus on the ‘free’ market as a system of control over a range of social, cultural and political spheres (Karppinen, 2013a; Mills, 2017). It is worth then considering both the original, contested philosophical and political principles of liberal democracy, as well as their more recent transformations in the disputed terrain of neoliberalism and ­market libertarianism, particularly as they relate to media (Pickard, 2013). Liberalism espouses a powerful set of ideals. Most famously, individual rights, freedoms and equality. In its early incarnations, it proposed a new role for the state, moving away from what has been called the ‘perfectionist’ view, in which human ethical and moral development were the direct concerns of government. In its place, argued liberals, should be inserted the role of the state as ‘protector’ of fundamental natural rights and freedoms (Wolterstorff, 2012). Liberalism prioritises individual autonomy and freedom from bodies (whether domestic or foreign) that would otherwise impinge on this natural state. Rather than a top-down imposition of ideologies of the social good, cultural development and political ideals, liberal democracy is broadly based on ‘ground-up’ development of a robust political society through the work of free and equal individuals. This shift towards a focus on the individual as an agent of political change is further emphasised by Mills (2017, p. 2), with his argument that conceptions of the rights and foundations of the state in liberalism have shifted from a utilitarian perspective (espoused by writers such as 1 Chantal Mouffe’s work expands on and critiques the work of John Rawls, particularly his A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism. Jurgen Habermas also corresponded with Rawls, with the latter writing a ‘Reply to Habermas’ during his project on political liberalism (Rawls, 1995).



Jeremy Benthan and John Stuart Mill), to social contract perspectives based on “‘natural’, pre-social individual entitlements”, rather than any notion of collective utility. The ‘contractarian’ position, in its different forms, has at its basis the notion that authority can only be legitimised by those governed, and that broader social and moral norms must emerge through the agreement of free individuals, rather than being imposed from above. It thus implies the state as an impartial protector of the political society, safeguarding our individual interests and entitlements (Mills, 2017). Liberal theory, then, works from the ideal of the rational individual citizen, whose freedoms and equality with other citizens are assured through their location within the realm of universal, pre-political rights and obligations. Liberal democracy is, also, a theory of pluralism, difference and conflict (Karppinen, 2013a). It views society as made up of competing interests, and takes disagreement and difference as necessary processes through which desirable outcomes may be reached. Indeed, the role and nature of pluralism in liberal democratic societies has been a key point of debate in liberal theory. It was a key aspect of Rawls’ debates with his communitarian critics, and he developed his understanding of pluralism further in Political Liberalism, constructing the notion of ‘reasonable pluralism’ as a way of embracing respectful differences, in which neither fragmentation nor unity was the outcome (Rawls, 1993). Whether pluralism is seen as insufficiently developed, or as promoting an atomized society, it is a fundamental aspect of liberal democratic thinking (Audard, 2006). From a liberal perspective, in contrast to more community-centered or unitary views of society, pluralism, variety, and conflict between differing views are commonly seen as fruitful and as being a necessary condition for human progress. Antagonism is seen as mediating progress, and the clash of divergent opinions and interests, in the realm of argument and in economic competition, as well as struggles in the political domain, can be seen as inherently positive. (Karppinen, 2013a, p. 30)

The liberal pluralist position is thus one based on a rejection of singular answers to broad social questions over truth and the social good. Locating the answers to any such questions in the hands of any single sector of society, such as the state, denies the debate, contestation and antagonism that is necessary to achieve the best social outcome. If, as pluralists believe, no one person can have access to the full range of


knowledge necessary to constitute social progress, an inclusive democratic debate is needed, within which a wide range of ideas are tested, rejected or accepted. Indeed, such competition between ideas is seen as the best way of weeding out social positions and attitudes deemed detrimental to social progress. One of liberal pluralism’s great contributions to modern democracies, therefore, has been its scepticism towards any restriction of political power in the hands of a single segment society. Like other democratic theorists, liberalists have grappled with the question of how to balance pluralist individualism with the maintenance of a stable political society. Rawls’ (1993) ‘reasonable pluralism’ is part of his focus on the question of stability. It forms a central platform of his conception of political society, and reflects a genuine concern with embracing disagreement without giving into hyper-individualism, in which political connections are denied. In attempting to give shape to pluralism, he suggests that differences that cannot be overcome must nonetheless be respected, and different positions should be open to “reasonable disagreement” (Audard, 2006, p. 186, emphasis in original). This undergirds his view of political society sitting somewhere between the communitarian perspective of an overarching sense of the shared social good, and the libertarian sense of self-interested individuals (Audard, 2006). Rawls’ liberal project was not the only one in the field, nor did it necessarily have the greatest political impact. As well as debates with more communitarian perspectives, liberalism had a more libertarian strain, personified in the work of Robert Nozick and through the economic philosophy of figures such as Friedrich Hayek (Audard, 2006; Couldry, 2010; Karppinen, 2013a; Mills, 2017). These approaches, in particular that of Hayek, are often associated with neoliberalism, something to be discussed later in this chapter. For now, however, I want to move onto two points. One is to look at the ignorance of racial inequality in liberal theory. This critique, articulated most famously in the work of Charles W. Mills, is applied to both the left and right versions of liberal theory. It focuses on foundational ideas of equality and freedom in liberal theory, suggesting that the different variants of liberalism built upon this basic standpoint are guilty of ignoring the racist exclusions and inequalities that defined and continue to define liberal political communities. The second is to look at liberal theory, media and democracy, tying questions of race and ethnicity to well-established critiques of the liberal prioritisation of the market in structuring the media landscape.



Race and Racism in Liberal Democracy The foundational tenets of liberal democracy and liberal democratic theory are based on class, gender and race-based hierarchies (Khiabany, 2014; Khiabany & Williamson, 2015; Mills, 1997, 2017; Sreberny, 2014). Liberalism’s conceptualization of the political society was based not on an all-inclusive notion of the free and equal individual, but on the problematic deliniation of a ‘we’, a ‘people’ whom contained the required faculties to express and appreciate individual freedoms (Mills, 1997; Sreberny, 2014). Historically, this ‘we’, argues Khiabany, has been formed in opposition to others based on perceived inferiority of their race, gender or class position. The social contract between universalized rational citizens, was, and is, a ‘racial contract’, one not based on ‘we the people’, but on “just the people who count, the people who are really people (‘we the white people’)” (Mills, 1997, p. 3). Drawing broadly on Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality, Mills (1997, 2017) suggests that the realities of the racial contract undermine the ideals of liberal contractarianism, including the universal citizen and the supposedly inalienable rights of liberty and equality. The citizen was not universal but specific (white, male), and political systems built upon these ideals have not been neutral, nor have they emerged from some pre-political, universally shared spirit of the democratic individual. Rather, the early liberal democratic project, and much of its contemporary articulations, are based less on inclusivity, equality and freedom, and more on an exclusive image of the political community based on both colour and gender lines (Mills, 2017; Pateman, 1988). Racial liberalism, or white liberalism, is the actual liberalism that has been historically dominant since modernity: a liberal theory whose terms originally restricted full personhood to whites (or, more accurately, white men) and relegated nonwhites to an inferior category, so that its schedule of rights and prescriptions for justice were all color-coded. (Mills, 2017, p. 7)

For Mills (2017) racism is not simply overlooked in understandings of liberal universalism, but is a constitutive part of the original liberal society. The exploitation, inequality and segregation that defined the early


liberal society2 allowed whites to articulate a racialized political community that could be conceived as universal. That people of colour were excluded from this sphere of life was attributed less to racism than it was to the order of natural life, in which only those with a particular proclivity toward democracy were considered in formulations of the political community. So entrenched was this form of thinking in early liberal philosophy, several foundational figures in the liberal tradition overtly supported slavery, racial segregation and inequality (Khiabany & Williamson, 2015; Mills, 2017). Thus, Mills (2017, p. 3) sees whiteness, racism and racial inequality not as damaging effects yet to be corrected by liberal democracy, but rather as constitutive of political systems, as part of “an agreement among white contractors to subordinate and exploit nonwhite noncontractors for white benefit”. The fact that this nature of the liberal democratic project is so seldom acknowledged can be attributed to political philosophy’s commitment to “ideal theory” (Mills, 2017, p. 11). For Mills, ideal theory can be distinguished from its non-ideal counterpart, with the former searching for perfection through abstract principles, and the latter recognising injustice and seeking to rectify it. Under ideal theory, the messy questions of racial injustice need not be considered, as the perfect society would experience no such issues. As Mills (2017, p. 12) suggests: By a weird philosophical route, the “colour-blindness” already endorsed by the white majority gains a perverse philosophical sanction. In a perfectly just society, race would not exist, so we do not (as white philosophers working in ideal theory) have to concern ourselves with matters of racial justice in our own society, where it does exist — just as the white citizenry increasingly insist that the surest way of bringing about a raceless society is to ignore race, and that those (largely people of color) who still claim to see race are the themselves the real racists.

Liberal contractarianism’s universalization of the particular white male condition renders questions of racial justice moot. Rectifying previous injustices would require first acknowledging those injustices, and since the whiteness of dominant liberal theory is yet to be acknowledged, 2 While Mills’ focus is the United States, his arguments can certainly be expanded to a more generalized critique of the liberal tradition and its relationship to media and ethnic media, as he himself suggests (Mills, 2017).



there is little to rectify. Here one can see the roots of liberalism’s strained and complex relationship with the recognition of structural inequality and group rights (Husband, 2015). The tumultuous ongoing experiment with multiculturalism, and indeed migration more generally, in liberal democracies is evidence of its inability to truly come to grips with the “collective experience of marginality”, such as is expressed through multicultural and multi-ethnic (mediated) political movements (Husband, 2015, p. 8).3 Its denial of racial inequality, even as it was being constituted through racialised, gendered and class-based hierarchies, leaves it struggling to fully engage with and comprehend groupbased claims to identity. In particular, those claims based on cultural, ethnic, linguistic and religious differentiation. Both within and outside of the nation state, the free, rational individual of liberalism has been seen as in need of development by those not naturally inclined to this way of political thought; migrants, religious and cultural minorities. The worthiness of some to have access to the liberal democratic state is expressed and judged through heavily policed and politicised border protection policies and regimes. And the need for others to embrace a particular form of individual freedom acts as justification for foreign interventions based on the conflation of liberalism and democracy (Khiabany, 2014; Khiabany & Williamson, 2015). For ethnic and racial minorities, then, liberal democracy has been used as an evaluative framework to test their commitment to individual liberty, and to those values deemed as uniquely western, but, as Khiabany has argued, applied selectively and often in the service of power. Liberal democracy has also provided a set of powerful norms for the functioning of media systems, norms that continue to be based on the myths of the social contract as providing a free, neutral and accessible space for all. Media in Liberal Democracy As a normative theory through which to understand media’s role in democracy, liberalism has tended to prioritise particular ideals over others. Freedom tends to be located in the market, and is based on a view 3 Multiculturalism will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 6, when I bring it into dialogue with ethnic media and democracy. For now, however, I mention multiculturalism within liberalism as a way of pointing to the ongoing tension between individual liberty and collective forms of representation and differentiation.


of the state as the central threat to media pluralism and autonomy. The notion of equality persists based on the image of society as a conglomeration of cooperative individuals with little attention given to the constitutive role of exploitation and expropriation (Mills, 2017). As such, the role of media is seen in largely neutral and reflective terms, as enabling and supporting the free exchange of a plurality of positions and views (Garland & Harper, 2012; Raeijmaekers & Maeseele, 2015). Central here is the freedom of the individual to access a range of information, and to be exposed to a range of attitudes and views in order to be an informed citizen. Such a concern has indeed featured in media policy perspectives and proclamations around the world, with European, North American and Australian policy and regulatory bodies emphasising the need for diversity, antagonism and independence in media (Freedman, 2008). Indeed, the media’s central role in the liberal tradition is encapsulated in the United States constitution, which details the importance of the freedom of the press. Such a system not only articulates a political economy of media shaped by the need for independent media free from government control, but also rests on a particular journalistic culture of detached professionalism, one built on the separation of news and journalism from political control (Waisbord, 2013). The emergence of a professional journalistic identity, based first on a sense of everyday realism, and then on the objective method of social interrogation, was part of a move away from political support for newspapers, and a rejection of overt political arguments and stances being taken by the press. This is again most evident in the history of the American press, wherein such a process was also based on an appeal to a wider audience as a way of replacing the financial support lost with the move away from political funding. Under a liberal model, a set of journalistic practices, codes and values works to ensure that no single political position comes to dominate media discourses. Autonomy is cherished across the ideological spectrum. From conservative to radical news, a range of positions believe that only an autonomous press can properly meet democratic goals…The classic trope of “the independent press” states that the press requires autonomy from the government to effectively check official power. (Waisbord, 2013, p. 44)

The media, then, are best modelled on the market as a space wherein free, equal individuals make rational decisions around which media they



consume, what views they hold and which political positions they support. The market, as both metaphor and as a form of economic and political structure, supposedly ensures a journalistic culture free from political interference and promotes a multiplicity of media forms and outlets, rather than a reduced range of state supported organisations. Rather than being based on any problematic notion of the ‘public’ or collective good, the quality of a media system under a liberal perspective is measured in relation to the economic logic of the free market, where consumers ultimately ensure the standards of journalism and media through their consumption habits (Karppinen, 2013a; Raeijmaekers & Maeseele, 2015). The individual, seemingly, stands as the ultimate arbiter of what are the most important ideas of the day, and which media are best able to provide an arena of debate over such ideas. As such, media reflect the plural and antagonistic political positions within society, and are assured freedom from any closure through their separation and independence from the state. In common public and policy debates, defenders of the liberal position have emphasised autonomy, freedom and the sanctity of individuals as rational consumers, able to form opinions free from any overarching sense of the common good (Karppinen, 2013a). This is perhaps most famously encapsulated in the phrase ‘marketplace of ideas’, often attributed to John Stuart Mill, and said to represent a space free from state impediments in which free citizens can express, exchange and discuss a variety of different views. As Christians, Glasser, McQuail, Nordenstreng, and White (2010, p. 132) state “In a liberal society, the main basis of legitimacy is de facto the market system, which supports the idea that audiences should be given what they are willing to pay for, within the law”. Even sectors outside of the market, such as public broadcasting, are restricted in a liberal context in which “there could be no legitimate appeal to state authority to guide or limit media” (Christians et al., 2010, p. 131). In his critique of the marketplace metaphor, Karppinen (2013a) suggests that denials of inequality mean that the marketplace of ideas remains an inherently flawed space within which to ensure diverse political positions in ethnically plural societies. What emerges in the place of genuine pluralism is a ‘naïve pluralism’, one based on consumer choice rather than sincere political difference. Karppinen traces this back to misinterpretations (or perhaps strategic reinterpretations) of John Stuart Mill, whose work, On Liberty, is widely seen as a founding text in the


liberal democratic tradition. Aligning strongly with arguments for the importance of ethnic media, Karppinen emphasises Mill’s dedication to “the quality and range of ideas”, rather than simply their protection from the state to ensure their multiplication (Karppinen, 2013a, p. 34). It is unclear, says Karppinen, that Mill ever used the metaphor of the ‘marketplace of ideas’ in his writing, and it is arguable that he was less concerned with the negative application of communicative rights to ensure freedom from the state, than he was with a positive approach to communication that ensured the ability of those in a minority position in society to have their voices heard. Far from being a champion for free markets and minimal state interference, then, Mill may in fact align more closely with a position of necessary state intervention to ensure the voices of minorities are not marginalised by the market. As Karppinen (2013a, p. 34) summarises, “It is evident that Mill’s case for free speech is essentially about the value of diversity, particularly minority opinions, and not about negative freedom of expression, let alone consumer choice as such”. Without such assurances of genuine diversity, the market tends toward concentration of media and reduction of views. Media liberalism thus contradicts itself, claiming to ensure a plurality of positions while embracing a market perspective that leads to further concentration. Perspectives that sit outside, or are critical of, the market are either captured within the ‘naïve plurality’ of consumer choice (Dean, 2009; Karppinen, 2013a) or are positioned as an ideological challenge to the natural equilibrium of the market.4 Where race and ethnicity are concerned, the market liberalism of media is unable to ensure equality of access and representation. Just as the ideal democratic society is based on an image of free and equal citizens, so too is the media landscape abstracted from this ideal and modelled on a ‘marketplace’ open to all. Historical inequalities that have excluded migrants, ethnic and racial minorities from this space are largely ignored, and the market continues to perpetuate such inequities. This ignorance of constitutive structural inequalities is expressed in the particular conceptualization of ‘freedom’ in debates over communication rights and media structures. The prioritisation of individualised rights to communication, based on the universalized white subject, mean structural inequality is rarely considered in liberal media systems based on freedom from the state (Husband, 2015). Acknowledging racial

4 This

situation is intensified in neoliberalism, to be discussed shortly.



injustice and group differences would require instead a focus on freedom to, in terms of ensuring the traditionally marginalised have access to their own forms and means of public expression. Under the liberal perspective, however, such an approach, vital as it is to the growth and sustenance of ethnic media in many countries, is positioned as being a special and abnormal form of political interference, in constant need of defence through discourses that seek to balance liberal freedom with collective representation (Kymlicka, 1995). Democratic norms of pluralism and equality also find their way into professional journalistic practice, and like liberal democracy more broadly, the racial exclusions and inequalities these have been built upon are rarely acknowledged. More will be said on this in Chapter 5, when I apply a post-structuralist perspective to professional journalism and journalistic identity. However, it is important to note that liberal journalistic norms of detachment, neutrality and professional autonomy are articulated through an idealised image of the professional journalist, one racialized and implicitly connected to the white, male liberal democratic ideal type (Husband, 2005; Matsaganis & Katz, 2014; Waisbord, 2013). Claims of neutrality, for example, reflect a privileged position said to exist outside of politics and beyond ideology, one not always extended to minorities (Rhodes, 2001). Indeed, using media and journalism to challenge deep-seated, structural racism is difficult in the context of a norm of neutrality that is “not very accessible to radical voices” or “partisan attachments”, and an ideal of professionalism “not very open to direct social and political participation and … wary about new movements…” (Christians et al., 2010, p. 116). Thus, in terms of both the media system (the ‘neutral’ market) and the dominant practices and values of journalism (the autonomous and detached professional), there is little evidence that the norms of liberal democracy as applied to media are able to sustain a genuinely plural media environment, in which racial inequality and subordination are encountered as structural results of the racial contract (Karppinen, 2013a; Mills, 2017). Instead, a particular understanding of the individual, and of freedom and equality, continues to shape wider media systems and more specific journalistic cultures. To add to these concerns, several theorists suggest that the remnants of political debate amongst and between different liberal traditions have now all but been closed off in the face of neoliberalism, which has, in turn, further closed off avenues for the articulation of collective cultural and political identities that express themselves outside of the market.


Neoliberalism, in its variegated effects on both media and political and social understandings of race, is important in understanding the position of ethnic media in liberal states (Lentin & Titley, 2011). My intention in the section below is not to claim that neoliberalism is a monolithic thing, a coherent political-economic system that has uniformly emerged from, and overtaken, liberal democracy around the world. Nor is it my intention to claim that neoliberalism can be counted as a specific form of democracy, keeping in mind what Couldry (2010, p. 51) has called the “oxymoron of neoliberal democracy”. Instead, I want to look at neoliberalism as an important part of the liberal democratic landscape, one that is, according to several authors, gaining more power precisely because of its positioning as being outside of politics (Raeijmaekers & Maeseele, 2015; Phelan, 2014a, 2014b).

Neoliberalism Neoliberalism has become a central concept in critical media studies, one defined by a seemingly inevitable spread across and beyond the structures of global politics and economics, to the point that it has become naturalised and normalised as “the overwhelming priority for social organisation” in general (Couldry, 2010, p. 4; Garland & Harper, 2012; Husband, 2015). It is, however, a highly contested concept (Phelan, 2014a, 2014b). In media studies, it has perhaps most commonly been employed as a way to understand the political economy of media ownership, production and policy (Freedman, 2008; Phelan, 2014b). Neoliberalism has been identified as a form of political, social and economic organisation leading to increased media concentration, the commodification of media products and processes, and the emergence of a “neoliberalized news culture” (Phelan, 2014b, p. 18). In this, the market takes a central role as providing the overwhelming structural logic for range of relationships beyond mere economic trade and exchange. Several media scholars have thus pointed to its power as a political philosophy that is in no way restricted to the economic sphere, but which tends towards a marketisation of non-economic forms of social and public life. Charles Husband (2015, p. 8) suggests that… …neoliberalism should not be seen as a discrete economic theory, with limited application in the economy, but must rather be seen as a dominant ideology with very far-reaching penetration into the explanatory discourses and practices of quite different areas of social life in the present era.



Perhaps because of its usage as a meta-concept to explain and describe several spheres of political, social and economic life, critics contend that the terms lacks analytical purchase. Indeed, neoliberalism as an analytical term does become problematic when it stands in as short hand for complex phenomena. Thus, according to Phelan (2014b, p. 30), “the ­ problem with the concept of neoliberalism is not with the category as such; rather, as with all categories, the problem lies with how it is articulated and operationalized”. A range of perspectives have thus emerged that see n ­ eoliberalism not as a single, dominant political force, but as a series of contingent and contestable relationships, logics and practices that have come to define (although not totally) increasing realms of social, political and economic life (Cammaerts, 2015; Husband, 2015; Maeseele & Raeijmaekers, 2017; Phelan, 2014a, 2014b). This is neoliberalism as “constantly constructed in reaction to the forces that resist it or merely fail to be appropriately acquiescent subjects” (Lentin & Titley, 2011, p. 165). Neoliberalism expands and intensifies the role of the market in liberal democratic thought, further enhancing its importance as a supposed arena for individual competition free from the deleterious power of the state (Brown, 2005). The basic principles of market exchange come to determine policy approaches toward of a range of social institutions and relations. As such “[N]eoliberal rationality, while foregrounding the market, is not only or even primarily focused on the economy; it involves extending and disseminating market values to all institutions and social actions…” (Brown, 2005, pp. 39–40, italics in original). Understandings of media, democracy and race are thus subsumed within the neoliberal logic of market exchange, meaning for media it is largely the economic and financial criteria that dominate discussions of policy, regulation and funding (Lentin & Titley, 2011; Phelan, 2014b). Understandings of the public good, of social responsibility, and of media infrastructures as public resources, are problematised as an unnatural restriction of the individual and the market (Freedman, 2008; Phelan, 2014b). As one writer observed, neoliberalism constitutes a “shift away from public-collective values to private-individualistic ones” (Barnett, 2005, in Garland & Harper, 2012, p. 415). Like liberalism, then, its underlying ideological foundation rests upon the individual as rational agent, with a set of preformed political and social preferences that can only be supported and catered for through the free market. It is important to note, however, that the role of the state within neoliberal logic is contradictory, a point that can be used to


differentiate neoliberalism from liberalism (Phelan, 2014b). If liberalism still contains debates over the balance between the perfectionist and protective state, neoliberalism firmly articulates the state as the enabler of market logic in an increasingly wide range of social and political life. In his critical interrogation of Neoliberalism, Media and the Political, Phelan (2014b) articulates this position in his review of different disciplinary approaches to neoliberalism. Drawing on Foucault and ­governmentality, he suggests that “neoliberal theorists offer a fundamentally different political account of the relationship between market and state” than their liberal predecessors (Phelan, 2014b, p. 23). The enmity between market and state of “classical liberals” is replaced with a view of the state as necessary to ensure the institutionalisation of market-based neoliberal imperatives (Phelan, 2014b, p. 23). Rather than a neutral position, the state is tasked with actively assuring the freedom of the market. This is a relationship that is, according to Wendy Brown, centred on “liberality rather than liberty” (Brown, 2005, p. 39, italics in original). In claiming the “end of liberal democracy” Brown (2005, p. 37) suggests that liberalism still maintained a distinct political and social focus not inextricably linked to the realms of economy and market. It therefore was able to at least provide a language through which individual liberty could be discussed in political terms. However, political liberalism has been pushed aside, and “the liberalism in what has come to be called neoliberalism refers to liberalism’s economic variant” (Brown, 2005, p. 39, italics in original). Paradoxically, then, the states role is to roll back the political and to oversee the marketisation of increasing aspects of social and political life (Phelan, 2014b). This relationship between neoliberalism and the market is articulated by Dean (2009, p. 51) in her argument that, neoliberalism is a philosophy viewing market exchange as a guide for all human action. Redefining social and ethical life in accordance with economic criteria and expectations, neoliberalism holds that human freedom is best achieved through the operation of the markets. Freedom (rather than justice or equality) is the fundamental political value…. Consequently, neoliberalism accords to the state an active role in securing markets…although it does not think the state should — at least ideally — intervene in the ­activities of the markets.

The relation of the state and neoliberalism can also begin to alert us to the different ways in which different state formations have engaged with



and experienced neoliberal systems. This is important if we are to avoid falling into the trap of seeing neoliberalism as an all-encompassing term applied uniformly across different socio-political contexts. Its differing relationships to the neo-conservatism of the Bush government in the US, and the Third Way politics in Britain during the same period, for instance, have been articulated by several authors (see Freedman, 2008 for a summary). In their critique of neoliberalism as a working concept in media sociology, Garland and Harper (2012) warn against equating neoliberalism with a retreat of the state from social life, suggesting instead that the state and capitalist relations are seen within the context of neoliberal political organisation. Thus, rather than replacing capitalism as the major force determining the media and communications environment today, neoliberalism suggests a new relationship between the state and public life. In England, they point to public broadcasting as a site in which acceptable and state approved discourses are essentially reconstituted in the form of serious political discussion. Reflecting Curran’s (2011) critique of the failures of American mainstream journalism in reporting US foreign invasions, Garland and Harper suggest that the BBC has reflected state prerogatives in the reporting of foreign conflicts such as the cold war and the Iraq war. The state, then, still holds significant power in the structuring of public discourses, and capitalist organisation and class struggle remain powerful tools in interrogating certain aspects of the media landscape. The unevenness of neoliberalism and the state can be seen in the “contradictory phenomenon” where supporters of a ‘free’ market ­ nonetheless “impose tariffs to protect domestic industries, usually for election gain” (Freedman, 2008, p. 39). Or through the other areas where state i­ntervention has been increased in otherwise neoliberal regimes, such as policing during Thatcher’s regime, the current securitisation of migration management, or the regular bailouts during economic crises (Husband, 2015; Khiabany, 2014; Oelgemöller, 2017; Phelan, 2014b). Maeseele and Raeijmaekers (2017, p. 13) also point to the state’s paradoxical role in neoliberalism, at once central to ensuring the political and economic environment of privatisation and deregulation, and yet denied and opposed within neoliberal discourse (Garland & Harper, 2012). The state’s relationship to neoliberalism is then highly selective. This can be seen clearly in media policy debates, whereby (neo) liberal tenets of ­freedom (from the state, of speech, of choice) and equality (as long as it doesn’t challenge inequalities inherent in the market) are


wielded in calls opposing state interjection in the media sphere (Pickard, 2013). On the other hand, the favourable political conditions necessary for ­corporate mergers and acquisitions are welcomed, labelled as deregulation in an attempt to hide their political origins. Husband (2015, p. 7) too warns against a separation of neoliberalism from the state, warning that neoliberalism as a “philosophy of the relation of self and society” requires the state for its constitution. That the underlying philosophy then calls for a rolling back of the state in some arenas of social life should not be taken as equaling political passivity, lest one see neoliberalism as the inevitable, unencumbered result of people’s natural proclivity to an open market. Others, such as Pickard (2013), discuss neoliberalism within the language of specific historical and political junctures, such as when he discusses the expansion of the market through terms such as “market libertarianism”. This more historically and geographically specific account nonetheless articulates the precise ways in which an extreme mode of market liberalism took hold in American policy discourse. The particular nature of this narrative—including the debate between commercial media and the Federal Communications Commission, the connections between different media sectors such as print and radio, and the role of the First amendment and notions of ‘freedom’ in American political and public life—gives it a certain flavour distinguishable from other geographical and temporal contexts. Such a perspective points to the inevitable slippages and gaps when applying a broad theoretical concept such as neoliberalism to a range of political economic perspectives (Phelan, 2014a, 2014b). Ultimately, Garland and Harper (2012) draw on Peck, Theodore, and Brenner (2010, p. 104), and, reflecting Couldry (2010) and other authors’ (Mouffe, 2000) alignment of neoliberalism with hegemony, define neoliberalism as a “hegemonic restructuring ethos, as a dominant pattern of (incomplete and contradictory) regulatory transformation, and not as a fully coherent system or typological state form”. In a similar vein, Phelan (2014b, p. 18) is supportive of an approach that speaks of “neoliberal and neoliberalized logics that are always contextually articulated with other political, social, and fantastic logics”. Much of the power of neoliberalism has therefore been understood not in terms of dominant political ideology, but in the post-political, post-ideological, post-democratic or even post-racial logic of neoliberal discourse (Phelan, 2014b). Its power, then, comes when neoliberal logics are naturalised and normalised, and their political nature in achieving



ascendancy over alternatives is denied and rendered invisible (Phelan, 2014b). Neoliberalism has therefore emerged as a central mode of political organisation not through ideological indoctrination, but because of the emergence of a discourse that positions it as the natural point in a teleological move towards optimum social and economic functioning. It cannot be achieved without the state, and yet this role of the state is seen primarily as one of facilitating the emergence of natural social relationships to emerge, rather than as manipulative of the economic, social and cultural spheres. Neoliberalism’s ascendance is attributed a sense of inevitability. It is shorn of the image of political manipulation and is described as a post-political engagement with the open and neutral market, wherein individuals are fee and equal. Neoliberalism, then, is best understood as naturalised post-political discourse (Phelan, 2014a, 2014b). Its power rests not on winning a series of political contests and arguments, but on articulating a position as existing outside of politics, as being a natural state of balance. Market determinism, individualisation, commodification, self-interest and competition are articulated as free from political engineering, and as the outcome of the state’s logical support of a natural equilibrium. Despite political manufacturing, neoliberalism’s power lies in its post-political and post-ideological guise (Phelan, 2014b, p. 57). As several authors have pointed out, the de-politicisation of neoliberalism renders politics dangerously mute (Cammaerts, 2015). If neoliberalism is the inevitable outcome of a natural progression to a form of political organisation that better captures the essence of the individual, rational democratic agent, then there can no longer be any “ideological enemy”, any “valid constitutive outside”, thus implying “the death of politics and of the political” (Cammaerts, 2015, p. 527). The post-­political positioning of neoliberalism thus renders alternatives as incomprehensible, as sitting outside the common-sense mode of political and social thought. As Cammaerts (2015, p. 528) suggests, “The neoliberal project positions itself as a post narrative — as facticity, as non-negotiable and thus as quintessentially anti-ideological…, while positioning their constitutive Others as deeply ideological, as biased, as mad or nostalgic — of a bygone era”. It is important to recognise those criticisms of the concept of neoliberalism that point to its slippage into an all-encompassing term ­ used to explain social ills and pejoratively re-conceptualise democratic values such as freedom and autonomy. At issue, argues Phelan (2014b),


is the inevitable gap between the abstract and the applied, between the theoretical conceptualisation of neoliberalism and the diverse and messy application of the policies said to constitute neoliberalism across the globe. In as much as we can see neoliberalism as a simplifying conceptual shorthand, a descriptive and explanatory concept (see Barnett, 2005 in Phelan, 2014a, p. 8) with its own dichotomies, one can also see it as a way to conceptualise a series of processes that are highly contextualised and diversely enacted and experienced, but nonetheless constitute something new in political cultures (Phelan, 2014b). Neoliberalism therefore has explanatory and analytical power, but must be treated as an emerging, uneven and not fully realised form of social and political organisation. In its current form in many liberal democracies, its power lies in its inevitability, its naturalisation as a post-political formation, and thus in its subsuming of individual freedoms into its internal logics (Pickard, 2013). Here I want to draw on Phelan’s (2014b, p. 57) definition and understanding of neoliberalism as, “The process where market-based logics and practices, especially logics of market determinism, commodification, individualization, competitive ritual and self-interest, are dialectically internalised and generated in particular social regimes”. Phelan’s focus on these five neoliberal logics as shaping media provides a useful framework to better articulate how neoliberalism may shape ethnic media. For ethnic media—which have rarely been though about in relation to neoliberalism or liberalism—the role of the market, patterns of media reregulation, the securitisation of migration, and the embrace and attempted control of new technology, have all had an affect. In this sense, the state has maintained the facade of deregulation as the neutralising of political interests, rather than what it actually is: the active re-structuring of political systems that favour certain political and social interests. That the state continues to shape ethnic media through policy and regulation makes the above observations all the more important in understanding neoliberalism’s relationship to ethnic media (Matsaganis, Katz, & Ball-Rokeach, 2011). Ethnic Media and Neoliberalism I start here by acknowledging the features of neoliberalism that have been drawn on successfully by ethnic media entrepreneurs to develop successful commercial media enterprises. Here we might avoid a view of the logics of neoliberalism as over-determining the practices of passive



ethnic media producers, and instead recognise the strategies that ethnic media producers have undertaken to exploit as best they can the potentials of a market system. Black and Latino media in the United States, for example, have managed to utilise a market population required to sustain successful commercial enterprises. There is a need then to avoid the assumption “that ethnic media struggles financially to attract advertising” and are therefore defenceless victims of the march of commercialism and commoditisation (Cover, 2012, p. 27). In looking at how a series of interlinked ‘logics’ have found their way into areas of life pertinent to ethnic media, however, a picture emerges of neoliberalism as highly problematic for many of ethnic media’s key principles, functions and aims (Phelan, 2014b). I have already discussed liberalism’s prioritisation of the individual, its concomitant issues with claims to group rights and the negotiation of collective forms of language, culture and identity which defined the emergence of much ethnic media. Critiques and concerns of ethnic segregation are based on these suspicions of collective identity that sits outside of the imagined liberal community. Such suspicions and at times outright hostility are also based on the racialization of minority groups in a way that often sediments them within monolithic cultural templates and denies them the agency of fluid and multifaceted identities. In its spreading of market logic right through to the individual social agent, neoliberalism’s prescription of “the citizen-subject of a neoliberal order”, based on individual rationality and a “capacity for ‘self-care’”, acts to both further delegitimise collective responses to social injuries, and to locate social problems within the individual (Brown, 2005, p. 42). For Lentin and Titley (2011, p. 165), this ‘individual’ is often racialised, as those who “obstruct neoliberalism’s spatial or governmental imperatives…are often racially defined”. And yet, this racialisation is not recognised in structural or collective terms, with Lentin and Titley (2011, p. 168) talking of the “privatising racism” of neoliberalism, wherein “race is essentially privatised, in the sense of being silenced or made invisible”. When racism does come to the fore, it is understood as individual pathology and irrationalism, in contravention of the post-race market, and therefore not in need of structural remedies but rather the elimination or education of individual racists. The flip side to this is the individualisation of tolerance, with expectations of racial harmony placed on the shoulders of the individual social actor, rather than the social and political system (Sreberny, 2014).


Neoliberalism doubles down on liberalism’s ignorance of structural racism. While liberalism struggled to acknowledge the constitutive role of race, neoliberalism claims a post-racial position, one in which such structural inequalities have been left behind. While race in liberalism ­ was connected to differing levels of liberal democratic ‘habitus’ among ­different races and ethnicities (Khiabany & Williamson, 2015), in neoliberalism the ‘problem’ of race has been solved. The market does not see race, and thus nor should the political mechanisms charged with supporting this market (Lentin & Titley, 2011). The ideal has been reached. The privatisation of race works as part of neoliberalism’s claims of a post-racial society, in which positive group identification is deemed not only problematic, but entirely unnecessary. In discussing how this post-racialism denies minority’s experience of race and racism, Lentin and Titley (2011, p. 167) relate it directly to the question of self-representation: To the extent that it can be used to describe something of their e­ xperience, occluding it also means foreshortening people’s capacity for selfdescription. In part, understanding racial neoliberalism is bound to the understanding of how post-racialism plays out in political terms. What ­happens when the denial of the capacity to describe one’s own condition is made basis for policy?

To be sure, the extent of this denial in policy differs. Lentin and Titley are writing here about the United States, often held up as an archetype of neoliberalisation. In some countries multiculturalism and state-funded ethnic media remain strong, if contested and threatened parts of the political environment. None of this is out of line with the continual construction and re-articulation of neoliberal logics. What is pertinent is the way that neoliberal logics position, but do not determine, ethnic media vis-a-vis wider political and media systems and structures. If the state’s historical and contemporary role in racial and ethnic inequality is denied through neoliberalism’s individualising logic, the provision of funding and space for ethnic media is framed not in terms of providing a social corrective to structural inequalities, but in terms of producing effective citizens and a cohesive multicultural society that does not challenge the dominance of a particular cultural group (Fleras, 2015). Further, the spread of the logic of individualization into a media system which is “privileging of individual, rather than collective, identities, and the normalisation of self-expressive modes of public discourse”,



including in social and political fields, forecloses the collective voice of ethnic media, preferring individual ‘representatives’ to stand in for homogenised ethnic communities (Phelan, 2014b, p. 61). Such a process is most evident in mainstream coverage of minorities in which journalists position themselves as outside of ideology and politics, and as simply telling it “as it is” (Phelan, 2014b, p. 84). Thus, when an offender is black, the politics of contingent journalistic practices are denied by a neoliberal discourse of reflecting an uncomfortable reality denied by those who refuse to see beyond their own ideological and political position (Cammaerts, 2015; Lentin & Titley, 2011).5 Such individualisation makes it easier for mainstream media, politics and society to overlook and ignore ethnic voices, and simultaneously easier to position them as sitting outside of the universal rationalism of the neoliberal space (Phelan, 2014b). This is a common strategy in recent media coverage of Muslims, wherein the most extreme individuals are mediated and made to stand-in for the diverse and overlapping series of Muslims groups, faiths, communities, organisations and individuals (Lentin & Titley, 2011). The logic of ‘market determinism’, “articulated as a triumphant ideological faith in the free market”, also positions ethnic media within a set of naturalised logics that prioritise the market, not as the outcome of political contest between liberalism and more collective forms of political organisation, but as a natural and taken for granted structuring mechanism for social and political life (Phelan, 2014b, p. 61). As was noted in the introduction to this section, these logics do not determine ethnic media. However, they create a political system that frames ethnic media in several ways. When ethnic media gain some sort of strength in this context, as is exemplified by the commercial black and Latino media in the United States, they are heralded as examples of the success of the system. In order to achieve such commercial success, these media depend on a range of strategies dictated by local media policy and market environments. These include developing commercial relationships with media businesses in the home country (Gao & Zhang, 2017; Georgiou, 2005; Husband, 2005) and the importation of content, circumventing the cost and time associated with producing original content.

5 I will discuss dominant journalistic practices, and their relationship to liberal and neoliberal structures further in Chapter 5, when I critique them through an agonistic perspective.


Yet relative success in the market does not shield ethnic media organisations from other issues. If such logics can be said to threaten mainstream journalistic values of social responsibility, they can also be considered as posing a challenge to many of the imperatives of ethnic media: challenging mainstream media representations, challenging dominant notions of race, ethnicity and religion, highlighting and explaining communal practices often seen as threatening and different, and developing and negotiating the place of a diverse, racialised group within society (Brown, 2005; Cover, 2012; Georgiou, 2005; Matsaganis et al., 2011). None of these aims are necessarily attuned to the market, and thus ethnic media find themselves occupying a special place, a liminal space allowed by neoliberalism and used to justify claims to market pluralism, but a space in which ethnic media nonetheless need to constantly justify their existence (Karppinen, 2007). Despite little empirical research on the relationship between market logics and ethnic media, some have found that responses to a challenging market economy shape ethnic media in important ways. Relying too heavily on content from other sources, and indeed financial support from a home country, can dilute the ‘local’ flavour that much, but not all, ethnic media relies on for its relevance to the lives of local migrant and ethnic communities (Lay & Thomas, 2012). A reliance on large markets also leaves ethnic media even closer to the forefront of problems faced by all commercial media today: fragmented audience markets and increasing competition (Husband, 2005). The problems identified in the Pew Report of the State of the Media in 2016 relate to such issues in large scale, commercial ethnic media in America, with changes in firstlanguage use, migration rates and the encroachment of transnational and mainstream media players into the field reducing the audience and revenue of Latino media (Pew Research Centre, 2016). The prioritisation of the market over notions of the public good, social justice or collective identity also positions ethnic audiences as part of an ‘ethnic market’, one breathlessly celebrated as a source of information and a pool of viable new consumers. For Yu (2016), the use of ethnic media under such a system has a dangerous tendency to slip into instrumentalism, such as in Canada, where sections of the Government monitored the ethnic media sector for political gains (Yu, 2016). In a situation that echoes previous forms of government surveillance and control based on fear of ethnic segregation or sedition through foreign



language media, politicians see ethnic media now as potential political tool in winning over a share of the migrant vote. The ‘ethnic market’, has also been embraced within both consumer and journalistic discourses. Ethnic media and ethnic journalists are seen as avenues to new audiences, new sources, and more effective ways of doing journalism, fundamentally understood in traditional ways. According to Sterling (2009, p. 739) in the Encyclopaedia of Journalism, mainstream journalists may find ethnic media useful in “keeping abreast of an ethnic immigrant community”. An article on the Media-Shift website also lauds ethnic and mainstream journalistic collaboration for is ability to create “big-impact” journalism and improve reporting skills (Ramirez, 2011). The deeply embedded practices that, over countless decades, have given rise to a journalistic culture that struggles to deal effectively with ethnic and cultural difference, remain largely unquestioned. Instead, ethnic journalism is seen as a way to increase sources, reach new audiences and expand a product into new ‘markets’. That the dynamism and fluidity of these ‘markets’ or communities may elude their capture as resources in all but the clumsiest and most monolithic ways also escapes reflection when ethnic media are seen as primarily a market resource. Jin and Kim (2011) bring a particular form of individualisation to bear on market determinism in their discussion of Asian media in Canada. Previously unattractive to advertisers, Asian-Canadians have become a viable target of advertisers due to “tremendous purchasing power”, larger numbers, and an increasing middle class status (Jin & Kim, 2011, p. 554). Ethnic media have thus become “market driven commodities…absorbed as part of the Canadian market, not only as marketing tools, but also as major commodities” themselves (Jin & Kim, 2011, p. 561). Thus, while recognising the role of both the state and the private sector in the growth and support of ethnic media in Canada since the 1970s, the commoditisation they see in the Asian media sector tends to reify a particular image of the Asian-Canadian as a consumer first, and a citizen second (Jin & Kim, 2011). This commoditisation of both media and cultural groups can be connected to the ‘ethnic economy’, often heralded in marketing terms, but itself a dangerous reduction of migrant identities to particularistic and insular purchasing and lifestyle choices (Nederveen-Pieterse, 2003). In critiques similar to those of liberal multiculturalism (Fleras, 2015), the market tends to build a picture of the ideal migrant and a ‘safe’ level of financially exploitable diversity.

66  J. BUDARICK It may not be uncommon that contemporary ethnic media marketing and advertising tend to target a relatively wealthier Asian audience as profitable commodities. The commercial representation of the Asian audience also tends to exploit the image of Asian immigrants as assimilated, wealthy, and middle class families. (Jin & Kim, 2011, p. 564)

Yu and Murray (2007; Yu, 2016) further critique commercialisation in relation to the Korean media sector in Canada. Korean migration to Canada from the 1980s, they suggest, has been dominated by business migration within the context of “neoliberal immigration policies which promote free market principles and idealise ‘model citizens’” as independent and upwardly mobile (Yu & Murray, 2007, p. 104). Combined with a heavily commercialised Korean-Canadian media sector, and a lack human and social capital, this situation results in a lack of quality, local news and a situation where the social responsibility role of media is de-emphasised. This in turn restricts their role as bridging, or connective, tissue between Korean and Canadian society. Thus, while Yu and Murray (2007) find a strong collective voice in the Korean media sector in Canada—one necessary, according to Thornburn (1991, in Yu & Murray, 2007), in gaining mainstream political attention—there are less provisions to ensure a dialogic relationship with overarching political mechanisms. Thus, the logics of individualism and market determinism tend toward the depoliticisation of ethnic media and consumers, restricting them to the terms of the market and defining them based on the notion of the ideal neoliberal subject. The power of the market and the logic of commodification is due largely to the economy as “the basis of state legitimacy” (Brown, 2005, p. 42). While policy discussions rarely include ethnic media directly, they do involve community and public broadcasters in ways that directly affect ethnic media. An example from Australia may prove instructive here. Moves to further liberalise the Australian media market rest fundamentally on a neoliberal (naive) understanding of pluralism and freedom (Karppinen, 2007, 2013a). Moves to weaken the country’s cross ownership and media reach regulations are thus said to pose no threat to the range of media available. The changes include overturning the ‘two out of three’ rule, meaning that media companies are no longer restricted to owning only two of commercial radio, television or print in a particular licence area. The 75% rule will also be rescinded, meaning



a single media company or proprietor is no longer restricted to a 75% audience reach through their commercial television licence (Australian Communications and Media Authority, 2018). These changes also include the allocation of $50 million for smaller and regional publishers, providing these publications are members of the Australian Press Council and have a turnover of between $300,000 and $50 million, and can demonstrate that the funds will be used for public interest journalism (Dwyer, 2017). The vast majority of ethnic media in Australia would be excluded through such financial restrictions alone. At the time of writing, only one ethnic media organisation is a member of the Australian Press Council.6 Australia has, like many ‘Western’ countries, undergone a process of increasing media deregulation since the 1980s. This deregulation has led to a concentration of media ownership that places Australia at, or near the top in most OECD lists of media concentration. It has the most concentrated print media landscape amongst OECD countries, and one of the most concentrated media systems (Dwyer & Muller, 2016). A series of political Bills and Inquiries have, over often uneven and combative terrain, ultimately liberalised Australian media and increased the reach and power of large, commercial media enterprises. Behind much of this, aside from the political wrangling of influential media organisations, is a belief that the internet will provide a panacea for problems of media diversity. A 2014 Commission of Audit into the funding of community broadcasting also conflates public and community broadcasting, ignoring many of the important differences between the two providers. In the words of the audit, “The Commonwealth Government already provides over $1 billion per annum to the operation of the public broadcasters [ABC and SBS]. There is limited rationale for the Commonwealth to also subsidise community radio services” (CBAA, 2014). Considering that 27% of the Community Broadcasting Foundation’s (the peak body that distributes government funding to the sector) budget went to ethnic broadcasting in 2012/2013, the eventual success of community broadcasting bodies in lobbying for a ‘stay of execution’ in regards to funding cuts is of central importance.

6 The

APC has expressed a desire to expand this representation by ethnic media organisations.


Conclusion In terms of using liberal democracy as an ideal to evaluate the role of ethnic media, the liberal pluralist commitment to the decentralisation of power and a plurality of voices in public and political debates would seem to insist on a strong and viable ethnic media environment, one present in many liberal democracies. Ideals of decentralised debate and scepticism towards locating too much social and political power within any one sector of society demand a diverse media system. This is a system guided not by the prerogatives of those in power, but of free and rational citizens. Individual equality mitigates the concretisation and concentration of ideas and discourses, allowing the free flow of information amongst and within the civil sphere. There is, then, much about liberal democratic theory that offers and important framework for media pluralism and ethnic minority voices. However, the paradox of liberal democracy problematises the group differentiated rights of ethnic minorities, and the ethnic media that were built upon and support such claims. Liberalism’s focus on universal individualism leaves it in a complex and conflictual relationship with policies of collective rights and group differentiation, most prominently multiculturalism. The liberal tendency toward liberty over equality problematises calls for structural reform based on systemic and systematic racisms and ethnic exclusions. The conceptualisation of the market place of ideas as a neutral space of individual autonomy and freedom masks the exclusions and inequalities in the history of liberal democracy and the present moment of neoliberalism (Khiabany & Williamson, 2015; Mills, 1997, 2017). As such, ethnic media’s role under such a framework is, like other media in a strong market environment, reduced to individualistic consumer product. Any politically or socially transformative potential is muted, particularly in contexts of more extreme neoliberal faith in the market, wherein claims to collective action, identities and experiences of marginalisation are treated with suspicion. Measures of an effective ethnic media sphere thus tend to rest more on measures of profitability, self-sufficiency and the development of strong, independent ethnic markets. The reality of a market dominated environment for ethnic media is that it places extensive pressures and restrictions on ethnic media that, almost universally, face challenges in resourcing, staffing and financing. This situation tends to cut across print and broadcast. In their study of



black and ethnic minority media in London, Lay and Thomas (2012) show that producers saw a lack of funding and support as a significant problem. Several participants in their study related this issue to the commercial nature of ethnic television, and argued for the importance of state support. Such support does indeed exist around the world, such as in the form of Australia’s multicultural broadcaster, SBS, or through press subsidies in Sweden that reflect a combination of “elements from the free-market and the social-responsibility ideologies” (Camauer, 2003, p. 76). However, under the conceptual framework of the market such measures often require continual defence from accusations that they represent political manipulation and interference with the market and with media independence. Increasingly, such measures are viewed as unique and against the grain of the ethos of neoliberal re-regulation, often overtly connected to a long, glorified history of hard-fought press freedom from manipulative government encroachment (Curran, 2011). The post-­ political nature of neoliberalism has further naturalised the market and glossed over its inherent inequalities. For ethnic media, a narrow conceptualisation of freedom (from the state) has left them exposed to market forces, and has in some cases raised issues of commercialisation and instrumentalisation (Yu, 2016). What is also clear is that philosophically and practically speaking, certain powerful interpretations of liberalism leave unaddressed racial inequalities, the relations between different sectors of society, the hegemonic norms of journalistic practices, and the ways the market inherently disadvantages new and emerging communities trying to establish a media footprint. Neoliberalism exacerbates these issues, with claims to the post-political market further pacifying the collective political claims made by ethnic media that relate to structural inequality, institutionalised racism and historical exclusions. The myth of the market as a space of individual equality makes it even harder to challenge the institutions and structures that sustain racism, which under neoliberalism is largely individualised or seen as a breach of the liberal-democratic state, rather than a result of it. Pathways for genuine, sustained and transformative political engagement in which foundational structures and understandings are questioned are deemed an irrational breach of market logic. In its post-political guise, neoliberalism constructs the political (in any form other than supporting the market) as unnecessary, an ideological threat to a post-ideological equilibrium (Phelan, 2014b). Politics,


then, and claims to democracy that expand beyond the market choice of ‘naive pluralism’, are constricted, and ethnic minorities who lack a large share of the market find themselves with less space from which to make democratic claims and contributions (Karppinen, 2007; Lentin & Titley, 2011). If structural inequality is not a political issue, then calls for political change from those marginalised can only be self-serving and cynical. In the next chapter I move on to a discussion of deliberative democracy and the public sphere. This approach has provided a powerful challenge to neoliberalism, reinterpreting liberal democratic principles with an eye to forming a more inclusive, and equal public space in which political consensus can be legitimised beyond individual and strategic interests. It is therefore suspicious of the market, seeing the need for it to be bracketed out of more genuine dialogic public space in which public issues are discussed, rather than presented as preformed choices for the citizen-consumer.

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Deliberative Democracy and the Public Sphere

Habermas and the Public Sphere Jurgen Habermas’ work on deliberative democracy and the public sphere is arguably the most commonly used, and overly simplified, democratic theory in media and communications studies. The latter is no doubt a result of the sheer volume and complexity of Habermas’ work, and the way that, over the years, he has addressed several of the critiques of his theories. It is the public sphere that takes precedence in media studies. However, it should be remembered that Habermas has developed a diverse repertoire of scholarship over more than half a century of writing. There is nonetheless an identifiable thread throughout his work, focusing on the conditions necessary to achieve a rational, intersubjective form of deliberation, and thus to achieve a legitimate democratic consensus based on genuine dialogue and debate. Dahlberg (2014) proposes that Habermas’ work consists of two connected stages: the articulation of the public sphere as historical reality as outlined in The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, and the public sphere as constituted through retrievable norms of communicative rationality, as developed in Theory of Communicative Action. I attempt in this chapter to incorporate both, recognising the prioritisation of the public sphere in much work on ethnic media, but also its place in a wider theorisation of deliberative democracy by Habermas. The relationship between ethnic media research and deliberative democracy is most visible as part of a response to the shortcomings in © The Author(s) 2019 J. Budarick, Ethnic Media and Democracy,



public sphere theory identified by both critics and Habermasians alike. This is particularly emphatic in the development of the notion of counterpublics as a response to Habermas’ historical location of the public sphere as a function of bourgeois society. As I will demonstrate in this chapter, the re-articulation of public sphere theory in ethnic and alternative media studies maintains some of the original theory’s principles, while acknowledging and addressing issues around exclusion and difference. I will trace these changes alongside Habermas’ own developing work, particularly his recognition of competing publics, and some of the issues that emerge when the public sphere is conceptualised as part of a wider project to articulate the discursive conditions of deliberative democracy. The public sphere is just one aspect of Habermas’ re-imagining of the modern project of reasoned political communication, itself built upon a dissatisfaction with both the existing models of liberal democracy, and the postmodern alternatives put forth in some political and social theories. His is an immanent critique, however, and he maintains certain tenets of liberalism, to the point that he has been accused of an unnecessary conservatism in his acceptance of capitalist structures such as the market. It is possible, he argued, to build a democratic system capable of incorporating difference into a reasoned and rational consensus that can transcend the structures and practices of power admonished by postmodern theorists. Such a model rests on a certain form of public deliberation, fostered by a ‘public sphere’ able to house genuinely free debate, unfettered by the state or economic institutions. For Habermas, the idea of consensus need not be abandoned in the face of ever diversifying political ‘communities’. Instead we must imagine new ways of legitimating democratic decision-making outside of the enforcement of power (Habermas, 1984, 1989). There is in Habermas’ writing, an ontological commitment to a shared foundational political landscape, one retrievable through rational modes of public deliberation that are based on ‘rational consensus’ rather than ‘mere agreement’. Such consensus is reached through ­“communicative presuppositions that allow better arguments to come into play” and through a “fair bargaining process” (Habermas, 1996a, p. 24). The value of this form of transcendental consensus for Habermas is that it moves towards an intersubjectivity that rises above individual interests to arrive at a determination that all involved see as legitimate, rational and as holding universal appeal. The prioritisation of the moral domain of universal justice over ethical concerns with difference places this consensus



above any particularistic, partisan or instrumental political movements. Regardless of the particular political constellation, or the power of those involved, rational debate within the public sphere ensures that universally binding, legitimate conclusions are drawn that can then shape the policy of representative political institutions (Habermas, 1989). The use of deliberative democracy in discussions of media’s democratic role has largely revolved around the “god term” of the public sphere (Gitlin, 1998, p. 168). Indeed, the links between the public sphere and deliberative democracy—and the communicative norms that shape those connections—have perhaps received less than adequate attention in media studies. The public sphere has provided a response to an individualist, (neo)liberalist interpretation of social relations by foregrounding the problem of power and inequality in communicative access and influence. In both its historical apex and its decline, its form as a historical reality and as a normative ideal, it has provided a clear framework for developing a model of democratic media that can support rational deliberation. The emergence of the public sphere through the spread of capitalism rested in part on the formation of the literary public sphere, one based on more than just literacy, but on a new relationship between the reader and a new form of text. Reading was a foundation for critique, for debate and deliberation, rather than the imposition of prior knowledge for the purpose of dogmatic messaging. For the press, then, and subsequently other media forms, the public sphere offers an historical example of media as facilitating critical debate in public life. If the public sphere provides a normative model for media, its demise provides a framework for thinking through the ills of the current media environment. Habermas laments the systemic influence of money and power on the public sphere, in part through the commercialisation of the press and the replacement of mediated reasoned political debate with pomp, ceremony and celebrity (Habermas, 1989). This is explained through the notion of refeudalisation, the effect of commercialisation and private ownership of media leading to the display of power akin to the feudal courts, rather than an interrogation of power in a free and open public sphere. He offers the classic example of publicity as being, at one stage, the exposure of power to public scrutiny, but as recently becoming aligned with its more modern usage as the display of such power for atomised consumers. Rational and critical debate are shorn of their intersubjectivity; whereas they once involved reasoned interaction and challenge, they now involve individualised consumption choices (Habermas, 1989).


Such a prognosis has been used in arguments for public service broadcasting, investments in journalism and restrictions on the ownership of different media forms (Garnham, 2003). For example, the use of the public sphere in defence of public broadcasting is based on its articulation as a system of media that adheres to a ‘public good’ philosophy of journalism, not beholden to commercial interests through sponsorship or advertising. An effective public sphere relies on an informed citizenry, encouraged to question power and debate important public issues, rather than to consume and to acquiesce to those in authority. Media are therefore implicated in the task of rational, free deliberation in order to overcome difference, crisis and disjuncture and reach a point of public opinion formation, where a public can be said to have imposed its collective will on representative political institutions. Media are also front and centre of the formation of public opinion, rather than just its reflection through individual consumption choices. Deliberative democracy and the public sphere thus replace the metaphor of the market with that of a public forum or arena, which consequently steers the focus away from the satisfaction of individual preferences and towards discursive relationships and the formation of a public free from state or commercial influence (Karppinen, 2013). Rather than seeing the market as saviour, free from the only source of power relevant in liberal theories of the media—that of the state— deliberative democracy also sees the commercialism of the market as deleterious to free debate and public opinion formation (Karppinen, 2013). In Habermas’ terms, the market and the commercialisation of media represent the system, encroaching on the lifeworld of debate and deliberation (Habermas, 1989). A strong public sphere not only ­provides bulwark to this encroachment, but is also inclusive and accessible to all affected by a particular issue. Habermas does not provide any overt limits on topics of deliberation.1 However, it is largely the interlocutors involved in debate that determine its scope (Kapoor, 2002). There is therefore a concern with inclusion in Habermas’s theory, based as it is on debate that is inclusive of all those affected by the subject of concern, and which rests on the strength of arguments rather than the social status of participants. Part of Habermas’ overall

1 As we will see later, rationality and publicness as norms of deliberation have been criticised for shaping political debate around certain gender, class and race based norms.



project of deepening and expanding democracy has been to include traditionally marginalised groups, such as migrants and minorities. As will be discussed later, Habermas insisted that the public sphere could act as an ideal through which to immanently critique its own short ­ comings. Thus, while he recognised the reality of exclusions of the ­bourgeois public sphere, he did not believe that these were constitutive. The Bourgeois public sphere—conceptualised more accurately by Habermas as the sphere of bourgeois society—was just one imperfect iteration of the ideal. The public sphere can, and has, grown and developed as an ideal for rational debate (Habermas, 1989, 1992, 1996a, b). As a normative model, the public sphere has been used as a barometer of the media’s democratic performance. In this sense, it has provided a powerful theoretical tool with which to measure media performance in terms of the nature and inclusiveness of political debate. For issues around ethnic diversity, multiculturalism and migration, commercial media have been criticised for shaping debate in emotional and irrational language, for delegitimising the claims of ethnic minorities, and for ­articulating migrants as a threat to the imagined national community. In pandering to an ethnic majority audience, much of the traditional media have been shown to distort debate around ethnic difference and the politics of migration (Downing & Husband, 2005; Nolan, Farquharson, & Marjoribanks, 2018). Rather than contribute to a strong and free public sphere, these media have been guided by the market imperative of appealing to a majority audience and implementing a political position that generally panders to the largest market share. Habermas’ lamentation of mediated of public debate seems to be supported by an analysis of media systems around the world. Bringing ethnic media into this context highlights both the critiques of earlier articulations of the public sphere, and the way Habermas has responded to some of these critiques. I focus below on two key rearticulations of the public sphere in relation to ethnic media, and in doing so bring in critical discussions of communicative rationality. The first consists of the critiques of the nature of a single public, and the closely related issue of the nature of public debate and mediated dialogue. The second stems not so much from Habermas himself, but from public sphere theory’s re-conceptualisation in the face of a diversifying media environment. It concerns an issue that has enjoyed considerably less attention in media studies—the nature of the relationship between different mediated political communities and positions.


Multiple Publics and Rational Debate The first major issue with the public sphere as it has been utilised in ethnic media research, as well as in wider philosophical and theoretical writing, concerns the nature of the public (Butsch, 2007; Eley, 1990; Fraser, 1990). This critique can be traced through several levels of Habermas’ writing. It begins with a questioning of the original bourgeois public sphere as an historical example. It is, however, also based on the principles of debate and inclusion that give the public sphere its ideal shape. Several historical studies have argued that alongside the circaeighteenth-century Bourgeois public sphere Habermas writes of, there emerged a series of other publics, with discursive movements that shaped the political landscape. Geoff Eley (1990), for example, questions Habermas’s finding of the achievement of the Bourgeois public sphere in eighteenth-century Europe, arguing instead that the public sphere is better seen in broader terms, as describing a range of competing claims from a range of different publics based around, among other things, ethnicity, gender or class. The notion of a single public sphere, argue critics, involves a restrictive view of politically efficacious and legitimate inter-subjective communication. The prioritisation of rational debate as constitutive of the public sphere, argue critics, is exclusive of several social groups who could be said to exhibit the formation of public discourses with political outcomes (Fraser, 1990, 2014). While Habermas seeks a universal form of public deliberation that can transcend political and cultural differences, critics contend that the ideal forms of public debate are built upon masculine and class-based notions of discourse, and a restrictive approach to what constitutes an important public issue. Rather than being universal, ideals of rationality and reason are based on problematic notions of communicative universality. The result is that certain ‘publics’ that have formed important parts of the discursive political landscape have been obscured from view through the construction of transcendent norms of communicative rationality. This critique is in many ways related to Habermas’ insistence on the principle of inclusion in public sphere theory. While he argues that the public sphere need not necessarily be exclusive of certain social groups, others suggest that historical exclusions are indeed based on a deeper ontological understanding of the social subject. Thus, for Nancy Fraser (1990), the public sphere is actually constituted through such exclusions.



To argue, as Habermas does, that the principles of equality and inclusion may be extended to groups traditionally excluded, such as women, ignores the intransigent nature of inequality and the impossibility of neutral and universal subject positions. She further interrogates the issue around two points: form and content. Like Eley (1990), she critiques the form of the public sphere for being based on a privileging of masculinist norms of rationality in public debate, as prioritising consensus over contestation and conflict, as articulating a private–public dichotomy, and as ignoring inequalities based on gender, class and ethnicity. In terms of content, she also critiques the equation of ‘public’ with important political matters, pointing out that the gendered privatisation of many issues relating to women’s rights, identities, labour and politics have rendered them unpolitical through hegemonic discourses. As a result, the original public sphere came close to being a hegemonic tool, giving the illusion of consensus and debate all the while naturalising contingent forms of class, gender and race-based public dialogue. Such observations clearly have important ramifications for a deliberative democracy approach to ethnic media (Browne, 2005). Where, for example, do these critiques leave non-English language media, and sectors of society with limited English language skills? What of the different modes of cultural expression, practice and action that are mediated through ethnic media, and may stand in contrast to normative understandings of rationality? The overcoming of cultural particularities thus may have more at stake than simply transcending difference. The politics of language, culture and tradition may make adherence to a ‘universal’ form of debate problematic. As Kapoor (2002, p. 470) observes when discussing deliberative democracy in relation to third world politics, “Habermas’ defence of the moral over the ethical realm implies the overcoming of particularities, including one’s own cultural background. Yet in countries with cultural minorities, this stance can amount to asking minorities to suppress their language or religion”. Here, then, Habermas’ immanent critique defence of the adaptability of the public sphere runs into the issue of the reasoned form of debate that would itself guide such critiques. There is a tension between the openness of the public sphere to traditionally excluded groups, and the maintenance of an ideal form of debate based on an intersubjective rationality that is, for many, itself a specific and contingent discursive formation (Mouffe, 1993, 2000). For ethnic media and multicultural societies, then, the legitimacy of transcendence faces major hurdles in


the stubborn intransigence of diverse linguistic, cultural, political and religious identifications. The response to such issues (which itself raises the second problem to be discussed below) has come in the form of greater recognition of plural forms of public expression as well as political identities and positions (Fraser, 1990; Habermas, 1996a). Rather than a public sphere, modern societies consist of multiple publics, reflecting different levels of power in relation to centralised democratic systems (Cunningham, 2001; Fraser, 1990). Ethnic media are key engines and reflections of these processes. They demonstrate the diversity of forms of expression, of story telling, of forms of debate, and importantly of what is worthy of debate. They problematise neat associations between politics and majority public dialogue. They raise the spectre of exclusion from the public. And they provide the spaces for the articulation of alternative publics based on their own mediated forms of expression. Fraser’s example of a feminist public sphere—which through public speeches, education and organisations, successfully argued for the once private issue of domestic violence to be seen as a public, political issues—is relevant here. Ethnic media are therefore understood through a model of multiple publics, variously called competing publics, counter-publics, alternative publics, subaltern publics or public spherecules (Cunningham, 2001; Fraser, 1990; Gitlin, 1998). Under such a view, the public sphere is opened up, and while recognition of overarching political and social frameworks remains, it is accompanied by a recognition that different discursive communities exist within a wider metaphorical public space. Multiple publics are thus often seen as at the very least a political reality, and sometimes as a positive aspect of plural political cultures. The pathways to effective and legitimate public opinion formation incorporate a diversity of forms of expression and debate. As part of such a process, ethnic media become vital. Just as political issues are not defined by neat boundaries, nor is the media landscape so important to democracy restricted to particular forms of media. The work of ethnic media in discussing issues often marginalised from the dominant public sphere, in languages and through modes of reporting and practice that may exceed notions of rationality and reason, can be understood as part of a wider form of public deliberation in complex modern societies (Budarick & Han, 2015; Butsch, 2007; Couldry & Dreher, 2007; Husband, 1998; Jin & Kim, 2011). These are developments that Habermas has acknowledged, while still maintaining the need for some form of consensual resolution between distinct publics in



order for democracy to take effect. However, multiple public spheres, in both theory and through political and cultural practice, also raise questions that have not garnered the attention they deserve in ethnic media research.

Multiple Publics, Political Efficacy and Understanding Here we reach the second issue associated with deliberative democratic theory as it has been applied to ethnic media research, and one which again takes us back to a tension between pluralism and consensus, and between recognising political diversity and centralised political structures. Several authors have raised the issue of the political efficacy of a plural political model in which multiple publics are recognised. The realities of representative political decision-making, and the traditional exclusion of migrants and ethnic minorities from such processes, have led some to question the role of alternative publics as arenas of expression if unrelated to a concern for their impact on centralised political decision-making (Butsch, 2007; Fraser, 1990; Husband, 1998; Karppinen, 2013). As Karppinen (2013, p. 75) observes, “unless…different publics are brought to bear on one another, they remain only parochial enclaves with little ability to address issues across and between different social groups”. Habermas’ own development of competing public spheres acts as a counter to criticisms of the pessimism of his diagnosis of refeuadalisation. In Between Facts and Norms, he articulates the role of public spheres in political efficacy. Drawing on Fraser (1990), he distinguishes between weak publics—located within civil society—and strong publics, those embedded within the official mechanisms of politics, such as parliament. Here then, Habermas is opening room for the emergence of publics from below, as weak publics may inform strong publics. Communicative action within weak publics, often more sensitive and responsive to civic needs and issues, is ideally fed into that of strong publics, such that public issues are transferred to the realm of actual political action and efficacy. These multiple publics, then, are ideally part of a strong deliberative democracy. Each is based on communication aimed towards mutual understanding, and the bases of Habermas’ theory of communicative action. As such, in the words of Thomassen (2010, p. 52) “The solution to the problems with the public spheres lies in better communication, that is, better conditions for participants to engage in a domination-free, rational dialogue”.


In a direct application of such concerns to ethnic media, Charles Husband forms a powerful critique of an unabashed celebration of multiple publics, formed around independent and distinct media (Husband, 1998). As he notes, there is nothing to suggest that strong and independent publics will necessarily facilitate the sharing of debate and dialogue across cultural and political boundaries. The metaphor of satellites is used here, with an image of separate publics floating distinctly through political space, never engaging with each other, or with the majority public sphere, in any meaningful or sustained way. What is more, Husband is talking here in terms of multi-ethnic and multicultural societies, wherein relationships between publics may require the development of deliberation and dialogue across linguistic, cultural, religious and/or ethnic lines. As he argues, a truly representative public space of communication and dialogue “cannot be meaningfully sustained as an agglomeration of independent and parallel ethnically defined, and exclusive, public spheres” (Husband, 1998, p. 143). For ethnic media, the danger of stopping at this point is that they are too easily marginalised and made ‘safe’ as examples of functioning multiculturalism and a diverse media landscape with an abundance of choice. The issue then is that the exclusions of the original public sphere of bourgeois society (migrants, women, the poor) are re-articulated in a model of multiple publics unless inter-public communication and efficacy is considered. There is also a sense that the system imperatives of the market—which Habermas sees as inevitable and as needing to be blocked from entering the lifeworld of communicative action—come to justify the separation of publics through logics of consumer choice. Ethnic media are here accepted as forms of cultural expression, as ways in which ethnic minorities can, if they so choose, discuss and engage with public issues on their own terms. A failure to do so simply reflects a failure of ambition, organisation or need. But such an understanding does little for the relations between minority groups, between minority and majority, and between the different political positions in plural democracies. It takes media’s fundamental role of connection away, and restricts it to forms of expression only (Dean, 2009). Fraser’s response to this problem extends upon her critique of the public sphere as constituted through exclusions, and thus draws upon an understanding of constitutive heterogeneity (Dahlberg, 2011; Fraser, 1990). The bourgeois public sphere, she argues, not only excluded some segments of society, but was constituted through such exclusions.



Thus, the public sphere itself is a site of antagonistic boundary marking, of hegemonic exclusions naturalised under the guise of rationality and public interest (Fraser, 1990). The exposure of such hegemonies requires the establishment of counter-publics, such as those built around ethnic media. These would then construct discourses that would counter the hegemonic rationality of the public sphere, unmasking it as contingent and challenging its standing. Rather than attempt to retrieve a rational space of communication, the task is to develop alternative spaces and forms of communication that can nonetheless affect centralised political decision-making. Here Fraser’s approach can be seen to diverge from Habermas’ wider project of communicative action and deliberative democracy. His model of competing publics is still based within the rational debate of communicative action. Debate can be opened up to multiple publics, but rational deliberation and reason still act as the evaluative framework for the conduct of such debate and the principles it is based upon. Here, then, Habermas’ retrieval of a foundational norm of communicative reason comes through in his assertion that competing public spheres can still be spaces wherein inequality is bracketed out, public and private are distinguished, and deliberation is based on reason (Habermas, 1996a). Fraser’s critique of the public sphere’s constitutive exclusions runs deeper than this, and thus she articulates public spheres with more focus on power and counter-hegemony. How alternative publics would find a voice and presence in public debates is defined largely by the distinction between “stratified and egalitarian multi-cultural societies” (Fraser, 1990, p. 66). In both models of society, the singular public sphere fails to capture social difference effectively. In the first instance of stratified societies characterised by the subordination of certain groups, it is subaltern counterpublics that provide for the “arrangements that accommodate contestation among a plurality of competing publics”, and as such “better promote the ideal of participatory parity than does a single, comprehensive, overarching public” (Fraser, 1990, p. 66). These publics would construct discourses that challenge centres of power in society. One can imagine here the role of ethnic media that actively critique popular portrayals of ethnic minorities and migrants, and challenge the dominant understandings of multi-ethnic political relations (Browne, 2005). In this case, Fraser addresses the issue of inter-public dialogue through an explication of ‘public’, and in particular the inherently extroverted nature of publicness in terms of discourses being disseminated


outward towards other groups and sections of society (Fraser, 1990, p. 67). Thus, counter-publics are both areas for the construction of discourses excluded or ignored in majority spheres, as well as arenas for “agitational activities directed towards wider publics”, such that dominant discourses are challenged and engaged with in a conflictual nature (Fraser, 1990, p. 68). Implied here is an understanding that counter publics exist within an over-arching space, defined by the need for communication across sectors of society in a system of representative democracy (Garnham, 2003). In the instance of what Fraser calls egalitarian societies, that at the very least avoid structural inequalities and relationships of subordination, multiple publics are proposed as a way of supporting multiculturalism, and as better reflecting the reality of overlapping and diverse forms of cultural identity, expression and practice. Here, Fraser suggests the conceptual, if not empirical, possibility of cross and inter-cultural communication. This rests on the multi-faceted nature of identity, and the porousness of ‘publics’. Expression in public spheres is both a process of making validity claims and of expressing and constructing cultural identities, the complexity of which makes likely the possibility of participation “in more than one public, and that the memberships of different publics may partially overlap” (Fraser, 1990, p. 7). There is thus a natural fluidity to publics, a tendency for expression and identity to overlap and flow between different spaces. Fraser (1990, p. 69) conceptualises this as occurring in a wider, “more comprehensive arena in which members of different, more limited publics talk across lines of cultural diversity”. This is an arena, in part, defined by the shared political concerns of members of a polity. A further theoretical insight into the functioning of multiple publics is provided by Husband (1998). He focuses on structural, policy and rights-based issues and the systems that make difficult the achievement of what he calls a ‘multi-ethnic public sphere’ (Husband, 1998). The multiethnic public sphere is based on two basic principles designed to structurally reshape communication between ethnic minorities and majorities: differentiated citizenship and the right to be understood. Differentiated citizenship stresses the need to make multi-ethnic diversity politically sustainable and institutionally guaranteed in a polyethnic state. It guards against the ‘formulaic’ interpretation of universal citizenship and multiculturalism, in which a majority ethnic group comes to define the limits of acceptable diversity to the exclusion of certain minority communities



(Husband, 1998, p. 140).2 Such a principle involves institutional, financial and legal assurances for the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, including support for ethnic and religious practices and the presence of minority groups within the “central institutions of the larger state” (Husband, 1998, p. 14). These rights and protections are not guaranteed by an adherence to the market, but rather require the intervention of the state, such as the “provision for media regulation and funding to address the specific needs of minority ethnic groups” (Husband, 1998, p. 141). The right to be understood challenges the dominant norms that surround ethical, legal and moral understandings of communication. At the base of this challenge are two important critiques of communicative/ communication rights as formulated through liberal-democratic theory, critiques that are important to ethnic media. The first concerns the distinction between a negative and positive implementation of freedom of expression. In the former, and reflecting neoliberal interpretations of communication rights, freedom from restriction, interference and censorship, usually on the part of the state, is emphasised. In the latter, emphasis is placed on “citizens’ freedom to access resources such as reliable and diverse sources of information” (Jones, 2007, para. 2) and involves the active implementation of state-based rights and regulations (Husband, 1998). Secondly, as an extension of this positive form of communication rights, Husband proposes an appropriate recognition of the ‘right to be understood’ as a third generation right necessary for democratic dialogue (Husband, 1998). Husband’s (1998) take on this is broad, beginning with an engagement with international human rights discourse, and the contestation over the meanings and application of ‘the right to communicate’ and later, ‘communication rights’ (Movius, 2008). In the international arena, communication rights have been shaped by the image of the self-realised, individual, European agent, and by a reluctance on the part of western, liberal states to embrace positive policy implementation with the aim of communicative equity, either at the domestic or international scale. During the 1970s and the 1990s, two movements, the New World Information and Communications Order (NWICO) and Communication Rights in the Information Society (CRIS), challenged 2 The notion of differentiated citizenship also forms part of debates around multiculturalism, to be touched upon in the final chapter.


international interpretations and applications of communication rights (Hamelink & Hoffman, 2008; Movius, 2008). Both movements sought to redefine communication policy on a global scale, attempting to redress what they saw as global inequalities that rested on understandings of communication rights as freedom from regulation (Hamelink & Hoffman, 2008; Movius, 2008). On one hand, the current interpretation results in an unequal environment of global trade and communication, in which rich countries are free to export and impose their cultural products on the poor. On the other hand, it articulates communication rights as based on the idealised, rational individual of liberalism, and their right to expression and speech. Ultimately, neither NWICO nor CRIS were successful in changing the politics of communication at the international level. Indeed, one of the legacies of these forgotten debates, and the similar debates that had gone before, is that discussions of freedom of communication have largely been detached from their complex philosophical history and reduced to a “convenient cliche”, a simplified version in which a history of competing philosophical and legal definitions are meshed together with little concern given for their contestant nature (Keane, 2013, p. 215). It is in this context that Husband draws on a critique of the liberal tradition, and its individualistic approach to communication and communication rights. Without fundamentally shifting this understanding, multiple publics and counter-publics will too easily be fragmented and rendered politically impotent. The importance of communication, and by extension media, in democracies is often articulated in terms of a citizenry with the freedom to express themselves unrestricted by state intervention. A focus on the individual’s right to communicate neglects the other side of communication—the act of understanding. Communication is reduced to the individualised act of transmitting, and as such too easily reflects the inequality imbued in such acts, either at the individual level, or at the structural level of mediated communication. Husband’s problem with this interpretation of communication rights, instituted legally, politically or culturally in much of the western world, is that they require little of the listener. His response is to emphasise a ‘right to be understood’ as premised on communication as inherently dialogic and often messy, or unfinished, in a way that is suspicious of closure. The right to be understood therefore involves an obligation on the part of the listener, the obligation to



seek understanding of the other. It places communication as an inherently social act, as always involving others, directly or indirectly: Too often the communicative world emerging as the product of first and second generation models of rights is an individualistic right to encode and decode on your own terms. In an equitable multi-ethnic society it is possible to expect more: not merely the conditions of existence but a rich communicative exchange consistent with the conditions of flourishing. (Husband, 1998, p. 138)

It is an unlikely ideal, as Husband acknowledges, you cannot force people to seek understanding and to listen. However, instituting ‘the right to be understood’ as a third generation right reframes the communicative process in a way attuned to connection between different interlocutors and communities. It thus rejects the naive pluralism of market liberalism, while challenging the consensual basis of deliberative democracy. Understanding is not, and cannot be, a fixed cognitive entity: a discrete informational bundle; a morally weighted product of listening. Understanding is a process, and as such is a catalyst that actively, even dangerously, interacts and changes whatever it comes into contact with. (Husband, 2009, p. 443)

For ethnic media, it can be argued that such a model of communication, even as an ideal, guards against the naive celebration of diversity alone, with little concern given to the impact of messages, and to the nature of the overall communicative environment (Dean, 2009; Karppinen, 2007, 2013). It does much to reveal the conditions necessary for ethnic media to provide alternative understandings that have the potential to influence political decision-making, public opinion and policy implementation. This general re-articulation of communication around lines of power is also reflected in the work of authors such as Dreher (2009), who draws on critical feminist literature and political philosophy to argue for the importance of listening in unequal multicultural societies. Dreher recognises that both interpersonal and institutionalised forms of communication and speech are imbued with normative assumptions that privilege certain forms of expression and intention over others. There is a tendency to privilege speech over listening in both inter-subjective communication and in wider media policy, leaving the act of political


listening relatively unexplored. Like in Husband’s work, the implication here is that communicative inequalities are seldom interrogated, and the obstacles to ‘listening across difference’ remain hidden and intransigent (Dreher, 2009). A ‘politics of listening’ would begin to challenge some of the ways in which a focus on speech and expression privileges certain social groups and silences others, and through which claims that marginalised groups are able to ‘express themselves’ justify an ignorance of the key questions of who is listening to, and understanding, those forms of expression (Dreher, 2009). Drawing broadly on an agonistic politics, then, Dreher sees listening as about disrupting and destabilising established social relations. As such, this is not a listening that aims for consensus or empty tolerance. It is not necessarily a comfortable listening or one that levels out difference. Nor is it a listening attuned to a sense of understanding the ‘other’ from one’s own point of view, wherein we can assuage the guilt of privilege by claiming an authentic identification with the marginalised. It is instead a listening that may help us to understand “networks of privilege and power and one’s location within them” (Dreher, 2009, p. 451). This form of listening, then, can be challenging and uncomfortable. As Husband himself articulates in his discussion of the open-ended nature of understanding. There is of course an institutional and systematic aspect to these values. The question of how “media institutions and hierarchies of value” resist or embrace listening and understanding, how they open up the communicative process to genuine difference, is a vital one (Dreher, 2009, p. 454). Dreher warns against a reduction of such questions to the issues of the distribution of resources such as airtime, print or online spaces for expression. Such political-economic concerns in themselves fail to address the internal logics of media systems that prioritise expression in competitive markets of consumption. Rather, change is necessary at the level of the social and cultural hierarchies that overlay all forms of communication. This involves those organised forms of expression, such as ethnic media, that hold the potential to directly connect with and challenge social privilege. As Husband says in relation to the multi-ethnic public sphere: Consequently a balanced multi-ethnic public sphere must also possess well-developed media systems which are capable of sustaining ethnically diverse agendas and which promote dialogue across ethnic boundaries. The



multi-ethnic public sphere must articulate the differing interests of national minorities and minority ethnic groups…. (Husband, 1998, p. 143)

Understanding therefore involves recognition of the legitimacy and integrity of minority ethnic communities and their media, rather than simply a token acknowledgement of the communicative practices of minority organisations or specific successful individuals. It challenges impoverished forms of multicultural politics, where tolerance of migrants is used to set the limits of the intolerable, the practices and discourses that are deemed to overstep the generous lines provided by tolerance of the ‘other’ (Lentin & Titley, 2011). Instead, interruption of such approaches is welcomed, boundaries are crossed, and cross-cultural interactions expose relations of power and challenge their systemic and systematic nature. Approaching ethnic minority media through the prism of understanding and listening therefore centres analytical focus on the interrelations between hierarchically structured publics in a political system that sets limits on acceptable levels of public expression based on race, ethnicity, gender and religion. It rejects a premature celebration of ethnic media diversity, arguing that such diversity is always structured in systems that marginalise, or make safe, particular discourses while simultaneously claiming to celebrate and support them. As Couldry and Dreher (2007, p. 96) argue, a simple tracking of diverse media forms must be replaced with an understanding of “the dynamics that constrain, but may also enable, future interrelations between those elements”. Through the multi-ethnic public sphere, the complex and unequal interactions between different media forms can be understood, and the political and social consequences of such inequalities appreciated. This includes the potentials and challenges facing ethnic media in relation to their wider communicative environment. Ethnic minority media are therefore comprehended not simply as separate entities with pre-defined social roles, but as part of a wider communicative environment with inequalities, resistances and political and social consequences and motivations. Research has provided empirical evidence to support the explanatory power of a multi-ethnic public sphere (Budarick & Han, 2015; Couldry & Dreher, 2007; Lobera, Arco, & Giminez, 2017). This research has found that ethnic media have the ability to ‘speak across’ cultural boundaries through a variety of means not precluded by language choice. Through a combination of media content, the issues covered and media production practices, ethnic media may in fact expand


beyond a particular public, and be part of wider networks. This includes other minority communities, as well as the majority ethnic group and their political and social structures. This is not necessarily a form of contact conducive to reaching a consensus, nor simply a form of integration. It instead involves challenges to normative understandings of the communicative order, with difference and disjuncture played out through media. Thus, both direct and indirect engagement with ‘mainstream’ society is evident among ‘dialectic’ ethnic media (Budarick & Han, 2015; Couldry & Dreher, 2007; Lobera et al., 2017; Yu, 2015). The work discussed above on how to provide institutional and cultural support for such processes leads nicely into the next chapter of this book through its achievement of two important tasks (Fraser, 1990; Husband, 1998). Firstly, it insists on the importance of interaction between publics, and provides a normative, rights-based framework to give this interaction some kind of institutionalised form, even if as an ideal only. Secondly, it focuses on the structural and policy conditions necessary to sustain interactive publics. This concern with the institutionalisation of plurality, particularly as applied to ethnic media, and with the conditions necessary to avoid marginalisation, as well as an insistence that understanding is an ongoing, open process that denies closure, means that there are similarities between work that has re-conceptualised the public sphere and the particular democratic project of Chantal Mouffe.

Conclusion The public sphere provides a clear theoretical and conceptual framework through which to judge the democratic role of media. There are, however, questions over its applicability to ethnic media, which, in many ways, challenge the notion of universal forms of public deliberation and debate. Habermas and his followers have addressed these concerns by embracing diversity and connecting competing public spheres with democratic deliberation through the use of communicative reason. In ethnic media studies, this picture of a series of publics still leaves the questions of their democratic interaction unresolved. Several of these issues emerge in Habermas’ distinction between the system and the lifeworld, and the ideal of the public sphere as autonomous from the private realm and the state. Such an ideal shapes Habermas’ view of the w ­ elfare state, and problematises strong state initiatives to reformulate and address entrenched inequalities in civil and political society.



Habermas’ insistence on a defence of the lifeworld from the system has been likened by some to the liberal notion of the ‘marketplace of ideas’, in that both “tend to assume a sphere of action that is somehow immune to the structural inequalities and power relations of society. In this sense, both employ idealised models that only become counterproductive when applied to real life institutions characterised by pervasive inequality” (Karppinen, 2013, p. 62). Dissatisfied with the notion that the principles of the public sphere guard against inequalities and exclusions through immanent critique, scholars working in the areas of multiculturalism and ethnic diversity have sought to think through ways in which the equity of public voices can be better assured, including through a reimagining of state-based policy (Couldry & Dreher, 2007; Fraser, 1990; Husband, 1998). Under these perspectives, plurality is different to the liberal and neoliberal perspectives, resting not on the tolerance afforded by a neutral state, but on state support for the media of minority ethnic communities marginalised from the liberal-­democratic power structures. Ethnic media’s function here is not the expression of ideas autonomous to the state, nor is it the engagement with a single, rational discourse in public debate. Instead their democratic role lies in their alterity, their supporting and speaking on behalf of groups excluded from the dominant public sphere. Even within a framework of multiple publics competing within a broader democratic sphere, the level and intensity of (constitutive) exclusions and inequities is brought into sharp relief by ethnic minorities, whose very existence has been employed to re-articulate images of the political community through narratives of external threat (Khiabany & Williamson, 2015). There are also questions over the utility of rational norms of communicative action in providing a universal bedrock upon which diversity can be channeled into legitimate democratic ends. The individuality of Habermas’ model of public reason at once builds an image of the ideal citizen, while also paying insufficient attention to the collective nature of politics and media (Karppinen, 2013; Mouffe, 1993, 2000). As Karppinen (2013) intimates, a plurality of media forms and corresponding publics does little in itself to address and challenge inequalities, particularly if the communicative lifeworld is only to defend itself against the systemic power structures of media industries that align more closely with instrumental forms of reason. The necessity of collective (mediated) representations in diverse and large societies requires a direct engagement with power and inequality rather than an attempt to bracket them out.


Identifying the messy interplay of system and lifeworld, and working from a position that is sceptical of the possibility of the public sphere as a space where inequalities are transcended, alerts us to the ways in which communication infrastructures may actively work against understanding. From a media studies perspective, it is therefore critical to counterbalance celebrations of media diversity and the micro-politics of subaltern media resistance by recognising wider structural factors. Dean’s (2009) work is instructive here, as her scepticism towards communicative capitalism is a reminder that the relationship between media and democracy needs to encompass more than mediated possibilities of political expression, but also the way such potentials are embedded in pre-existing structures. As she says in reference to Habermas: Communication in communicative capitalism, then, is not, as Jurgen Habermas would suggest, action oriented toward reaching understanding…In communicative capitalism…the use value of a message is less important than its exchange value, its contribution to a larger pool, flow, or circulation of content. A contribution need not be understood; it need only be repeated, reproduced, forwarded. Circulation is the setting for the acceptance or rejection of a contribution. (Dean, 2009, p. 27)

While theorists of the public sphere, communicative action and deliberative democracy would also lament this instrumental use of communication, a reliance on a transcendental form of communicative reason would seem to limit the strategies available to those to whom the pejorative labels of irrational and unreasonable have been applied. That these limitations can only be critiqued from within, and in reference to themselves, leaves the inequalities of their very constitution largely in place. In her critique of rational consensus, it is precisely this ontological nature of political relationships that Chantal Mouffe critiques.

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Agonistic Pluralism

The work in the previous chapter began to address one of the key tensions in this book; understanding ethnic media as both unique forms of communication and as active parts of a democratic polis. We have seen that both the market approach to media and the normative theory of the bourgeois public sphere as a space of communicative action were unable to sufficiently capture the unique dynamics of ethnic media. As a result, re-conceptualisations of the public sphere were discussed, and the importance of connections between different publics was emphasised through work that thinks differently about the process of communication, and insists on the importance of the structural legal and policy environment for ethnic media (Couldry & Dreher, 2007; Husband, 1998). In this chapter, I want to further develop this position by arguing for an approach to political theory that heralds much promise in its ability to ­capture the actual and potential role of ethnic media in democracy. Chantal Mouffe’s agonistic pluralism has found its way into a range of media studies perspectives, but is yet to be fully explored in relation to ethnic media research (Jane, 2017; Wenman, 2013; Wingenbach, 2011). It has, at its heart, the task of addressing the ‘democratic paradox’ of liberal democracy—that tension between democracy and liberalism. At the onto-political level, Mouffe differs from deliberative democrats in her insistence that difference and plurality are ineradicable and constitutive factors in identity formation. As such, agonistic pluralism provides a different set of criteria upon which to judge the democratic credentials and potentials of ethnic media. As I will show later in this chapter, this has © The Author(s) 2019 J. Budarick, Ethnic Media and Democracy,



ramifications for journalism, a field constituted by certain norms of professionalism and by a privileged yet contested relationship with representative democracy. It is also significant for how we think about media policy, particularly as regards ethnic media. I take Mouffe’s as very much a moderate position, one that attempts to weave a path between the imposition of naturalised, foundational political values on the one hand, and on the other the rejection of any form of institutionalised politics or marking of political boundaries (Wenman, 2013; Wingenbach, 2011). In focusing predominantly on her democratic theory in this book, I am of course selecting one form of agonistic theory over several other distinct but overlapping options (Wenman, 2013). Other notable theorists who have written about radical or agonistic democracy include William Connolly, Jacques Ranciere, James Tully, Judith Butler and Antonio Vazquez-Arroyo. Philosophical inspiration for agonists has come from names such as Foucault, Arendt, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Schmidt and Marx. The inevitable organisation and characterisation of the approaches has also come in different forms, with Karagiannis and Wagner (2008) suggesting that the field can be divided into ‘Arendtian’ or ‘Schmittian’ traditions, based on the founding philosophical views ascribed to. What all these approaches share, however, is a focus on the constitutive power behind existing forms of political and social order, and a deep suspicion of claims to foundational and universal political and social values (Wenman, 2013; Wingenbach, 2011). Unlike most normative political theory in the western canon, the theorists of agnostic democracy do not seek to ground their respective visions of politics in substantive accounts of human nature, in teleological assumptions about the good life or concerning the movement of history, or in consequentialist theories of morality; nor do they share the currently predominant liberal view that we can establish agreement on constitutional essentials via recourse to deontological procedures, or a ‘public use of reason’, that somehow brackets off fundamental disagreements between contending ‘comprehensive doctrines’ or conceptions of the good. (Wenman, 2013, p. 6)

Wingenbach (2011) proposes five different types of agonistic theory: oppositional, expressive, constitutional, adversarial and responsive (Wingenbach, 2011, pp. 43–69). Of these, oppositional and expressive forms align with an “agonism of resistance”, while constitutional,



adversarial and responsive agonism fall within an over-arching label of “pluralist agonism” (Wingenbach, 2011, p. xviii). While all agonistic approaches share basic tenets as stated above, including an insistence on the contingency of political identity, the agonism of resistance places emphasis on rejecting and resisting any form of imposed political order or marking of boundaries of legitimate political identities and claims of the public good. These approaches are unable and unwilling to countenance the institutionalisation of agonism, and see all forms of politics as inevitably restricting of difference and identity, to the point that some propose a libertarian approach to self-empowered subjects free from any form of over-arching politics (Wingenbach, 2011). Pluralist agonists continue to question claims to a universal collective good, but acknowledge the inevitable role of institutions and wider political orders as ontological necessities. These approaches emphasise “connections across differences, the importance of boundaries to democratic politics, and the possibility of some sort of reciprocity amongst citizens” (Wingenbach, 2011, p. xviii). This approach, into which Wingenbach places Mouffe’s work, is better able to capture and illuminate the pressing questions around ethnic media, democracy and society. It recognises the existing structural and political forces, those that bind members of a polis into unequal relationships, as more than impediments to be overcome, but as constituting much of the current systems in which ethnic media operate. It therefore necessitates a critical engagement with such systems in a way that nonetheless recognises their contingency. Much of the strength of this approach, then, rests in its focus on the disarticulation of existing political and social constellations and orders and a refusal to see them as anything other than the outcome of hegemonic discourses. Its weakness emerges when questions are raised as to how a post-foundational political system and culture are to be sustained (Dahlberg & Phelan, 2011). These strengths and weakness will be engaged with in this and the following chapter. I turn now to a brief discussion of Mouffe’s earlier work with Ernesto Laclau in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, as a way of engaging with their original theorising around discourse and hegemony. Although Mouffe’s writing on agonism differs in important ways from her work in Socialist Strategy, many of the foundational principles around contingency and heterogeneity can be found in that text. I then turn to a discussion of Mouffe’s more recent work on democracy, agonism and pluralism, before moving on to a discussion of its applicability to ethnic media in this chapter.


Discourse, Hegemony and Antagonism: Toward Mouffe’s Agonistic Democracy In her work with Ernesto Laclau, most notably Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, Mouffe begins to articulate the basis of a post-Marxist political philosophy. Laclau and Mouffe (1985) seek to move past the essentialisation of class positions and the ontological distinctions “between material practices and ideas/language”, in Marx’s work, understood most commonly through the relationship between ‘base’ and ‘superstructure’ (Dahlberg & Phelan, 2011, p. 4). Instead, they see no ontological distinction between discursive and extra-discursive practices, action and signification. This constitutive role of signification immediately renders media as central to social practices and structures beyond mere representation, and importantly opens the possibility of media playing a role in social transformations (Dahlberg & Phelan, 2011; Laclau & Mouffe, 1985). It is also a position based on a theoretical conceptualisation of discourse as social practice, and as the outcome of always contingent articulations between distinct social elements and identities (Laclau & Mouffe, 1985). Their approach to discourse thus contradicts that of Habermas, in that Laclau and Mouffe (1985) conceptualise discourse not as a potentially rational and universal form of communication through which valid truth claims can be reached, but as the “structured totality” of articulatory practices between different social positions and identities (Laclau & Mouffe, 1985, p. 105). That these discourses have real consequences makes their analysis in media studies all the more important. Importantly, Laclau and Mouffe’s critique of Marxism was also based on the over-determining nature of class conflict in Marxist theory and social democratic political movements (Hansen & Sonnichsen, 2014). In this, their post-structural project opened up space for a greater appreciation of social movements centred on gender and race (among other things), as well as class-based concerns. As Mouffe says in a 2014 interview when discussing their critical reading of Marx in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: This is why our main criticisms of Marxism centred on class reductionism and economic determinism, which see class and the economy as a privileged ‘base’ for identity politics, respectively. In this perspective, the new social movements were seen as merely part of the ‘superstructure’ and as such were seen as being secondary. (Hansen & Sonnichsen, 2014, p. 263)



At the heart of Laclau and Mouffe’s work is the rejection of social ­objectivity—including what they saw as the objects of class and economy in Marxist critique—closure, or consensus as anything other than the hegemonic articulation of particular social positions and identities over others. Underlying social objectivity are thus the fundamental notions of radical contingency and constitutive heterogeneity (see Dahlberg & Phelan, 2011, p. 16). Contingency essentially refers to the dependence of entities (or identities to foreground Mouffe’s democratic theory) on other entities for their formation and understanding. This is not a contingency that has an end, but is rather contingency as an axiological concept, that cannot be overcome with reference to a universal foundation of all political organisation (Laclau & Mouffe, 1985; Wingenbach, 2011). As Dahlberg and Phelan (2011, p. 16, emphasis in original) state, “To presuppose radical contingency means accepting that there is no final, absolute ground, foundation or essence to identity, except for contingency itself”. Difference is therefore constitutive of social identities, an important point to distinguish, particularly as we move closer to Mouffe’s use of discourse theory in her construction of her theory of democracy. Political identities are only ever constituted through relations to others. There is no pre-existing objective form to draw out from difference. When Mouffe defines this contingency and heterogeneity through the concept of antagonism (a point to be elaborated below), then, she does not refer to the antagonism between predefined social objects or positions, but rather antagonism as a constitutive structuring force in (political) identity formation. Within such a situation, the objectification of the social, the arrival at a final point of foundation, is still a necessity, and is ever present. However, this objectification is the outcome of articulatory practices within the terrain of radical contingency and antagonism. As different identities are constitutively related to each other, discourses emerge from a “field of discursivity” (Laclau & Mouffe, 1985, p. 112) and become hegemonic through articulatory practices in which antagonistic boundaries are drawn between ‘us’ and ‘them’. This use of the collective ‘us’ indicates Laclau’s logic of equivalence, in which different elements and positions find commonality through reference to a shared other. In her later writing on agonistic pluralism, Mouffe articulates this position, and her definition of hegemony, clearly: …social objectivity is constituted through acts of power. This implies that any social objectivity is ultimately political and that it has to show the

102  J. BUDARICK traces of exclusion that govern its constitution. The point of convergence or rather mutual collapse - between objectivity and power is precisely what we mean by ‘hegemony’. (Mouffe, 1999, pp. 752–753)

In applying these ideas to democratic theory, then, Mouffe rejects the founding principles of liberal consensus: the transcendence of difference and power through the “discursive redemption of normative validity claims” (Mouffe, 1999, p. 746). She argues that the notion of a rational consensus, procedurally legitimised through a value-free, open and inclusive ‘ideal speech situation’, denies the true nature of democracy. Drawing on Derrida’s notion of the ‘constitutive outside’, Mouffe (1993, 2000a, 2013) re-emphasises the contingency of political identities and positions. Antagonism is not simply reflective of conflict and difference between social objects, but is a constitutive aspect of objective positions. It therefore cannot be ‘overcome’ through rational deliberation, and to claim such a position is a dangerous denial of the true nature of the political as based on sometimes incompatible difference. One of the central issues for Mouffe is the assertion in deliberative democracy that the procedures of the ideal speech situation—the rational and reasoned debate that is able to go beyond mere agreement—can act as neutral, foundational principles that allow people to form consensual democratic relationships above and beyond their constitutive context: “distinctions between ‘procedural’ and ‘substantial’ or between ‘moral’ and ‘ethical’ that are central to the Habermasian approach cannot be maintained and one must acknowledge that procedures always involve substantial ethical commitments” (Mouffe, 1999, p. 749). The very foundation of the Habermasian approach—even in its more encompassing form of communicative norms, rather than the public sphere as a historical actuality—rests on the myth of retrievable and pre political forms of argumentation that can ascertain legitimate forms of exclusion (Dahlberg, 2014). From Mouffe’s perspective, then, any rational consensus and closure resulting from such processes is a chimera, based not on rational and free debate, but on the imposition of certain hegemonic positions upon those with less power. For Mouffe, there is no such thing as “consensus without exclusion”, and striving for such a position risks continually masking the power inequalities in all political communities; the way in which difference and power are constitutive parts of all social objectivity (Mouffe, 2000b, p. 101). Democracy, then, should not strive for consensus, nor



the transcendence of difference, but should instead seek to re-imagine the way in which identities are constituted through politics, including power and difference: …if we accept that relations of power are constitutive of the social, then the main question of democratic politics is not how to eliminate power but how to constitute forms of power that are compatible with democratic values. To acknowledge the existence of relations of power and the need to transform them, while renouncing the illusion that we could free ourselves completely from power, this is what is specific to the project of ‘radical and plural democracy’ that we are advocating. (Mouffe, 1999, p. 753)

This transformation involves a distinction between ‘the political’ and ‘politics’, and a concomitant distinction between antagonism and agonism. The political is the realm of conflict and ineradicable difference, of the antagonism that is “inherent in all human society” (Mouffe, 1999, p. 754). Politics are the “ensemble of practices, discourses and institutions” that manage and give order to the difference and antagonism of the political (Mouffe, 1999, p. 754). This transformation is, ideally, achieved by turning antagonism into agonism. Importantly, difference and power are here maintained. However, through the acceptance and transformation of antagonistic relationships, the constitutive outside is transformed from enemy to be destroyed, to adversary to be respected. Rather than deny difference, hegemony and power, the aim is exposure and re-articulation, with difference understood in political, rather than moral terms. The constitutive outside is thus seen not as contravening universal moral norms, but as a normal product of the ontology of democratic order-making. Under this view, consensus is never a justification for permanent exclusion, but is instead a “thin conflictual consensus” (Jones, 2014, p. 22), based on a “common symbolic space” in which parties “recognise, at least to some degree, the legitimacy of the claims of their opponents” (Mouffe, 2012, p. 633). What is important is a recognition of the other’s place within the symbolic community: Envisaged from the point of view of ‘agonistic pluralism’, the aim of democratic politics is to construct the ‘them’ in such a way that it is no longer perceived as an enemy to be destroyed, but as an ‘adversary’, that is, somebody whose ideas we combat but whose right to defend those ideas we do not put into question. (Mouffe, 2000b, pp. 101–102)


In denying the possibility of retrievable universal norms in deliberation, Mouffe is welcoming of passion and affect in democratic debate. Indeed, to reject such passions, or to reduce them to a depoliticised private realm, would be to institute another form of hegemonic political discourse that defines certain forms of interaction as undemocratic (Mouffe, 1999). Her approach is therefore more open to forms of public deliberation and expression that may, according to other evaluative criteria, be defined as irrational or emotional. We can see here that Mouffe reflects some of the critiques of public sphere theory discussed in the previous chapter, particularly the restricted way in which appropriate public deliberation is envisaged in its early incarnation (Fraser, 1990). We can also see here the applicability of Mouffe’s work to a concern with migration, ethnic diversity and multiculturalism, particularly the migrant as a constitutive outsider, one who, through their movements both challenges and reconfirms the boundaries of the political community. Responses to migration involve a reconstitution of the boundaries of belonging and a renegotiation of national and parochial identities. That these changes can come in conservative or more progressive forms does not dilute the fact the ‘we’ understand much about ourselves through reference to an outsider. In her rejection of universal subject positions and neutral forms of democratic procedure, Mouffe’s theory provides space for different sets of competing communicative norms to come into contact in an agonistic public space, and for new evaluative relationships between media and democratic norms. If, as Charles Taylor (1998, p. 154) suggests, “no one has yet devised a procedure that is seen as neutral by everyone”, then acceptable modes of democratic debate may be expanded, and objectified positions and systems questioned. From this expansion of the political sphere other questions arise. Predominantly, those concerning how such an approach can be institutionalised into the liberal democratic structures that Mouffe sees as still holding some value, and where the limits to pluralism lie in an aggregative approach that seeks to balance the universal and the particular.



Agonistic Pluralism, Foundations and a Shared Political Space Here I want to begin an engagement with some of the most pressing issues in Mouffe’s theory, particularly concerning her maintenance of commonality in an agonistic landscape, and the concomitant limits she sets to pluralism in the political sphere. It is here again that Mouffe occupies a middle ground between that of more radical agonists (see below) and that of those who emphasise ‘strong’ consensus. Mouffe rejects the possibility of incorporating all difference into the demos, maintaining that a defined space of encounters is necessary. The agonistic approach does not pretend to encompass all differences and to overcome all exclusions. But exclusions are envisaged in political and not moral terms. Some demands are excluded, not because they are declared to be ‘evil’, but because they challenge the institutions constitutive of the democratic political association. To be sure, the very nature of these institutions is also part of the agonistic debate, but, for such a debate to take place, the existence of shared symbolic space is necessary. (Mouffe, 2005, pp. 120–121)

The political criteria of exclusion arguably opens more room for positions held by those groups within society that are ‘internally excluded’ (Taylor, 1998) and disarms the moralistic language of antagonistic politics. Exclusion is not based on inherent and objective deficiencies, but rather on the extent to which positions adhere to the very democratic institutions necessary for democratic pluralism.1 Exclusion is not defined in relation to universal and transcendent values, but is pushed back to the basic level of democratic institutions, and the values of equality and liberty, which are themselves open to reinterpretation (Wingenbach, 2011). Within those limits, contingent modes of culture, language, religion, politics and identity cannot, and should not, be expected to conform to a normative and foundational mode of political debate. That actors in the demos understand themselves to be part of a shared symbolic space, with boundaries that mark out some forms of difference, is necessary for the questioning of that space and the borders that 1 I focus on the contentious issue of the institutionalisation of agonistic democracy in the next section (see Wingenbach, 2011).


surround it. Thus, the nature of the demos, and the borders that exclude some, are always contingent and open to challenge. There can be no recourse to a prepolitical, universal evaluative system through which to permanently exclude certain political identities, arguments or positions and by which consensus is reached (Glover, 2011; Goi, 2005; Mouffe, 2000b). For Mouffe, this extends to global human rights discourses that are often employed in defence of migrant groups and non-citizens seeking political legitimacy within a nation-state through transcendent claims to human equality (Mouffe, 2000b). Despite being based on worthy aspirations of the recognition of the marginalised, these claims, like those tied more strongly to national political systems, must be seen as another example of a contingent political constellation articulated into a hegemonic form. Mouffe’s form of “thin conflictual consensus” (Jones, 2014, p. 22) is such because it is “situated and evolving rather than universal and normative”, it is constantly under construction and challenge, rather than waiting to be revealed through particular models of political conduct (Wingenbach, 2011, p. 63). Where deliberative democrats see the ideal of a rational consensus emerging from moments of dissensus and democratic crisis, agonists see the imposition of one hegemonic discourse over others, and argue for the necessity of agonistic challenge to such moments through counter-hegemonic discourses that no less share a commitment to liberty and equality. Thus, outcomes of debate must remain open to challenge and disruption (Goi, 2005). Mouffe’s refusal to abandon commonality altogether, while also insisting that any boundaries to the political community are political and contingent, positions her work as aggregative and post-foundational, rather than anti-foundational (Wingenbach, 2011). This distinction is important in order to avoid the misapplication of postmodernism and extreme relativism to Mouffe’s work. An anti-foundational position sees foundational political orders as inevitably oppressive and takes resistance to such foundations as holding the only possibility for the momentary political liberation of difference. Post-foundationalists, on the other hand, share a mistrust of foundational political orders and claims to universal norms with their anti-foundational cousins, but differ in their approach to political action. For post-foundationalists, foundational positions are indeed based on contingency and hegemony, but are nonetheless inevitable and indeed even necessary. As such, anti-foundationalism is mistaken in its premise that foundational orders, even if contingent and



heterogeneous, can be eradicated or escaped so that the subject can be truly emancipated. We are always implicated in wider political orders and structures, and the very fact that these orders are contingent, partial, exclusive and hegemonic is what defines the political and political identities. It is therefore mistaken to think that such constitutive orders can, or should, be thrown off like shackles. Mouffe herself recognises the inevitability of “the moment of decision”, when a “form of closure” is necessary but not necessarily permanent (Mouffe, 2013, p. 15). Some form of shared political order is needed for the conduct of political and social life. As Wingenbach (2011, p. 7) explains when discussing the rather grounded nature of the post-foundational position: In practice, human beings rely upon foundations, regardless of their ultimate status. It is simply not possible to escape them completely, or even to relativize them so utterly that their impact is of minor consequence. We require some sort of ontology, even only shallowly held, to render social order possible.

Another understanding would be to say that anti-foundationalism rejects any shared ground of social and political conduct, whereas post-foundationalism rejects any sense of an ultimate, final foundational position on which to rest political systems. For the latter, foundations should therefore be transformed and questioned—often incrementally and through an engagement with existing political systems and institutions—but not necessarily abandoned. The task, then, is to “weaken their [foundations] ontological status” (Marchart, in Wenman, 2013, p. 6). In a related fashion, Wenman (2013) describes the modalities of constituent power within agonistic theory through the categories of ‘revolutionary’ and ‘augmentation’. Like post-foundationalism, the form of augmentation “simultaneously expands and preserves an existing system of authority”, and is the predominant modality within agnostic theory today in the work of authors such as Mouffe, William Connolly and Bonnie Honig (Wenman, 2013, p. 9). This more moderate approach to political structures allows for the critical interrogation of foundational positions and institutions as ­providing more or less space for counter-hegemony, and makes the exposure and transformation of these positions the task of agonistic politics (Wingenbach, 2011). Politics takes place within ‘the political’, a defining backdrop that appears stable and universal, but is in reality contingent.


The task is neither to see this space as transcending power, nor to reduce it to a temporary and “arbitrary” blockage to true political emancipation (Wingenbach, 2011, p. 11). Ultimately: [t]he task of post-foundational political theory is not to destroy foundations but to make their contingency visible so that politics can incorporate into its regular practice the ongoing interrogation, contestation, and re-formation of the necessary but always necessarily incomplete and inadequate grounds of social and political life. (Wingenbach, 2011, p. 12)

The importance of this post/anti foundational distinction will become clearer when we engage with media, and in particular the need to maintain an appreciation of the contingent yet necessary idea of a shared symbolic space of political debate, and an institutional foundation for hegemonic and counter-hegemonic positions. This distinction is also reflected in a further differentiation made by Wingenbach—that between agonistic and radical democracy. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, Wingenbach (2011) suggests that radical democracy’s focus is primarily on moments of struggle and mobilisation without concomitant attention being paid to the institutionalisation of such moments through relevant political structures and transformations. Agonistic democrats, falling under the category of post-foundational thinkers, maintain a commitment to political structures and institutions, and insist that counter-hegemony be understood beyond moments of resistance and in the context of wider possibilities of re-shaping extant political organisations and practices. In many ways, the agonistic approach favours a more sustainable view of political reformation ahead of abandonment or radical transformation. Mouffe’s post-foundational position also means that labels of ‘postmodern’ are ill fitting. She does not call for radical fragmentation, the de-coupling of the subject from all social and institutional tethers. Thus, her position of anti-essentialism extends to both extra-discursive forms of social objectivity, as well as to “extreme post-modern fragmentation of the social that refuses to give the fragments any kind of relational identity” and thus ignores the inherent power in such relations (Mouffe, 1999, p. 754). Indeed, it is these relations between different social positions and identities that lends Mouffe’s theory to an interrogation of ethnic media. Understanding the post-foundational approach provides a basis on which to build a more detailed understanding of Mouffe’s approach to



agonism, and the way it has and can be applied to media. Importantly, the post-foundational engagement with institutions demands that any application of agonistic democratic theory to media embrace, at least to some degree, the question of the structural political environment in shaping the possibilities of media democracy. Without such a focus, there is a danger that the analysis stops at the point of radical departure from, or challenge to, existing political institutions, and fails to engage with the issue of the sustenance of such resistance and its inscription into a reformed political landscape, an issue to be considered in the next section. However, as Wingenbach (2011, p. xii) says, “it is difficult to find a careful articulation of the institutions and practices that might constitute agonistic democracy in action”. Without such institutionalisation, the agonistic approach is limited to the provision of critiques and deconstructions of existing theories and practices, with little alternative as to how democracy may actually function in day-to-day life (see Wingenbach, 2011). Even those more sympathetic to the theory have raised the issue of an institutional deficit in the way in which agonistic democracy envisages an applied democratic culture (Howarth, 2008). In the next section, then, I discuss the use of Mouffe’s work in media studies with an eye to pluralism, and as a way of further thinking about institutionalisation in terms of media systems. These are issues that will emerge through this and the next chapter. As constitutive institutions of social and political discourses, media have immense power to set the limits of political debate (Phelan, 2014a, 2014b). Understandings of pluralism within Mouffe’s democratic theory thus have ramifications for media systems. Questions of institutionalisation are also closely related to media diversity and the need or formal political frameworks to sustain counter-hegemony.

Media and Mouffe’s Agonism Following Wingenbach (2011), I find it useful to draw upon two approaches to the institutionalisation of agonistic pluralism, as both can be used to better understand the relationship between agonism and media. The first is the ‘soft’ forms of political institutionalisation; the social norms that develop through new understandings and modes of interaction that can affect, and are affected by, more formal political structures. These are, typically, the areas most often connected to media practice, and most obviously attributable to ethnic media that promote


new, socially acceptable forms of cross-cultural understanding and ­political debate. The notion of discursive sedimentation becomes important here, as social discourses come to shape and concretise contingent social practices and attitudes. The second form is the path through which such practices may become institutionalised through ‘hard’ forms, that is, through official legal and political institutions that may or may not reflect agonistic pluralism (Wingenbach, 2011). Lacking the stable, practice-based grounding of public sphere theory and liberal democracy—with their voluminous literature on what a rational, plural democratic media landscape would look like—the role and form of media in a radical democracy can seemingly only broadly be conceptualised through notions of pluralism, counter-hegemony and an adherence to agonistic debate rather than antagonistic conflict (Jane, 2017; Karppinen, 2013). Mouffe, and Lacalu’s, reluctance to provide a detailed and grounded answer to the question of institutionalising agonism is perhaps reflective of the contradictions that emerge when a democratic theory of ineradicable difference and openness seeks to find solid, institutional ground on which to build (Dahlberg & Phelan, 2011). Mouffe’s insistence on the constitutive heterogeneity of political identities and positions, and the rejection of universal notions of rationality, citizenship or communication, mean that any guiding principles and institutional structures for the achievement of agonism must themselves be contingent, temporary and the result of hegemonic discursive regimes (Dahlberg, 2011). As Dahlberg (2011, p. 46) states in his discussion of the procedures necessary to turn antagonism into agonism, “these ­procedures are themselves, unlike Habermasian rationally founded ones, decided through hegemonic struggle”. Indeed, agonistic democracy itself must be seen as contingent and one of many possibilities for the organisation of democratic life. There is, then, in Mouffe’s work, an almost irresolvable tension between contingency and closure that reveals itself most strongly when the necessary conditions for institutionalised heterogeneity are sought, and when a clear picture of media practices and forms are required. While institutionalisation has been thought about and approached in different ways with regard to broad political theory, agonistic pluralism’s application to media has often lacked a ‘hard’ institutional focus. What have been more common are uses of agonistic pluralism that evaluate media in the context of democracy through a focus on ‘soft’ forms of counter-hegemonic cultural movements (Jane, 2017; Katiambo,



2017; Macgilchrist & Bohmig, 2012; McCosker & Johns, 2013; Wingenbach, 2011). What MacGilchrist and Bohmig (2012) call ‘minimal politics’ emphasises the importance of the quotidian and the temporary in mediated political challenge. Research on online activism has pointed to such quotidian moments as challenging dominant understandings of difference along lines of gender and race, and sometimes in ways with observable impacts. The common hegemonic ‘western’ imagining of Africa as a site of poverty, misery and violence was challenged through the use of Twitter in 2015. As Katiambo (2017) argues, the American network CNN closed off discourses about Africa, and Kenya in particular, and sedimented negative discourses when it described Kenya as a ‘hotbed of terror’. Through the hashtag #someonetellCNN, Kenyans disrupted the construction of Africans as “mute subjects whose stories were CNNised by the international media” (Katiambo, 2017, p. 33). The mediated ­protest led to CNN’s Executive Vice President flying to Nairobi to apologise for the coverage (Katiambo, 2017). McCosker and Johns (2013, p. 171) examine the use of Youtube videos as moments of public speech and interaction that sit “outside the rationalising discourse demanded by mainstream media and government”, and instead involve agonistic passions and impromptu debates that challenge dominant understandings of appropriate public expression. Such videos, they argue, and the comments that accompany them online, “enact agonistic forms of contest as an alternative model of citizenship, acts that incorporate forms of passion and conflict but are no less productive for it” (McCosker & Johns, 2013, p. 189). The videos, which feature a public verbal confrontation in England between a man of West-Indian background and predominantly white crowd members, involve sometimes uncomfortable and challenging discussions of difference. The encounter is a far cry from the ‘harmony politics’ of which Mouffe is critical, and instead involves ongoing dissensus and a plurality of attitudes and approaches through Youtube comments section that reflects a “seemingly inexhaustible contest over causes and solutions” (McCosker & Johns, 2013, p. 188). Other literature examines the utility of agonistic theory in understanding online debate, and in doing so offers useful insights into the problems encountered when trying to put Mouffe’s theory into practice. Jane (2017), for example, has questioned just what the difference between agonism and antagonism might look like in online disputes


and disagreements, and just how any sort of agonistic commitment to democracy might be uncovered and analysed. With regard to the former point, she usefully draws on one definition of antagonism as a type of mirroring, wherein the aim is less engagement and more outlasting or out-shouting the other party (Jane, 2017, p. 467). In terms of the content of an online debate over the practice of ‘man-spreading’ on public transport, then, Jane is able with some confidence to claim that some discourses and arguments are more or less agonistic than others. There is, as Jane points out, no established methodological principle for uncovering these forms of agonism/antagonism put into practice, even in their ‘soft’ form. This becomes a problem when trying to relate the evident outcomes of media practice—such as those above that suggest a certain level of antagonism or agonism—to the intention of the authors of such discourses. In other words, how can we know if the authors of media texts intend to be agonistic, and if not, how can this intention and practice be cultivated? (Jane, 2017, p. 468). Such a situation raises two challenges for the current project. One is to think about the form and nature of ethnic media under an agonistic framework, and to try and develop a picture of some of the existing and absent practices that agonistic pluralism requires. The second is to work through the wider conditions—or institutions—necessary to cultivate and support these media forms and practices, particularly as related to ethnic media. Maeseele and Raeijmaekers (2017, p. 13) also focus on utilising an agonistic approach when studying media texts. They do this by connecting journalism and media with the “post-political zeitgeist” of state supported neoliberalisation. Echoing theorists discussed in Chapter 2, they argue that the current political moment has become depoliticised, articulated not as a contingent outcome of political struggle and the sedimentation of particular discourses, but as the singular, natural and universal form of legitimate socio-economic organisation. Specifically, say Maeseele and Raijmaekers, this is post-politics, a situation in which the “existent stage in economico-political development has come to be perceived as the inevitable framework within which to manage all public affairs, that is, the common sense claim that there is no (ideological) alternative (to neo-liberal globalisation and the liberal-capitalist order)” (Maeseele & Raeijmaekers, 2017, p. 3). Much like Jane (2017), Maeseele and Raeijmaekers (2017) want to establish a framework for measuring the extent to which media have closed the discursive field around neoliberalisation, and the degree to



which they support the naturalisation of power or reveal it as challengeable and contingent. Using a critical discourse analysis approach, the authors examine both the scope and form of discourse in news media. Recognising the contingent and discursive nature of journalistic routines and practices, they ask which social actors, positions and issues are present, prominent or absent in the scope of media. They also focus on the form of these factors when they are included in media coverage, including the discursive strategies, and the positioning and portrayal of people, issues and objects. They find that media discourses either close debate through exclusion, or open debate through exposure or expansion. The agonistic potential of media is thus played out through a series of exclusions/inclusions. Exclusion and the closing of alternatives occur when “reporting privileges (established) actors and preferences, which are presented in a depoliticised way as the only rational, moral, or natural ones” (Maeseele & Raeijmaekers, 2017, p. 8). Exclusions rest on an ignorance of alternative voices, and the positioning of divergent issues and perspectives as being irrational, immoral or somehow unnatural (Cammaerts, 2015). One can see here how standard journalistic practices, routines and values would easily slip into discourses of closure and exclusion, drawing on established voices, and constructing alternatives through the language of morality rather than politics. Indeed, the authors find that overwhelmingly “the role and nature of neoliberal political rationality generally remains concealed” (Maeseele & Raeijmaekers, 2017). An agonistic role of media is achieved when debate is opened, either through cultivation or politicisation. Cultivation involves introducing the alternative claims within range of previously established objective criteria. Debates may here be expanded, and previously excluded positions incorporate, but the established terms and vocabularies of the debate remain in place. Politicisation goes further than this, and consists of alternative perspectives being joined by an acknowledgement of the contingent and political nature of existing arguments and positions. Politicisation thus exposes the political nature of debates, challenging the language of morality, rationality or inevitability. It not only proposes alternatives, but also places these alternatives, as well as the existing order, in a field of contingency, refusing to see any position as foundational and objective (Maeseele & Raeijmaekers, 2017). In depoliticising discourses, journalistic practices employ the language of morality, rationality and (de)legitimation. Debates are still couched in a particular expectation of what debate should look like, based on


established voices of authority. As Maeseele and Raeijmaekers (2017, p. 10) suggest, “favoured actions are promoted as rational (e.g. evidence based, authorised by expert institutions, financially profitable), alternative claims are rejected as irrational (e.g. emotional, ideological/partisan, financially and economically damaging)”. This delegitimising language is an entrenched feature of journalistic professionalism, itself the outcome of a set of processes that have been naturalised as the way of doing journalism. It is also imbued with the residue of gender, race and class inequalities.2 While studies have pointed to the counter-hegemonic potentials of media, there is always a danger that without connection to wider social and political movements—hard forms of institutionalisation—such moments become reduced to safe forms of ‘clicktivism’, and are incorporated into neoliberalism’s self-congratulatory logic of media choice and diversity (Dean, 2009; Fenton & Titley, 2015). It is clear from Mouffe’s scarce discussion of, and writing on, media, that she is sceptical of the ability of media movements to facilitate democratic change by themselves (Carpentier & Cammaerts, 2006; Mouffe, 2013). Rather, she tends to reflect an appreciation of the highly contextualised nature of media, and avoids the sin of media-centrism by insisting on the need for connections between media discourses and wider political institutions, both in terms of hegemonic and counter-hegemonic movements. Thus, while she uncontroversially claims that media are playing a challengeable role “in the maintenance and production of hegemony” (in Carpentier & Cammaerts, 2006, p. 5), she also situates media within wider political environments and points to their limitations in changing hegemonic positions without some form of wider political connections: Ideally, the role of the media should precisely be to contribute to the creation of an agnostic public space in which there is the possibility for dissensus to be expressed or different alternatives to be put forward. But on the other hand, the media cannot just create this out of the blue, that is why the main responsibility - for me - still lies with the political parties. (Mouffe, in Carpentier & Cammaerts, 2006, p. 5) 2 Maeseele and Raeijmaekers provide a detailed way of understanding agonism within media texts, one that draws upon several themes in this book (neoliberalism, discourse, and media texts). I will draw on their approach in the next chapters when looking at mainstream media portrayals of ethnic groups in Australia. I also correspond with their view of journalism as made up of hegemonic discursive practices, something to be expanded on in this chapter through the work of several authors.



Such a position, I argue, provides a much-needed bulwark to the multiple, media-centric narratives that have situated the causes of revolutionary political action around the world squarely within social media platforms. Indeed, Mouffe’s scepticism toward the role of social media in political transformation is clear when she argues that the role of sites such as twitter and Facebook in upheavals around the world has been “greatly exaggerated” (Mouffe, 2013, p. 107). Indeed, to reduce the protest movements in the Middle East to social media is “risible” (Mouffe, 2013, p. 108). Rather, one of the key aspects that unites many social and political movements around the world is the occupation of public space, often in the face of harsh government restrictions. She therefore identifies that much about the actual embodied, physical aspects of political movements cannot be reduced to the organisational functions of media, and nor can their causes. Dean (2009) shares such scepticism towards the emancipatory political potentials of new digital networks and social media, and a concomitant prioritisation of the importance of physical political action. Her notion of ‘communicative capitalism’ captures the confluence of communicative abundance and fantasies of democratic participation. Reflecting the themes of interaction, response, action and understanding reflected in the work of several political and media theorists (Dreher, 2009; Husband, 1998; Mouffe, 1993, 2000a), Dean argues powerfully that there is a disconnect between effective political action and fragmented expression through networks of personalised communication. Taking particular aim at declarations of the democratic potential of new media, she argues that “intensified communicativety neither enhances opportunities for linking together political struggles nor enlivens radical democratic practice” (Dean, 2009, p. 23). Rejecting celebratory media-centrism, and at the same time recognising the mediated nature of politics, she contends that networked connectivity comes to stand in place of unified political action in which policy is changed, public spaces are occupied, and politicians are required to respond to public statements, rather than simply acknowledging them as part of a ‘healthy’ range of public opinions. Communication, in this capitalist sense, is defined through reference to the rights of expression, the right to ‘have your say’ and to disseminate it publicly through blogs, social media and chat rooms. This action is taken as inherently democratic, as an expression of western, liberal individual freedom. Missing is any expectation of response, any sense


that politics requires more than fragmented, individual acts of expression that become the grist to the mill of marketing firms and advertising agencies. Minimal political acknowledgement is required, as lip service is paid to democracy via acts of expression tossed into a “massive stream of content” wherein it loses its specificity as message, and becomes yet another “contribution” (Dean, 2009, p. 26). Political efficacy, mobilisation and organisation are the victims in a system in which messages become other than “actions to elicit responses” (Dean, 2009, p. 26). In our highly mediated communications environments we confront instead a multiplication of resistances and assertions so extensive so as to hinder the formation of strong counter-hegemonies. The proliferation, distribution, acceleration, and intensification of communicative access and opportunity result in a deadlocked democracy incapable of serving as a form for political change. I refer to this democracy that talks without responding as communicative capitalism. (Dean, 2009, p. 22)

Strong in her dismissal of communicative abundance as a democratic tool, and equally passionate in her calls for organised, collective and physically embodied political action, Dean provides a valuable theorisation of the universalism inherent in discourses of the all-encompassing internet. Drawing too on the notion of the ‘constitutive outside’, Dean argues that anything that sits outside of the global networked cultures of communication is by definition alien, an incomprehensible other that must be annihilated (Dean, 2009). In claiming a totality, that which cannot be found online, or cannot be imagined, “isn’t simply excluded (everything is already there), it is foreclosed” (Dean, 2009, p. 45). Defining the internet as a ‘zero institution’, one that signifies the presence of meaning while itself being devoid of it, Dean suggests it is unable to facilitate the kind of reciprocity, understanding and action needed for real political reform. Instead, internet activism becomes structured in the same ways as broadcast media events, moments of spectacle proceeded by a return to business as usual. The online moments thus garner momentary attention and awareness, “but do little in the way of building the institutions necessary to sustain a new political order” (Dean, 2009, p. 47). Neither Mouffe nor Dean completely discount the politically transformative potential of media, yet both problematise neat equations of alternative media and democratic change. Writing broadly from left perspectives, they are, along with other authors (Fenton & Titley, 2015;



Karppinen, 2007, 2013), able to show the ways in which such forms of media can be usurped into neoliberal celebrations of choice, voice and expression. Any attempt to think about the relationship between media and the institutionalisation of agonistic pluralism needs to expand beyond ‘quotidian’ moments of counter-hegemony, and should engage with media as sites of power, as being constitutive and constituted agents within wider socio-political fields. Ethnic media’s relationship to democracy is not predetermined through their existence alone, in a neat equivalency between amount of ethnic media available and the range and reach of democratic inclusion. As Mouffe and Dean suggest, relationships between differing social and political positions are as important as the existence of those positions. Approaches to online media have also engaged with pressing questions regarding the limits to agonistic pluralism, which Mouffe tends to set at the practices and institutions that would threaten democratic values themselves (see above). Bart Cammaerts (2009) has asked where exactly an agonistic commitment to democracy may find its limits in dialogue and debate? In engaging with this question in relation to hate speech online, Cammaerts (2009) suggests that there is a need to exclude some voices from even the most plural of debates, particularly where a commitment to ethico-political principles of democracy is clearly lacking. His approach here is in line with Mouffe’s own, as she sets limits on plurality at the point where a commitment to liberty and equality is threatened. Indeed, we can see in the work of Mouffe and other pluralists some guidelines for identifying the types of actions and discourses that may constitute agonism in (mediated) action, and thus may also imply the limits to such action. In seeking to articulate pluralisation in a way that de-normalises contingent identities, William Connolly (1995, p. xvi) calls for a “critical responsiveness to new movements of pluralisation” in a way that opens the individual up to the other and fosters a democratic ethos in which people come to embrace contingency not only in the surrounding political environment, but also with regard to their own identities. This is a mutually constitutive “ethos of responsiveness” that involves transforming “disturbance of what you are into critical responsiveness to what you are not in a way that evidences the importance of reciprocity, understanding and listening in the agonistic process” (Connolly, 1995, p. xvii). This process, argues Connolly, provides an opportunity for the other to be seen as constituting its opposite, as being part of the same


constitutive landscape in which identities are forged, and thus as being an important part of identifications in a way that avoids the reduction or transcendence of difference. It is, as Wingenbach (2011) argues, logical to extend this process to one in which cultural norms and structures are disturbed. As Connolly suggests: A new respect might emerge for drives by the other to break out of injurious definitions, even as those drives destabilise and denaturalise the identity of established constituencies. And new challenges might emerge to those identity-maintaining mechanisms that automatically translate the difference that disturbs into immorality and abnormality. (Connolly, 1995, p. xvii)

Transformation rests not simply on changing the other, but on a ‘disturbance’ of the structuring conditions and relationships that position different social identities and shape their interactions. Such a focus on the embedded subject shifts the focus from the individual-as-subject, and places it squarely on the social context as requiring rearticulation (Connolly, 1995). Thus when Mouffe discusses the transformation from enemy to adversary, she also emphasises the transformation of forms of interaction that shape the constitution of the other, through an openness to difference that is not reducible to transcendence nor cultural levelling. As she says, to come to accept the position of the adversary is to undergo a radical change in political identity, it has more of a quality of conversation than persuasion….compromises are possible…But they should be seen as temporary respites in an ongoing confrontation. (Mouffe, 1999, p. 755)

Part of Mouffe’s discursive approach has been to expand politics into areas of social life once distinguished as private, and therefore free from political machinations. This politicisation of cultural and social areas marginalised from the rational project, and their expression through social movements, alludes to Mouffe’s argument, perhaps more prevalent in her earlier work, for approaches that bring together seemingly disparate groups in a political movement. Recognising the power of discursive political constructions that were the focus of her work with Ernesto Laclau, she argues for the need for a “chain of equivalence among democratic demands found in a variety of groups - women, blacks, workers, gays, lesbians, environmentalists” (Mouffe, 1988, in Kapoor, 2002, p. 466).



Among this wider terrain of politics, in which the structural conditions of political identity are constantly challenged, there is a need for some form of limitation to the possible transformations of politics. Even within the borders of acceptable democratic agonistic debate, the multitude of different and fluid identities, political positions and constituencies is seemingly limitless. Where then do we draw the line in terms of media access, control and representation? At what stage does pluralism become self-defeating? Sans an anti-foundational approach, Mouffe accepts the inevitability of exclusion and antagonism, but seeks to expose and question the basis upon which such exclusions are built and justified. Here then, there will inevitably be some who are excluded through their refusal to adhere to the ethical-political values of agonism, a necessary distinction to be made to avoid slippage into what Mouffe (2000a, p. 20) calls, “a type of extreme pluralism that emphasises heterogeneity and incommensurability and according to which pluralism—understood as the valorisation of all differences—should have no limits”. In trying to find a level of pluralism without exclusion, such extreme approaches leave unexamined the inevitable exclusions that constitute the political. This is why I insist on the limits of pluralism. There cannot be a pluralism which accepts all differences. We must be able to determine which differences should exist within a liberal democratic regime, because those differences are necessary for the realisation of principles of liberty and equality. By negating those differences we are repressing or impeding the equality of some groups. But necessarily, there are also differences which might exist but must be put into question, or should never be accepted, because these differences would create relations of subordination which are not acceptable within a pluralist democracy. (Mouffe in Bayard, Isajiw, & Madison, 1996, p. 136)

The limits of pluralism also have a practical fact that needs to be recognised in debates about media; a media system that reflects social pluralism in all its forms is an impossibility (Karppinen, 2013). The fact of representation means that choices need to be made about the identities and political constellations that are given presence in a media system. For ethnic minorities, another issue arises when the representative power of media is considered. That is, not so much how a certain group is to be represented or to represent itself in media, but who is entitled to speak for that group? (Karppinen, 2013).


Discussions of ethnic media, including this one, are often unable to pay sufficient attention to the many complex axes of gender, religion, age, sexuality and class that fragment and realign these ‘communities’ (Husband, 2005). As such, claims to representation through media inevitably involve the simplification or levelling out of certain identity claims in favour of others. Ethnic media are not free of the issues that problematise mainstream media’s claim to represent society, nor are they immune to the politics of exclusion, bigotry and the closing off of political identities to alternatives (Husband, 2005; Kosnick, 2007). In her discussion of multiculturalism, Philips (2009) raises the issue of the tension between different claims to representation when identifications such as gender, religion and race intersect through forms of communicative and cultural expression. Indeed, Kosnick (2007) suggests that both political and academic attitudes towards ethnic media have tended to over-celebrate cultural expression in and of itself, without a proper interrogation of the shifting claims to authority, representativeness and centrality that occur within different communities. The limits to pluralism are therefore inevitably fluid and somewhat messy (Cammaerts, 2009). In the next chapter, when I apply agonistic pluralism to ethnic media, I will draw on an understanding of the limits of pluralism as sitting at the moment of “relations of subordination”, as in Mouffe’s quote above (Mouffe in Bayard et al., 1996, p. 136). This is no doubt an insufficient definition. However, pluralism itself will be interrogated throughout the chapter. What is more, this understanding of the limits to pluralism can be usefully operationalised in the chapter, particularly when discussing the relationship of ethnic media to ‘mainstream’ media and the hegemonic political culture. Important questions of diversity and pluralism within ethnic ‘communities’ and media organisations will also be discussed in the final chapter. The Prioritisation of the Political Before moving on to an application of agonistic pluralism to journalism and ethnic media, there is one more general area of critique worth raising, particularly for its potential impact on media practices and products. As discussed above, one of Mouffe’s central tasks is to bring the moral and ethical aspect of politics into a properly political space. That is, she wants to maintain the passion that she sees as a natural aspect of politics— in contrast to the rational individualism she sees in liberal theory—but to



do so in a way that avoids moralising of political differences. Her most common articulation of such a task is the elimination of the language of good and evil in political debate, and its replacement with the contest and contrast between two political, rather than moral positions. There are two ways in which Mouffe’s prioritisation of the political over the ethical may prove problematic. The first is offered by Morrison (2018), who critiques what she sees as Mouffe’s misguided separation of the moral from the political. For Mouffe, the ethical is universal, and in politics comes to stand for an external, universal referent on which to base final judgements and to close debate. While politics is always open and ‘conditional’, the ethical realm is ‘unconditional’, and therefore presents a dangerous source of closure if left to function independently of the political space (Morrison, 2018, p. 541). For Morrison, a perspective such as that taken by Judith Buttler, which sees the ethical as largely open, and often a case of the “incommensurability between demand and how we are able to respond to the demand” is a more effective way of understanding the relation of affect and politics. Ethics, then, need not be about the extra-political closure of debate in reference to an unchallengeable universal, but maybe a case of openness to difference. As Morrison (2018, p. 542) states: Butler’s description of an “ethics of anxiety” reveals this other order of affective life, one that is not opposed to the political, but rather is at once partly transcendent to it, a “supra-political” affect, and partly constitutive of it. Rather than being a passionate investment in a collective identity, it is an exposure to a “lack” or otherness at the heart of my singular existence revealing my essential ontological exposure and fundamental lack.

Such an approach, argues Morrison (2018, p. 543), is able to better deal with those claims, those tensions and decisions that “don’t find any politically justifiable response”. Mouffe’s insistence on the political leaves her approach less able to deal with those areas in which the moral and ethical combine with politics, such as the rise of alt. right movements in the US. To simply see such claims as needing translation into political terms strips them of their constitution in the ethical realm. Here, we might counter Morrison and say that the exclusion of such movements need not be based on their ethical or moral nature, but could be located in the political through their undemocratic calls for inequality based on a seires of objectified criteria—race, gender, sexual preference. They thus exemplify the ‘relations of subordination’ that occupy the limits of agonistic pluralism.


The other issue relates more directly to media, and concerns the ability of media to translate moral claims into political ones. The media of neoliberalism increasingly talk in terms of individual responsibility and moral and ethical failure in the context of an ignorance of structural and political conditions (Phelan, 2014b). As was discussed in Chapter 2, race here is privatised, and racism constructed as individual pathology in need of correcting, rather than as structurally determined. As we will see in the next chapter, then, one of the main tasks of an agonistic media would be to transform this language of ethical and moral culpability into a language that challenges the structural factors that shape relations between self and other. Both institutionalisation and plurality will feature in the next c­hapter, wherein I attempt to apply agonistic pluralism to ethnic media. I do not claim to answer all of the questions raised in this chapter, but I do acknowledge that it is important to, at the very least, engage with these issues and their application in media analysis. I want to contextualise ethnic media within an agnostic pluralism framework. I do this through three broad approaches, each of which is based on a view of media as sites of power (Couldry, 2000, 2003). The first is to critically engage with journalistic professionalism and identity, and to approach these as hegemonic discourses that, if examined through an agonistic lens, can be seen as potentially marginalising of ethnic media work. Here, I recognise that particular forms of media have great power over the shaping of ‘legitimate’ political dialogue and expression. The second approach is to look at the counter-hegemonic actions and practices of ethnic media producers, focusing specifically on a case study from within Australia. Here it will become clear that much about ethnic media can be fruitfully understood as agonistic. However, my last point of focus contextualises that counter-hegemony within a broader context of media policy. In looking for harder forms of institutionalisation, I attempt to connect the counter-hegemony of ethnic media to media policy. In particular, I focus on the notion of pluralism in both policy debates and in agonistic theory.

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Understanding Ethnic Media Through Agonism

Part of the task of bringing ethnic media into dialogue with a­gonistic pluralism is to look at how ‘softer’ forms of social and symbolic action may influence and shape ‘harder’ political institutions, and of course may be shaped by them (Wingenbach, 2011). Agonistic pluralism can be applied to ethnic media in several ways. One is to identify ­ ethnic media as existing within a field of “sedimented practices…that conceal the originary acts of their political institution and which are taken for granted, as if they were self-grounded” (Mouffe, 2005, p. 17). In this chapter, this approach is applied primarily through a critique of dominant understandings of journalism and journalistic identity, and the way in which they structure ethnic media and journalism. One can also, as in several of the approaches discussed in the previous chapter, look for the counter-hegemonic discourses that may emerge within ethnic media (Jane, 2017; Maeseele & Raeijmaekers, 2017). This would mean looking at those practices that ethnic media may encourage and enable that may lead to reciprocity, agonistic debate and the inclusion of passions and affectations in public discourses. Finally, it is important to examine the potential for the emergence of harder forms of agonistic democracy that involve the “positive articulation of democratic institutional structures” (Wingenbach, 2011, p. 91). Identifying these forms may go some way to overcoming the critiques of agonistic theory as providing a critical deconstruction of existing structures but offering little alternative in the form of practical, applied forms of political organisation. Such an approach also guards against assumptions that the identification of oppressive © The Author(s) 2019 J. Budarick, Ethnic Media and Democracy,



institutions and forms of social and political organisation will automatically lead to sustained and just political transformation. In this chapter, then, I discuss both soft and hard forms of agonistic pluralism in relation to ethnic media. Looking first at the structuring discourse of professional journalism through an agonistic lens, focusing secondly on ethnic media as themselves engaged in counter-hegemonic discourse, and finishing with a look at policy through a Mouffian perspective as it impacts ethnic media.

Journalistic Professionalism as Sedimented Hegemony As a field of contesting and differentially resourced discourses, journalism lends itself to an analysis that emphasises dissensus, difference and power relations (Hanitszch & Vos, 2017). There is a growing body of work that approaches journalism as a social institution shaped by discursive practices (Hanitzsch & Vos, 2017), as highly contextualised and variable cultural practice (Carlson, 2016), and as the outcome of professional ideologies and a series of socially constructed values, practices and norms (Carpentier, 2005; Husband, 2005; Waisbord, 2013). Other work has connected these features to the politics of race and identity, pointing to the presence of a racial archetype in the popular image of the professional journalist (Husband, 2005; Rhodes, 2001; Sreberny, 2005). Such approaches provide a detailed explanation of the nature of journalism as a contingent social practice, and can be married to agonistic pluralism when thinking about the role of journalism and media in culturally and ethnically diverse democracies. In arguing for an agonistic political space that facilitates counterhegemonies agonistic pluralism denies the permanent applicability of a normative and ideal system of journalistic practices, values and identities. It rejects final ideological closure over the meaning of journalism, and as such can be used to judge journalistic cultures not by their adherence to foundational and external measures of competence, but by the relationships between differing journalistic forms, and between those forms and wider, contingent journalistic and political ideologies (Dahlberg, 2011; Hanitzsch & Vos, 2017; Husband, 2005). Hegemonic approaches to journalism are exposed under the lens of agonistic pluralism, and are pushed aside in order to continually disrupt and open space for alternative notions to emerge and take their place. This, I argue, is a particularly tempting proposition for the journalism and indeed media of ethnic minorities, migrants and the marginalised in general. The solid ground



of journalism that has provided an objective and technocratic sheen to the mediated marginalisation of minority communities over time, and has positioned extreme diversions as instances of political or individual pathology, loses its bedrock of official authority, no longer able to claim a privileged relationship with democracy. That many of the central professional norms have remained intact in the face of challenge attests to their flexibility, but also to the continuing necessity of their challenge at the hands of counter-hegemonic journalistic cultures and structures (Carpentier, 2005; Hanusch & Hanitszch, 2017; Husband, 2005; Waisbord, 2013). This is not to say that loosely coherent journalistic norms, or a set of standards that dictate a news media system, are avoidable or unnecessary, but rather that they need to be exposed as contingent and as sites of power (Couldry, 2000). This is not a monolithic power located within particular social and political strata. After all, Joseph Pulitzer started his newspaper career as a migrant journalist and publisher. There is also a long history of journalistic ‘muckrackers’, rebels and innovators who challenged the status quo (Curran, 2011). Such histories, however, emphasise the socially constructed nature of journalism, the fact that the way the public and journalists understand, engage with, and do journalism is the outcome of complex social and cultural process. If we take media as sites of power, journalistic professionalism and journalistic institutions can be seen as powerful sites wherein power and objectivity merge. Such an approach to journalism has the support of a rich vein of literature that views journalism as a process of territorial marking, of self-legitimation, and as the defence of positions of power and privilege (Carlson, 2016; Waisbord, 2013). One could here legitimately ask what differentiates agonism from deliberative democracy in its approach to journalism, particularly with the latter’s openness to exclusions and difference in mind. After all, the public sphere approach has significantly opened itself up to alternative communicative forms in an attempt to better incorporate difference into its sphere. In maintaining an insistence on a retrievable inter-subjective rational norm of communication as transcending difference, however, the approach still provides a universal focal point for the understanding of journalism. This can be seen as a positive thing, as it allows for a critical evaluation of journalism and media politics, with an identifiable, normative perspective against which to judge the performance of an increasingly commercialised media sector. The ‘danger’ of the


perspective, particularly for ethnic media, is its search for closure at the communicative level, its search for a universal that, when not achieved, is attributed to an inequality of resources rather than ineradicable difference at the ontological level of political identity (Dahlberg, 2014). The agonistic approach also speaks to a different conceptualisation of the relationship of journalism and news to democracy. One of the pervading norms across established democracies is to position journalism, the press and the news media as occupying a position between the ‘people’ and the state, as defending citizens from state transgressions and interference. Certain forms and understandings of journalism have thus been positioned as occupying a privileged relationship with democracy, the latter understood broadly as the responsiveness of the state to generally shared public and citizen demands and concerns. Ideals and values such as autonomy and objectivity have become powerful evaluative criteria for a journalism that speaks to rational deliberation in a space free from state and market interference (Hanusch & Hanitszch, 2017). These norms carry their own procedural expectations and rules and are the outcome of contestation over journalistic power and authority. Their power rests on their invisibility, and on their naturalisation as being engrained in the way journalism is done. There is something, then, very powerful about Mouffe’s approach when applied to ethnic media and journalism, primarily because it allows one to expose a resilient hegemonic discourse that is formed through exclusion, and to de-privilege its relationship to democratic norms. If we take her view of media as ideally contributing “to the creation of an agnostic public space in which there is the possibility for dissensus to be expressed or different alternatives to be put forward”, then we can appreciate the post-structural scepticism towards any foundational journalistic principles for their tendency to anchor difference to universal forms of interaction (Mouffe, in Carpentier & Cammaerts, 2006, p. 5). I discuss these issues in more detail below. The Social and Discursive Construction of Journalism As was indicated earlier, Mouffe’s work contains a slightly undeveloped understanding of media. As well as her uncontroversial insistence on political parties leading political change, Mouffe in another interview describes media as “the mirror of society”, suggesting that their agonistic potential depends on a previously available political movement



that media can reflect back to the public (Mouffe, 2013, p. 143). In this instance, her discussions of journalism seem attuned to common understandings of mainstream journalistic practice as defined by ideals of neutral and impartial reflection of social and political actualities. She has, however, engaged at least partially with the problematic nature of journalistic ideals. In an interview with Carpentier and Cammaerts (2006, p. 12) she states that: In one sense you want a journalist to be objective, but of course you know they cannot be, but you do not want them to distort the facts either. I was thinking: how I could reconcile that with my agonistic view? One distinction, which is certainly important, is between ‘le verity de faits’ [factual truth] and ‘le verity de raison’ [truth of reason]. I do not believe in truth in an absolute sense. Obviously, there are factual truths — as far as is possible, because it is not always possible — and you want journalists to be objective with respect to factual truths. The question would then be: how to combine this requisite of objectivity with respect to factual truth, with recognition of the fact that you cannot convey an absolute dogmatic truth? … I think it is important for audiences to be shown that there are different views … There are always different interpretations, different aspects, and different perspectives.

Seemingly reaching a point of impasse in trying to reconcile journalism with the impossibility of a transcendent truth, Mouffe then aligns herself with Carpentier and Cammaerts’ (2006, p. 12) own suggestion of the journalist as “gate-opener”—as opposed to the more common gatekeeper—as someone interested in “providing the option, arguments and perspectives. Instead of closing the gate, it is actually a matter of opening the gate”. Mouffe here seeks to acknowledge the importance of factual truths (Le verity de faits), an important pre-requisite for a shared symbolic space upon which pluralism and agonism can be based. She stops short, however, of entertaining the idea of dogmatic, pre-political truths that would close off all debate. Hers is a position in which journalism plays a role in developing a weak consensus, a space within which difference can emerge, and within which there can be no final understanding of truth, or a universal notion of the public good. The language of openness and indeterminacy is quite familiar to many journalists, who see at least part of their jobs as providing a plurality of voices in public debates (Hanusch & Hanitszch, 2017). However, what we are talking about through Mouffe’s work is indeterminacy at the


ontological level, beyond measures such as multiple sources or interview subjects, or getting ‘both sides of a story’, but as potentially involving a sense of openness that leads to fundamental debates over what journalism is, what its role should be, and what constitutes a professional journalistic identity. Hanitzsch and Vos (2017, see also Hanusch & Hanitszch, 2017) identify the politically and socially contextual nature of journalism and the diversity of journalistic cultures around the world. Key ideals and values, such as passivity and activity, or neutrality and advocacy, are imbued with different levels of normative power among different journalistic cultures (Hanitzsch & Vos, 2017). However, they also recognise particular schisms that reach across countries and continents, such as differences in attitudes towards interventionism among journalists. Further, in a large scale study of journalistic cultures around the world, Hanusch and Hanitszch (2017) found that despite some differences, certain journalistic ideals are shared across many areas of the globe. These include the overarching AngloAmerican (Chalaby, 1996) trait of autonomy, and its application through the practice of ‘objectivity’, believed achievable through certain journalistic methods inspired by positivist science.1 Thus, Hanusch and Hanitszch (2017, p. 528) find “that professional values of detachment and non-­ involvement reign supreme in most of the countries studied”. The socially constructed nature of journalism can be seen through the interrelation of journalism as a “social institution” (Hanitszch & Vos, 2017, p. 119, emphasis in original) and the mutually constitutive ­ ideologies of professional journalistic identity that exist within it (Carpentier, 2005; Husband, 2005; Sreberny, 2005). Thus, a range of literature focuses on the “theoretical - and often normative - accounts” of journalism as a space of “formal structures…as well as informal rules and procedures, such as customs, traditions, taboos, and codes of conduct” (Hanitszch & Vos, 2017, p. 118). Common understandings of how journalism is done, and what it means to be a journalist, are structured and shaped by these institutionalised factors. This is a site of contest, in which “various actors inside and outside of journalism compete to construct, reiterate, and even challenge the boundaries of acceptable journalistic practices and the limits of what can or cannot be done” (Carlson, 2016, p. 349). 1 Objectivity, while not a universal journalistic norm, nor one understood the same way among all journalists, is nonetheless a ready-made and often used ideal when articulating the boundaries of ‘professional’ journalism who lies outside of them.



In their discursive approach, Hanitzsch and Vos (2017) argue that within the “institutional framework of journalism”, journalists’ work is expressed through, and framed by, normative and cognitive role orientations, as well as practised and narrated role performances (Hanitszch & Vos, 2017, p. 123). These roles relate, respectively, to what journalists “should do”, what they “want to do”, what they “really do” and what they “say they do” (Hanitszch & Vos, 2017, p. 118, emphases in original). They are the “discursive articulation and enactment of journalism’s identity as a social institution” (Hanitszch & Vos, 2017, p. 120). They are mutually constructive, as role orientations and role performances feed into each other to further strengthen hegemonic discourses of what journalism is, and what journalists are. Through ongoing meaning-making interactions with external stakeholders, audiences, other journalists and other institutions, journalistic roles are continually made and remade, discursively articulated in a field of competing interests and discourses. There is, however, a pull towards certain key nodal points in articulations of journalism, and despite the diversity of journalistic cultures and individual journalistic identities, certain overarching sedimented discourses come to define the field in particular socio-political contexts (Carpentier, 2005). Thus, Hanusch and Hanitszch (2017) point to values such as autonomy as common tropes across journalistic cultures. The idea of the professional, although still contested (Hanitszch & Vos, 2017), also shapes internal and external understandings of journalism at a normative structural level, and in terms of the identities and work of individual journalists. Within Hanitszch and Vos’ (2017) typology, the cognitive role orientations that guide the aspirational institutional values and roles of journalists—what they want to do—constitute a sort of “community of practice” (Hanitszch & Vos, 2017, p. 125). Within this community, “ideologies of professionalism”, as Husband (2005, p. 462) calls them, shape expectations and define evaluative frameworks against which journalism can be judged. These ideologies include forms of both discursive and practical consciousness. The former refer to skills, training and knowledge acquired through accepted journalistic pathways. This is a “shared body of knowledge” with rules, training and systematic knowledge acquisition (Husband, 2005, p. 464). The latter relate to the myths of journalism, the expression of inherent and intuitive skills that can only be learned on the job—such as “having a nose for a story”—and require


one to be part of the professional community of practice (Husband, 2005, p. 464). Like journalism itself, journalistic roles and identities are the outcome of discursive contest, with norms challenged and reconfirmed, boundaries threatened and defended, and the terrain of knowledge and expertise articulated. Journalistic roles, particularly normative roles…are essentially stable discursive scripts that have emerged through an interchange among internal and external actors. The normative positions about appropriate journalistic practice in the West, for example, emerge from discursive exchanges generally rooted in shared social values, such as democracy and modernity. (Hanitzsch & Vos, 2017, p. 121)

These relations, and the unfinished nature of discourses, means that sedimentation is regularly challenged. Thus, just as individual journalists are naturalised into roles that then reconfirm institutional practices, other journalistic cultures may challenge hegemonic discourses on what journalism is and what journalists do. Carlson (2016) explains the situation through the notion of boundary work, a process in which social actors employ symbolic capital in order to demarcate lines around appropriate forms of knowledge, and to further define who may be considered a journalist, and what may be considered journalism. Similarly, Carpentier (2005) focuses on the relation between wider discourses and individual journalistic roles, pointing to the inevitability of challenge and dissensus in the discursive field. He describes the “hegemonic nodal points” that cement and normalise journalistic professionalism in identity and practice: These nodal points articulate the media professional as objective, as a manager of people and (other) resources (based on their responsibility/ property), as autonomous and as a member of a professional elite who are (semi-) professionally linked to a media organization. As new articulations and contestations of this hegemony are always possible, adequate attention needs to be directed to these counter-hegemonic articulations…. (Carpentier, 2005, p. 214)

Alternatives have come most prominently in the recent form of various collaborative and citizen journalism movements. These have challenged



the equation of journalistic professionalism with autonomy and detachment, and journalistic routines with an engagement with elite sources, and a hierarchical and structured system of production. They have instead promoted new forms of storytelling through the use of digital technologies, a rejection or reinterpretation of the ideal of objectivity and ‘truth’ in journalism, and the development of a network of relationships with marginalised sources, including those in the public who can use communications networks to tell their own stories. This struggle, however, does not take place on an even playing field. Particular forms of journalism, and certain news media institutions, are able to define the discourse of journalism more than others, and in turn are able to equate their normative values to democratic debate and deliberation. Some journalists, news outlets and media organizations have a stronger imprint on institutional discourse than others, depending on their centrality in the field…As journalists and news organizations take different positions in this institutional discourse, it makes much sense to conceptualize it in terms of a struggle over discursive authority in conversations about the meaning and role of journalism in society. (Hanitszch & Vos, 2017, p. 122, emphasis in original)

Certain discourses of professionalism and journalistic roles and values, such as those articulated by Carpentier (2005) above, enjoy a privileged relationship with dominant political discourses regarding ideal democratic debate and social interaction. It is within this context that counter-hegemonic forms must be understood. As well as often lacking the political-economic resources of established media institutions, they also lack the discursive power to define ‘democracy’ in terms of issues and forms of debate. Ethnic minority journalists and news organisations exist within this unequal field of contingent discourses. This is made clear in the work of Matsaganis and Katz (2014), which draws on Husband (2005) and looks specifically at ethnic journalist’s negotiation of their specialist identities (those associated with their role as ethnic journalists) and their inclusive identities (those associated with hegemonic norms of mainstream professional journalism). These negotiations are influenced by ethnic media producers’ relationships with mainstream media, their limited access to mainstream social institutions and people, and their ethno-specific audiences. Despite limitations


in terms of access to central social actors and institutions, and in terms of resources, ethnic journalists still attempt to measure themselves and define their identities against the mainstream professional benchmarks. Their asymmetrical relationship with mainstream media and journalists leaves them however in a subordinate position vis-a-vis their ability to define journalistic identities and expectations. This situation pushes them further towards a specialist identity, in which they are restricted to speaking on behalf of a specialist community only (Sreberny, 2005). Interestingly, the professional norms and identities are not challenged by the ethnic journalists in Matsaganis and Katz’s study. Instead, they are negotiated, as when ethnic media producers attempt to re-conceptualise ‘advocacy’, reflecting an awareness that “the ‘advocate’ label highlights how these producers are different from their mainstream counterparts in ways that mark them as less professional, thereby reinforcing their specialist identities” (Matsaganis & Katz, 2014, p. 938). Thus, institutionalised journalistic practices (autonomy, authoritative sources) combine with ideologies of professionalism (white, male professional with an institutional position) in a way that excludes ethnic minority journalists and journalism through the language of rationality and normalised perspectives, rather than as the outcome of hegemonic political exclusions. This is given a powerful, personal perspective by Jane Rhodes, a female journalist of colour who reflected on her early initiation to a newsroom in America: As an employee with multiple outsider identities, I was never trusted. My editors assumed that I could never be neutral - that my identification with other aggrieved groups would overwhelm my journalistic skills. The mantra of objectivity was a convenient device through which to enforce a gendered hegemony that would make a feminist or anti-racist subject position problematic, while allowing those reporters with conservative politics to function unquestioned. (Rhodes, 2001, p. 49)

Even after moving to a more progressive news environment, Rhodes felt women and people of colour were “accepted only if we absorbed and adhered to the normative values of the institution…the social, political and economic structures of journalism were deeply embedded” (Rhodes, 2001, p. 50). Evident here is the way that the constructed, value-free and neutral foundational position of professional objectivity is embodied within the white, male professional (Husband, 2005). In this process,



alternatives are obscured and the contingent and hegemonic nature of such embodied professionalism is rendered natural. In the language of Maeseele and Raeijmaekers (2017) questions of race and power are closed off and depoliticised. Despite widespread recognition of the complexity of identities, the contingency of this racialised and gendered professionalism remains remarkably well hidden, rarely visible to those who wield most of its power. It therefore exists not “as a reflexively understood socially constructed ‘norm’; but rather as a Promethean non-negotiable natural state of being” (Husband, 2005, p. 466). For ethnic minorities who lack the ability to render their ethnicity invisible, the negotiation of ethnic and professional identity is a continual challenge, not only in the area of majority culture media, but also within different ethnic media organisations which oscillate between community advocacy, community representation, professional impartiality and activism (Husband, 2005). These issues have arisen, for example, in studies of attempts by Muslim Australians to speak out in ways that avoid their inscription into rigid templates employed by mainstream journalists in interpreting difference (Dreher, 2009). The journalistic practice of attributing weight and esteem to different voices, of privileging certain forms of communication, speech and expression, and of utilising pre-­ existing understandings of social events and identities to aid quick interpretation of complex social issues, all silence, marginalise, misinterpret and de-prioritise the voices of migrants and minorities (Dreher, 2009). Further, black African-Australians seeking to ply their ‘trade’ within Australia and ‘escape’ their narrow identification with specific forms of media have also expressed difficulty in overcoming racial typecasting. As one young media worker in the African-Australian media sector said to me, in a response that reflected many others, “…there’s no opportunity for people like us who want to get in there, it’s quite difficult to penetrate the market. Because we’re not light skinned, my accent is not Australian”. This issue is reflected elsewhere, as in Koleth’s (2015, p. 250) study of the agonistic nature of multiculturalism in Fairfield, an ethnically diverse suburb in Western Sydney, in which a Vietnamese participant complains of auditioning for acting roles and being typecast as “a ninja, as a prostitute…Asian grocery store owner, a migrant mum when I’m not even a migrant mum”. As another example of the hegemony of established patterns of journalistic practice, a series of mediated moral panics over crime committed by youths of African descent in Australia over the past ten years have


employed discourses of exclusion and closure. A loose, ‘floating’ mix of race, nationality and skin colour has been employed in media coverage in a way that reduces those of African heritage to a constitutive signifier (Lentin & Titley, 2011). ‘African gangs’, ‘Sudanese gangs’ and perpetrators ‘of African appearance’ have become part of a sedimented discourse in which racial identity and criminality have been inextricably married in an implicit causal relationship. This discourse is presented as resting on objective facts rather than the articulation of one form of identity over others. As such, its defence is built through an exclusion of alternatives that are positioned as denying reality and being connected to irrational and ideological political perspectives. This is the journalism of ‘is-ness’, built upon a depoliticised and privatised notion of race that largely ignores difficult structural questions in favour of a raced individuality that implicates black African-Australians as dangerous threats to capitalist democracy (Phelan, 2014b).2 It is built through institutionalised journalistic norms that shape the relationship of the journalist to their story (autonomy and distance), the issues deemed worthy of coverage (crime and violence), and the modes of debate employed (assumptions of individual responsibility and a neat articulation of them [migrants, Africans] and us [white Australians]). In the face of this coverage, some sections of the mainstream media have problematised simplistic law and order narratives by articulating the way non-white Australians are placed into a social hierarchy and a context of racial inequality (Maeseele & Raeijmaekers, 2017). Further, some mainstream and social media forums have expanded the discourse through cultivation. Here, different actors, issues and calls for change have been inserted into the discourse (Maeseele & Raeijmaekers, 2017). Several of these voices have challenged the coverage from within the discourse of racial identity, arguing that African migrants make up only a small percentage of criminals and that media coverage has been disproportionate when compared with actual offending rates. This is perhaps the language of anti-racialism, wherein race itself is not interrogated, but stereotypical racial labels are (Lentin & Titley, 2011).

2 Here I am thinking in particular of the claims by on Australian federal politician that people in Melbourne were afraid to go out to restaurants for fear of being attacked, thus constructing the image of racialized violence as a threat to everyday, middle-class consumption practices.



Dominant media portrayals of African-Australians thus tend to spread across depoliticisation and culturalisation frames. Mediated constructions of ‘African-gangs’ or ‘African-crime’ rest on the ease with which Others may be misplaced, symbolically and semantically relocated to Africa regardless of citizenship status or birthplace. Australia is thus rid of any responsibility, and of questions of structural inequalities and relative deprivation. Discourses that challenge this portrayal tend to do so by questioning its focus on the actions of a minority of a wider African population, rather than questioning the legitimacy of national, racial or continental labels in describing events in the first place. The role of ethnic media in presenting counter-hegemonic discourses, and the extent to which they reach a level of politicisation, in which the racialisation of crime is articulated as a political discourse, reflective of the constitutive marking of identities as opposed to an objective ontological fact, will be discussed below in discussions of journalism, counter-hegemonic practice, and policy. The agonistic perspective allows us to see journalism as set of hegemonic discourses, in which powerful claims to authority, legitimacy and authenticity reside. However, ­ethnic media’s position in this landscape depends on its role in providing counter-hegemonic discourses. Below I will use a case study of African media producers in Australia to demonstrate one example of how this is done. I first briefly discuss the ways ethnic media producers and journalists engage with powerful journalistic norms, before looking at counter-­ hegemony in African-Australian media more specifically.

Challenging and Reinterpreting Journalistic Discourse Ethnic journalists and media workers may be guided in their work by differing interpretations of key journalistic values, and a recognition that those values are neither universal nor neutral (Matsaganis & Katz, 2014). The particular nature of the audience may oscillate between an internally conceived community, a range of other groups connected by experiences of migration, religion, culture or geographical region, and a wider ‘mainstream’ society with little exposure to minority ethnic interpretations of events. Addressing a community with which one shares particular experiences may involve abandoning autonomy and instead addressing the audience as familiars, those who understand the specificity of the social and political issues being discussed, and the way they are rarely aired in mainstream media discourses. In imagining the non-migrant audience,


ethnic journalists may emphasise the practices and identities unseen in mainstream media and society, but which nonetheless help define the ethnic group in question (Matsaganis, Katz, & Ball-Rokeach, 2011). Here, the relationship between ethnic and hegemonic media is important, as much ethnic media and news is motivated by a sense of marginalisation at the hands of the mainstream (Browne, 2005). Within this context of marginalisation and silencing, migrant media producers embrace, reject and negotiate hegemonic professional journalistic traits and norms. Both autonomy and neutrality (often erroneously conflated with objectivity in journalism debates) are questioned in practice and philosophy. Among African news producers in Australia, neutrality was often used as a term to describe the task of negotiating sensitive political or religious differences within communities, in an attempt to avoid alienation. The aim of such neutrality is not the transcendence of particular interests, but instead the active and explicit support for a marginalised ‘community’. Some are more overt in their aims. A prominent member of Melbourne’s African community articulated his work as ‘advocacy journalism’, and in doing so incorporated into his journalistic role an explicit attempt to speak on behalf of his community and challenge and engage mainstream journalistic practices. Indeed, according to Donald Browne (2005), one of the main tasks of ethnic broadcasting is challenging mainstream coverage and providing a (positive) self-interpretation of issues facing migrant communities. There is indeed a long history of such action in ethnic media (Matsaganis et al., 2011). While not without complications, the formation and sustenance of connections to a particular, externally and internally defined ‘community’ based on ethnicity, language, culture, religion, or some combination of all, makes problematic normative understandings of autonomy and distance in the journalistic field. Autonomy and distance are not only re-negotiated as journalistic norms (as evidenced above in the case of ‘advocacy journalism’), but are also at times connected to a problematic reliance on experts with little first-hand understanding or experience of issues facing African communities. As one broadcaster told me: …there isn’t a platform at the moment for the African-Australian community to speak. Every time there’s an issue there’s, you know, Bob Smith’ who’s a Professor at ‘so and so’ talking about…why this issue is important… not matter how well meaning that person is they won’t necessarily be going with the agenda or the interests of the African-Australian community at heart.



Indeed, in this counter-hegemonic journalistic context, it is the professional values such as autonomy and neutrality that mitigate a close connection between journalists and communities, and necessitate a reliance on formulaic interpretive frameworks that are overlaid onto a series of distinct community issues (Forde, 2011). Within this context, some participants renegotiate the idea of professionalism and journalistic skills, detaching them from their foundations. Thus, a young female working for an African-Australian news and current affairs website discussed her passion for media, her extensive media training and experience, and her difficulty in gaining access to mainstream media sectors. In doing so, she highlighted the importance of self-representation: I love media…it’s one of my passions, I hope I can get into it full time cause that’s what I want to do with my life…I just think everybody needs to be heard, so when you’re in society and you’re a minority…doesn’t mean you don’t have views. So essentially why I became part of [the website] was to help African tell their stories.

This concern with having a voice is particular to silenced and marginalised minorities. A position of neutrality and autonomy is a luxury afforded only to those in hegemonic social positions. For the marginalised, the idea of staying neutral, or of simply reflecting external social events, often means re-constructing social inequalities, rather than questioning and challenging them. Having a passionate voice, then, is framed in terms of a democratic necessity, rather than the contravention of objective journalistic norms. The above perspectives do not rest on an expectation that those in positions of power over the field of professionalism will necessarily volunteer ground to alternative norms, certainly not in a way that extends beyond new approaches as ways of penetrating new markets. Nor does it ask the different subject positions to find an impossible form of inter-subjectivity free from power and hegemony, in which approaches to journalism gain legitimacy through a common adherence to rationality that transcends difference. Instead, the agonistic position recognises that different modes of expression, speech, performance, different attitudes towards emotion and affectation, different relationships to community groups, and different levels of economic, social and cultural power, cannot necessarily be reduced to a consensually agreed upon set of foundational attitudes and practices.


As it is with the issues they cover, the sources that ethnic media draw upon, and the public voices they engage with differ from the elite sources and norms of mainstream journalism (Matsaganis & Katz, 2014). Community advocates and leaders, those with expertise in specific areas such as migration law and health, and successful members of the ethnic community who receive little attention in the mainstream media, are featured in migrant news. In some instances, traditionally elite sources, such as police and politicians, are also engaged with. In the African media sector, this is done not only as a way to receive and convey information deemed publicly relevant, but also as a way to connect with wider public discourses around migration, racism and social inequality. Interviews with politicians may be combative or more conciliatory, depending on that politician’s approach to migration and minority issues. Again, the pretension of balance is disregarded. Hegemonic journalistic norms and cultures are therefore challenged, as well as negotiated and at times accepted in ethnic media work. Below I want to examine the practices that may constitute an active counter-­ hegemony in ethnic media, focusing once again on African media in Australia.

Ethnic Media as Counter-Hegemonic? The importance and power of counter-hegemonic practices and discourses should not be underestimated. If we take a view of political and social institutions, structures and rules as being shaped by cultural and social practices and norms, counter-hegemonic practice at the symbolic level has the potential to inform and change the way political cultures are concretised through formal institutions. Laclau and Mouffe’s (1985) dissolution of the base/superstructure dichotomy implicates the symbolic as constitutive. It is at this social level that conflict may be legitimised, norms re-shaped, rules challenged, and political practices and identities reformed (Mouffe, 2000; Wingenbach, 2011). As Wingenbach (2011, p. 90) says of this relationship between the symbolic and the institutional, “In terms of institutional change this makes perfect sense, as shifts in the ideas and norms of pluralism are likely to impact the manner in which more formalised institutions deal with pluralism”. After focusing on hegemony and counter-hegemony through the prism of journalism and identity above, I seek to examine some of the ethnic media practices that fulfil the requirements of agonistic counter-hegemony,



as laid out by Mouffe, in reference to broader social issues and events. To do this, I will be utilising several of the (admittedly loose) concepts that have come from agonistic democracy’s more individualist aspect, such as the notion of reciprocity, that of openness, or the idea of an ethos of responsiveness (Connolly, 1995; Mouffe, 1993, 1999, 2000, 2005). This will include a focus on the interaction of different positions with respect and a commitment to “ethico-political principles of democracy” (Mouffe, 1999, p. 755) or the facilitation of “agonistic respect” (Connolly, 1995, p. 234). I will also draw upon Maeseele and Raeijmaekers (2017), and ­particularly their notions of cultivation, politicisation and closure when discussing the contextualising mainstream reportage of African-Australians. Cues can be taken from Mouffe’s (2013) more recent writing. In a collection of essays she looks specifically at the role of cultural and artistic production in “fostering agonistic public spaces where counter-­ hegemonic struggles could be launched against neo-liberal hegemony” (Mouffe 2013, p. XVII). Using the art of Alfredo Jaar as a case study, she argues that art, culture and grass-roots collective action can provide an alternative interpretation of politics and suggest new ways of engaging politics in public spaces. A key part of any such process is the distinction between ‘engagement with’, rather than ‘withdrawal from’ existing political institutions. Critiquing some social movements for their radical rejection of politics, Mouffe discards the idea that such political institutions are monolithic and unchangeable, suggesting instead that the transformation of the discourse of politics takes precedence over its rejection. Without such engagement, counter-hegemonic movements and discourses become too easily marginalised, with no solid political bases upon which to build. It is indeed the task of tracing these connections between moments of counter-hegemony and more permanent political structures that is the key challenge facing agonistic pluralism (Wingenbach, 2011). On a practical level, ethnic media align with several of the conceptual and theoretical ingredients of agonistic pluralism. Engaging constructively with an ‘other’, rather than simply denying the validity of their position or their right to exist, is in many instances a requirement of establishing and maintaining ethnic media. There is a practicality to this process, as, contra populist concerns with mediated ethnic and cultural fragmentation, in many areas of the world ethnic media are required to engage with legal, technical, professional, cultural and personal frameworks and elements of the dominant ethnic group and indeed other minority communities. There is also a sense in which migration


entails a certain acknowledgement of the existing social and cultural milieu of the destination. Taking a positive approach to migration, and in doing so rejecting common media discourses of the threatening and hostile migrant, one can see migrants as entering a fluid but legitimised political and social landscape that they seek not to eradicate or destroy, but to engage with respectfully and with a broad sense of reciprocity. This, at least, I would argue, characterises much ethnic media practice. A landmark study in Australia by Susan Forde, Kerry Foxwell, and Michael Meadows (2009) highlights much of this process, pointing to the inevitability of respectful cross cultural contact and cooperation between groups in the setting of community broadcasting outlets. In a situation of a shared symbolic environment, and disagreements and conflict nonetheless within an environment of a shared overarching ethical landscape, different ethnic groups engage with each other and with political and social processes and debates. It is possible to see this within an agonistic frame as a form of soft action that resists the levelling of difference within organisations (in this case community ethnic media) and recognises the “contingent element of social categories…and potentially naturalised identity formations” (Wingenbach, 2011, p. 98). The work of much ethnic media can thus be understood as that of opening up the dominant political space to alternative interpretations of reality, challenging the hegemonic constructions of the social order and trying to change, yet not eradicate, the extant social and political structure. While not without conflict, I suggest much about this process involves testing and questioning political constellations while adhering to a stable yet contingent shared symbolic space (Mouffe, 1993, 2000, 2005). A central part of this process involves the gaze of ethnic media being cast outward, towards the surrounding political and social environment (Sreberny, 2001). This may at first seem to correspond with assimilationist or integrationist perspectives (Hickerson & Gustafson, 2016). My point here, however, is that the inevitable engagement with existing institutions, even to the point that such institutions are supported and legitimised in ethnic media discourses, can just as effectively be understood through a theory of post-foundational agonism and counter-­ hegemony as they can through assimilationist or acculturation approaches. To further understand the agonistic role of ethnic media, I will draw upon a case study into the African media sector in Australia. AfricanAustralian media consist of community radio, television, public service broadcasting, print and online outlets based mainly in Sydney and



Melbourne. These media cover different regions of the African continent and are produced in English and other African languages. They also differ in terms of their explicit and implicit nature and strategies. Among the diversity of media within this relatively small media sector, I want to focus on the practices that I believe are best understood through agonistic pluralism. These include providing counter-hegemonic discourses and directly challenging dominant media representations. It also includes engaging in open and ongoing debates. In her discussion of the SBS in Australia, Dreher suggests that the broadcaster problematises the normalisation of white, native English speakers in the media by presenting a diversity of languages, cultures and ethnicities through its diverse programming schedule. In a somewhat similar fashion, African media engage in sometimes challenging dialogues and confrontations with organisations central to hegemonic political and social structures. These often occur via engagement with representative individuals from such organisations, including police, government and the press, and through which normalised practices and value systems are questioned. Rather than see such moments of engagement in terms of rational, transcendent consensus, it may be more productive to view them as instances of potential agonism, born from ruptures and crises in civil society in which issues of migration, race and ethnic relations were brought to the fore. The challenging of mainstream media practices was commonly interpreted and discussed by African-Australian media producers through the language of questioning: why did they interpret events in that way? In this sense, there was an attempt to lay bare the practices of journalists, and in some cases to demand of those journalists that they reflect on their own dominant frameworks of public communication: …every time there is a media publication that I see as negative for the African, I want to organise an interview with the journalist that published that…as a way to kind of say hey, you know, it’s OK, you can publish your media, but we would like you to be able to give us a little bit of the understanding why you’re reporting in this way rather than the other way…I mean it’s some sort of soft monitoring…and some sort of accountability. (African-Australian media producer and journalist)

This notion of questioning, probing and challenging lends itself well to the agonistic deconstruction of the ‘chains of equivalency’ that provide


discourses with their hegemonic power. Even if only to a limited degree, difference and dissensus are inserted into the discussion. The seemingly ‘common-sense’ nature of mainstream journalism is exposed as being contingent. The universal is particularised, and the early stages of discursive cultivation, or even politicisation emerge as the inevitability of dominant forms of coverage is challenged (Maeseele & Raeijmaekers, 2017; Young, 1990). What can also be exposed is the relationship between public spaces and the role of media power in defining such spaces (Couldry, 2000, 2003). I am thinking here about the ways in which ethnic media may interrupt the equivalency of migrant/non-white and invisibility, in both mainstream media and public spaces. Through street interviews, newspapers in shops, public filming locations and community events, ethnic media present their own claims to understand and represent particular locations within multicultural societies. In this sense, the media’s sacred power to intervene in public space and public life is relocated within ethnic media, as people normally defined as occupying the ‘mundane’ space outside of media are instead the ones holding the microphones and cameras and appearing on the front of newspapers (Couldry, 2000, 2003). Limited as this may be, there are direct examples of this process at a sometimes confronting interpersonal level. One example is when certain African-Australian broadcasters undertake ‘vox-pops’, or ‘person on the street’ interviews with white Australians (Budarick & Han, 2015; Wa Mukii, 2017). Through such interviews, difference is brought into sharp relief, not only visibly and audibly through media, but also in terms of gaps in understandings between different sections of society. There is an aspect of ‘listening’ and ‘understanding’ that permeates these interviews, as a white member of the public is, perhaps for the first time in their life, in a position to hear unmediated speech from a black African migrant. There is also, I would suggest, a good reason to see such instances in terms of challenge, whereby the views of members of the public in regards to Africa and African migration are publicly exposed to contestation or counter-interpretation (Dreher, 2009; Wa Mukii, 2017). That such moments include passion, humour and affectation further implicates the agonistic approach. In much the same way that Dreher (2009) describes the process of comedic interaction in an Arabic comedy programme on SBS in Australia, we can take these moments as mediated public displays of playfulness, discomfort, pluralism and a grass-roots



form of communicating across difference. These forms of interaction expose and reveal the contingency of public conceptions of racial difference through friction, through the embodied, informal coming together of different positions and identities. This is not necessarily a case of telling people they are wrong, or convincing them of one’s own stance. It is instead about opening a dialogue in which difference is not easily dismissed or ignored. An agonistic approach reveals not only those aspects where understanding and consensus is reached or strived for, but also the temporariness and thinness of such consensus, and the ways in which difference is often highlighted and foundational views are often challenged. There is almost a sense that people are forced to defend, explain or at least expose an established and stable world view, often hidden from direct challenge by those it positions as marginal or subordinate. Again, an example here would be the interviews that African-Australian broadcasters conduct with white members of the community, including politicians and ­senior police representatives. These interviews may even featured in media that are predominantly non-English. This, I would argue, is one of the key contributions of ethnic media to politics and society (Budarick & Han, 2015). That these moments of challenge are sometimes carried out through humour, pathos, and at times emotion, lends more weight to Mouffe’s approach as able to capture elements of ethnic media that have until now garnered little academic attention. There is a similarity here with Mouffe’s discussion of Alfredo Jaar’s public art installations. In Milan in 2008, Jaar challenged the “control of Italian public space by Berlusconi’s media and advertising network” through the use of provocative questions in public advertising space. Mouffe (2013, p. 95) describes this as a “form of intervention” through “unsettling common sense” and thus offering an alternative set of questions that may interrupt previously held assumptions. The interruption of spatially and symbolically located power can be seen in other localised responses to diversity. In her study of migration in Fairfield in Sydney’s west, Elsa Koneth finds multicultural practices articulated by residents through the language and practices of agonism, including the deconstruction of norms, showing empathy, openness and responsiveness to others, negotiating with difference, and the embracing of pluralism, contestation and counter-hegemony (Koleth, 2015). Further reflecting Mouffe’s particular approach to agonism, this is a series of practices embedded within Fairfield as a location that both reflects wider, global patterns of


migration, but also has its own unique character and response to these shifting patterns. Koleth (2015, p. 248) thus found a “local multiculture” that “unsettled and contested the prevailing materials and symbolic inequalities” in Australia, and fostered “a socio-cultural and spatial environment that fundamentally displaces the Anglo-Australian hegemony”. The use of comedy and affect is also demonstrated in more recent mediated responses to another dominant media failing in reporting on African-Australians. In 2017 and 2018, a moral panic emerged around Sudanese gangs in Melbourne. A mediated political discourse emerged, in which then Federal Immigration Minister Peter Dutton infamously claimed that Melburnians were scared to leave their homes for fear of attack. At the same time, segments of the media ran with a narrative of out-of-control criminal gangs threatening Melburnians in their homes and in public spaces (Nolan, Farquharson, & Marjoribanks, 2018). There is nothing new in this situation. In 2007 then Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews questioned the ability of young Africans to integrate into Australian society. His comments were made in the context of the violent death of a young black man, Liep Gony, who was later found to be the victim of a racist attack by two white youths. Just as this account brought with it counter-hegemonic challenges among African media producers, so too did the 2017/2018 moral panic prompt response from African media. In this latter case, as well as more ‘traditional’ challenges to the dominant narrative in the form of public statements by community leaders, comedy and sarcasm were employed through the use of social media. Questioning and breaking down mainstream media and political discourses about gang violence, race and ethnicity, some African-Australians subverted the hashtag #africangangs in order to draw attention to the often ignored positive contribution of African migrants to Australian society, the ‘normal’ and everyday aspects of their lives, and to point to the absurdity of lazily equating an entire continent with organised criminal activity. A hegemonic discourse is disarticulated by the humorous reapplication of a pejorative label to instead signify an everyday, mundane positivity: friends out to dinner, students graduating university, successful professionals and community members. The label African gangs is given a human face, a consequence. Rather than being applied to a monolithic spectre of the faceless black offender, it is usurped and applied to community members, people with stories and identities. In many ways, the supposedly neutral and taken-for-granted label of ‘African gang’ is



politicised and humanised (Maeseele & Raeijmaekers, 2017). As in the example of the newspaper article discussed earlier in this chapter, the inevitability of the racialisation of crime is interrupted. The contingency and flexibility of ‘African’ is highlighted. There is nothing inevitable about the mediated connection between African, black and social dysfunction. It is one, albeit powerful, discourse among a horizon of possibilities (Maeseele & Raeijmaekers, 2017). This example of online activism in order to challenge hegemonies through social media leads us nicely into the final concern of this chapter; the connection of a “new consciousness” that arises through such counter-hegemonic work, and “institutional channels” through which it can become further embedded in political structures and cultures (Mouffe, 2013, p. 115). I turn now to the issue of media policy. I take an agonistic approach to the policy process, and suggest that media policy can be seen as the outcome of hegemonic practices that in many cases provide little institutional or structural support for ethnic media. Again, I refer extensively to neoliberalism here, following those authors who see it not as a monolithic and unchallenged form of political organisation, but certainly as the most dominant political constellation in much of the world today, and one that has become successfully ‘naturalised’.

Engaging the Political: Media Policy The post-foundational aspect of agonistic democracy requires attention be paid to the processes through which a destabilisation of universal, neutral foundational norms can be transformed into systems, organisation and institutions that reflect political pluralism. At the ‘hard’ end of agonistic political transformation, agonistic institutions must, on one hand, encourage agonistic practice and values among the citizenry, and on the other, guard against the permanent ownership and control of the means of power. In other words, the ‘place of power’ must remain open and accessible (Wingenbach, 2011). This is to engage in what Mouffe calls the “second move” needed to move past the “negative moment” and to thus ensure new political subjectivities and constellations are formed rather than expected to spontaneously emerge (Mouffe, 2013, p. 93). In the previous section I argued that some of the ‘soft’ work of ethnic media—their problematisation of social norms, their questioning of hegemonic understandings, and their provision of counter-hegemonic discourses—could contribute to an agonistic space and potentially shape


institutions in a way more conducive to pluralism. In this section I want to look more deeply at this issue, and think about how institutions and systems may open up or close off space for agonistic pluralisation (Connolly, 1995). One of the central challenges emerging from the nexus of media, politics and capitalism is the need to develop a media politics that can break free of the elastic discourses of neoliberalism (Fenton & Titley, 2015; Phelan, 2014a, 2014b). As has been stated in this book already, the logic of neoliberalism gains much of its power through its ability to incorporate the language of pluralism, freedom and equality into its ambit (Fenton & Titley, 2015). Addressing this issue requires an engagement with neoliberalism not as a stable set of conspiratorial agendas, but as a diverse range of logics and relationships that have been remarkably successful in incorporating the types of counter-hegemonic practices discussed in the section above into a discourse of justification for its continuation in the media policy realm (Fenton & Titley, 2015). This is a challenge, for example, that has been applied to the ‘clicktivism’ of new media movements and protests (Fenton & Titley, 2015). While not dismissing internet-based movements against neoliberalism, Fenton and Titley are sure to articulate that freedom, pluralism and democracy are easily aligned in neoliberal discourse when media are seen as pathways to power, and largely absent of any power in and of themselves. This position equates the expansion of means of self-expression with the expansion of democratic space and the possibilities of political change. Notwithstanding Mouffe’s under-estimation of media as sources, rather than simply conduits, of power, a post-foundationalist perspective requires that moments of counter-hegemony be connected to wider political processes and structures in a transformative way. It is only then that we can begin to see those instances as part of a wider political movement that is able to re-shape extant political and social discourses. Without such a consideration, I argue, such moments become too easily re-conceptualised as proof that the system works, and that space for individual expression, facilitated by the market, is sufficient for a robust and agonistic political culture (Carpentier & Cammaerts, 2006; Fenton & Titley, 2015). In line with Freedman (2008) and Chakravarty and Sarikakis (2006), I take media policy as being inherently political. Far from a technocratic and neutral application of self-evident values, the media policy process involves competing interests attempting to “foster certain types of media



structure and behaviour and to suppress alternative modes of structure and behaviour…” (Freedman, 2008, p. 1). There is no neutral and external value system upon which media policy can be built, no foundational system of political organisation against which media regulation can be consistently judged. Rather there are a series of competing interests and political values that guide and justify different approaches to the politics of media content, ownership and management. Policy is formed through conflict, with the eventual ‘consensus’ needed for the implementation of different regulatory systems the result of certain forces, and certain concomitant political values and systems, gaining ascendancy. In their discussion of media and democratic theory, Fenton and Titley (2015) suggest that political changes and developments around the world have changed the language of democracy in public and political debates. The success of neoliberal discourse has meant that the language of democratic consensus building, of deliberation and of grass-roots democratic action, has become co-opted into discourses of the free market, and untrammelled individual creativity and consumption. For several authors, a technocratic and naive sense of media pluralism has shaped many discussions of media access and ownership at the policy level, and it can be seen that the policy-making process is increasingly shaped by the language of big business, rather than the more abstract but no less important language of equality, access and belonging (Freedman, 2008; Pickard, 2013). A stunning example of this can be seen in the FCC, and their wilful ignorance of thousands of public submissions to a policy process in 2003, in favour of the findings of a small number of strategic studies that supported a weakening of ownership laws (Freedman, 2008). Such a situation does not inevitably lead to the unrestrained power of political and industry elites. The complexity of the media policy process in England and the United States, for example, has been discussed in detail (Freedman, 2008; Hesmondalgh, 2005). Hesmondalgh (2005), while recognising the inequalities that define much about media policy, also suggests that there is more to the policy process than just the will of wealthy and elite actors and interest groups. Indeed, Freedman (2008) points to evidence of a fracturing policy environment, with a series of groups—from community advocacy organisations to large corporate entities—staking a position in debates over media regulation, ownership, content standards and trade laws. Increasing interest in, and monitoring of, media policy has come from groups ranging from parents groups and migrant organisations, through to multinational firms, all interested


in shaping some aspect of media systems. It should also be noted that some of the smaller, less financially and politically powerful groups have successfully resisted policy change around the world (Freedman, 2008, p. 83). In Australia, organisations directly or indirectly associated with ethnic broadcasting have consistently provided a voice in debates over regulatory change to the media and other related policy areas. The National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcaster’s Council (NEMBC), for example, lobbied against proposed changes to sections of Australia’s racial discrimination act that would have had a direct effect on media and ethnic minorities. As with the examples of ethnic media practice, these small resistances provide new terms for the imagination of media policy. They challenge the naturalisation of media as market products measurable only by reference to neoliberal values. Nonetheless, in this uneven terrain of debate, literature suggests that entrenched market perspectives are winning the battle to define the terms of media policy. Pickard (2013, p. 337) uses a narrative approach to understand the emergence of “market fundamentalism” as the dominant paradigm of media policy. In an approach reflective of a concern with hegemonic discourses, Pickard (2013, p. 339) argues that narratives are more than simply descriptive, but “articulate democratic objectives” and “identify the most efficient means to desired ends”. Further, he suggests that: Once such narratives become broadly accepted, they often go ­unchallenged. Status quo assumptions thereby become common sensical; questioning them increasingly falls beyond the parameters of acceptable discourse. Narratives, in other words, keep ideologies in tact. (Pickard, 2013, p. 339)

Indeed, Pickard’s study of twentieth-century policy narratives in the United States paints a picture of debate and struggle, including a strong post-war narrative of social democracy and public service in the 1940s. However, powerful forces defined communications policy as an issue of political freedom, with the entrepreneurial individual juxtaposed to the overbearing state. Path dependency means that such discourses are hard to shift. In looking at politics and policy agonistically, then, we are faced with the challenge articulated by Wingenbach (2011); how to move beyond resistance and towards a fundamental reshaping of policy which nonetheless recognises the need for openness and genuine



plurality. There is an interesting conundrum facing ethnic media here. In print form they often find themselves in largely unregulated environments. In broadcast form, they are often tied to government-funded public or community media organisations. Funding is thus premised on a set of pre-determined criteria, which include language provision and the avoidance of divisive political issues. For public broadcasters in general, including SBS in Australia, these criteria were often based around notions of nation-building or integration (Ang, Hawkins, & Dabboussy, 2008; Fleras, 2015). As such, agonistic diversity and dissensus within these organisations is often taken as a sign of failure, and a cause for a reconsideration of the regulatory environment. In one of the few applications of agonism to media policy debates, Geoffrey Craig (2000) argues that the under-siege public broadcasting sector does itself a disservice by justifying its existence based on old tropes of nation-building, consensus reaching, and the defence of national culture. Rather, drawing on agonistic theory and the work of Bonnie Honig, he suggests public service media should be seen as providing a ‘dilemmatic space’ in which difference and instability are reflected and in which debate and disagreement are welcome. Under such an approach, funding would be tied to a need to encourage a diverse range of media that would both encourage and reflect an agonistic ethos of respect, reciprocity and debate. The putative ways in which public broadcasting has been held to particular standards reflect a convenient and strategic use of failure to meet such standards as justification for funding cuts, rather than as cause to increase resources. Again, the market logic can be seen here: why pay for something that is not working, when the market will provide it for free? Craig’s argument implies the positive implementation of communication and media infrastructure to actively encourage pluralisation, rather than resting on a faith in the market as a sphere in which diversity will naturally emerge. It also maintains public broadcasting’s public roots, moving it away from nation-building, and towards a space of speaking, listening and understanding. A consensual ‘national culture’ is no longer a priority, instead the task is to reclaim public space, neither through consensus nor individualism, but through agonistic relations between respectful adversaries. To begin to apply the principles of agonistic democracy to ethnic media in the realm of policy and politics, I want to focus here on the notion of pluralism. Pluralism has become a key focal point in both media studies and in the politics of policy (Fenton & Titley, 2015;


Freedman, 2008; Karppinen, 2013). It differs between political areas, for example between Europe and the United States. However, as has been pointed out, critics of the market path of media policy argue that the term has been stripped of its critical social impact, reflecting instead a superficial reference to media choice, and losing any sense of real political difference (Karppinen, 2007, 2013). Pluralism or Pluralisation When talking about media politics and policy, one can consider two applications of pluralism. One refers to the policy process itself, and how many different voices have an impact. An agonistic approach would necessitate a wider and more even distribution of voices, and would see any resulting decisions as necessarily temporary and open to real challenge. The second refers to the pluralism that media policy-makers and regulators use as a means of constructing policy. In other words, pluralism among media. As the above discussion makes clear, there are serious questions regarding the first of these issues. While there are now a multitude of groups involved in media policy discussions, the process is still arguably dominated by a restricted number of interests. Below, however, I want to focus on the second issue: pluralism as applied to media. Again, one of the key questions that emerges here is the conceptualisation and measurement of pluralism. The question may be a very practical one: how is media pluralism enacted and measured? (Karppinen, 2013). In reality, when pluralism is discussed in media policy terms it rarely involves questions of language, ethnicity or ethnic media, seen as they are to be suitably catered to by the under-siege community and public broadcasting services. Instead, pluralism tends to be imagined within broadly established political positions, such as the balance between conservative and progressive political values and arguments. The limits of pluralism can be seen in recent discussions of the ethics, standards and roles of news media in the UK, US and Australia, which have made little or no mention of ethnic media, or issues related to ethnic diversity, migration and multiculturalism. Public, political and media-led discussion of Australia’s communications and media policy, for example, are rarely framed around issues of ethnic diversity and representation, despite these being pressing issues in Australia’s media performance and despite migration and multiculturalism being divisive political topics.



As was indicated earlier, for agonists pluralism is more than just difference, but is constitutive of political identities and relationships. Pluralism is not just about the diversity of pre-existing and stable social and political constituencies, but refers to the inevitability of difference as being necessary for the construction of political and social boundaries and understandings of identity (Mouffe, 2000). Connolly (1995) thus makes the distinction between pluralism—as commonly used to refer to difference—and pluralisation, as indicating the shaping of identities and politics through the inevitable engagement with others who define our identities. This approach to pluralism is misinterpreted by some as aligning with a post-modern relativism that strips the theory of any ability for critical analysis (for a revealing example of this misinterpretation, see the debate between Jacka [2003] and Garnham [2003] over public service broadcast funding). In his concept of “naive pluralism”,3 Karppinen (2007, 2013) points to the way consumer choice has been incorporated into neoliberal myths of the ‘marketplace of ideas’. Understandings of media availability, and technological diversification, have been taken as a fundamental guiding principle in media policy across much of the world in ways that ignore structural inequalities and power, and envision the market as a neutral arena, rather than a political invention (Karppinen, 2013). Karppinen (2007) defines ‘naive pluralism’ as mistaking individual consumer choice for a genuine plurality of political positions and views expressed through media. As neoliberalism comes to shape the liberal democratic position, pluralism is increasingly based on the idea of a media market catering for preformed identities. The individual becomes the primary political subject, and collective movements and organisations that are deemed to interfere in individual choice are treated with suspicion and hostility. Here, the proliferation of media channels is celebrated in and of itself, the individual construction of cultural identities and modes of citizenship is heralded, and even the destruction of public forms of media is justified based on increased media access (see Jacka, 2003). The approach often devolves into a crude populism, whereby sectors of the market with the most numbers and buying power are catered for under the justification that demand is being met in a free

3 See

Chapter 2 for a more detailed discussion of naïve pluralism.


market. Thus, drawing on Pauwels and Bauwens (2007), Karppinen (2013, p. 65) suggests that “consumer sovereignty is therefore above all a myth perpetuated by large media corporations to encourage consumer individualism and to justify and defend their business models”. Media pluralism comes to be measured through quantitative measures of media choice and “the size of the menu as a whole”, rather than the range of political and social difference expressed in products (Freedman, 2008, p. 74). A range of perspectives is therefore sacrificed in favour of measures of numbers of products and platforms. This naivety is increasingly apparent in policy discourses that reflect a false equivalency between a diversity of media platforms and a plurality of content, political views and social identities as expressed through media (Freedman, 2008; Karppinen, 2007, 2013). Paradoxically, the multiplication of media platforms that house, among other things, ethnic media, has been used to justify the liberalising of media ownership and the stripping back of public service funding. There is a remarkable similarity between the discourses surrounding proposed policy implementations in the United States in 2003 and those in Australia over a decade later. In 2003, FCC chairman Michael Powell argued for the weakening of cross-media ownership laws in the US, based largely on notions that the internet provides an ‘endless well’ of information to Americans that renders previous media policy systems archaic (Freedman, 2008). In Australia, Government justifications for proposed changes to laws controlling media reach and influence rested heavily on ideas of the internet as providing an open and equal marketplace of media that rendered specific spaces of broadcast obsolete and irrelevant. Similar justifications have been made in attempts to cut funding to community broadcasting in general, and in the forced transition of community television from broadcast to the internet. These discourses are sometimes built around notions of a ‘new world’, distinct from the days of monolithic public broadcasting and requiring a less regulated policy system that better represents technological change, globalisation, multiculturalism and changing patterns in media taste and consumption. Despite this, a serious consideration of what ethnic and cultural diversity might mean for media pluralism has become increasingly rare. We can take from agonistic theory here an approach to pluralism that, while accepting limits of difference, largely rejects pluralism as a measurable outcome based on notions of foundational identifications that precede pluralism. At the root of this, I argue, is the need to turn away



from a view of pluralism as a measurable outcome or policy, and to turn more towards pluralism as an ongoing process. The idea of pluralisation refers to the opening up of extant political and social systems, not with the aim of achieving a particular level of difference wherein specific social traits are reflected in media, but with the aim of ensuring the ongoing process of pluralisation and the continual questioning and exposure of current representations as choices among a horizon of options (Connnolly, 1995; Mouffe, 2000). Under an agonistic view there is no final, neutral pluralism to be achieved as an outcome, but rather an ongoing pluralist process in which what is assured is that those who are marginalised and lack power are able to reveal and critique the contingent hegemonic discourses that work to (de)legitimise certain voices. Pluralism here need not make claim to accurately reflecting all social diversity, nor to arriving at an objective position of equality, but rather is a process of continual questioning of power and the expansion of inclusiveness within the borders of democratic debate. It is better seen then as a process, encapsulated by Connolly’s (1995) notion of pluralisation, which implies an ongoing commitment to openness and responsiveness to difference. With a recognition that difference does not precede, but is constituted within political relations, the measurement of pluralism based on pre-existing categories becomes problematic. Pluralism must rather be seen as relational, as an imperfect process based on the questioning of power and an openness to different social and political perspectives. This process of pluralisation is in no way politically ambivalent. It poses a threat to existing, safe pluralism, pluralism that is often structured through forms of diversity and tolerance and often feeds into narratives of acceptable ethnic expression and politics. As Connolly (1995, p. xiv) says, “Social pluralism, you might say, is often presented as an achievement to be protected, while the eruption of new drives to pluralization are often represented as perils to this achievement”. For Connolly there is a tension between pluralism and pluralisation. Pluralisation rests on an “ethos of critical responsiveness to social movements seeking to redefine their relational identities” (Connolly, 1995, p. xvi). Pluralisation, then, requires not only new forms of difference within old relation structures and systems, but an openness to forms of difference not yet defined by existing moral and political codes. According to Connolly (1995, p. xvii) “The ethos of critical responsiveness pursued here does not reduce the other to what some ‘we’ already is. It opens up cultural space


through which the other might consolidate itself into something that is unaffected by negative cultural markings”. In seeking, much like agonists, to chart a course between a naive celebration of difference and a slavish commitment to consensus in terms of media policy, Karppinen draws on this notion of pluralisation in order to destabilise the normative criteria through which media diversity is measured. Rather than approaching, as most media policy does, pluralism as an external measure achievable through set processes, it is instead approached as a way of opening media up to continual challenge by marginalised positions. As Karppinen (2013) suggests in his re-­conceptualisation of the term, these positions and perspectives need not be concretised in stable, categorical social identities, but can be ­understood as the different ‘angles of vision’ available in any complex and diverse society. This can include “expressions of ethnic identity…as a valid part of a social perspective” in a way that neither prioritises nor subjugates such a position: …Pluralism does not necessarily imply designing institutional structures that are perfectly balanced or equally open to all views. Instead, Pluralism is best conceived not as ultimate goal of media policy, but as a critical concept that refers to the recognition and challenging of existing power relations…it denotes an ongoing process that has no ultimate solution and that constantly throws up new contradictions and dilemmas. (Karppinen 2013, p. 72)

This pluralisation approach can be applied to the policy process and used as an applied regulatory concept. In terms of the policy process, it may mean an acceptance of different forms of expertise, in order to avoid the narrow use of expertise as a justification to exclude large sectors of the public in policy formation. As policy processes become more and more determined by large scale, quantifiable data reflecting economic concerns, a commitment to pluralisation would ensure that the process is continually open to concepts that reflect ethnic media and migrant concerns, such as empowerment, community, belonging and social capital (Pickard, 2013). Such concepts may be more abstract, but they are no less important than concerns with market size and revenue. Pluralisation as applied to media would involve a shift away from measures of diversity that lack any real interrogation of actual political difference, and would instead insist on establishing conditions whereby



counter-hegemonic discourses could emerge through the establishment of media by groups traditionally squeezed out of the media market by anti-competition practices, an economy of scale, and the prohibitive costs of initiating new media ventures. This would involve a re-conceptualisation of policy and regulation. Rather than the dominant re-regulation of media that is justified in terms of negative policy implementation by the state, a positive application of policy that ensures plurality of perspectives would be initiated. For ethnic media, this would involve the provision of support for ethnic media outlets. The idea of pluralisation is important for the way it would challenge the acceptance of ethnic media funding as an unproblematic result of funding for community media. It would necessarily bring ethnic media, as well as media from other marginalised groups, into the limelight, challenging the status quo and challenging policy-makers to think seriously about how a more open media landscape would be institutionalised.

Conclusion Agonistic pluralism’s insistence on the exposure of power—not merely with reference to how it is expressed at the interface of media and politics, but at its formative nature as constituted by exclusion and hegemony—means that the media of marginalised groups can be seen as a mode of disarticulating contingent power. Ethnic media’s role under the framework of agonism is not to form their own space of debate, nor to acommodate hegemonic discourses by necessarily aligning with certain ‘foundational’ forms of communicative interaction. Rather, it places ethnic media into a relational field of power, in which even those forms of media practice that seem foundational are exposed as hegemonic, as potentially mitigating ethnic media’s movement from the margins to the centre. Thus, under agonistic pluralism, ethnic media must be seen as more than alternative; as if they revolve around a stable, post-­political centre. Instead, they should be seen as part of an unending battle to define and shape political and social constellations. There is a neat example one can draw on here. In Matsaganis and Katz’s (2014) research discussed earlier in the chapter, ethnic media producers do not challenge the hegemonic norms of mainstream journalism, but instead attempt to negotiate them. Under the agonistic perspective, such norms would indeed be questioned and challenged. Any such merging of objectivity and power would be questioned, and a range


of alternatives presented. Agonistic pluralism, as a democratic model for ethnic media, requires challenge within a field of power, rather than simply adaptation. Ethnic media should therefore be understood within such an environment, wherein the power of different media discourses intervenes in ethnic media’s democratic potentialities. Under Mouffe’s theory, these forms of power should be open to constant challenge by a plurality of alternatives. And yet, when thinking about institutionalising agonistic pluralism, one also needs to consider the constitutive relationship between media power and sedimented discourses. The way, for example, that policy directly affects the shapes and nature of media, including ethnic media, and thus their ability to provide counter-hegemonic discourses. The way some sectors of media, at different times, find it to their benefit to support the existing approaches to policy and regulation which increasingly lean toward neoliberal re-regulation. To take media power seriously, then, means acknowledging that media as sites of power may not only reflect, but may also reinforce, particular political constellations and re-inscribe them as naturalised and taken-for-granted ways of organising social and political life.

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Conclusions and Ways Forward

Ethnic Media, Multiculturalism and Post-multicultural Diversity So far in this book I have discussed ethnic media in relation to broad democratic theory, attempting to provide insight into the explanatory and normative power of different theories. The cultural politics of ethnic and multicultural media, however, necessitate a focus on more specific question of multiculturalism, in terms of both policy and theory. Focusing on ethnic media raises a further set of issues related to the mediated representation and construction of diverse groups under the banner of race, ethnicity, nationality or culture. The very notion of ethnic ‘communities’ is, of course, contested, with critics suggesting that too much focus on internal solidarity and homogeneity risks essentialising what are complex and fluid sets of identities, relationships and positions (Fleras, 2015; Nederveen-Pieterse, 2003). Where migrants do understand themselves as part of a community—expressed through organisations, networks and the performance of particular identities—these still involve inequalities and fractures. Gender equality, for instance, is an issue that can emerge through and in ethnic media— both as a factor in gender disparity within ethnic media, and as the subject of attempts to address diversity within ethnic (media) organisations (Yu, 2017b). In a messy and complex pattern, race, ethnicity and culture tend to be overlapped in discussions of multiculturalism (Lentin & Titley, 2011). © The Author(s) 2019 J. Budarick, Ethnic Media and Democracy,



Ethnic media can be inserted into such discussions due to their flexibility as potential representatives of culture, race and ethnicity simultaneously. Critiques of multiculturalism, and its relationship to democracy, require an engagement with ethnic media as resources of cultural identity maintenance and transformation. How do ethnic media, like any other form of mediated representation, represent the diversity of ethnic minority individuals, groups, communities and organisations? How do they capture the “lived-realities of those who resent being boxed into ethnic silos that gloss over multiple connections and multidimensional crossings” (Fleras, 2015, p. 25)? Like representative politics, media inevitably simplify what they try to capture. The sheer diversity of everyday life and politics makes it impossible for media texts, organisations and structures to reflect the diversity found in society. The questions that persist around ethnic media and multiculturalism are whether or not the particular form of identification they engage in does more harm than good for the groups they are attempting to represent? In other words, do ethnic media freeze, essentialise and reify ethnicity, culture or race in a way that aligns with critiques of essentialist multiculturalism? Or can they offer the flexibility to provide “external protections” necessary for many minority communities, without the “internal restrictions” lamented by critics of multiculturalism (Kymlicka, 2015, p. 223)? Critiques of Multiculturalism, as both policy and as less formal social and cultural ideal, have come from the left and right of politics, from proponents of liberalism, deliberative democracy and agonism. There is, it should be remembered, no such thing as multiculturalism in the singular. There are instead many different multiculturalisms. Those countries that apply official multicultural policy do so in diverse ways and with different levels of intensity. And even countries without official multicultural policy have been affected by the language and philosophy of multiculturalism (Lentin & Titley, 2011; Meer & Modood, 2012). Multiculturalism has also been seen in more philosophical terms, as a loose descriptor of a set of experiences coalescing around alterity and pluralism (O’Carroll, 2000). It is this openness and looseness that has left multiculturalism exposed to a remarkable array of criticisms (Kymlicka, 2015; Lentin & Titley, 2011). I do not wish to engage with the decidedly ideological critiques of multiculturalism that have come from the far right here. Suffice to say they rest on empirically questionable assertions that multiculturalism



has led to racial division, social fragmentation and violence. As Kymlicka (2012, 2015) has demonstrated, these arguments are often based on a lack of evidence and a misunderstanding of multiculturalism, such as when countries without multicultural policy are critiqued. There has certainly been a political retreat from multiculturalism around the world (Kymlicka, 2015). However, according to Kymlicka (2015), political arguments that multiculturalism does not work are rather tenuous. On the conceptual level, they draw on a broad and undefined notion of multiculturalism, and in making their claims establish inappropriate comparisons (Kymlicka, 2015). Such critiques are dubious at the evidential level. Although comparable evidence of the success or failure of multiculturalism across the globe is exceedingly difficult to obtain, there is data to suggest that multiculturalism has made positive changes in areas such as political participation, social capital and countering prejudice (Kymlicka, 2015). Many of the political arguments against multiculturalism, then, seem both ideologically driven and based on a rather superficial understanding of the different ways the policy is applied and experienced in different countries. Instead, I want to focus here on more theoretical, but no less important, critiques of multiculturalism. I am unable in the space provided to devote sufficient time to the voluminous literature on multiculturalism. As such, I will take as my specific starting point ‘liberal multiculturalism’ and the specific form of immigrant multiculturalism, as differentiated from multicultural theory as applied to national minorities (Kymlicka, 2015). I will discuss critiques of multiculturalism based on claims of cultural essentialism; the argument that liberal multiculturalism subsumes different identities and struggles for recognition under a monolithic model. According to such critiques, while many marginalised groups may share common demands, the way in which they do so, and the identities they enact in their claims, may differ significantly, problematising any single model to capture claims for recognition (Fraser, 2000; Nathan, 2010; Sreberny, 2005). Through the sheer necessity of policy implementation then, multiculturalism, say its critics, tends to freeze difference, to articulate clear and inflexible lines of cultural belonging that correspond to claims of group differentiation, and which, inevitably, do not match the realities of fluid cultural and social identities (Fleras, 2015). Kymlicka (2015, p. 215) traces the development of multiculturalism through three phases: the post-World War 2 movements for decolonisation; fights against racial segregation in the 1950s and 1960s; and “the


struggle for multiculturalism and minority rights, which has emerged from the late 1960s”. Through such movements, and following the horrors of the Second World War, notions of cultural and racial inferiority and superiority have become less politically acceptable. New migration patterns and demands have seen workers from around the world converge on Europe and North America. Indigenous land rights, autonomy and language protection for sub-national groups, and recognition of the value and importance of migrant cultures and practices have shaped what Kymlicka (2015, p. 209) calls “Liberal Multiculturalism”. Multiculturalism, he argues, can be aligned with liberal democracy when we see cultures as enabling frameworks for the realisation of individual identity. Kymlicka’s distinction between immigrants and national minorities has been critiqued by some authors as hard to distinguish and maintain (Nathan, 2010). However, in the first instance, it provides a way of differentiating relationships to the state. Baumeister’s (2003) definition of thin multiculturalism and first-level diversity, is also useful here. Thin multiculturalism can recognise the difference and the importance of group membership, but still “endorse the liberal version of individual rights and freedoms, including such core liberal values as individual autonomy and equality of moral worth” (Baumeister, 2003, p. 741). Further, drawing on authors such as Charles Taylor, Baumeister (2003, p. 742) defines first-level diversity as acknowledging cultural differences, but insisting “that all citizens stand in an identical relationship to the state”. Immigrant multiculturalism can thus be said to sit within a liberal democratic framework in an attempt to balance (in theory at least) the importance of group membership with wider democratic values (Baumeister, 2003; Kymlicka, 2015). Kymlicka further discusses this relationship with the state by approaching cultural membership as a necessary resource for the development of a fully realised individual. Drawing on the liberal democratic theory of authors such as John Rawls, Kymlicka (1995) argues that belonging to a cultural group is necessary for a sense of self-respect, justice and a notion of what is good. For Kymlicka, cultural membership is a source of respect for the self, for a sense of the self and a sense of dignity (Kymlicka, 1995). Rather than a cultural straight-jacket, culture becomes a framework through which individuals can define themselves in positive terms. Importantly, Kymlicka emphasises the structural aspect of culture, rather than specific cultural practices and characteristics, thus



allowing for modification, change and transformation from within the cultural structure, and for individual members to exit their culture and redefine themselves. He thus focuses on cultural community as providing a context of choice. Rather than restricting individuals, cultural community membership is a necessary basis for identity development, one that provides certainty as well as the space for questioning and challenge. Under such a view, thin multiculturalism cannot so easily be dismissed as illiberal or undemocratic. Instead, one must think about the nature of the relationship between culture and the liberal values that all three democratic theories discussed in this book maintain, to differing degrees. Although democratic theorists, including Jurgen Habermas and Chantal Mouffe, therefore do not dismiss multiculturalism out of hand, its position in democratic theory seems very much to depend on the nature of ‘culture’, and in particular what some see as the challenges that remain in Kymlicka’s work of articulating a group-based culture as a resource for individual identity. Nathan (2010) engages directly with Kymlicka in this sense, and questions the latter’s distinction between cultural structures and cultural characteristics as a way of presenting culture as a scaffolding to support the individual, rather than a set of practices that directly affect everyday life. Indeed, the challenge of separating culture in this way can be seen in Kymlicka’s work, which, according to Nathan, can tend towards determinism. Thus, while recognising the socially constituted nature of identities, Kymlicka still faces the problem of distinguishing between the different intensities of individual freedom and cultural structuring. Nathan emphasises passages in Kymlicka’s work that lean towards cultural determinism, such as his contention that in developing our identities “the range of options is determined by our cultural heritage” (Kymlicka, in Nathan, 2010, p. 21). Nathan also critiques Kymlicka’s (1995) notion of ‘societal culture’. The focus on the institutional aspect of societal cultures, argues Nathan, constructs hard boundaries and freezes culture, moving away from Kymlicka’s more “dynamic” earlier view based on “language, history and territorial integrity” (Nathan, 2010, p. 26). Aligning culture with particular groups, and attributing it a role as a source of options for individual growth and development, may prove problematic for immigrant groups when searching for their own cultural options. This is particularly the case in light of Kymlicka’s locating of immigrants within a cultural membership that sits within the wider political culture, differentiating them from national minorities who have more cultural autonomy.


As Nathan argues in reference to Kymlicka, “If the meaningful options of the members of the majority are only available within their own societal culture, which is ‘separate and distinct’, then how can he expect to have those options accessible to immigrants on an equal footing, within the majority’s societal culture?” (Nathan, 2010, p. 31). For several critics, then, the danger of multiculturalism is its prioritisation of a certain version of culture as a collective good. Even as resource for individual liberty and identity formation, multiculturalism too easily slips into determinism, with assumptions that all members of a particular group have a close bond and connection to their cultural framework (Nathan, 2010). It is here that we might introduce ethnic media into the discussion, as themselves being a form of collective cultural representation, and as being aligned with collective groups rights and differentiation (Benhabib, 2002; Joppke, 2004). As was discussed in the first chapter in this book, understandings of ethnic media as necessarily facilitating parallel lives are highly problematic. What is less problematic are accusations that at the institutional level, the provision of culturally specific organisations is unable to capture the diversity within ethnic communities. Thus, while it is simplistic to accuse ethnic media of being institutions of separation, the collective identities that they do connect to wider majority society will inevitably be restricted. In her critique of multiculturalism and ethnic media, Anabelle Sreberny (2005) locates the problem not in separation, but in reductive nature of those identities that achieve recognition in mainstream society and media cultures. Thus, multiculturalism is restrictive, empowering ethnic minorities only to the extent that they fit within a certain model of expected behaviour, values and social organisation. Claims made outside of that range of ‘authenticity’, such as claims to professionalism in media, can easily be rendered as sitting outside of the particular ethnic group’s legitimate ambit. Ethnic media reflect multiculturalism to the extent that only certain forms of identity are legitimated in the wider public sphere. This is not simply a problem of being silenced or disconnected, but of being allowed to speak only from a certain position, only about particular issues, and only on behalf of certain people. Multiculturalism and media are here very much a question of voice, of who speaks on behalf of whom, of who can or should claim authority over particular collective identities and experiences (Sreberny, 2005). For Fleras (2015), there is a need to reconceptualise ethnic media in response to these issues, in order to further expose and ensure the



facilitation of cultural openings and adaptations. He builds much of his critique on a view of Canadian multicultural policy as resting on a series of rigid categorisations, including the notions that “ethnic group membership defined individual identity” and “every person was affiliated with an ethnocultural tradition” (Fleras, 2015, p. 27). This liberal multiculturalism finds its power in the state, with difference and legitimate ethnic identities still largely determined by those in positions of authority. Fleras (2015, p. 29) describes it as hegemonic in the way it opens access to society without challenging the “prevailing distribution of power or privilege”. Multiculturalism in Canada is thus a political project aimed at achieving political goals. Rather than challenge liberal universalism, this form of multiculturalism makes palatable and controllable ethnic diversity through the safe categorisation of ethnicity, rendering it identifiable and manageable (Fleras, 2015). Multiculturalism is thus a form of state control of difference, in which the prevailing hegemonic order remains safe through a process of boundary marking. The limits of difference, and the legitimacy of identity claims, are made clear through policy. It is not hard to find reflections of the “integrative logic behind official multiculturalism” in ethnic media and surrounding discourses (Fleras, 2015, p. 29). The dominance of ‘harmony politics’ can be seen in the heralded role of ethnic media in consensus, togetherness and the sharing of values through difference. However, I see two issues emerge when engaging with critiques of multiculturalism. (1) How rigid is, or was, multicultural policy with regard to identity and ethnicity, and, (2) How can we reconcile a need for more fluid and plural approaches to identity with political and media systems that necessarily simplify complexity in their representations of diverse publics? According to some scholars, there is no necessary reason to assume that a policy aimed at the maintenance of languages, cultures and traditions necessitates a reductive rigidity beyond one that is inevitable in all forms of collective representation. While more empirical work is needed in this area, it is important to resist the urge to see ethnic media as necessarily agents of strict cultural membership in a patch-work multiculturalism, in which individuals can only experience forms of wider cultural belonging as members of that cultural group. However, the possibility is certainly worth considering (Abbey, 2003). The task facing any study of ethnic media in this context, then, seems to be one of empirically evaluating the relationship between openness and closure in media texts and organisations. The question becomes one


of relative flexibility and openness. To what extent are ethnic media able to facilitate a space in which different identities are not over-determined by reified notions of culture, ethnicity, race or nationality? Answering this question is beyond the scope of this book, and would indeed require its own dedicated empirical investigation. However, it is important to consider a distinction made by Kymlicka in his work. Not surprisingly, in his defence of multiculturalism as both policy and theory, he argues against interpretations of multiculturalist theory as essentialising cultures and leading to cultural separatism. In doing this, he makes the distinction between “external protections” and “internal restrictions” (Kymlicka, 2015, p. 223). Much of multicultural theory and policy has been about ‘external protections’, the reduction of “the extent to which members of a minority are vulnerable to the external decisions of the larger society”, but do not go so far as to allow minority groups to ignore the legal and political cultures of the wider society and impose repressive regimes on their members. There is little evidence, argues Kymlicka, that multiculturalism actively or implicitly promotes internal restrictions in the name of cultural authenticity. If this does occur, it is not at all clear the multiculturalism is the cause. Similarly, in her defence of Charles Taylor, Abbey (2003, p. 122) suggests that a view of authenticity need not concretise identity: An authentic identity can draw upon collective or shared elements of selfhood such as gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, class, religion, nationality and so on. In doing so, what matters is that the individual freely affirms these elements held in common with others rather than experiencing them as unwelcome impositions or intrusions upon the self from outside.

Indeed, it is easy when critically discussing multiculturalism to attribute to it the various sins of cultural essentialism and segmentation (Young, 1990). Part of the introduction of multiculturalism as a policy perspective was to mitigate against such processes. Although the language has changed from one of biological racism, exclusions, essentialism and inequalities based on a flexible conglomeration of race, ethnicity, culture and nationality were a constitutive part of democratic societies long before multiculturalism took hold as a legitimate policy and social perspective. This is not to say that multiculturalism does not suffer from such afflictions. However, any response to such issues needs to recognise



that multiculturalism is not the only, nor even the primary, system in which essentalised differences are articulated. The constant threat of political, symbolic and indeed real violence towards minorities is what has necessitated the ‘external protections’ upon which much ethnic media are based. Here, then, we would need to remain aware of the role of ethnic media as supporting collective claims in defence of a group actively marginalised. For some, depending perhaps on their level of relative social status within the wider society, the luxury of opening themselves up to a range of more fluid and potentially more vulnerable and particular sets of identifications may not be as readily evident. I am here thinking of those whose identities have been essentialised not through multiculturalism, but through the historical construction of race, and the more recent discourse of cultural incompatibility. The pan-Africanism of African-Australian mediated cultural and social movements comes to mind here. These need not necessarily be essentialising movements, but may be strategic responses to external threats that require some form of re-articulation of a collective identity in order to stave off a concerted effort by institutions of mainstream society to delegitimise certain social actors, groups and organisation. For Abbey (2003, p. 123), in discussing ethnic minority language and multiculturalism, “the maintenance of common language need not quash the proliferation or transformation of identities and identifications”. Ethnic media may provide spaces of transformation, wherein questions of individual and collective identity can be raised and discussed. They may engage in the tricky business of articulating a positive collective identity in opposition to mainstream representations, while at the same time seeking to avoid a reification and essentialisation of culture and ethnicity. Ethnic media, then, may both perform and oppose internal restrictions, often while attempting to protect an ethnic group from external forces. In the context of sometimes hostile political and social environments, to what extent do ethnic media expose race, ethnicity and culture as contingent formations, and to what extent are these formations re-­ articulated and reconfirmed in the service of their own counter-­ hegemonic projects? At issue here are the levels of freedom to move among and between different lived identities and communities that ethnic and multicultural constructs provide or allow, as well as the collective representation needed for political action beyond individual politics. This is a question related not so much to the range of identifications available, but to the extent to which particular forms of representation become


concretised, and the extent to which they are flexible, changeable and impermanent. There is a sense then that ethnic media’s relationship to diversity should be discussed not in terms of the reflection of multiple identifications and positions—itself an impossibility—but rather the extent to which it closes off group identities or leaves them open to challenge. For Fleras (2015, p. 38), much about this openness is captured in what he calls post-multicultural media, which: (a) resist tendencies to overethnicize the site of people’s social identities; (b) discard groups and immutable conceptions of ethnocultural differences; (c) upload ethnocultures as socially constructed and contested; (d) acknowledge the interplay of ethnicity with other devalued identity markers such as gender and class, and (e) address those disadvantages that intersect with other sectors of inequality and exclusion.

A post-multicultural and post-structuralist approach obviously captures and prioritises the inevitably dialectical nature of ethnic media as discussed in Chapter 1. In a process that would problematise my own usage of ‘ethnic’ media, the media of post-multiculturalism would better capture the fluidity of identities, and the desires of those who lament their reduction to an ethnic label. Once again, the extent to which ethnic media do, and can, do this around the world currently is in need of further analysis. Work by Sherry Yu (2017b) on gender in ethnic media among KoreanCanadians provides a snapshot of the some of the issues that can be uncovered in such research. In her analysis of gender in Korean news in Canada, she points to the distinction between the “transnational effect” and the “local effect” (Yu, 2017b, pp. 443–444, emphasis in original). The transnational effect consists of the over-bearing nature of mainstream news practices in Korea and North America. Due to under-resourcing, Korean ethnic media in Canada rely on mainstream media from Korea, and the gender inequalities inherent in the Korean media are thus transplanted onto the Korean community in Canada. When Koreans in Canada produce their own, locally attuned content, gender inequality is still present, but it is demonstrably less prevalent than mainstream Korean media. In other words, there is evidence that ethnic media may be a site on which gender inequalities in journalism can be addressed, in a way that recognises that ethnic minority and migrant women are often doubly marginalised. The extent to which this is the case among



different media, and in terms of other factors such as religion, age and socio-economic is an important question for further work. A form of open multiculturalism, in which ethnic media facilitate important collective identities and experiences in a way that does not over-determine individual intra-groups identities, brings us back to an engagement with Mouffe’s work. Much like the theorists discussed above, for Mouffe, the key question is one of how multiculturalism is understood and applied.1 Applying the agonistic perspective to ethnic media organisations themselves would mean resisting any closure around ethnic identity, and instead seeing them as made up of power relations which should be left without a foundational basis on which to secure themselves. In the context of Mouffe’s insistence on the unfeasibility of transcendent harmony (Mouffe, 1993), multiculturalism must start from the position that it is not intended to reach a final foundational position of the good society, but is instead structured in such a way as to allow a plurality of positions within the broad limits of democratic discourse. We can develop this further by engaging with Iris Young’s (1990) work on the ‘politics of difference’. In The Return of the Political (1993), Mouffe critiques Young’s attempt to theorise a democratic approach to group differentiation. Like Mouffe, Young challenges the principle of neutrality within liberal democratic theory. What she calls the assimilationist approach—wherein differences are supposedly transcended and individuals and groups are not differentiated in public political discourse—simply serves to reinforce the privileged groups in society who have the power to define the framework of equality. Thus, like Mouffe, Young rejects the possibility of neutrality, arguing instead the group differences are real and should be acknowledged in political discourse. The idea of neutrality is indeed the source of power for privileged groups and provides a justification for the continual marginalisation of groups who do not adhere to the particularities of rational public politics. Group differentiation, then, reveals the contingency of supposedly neutral political orders: Having revealed the specificity of the dominant norms which claim universality and neutrality, social movements of the oppressed are in a position to inquire how the dominant institutions must be changed so that they will no longer reproduce the patterns of privilege and oppression. (Young, 1990, p. 167) 1 Mouffe has, in at least one interview, compared strong multiculturalism to a type of ­cultural apartheid (Bayard, Isajiw, & Madison, 1996).


Despite a similarity in their desire to open up the place of power at an institutional level, Mouffe (1993, p. 86) argues that Young, much like Rawls, sees pluralism as an established fact, rather than as an ongoing constitutive political process. Mouffe compares Young’s position to an articulation of interest group pluralism, wherein “politics…is still conceived as a process of dealing with already constituted interests and identities”, rather than changing subject positions to allow for new forms of political relationship to occur. There is, however, a case to be made that Young does indeed recognise the fluidity of identity and the overlapping, transmutable nature of social movements. As Wingenbach (2011) argues, Young emphasises transformation and the reconstitution of political norms in her writing on difference. Thus, central to Young’s argument that positive group differentiation is not necessarily tied to inequality is her attempt to “reclaim the meaning of difference” (Young, 1990, p. 168). Dominant understandings of difference emerge from the location of various minorities on a hierarchical scale, each comparatively differentiated from a stable, universal position of the white, liberal male. Difference has been “marked with an essence” as marginalised groups are not allowed the privilege of change and transformation afforded the universal liberal subject (Young, 1990, p. 170). To be sure, this pre-dates liberal multiculturalism and has its roots in the “objective ideologies of racism, sexism, anti-semitism, and homophobia” (Young, 1990, p. 170). Escaping this essentialism, the politics of difference Young proposes would be relational, with no clear centre upon which to consistently define the other. It would refer not to group essences, but to the shifting relations between all groups, including those previously universalised and naturalised. As Young (1990, p. 171) states: A relational understanding of difference relativizes the previously universal position of privileged groups, which allows only the repressed to be marked as different. When group differences appear as a function of comparison between the groups, whites are just as specific as Blacks or Latinos…Difference thus emerges not as a description of the attributes of a group, but as a function of the relations between groups and the interaction of groups with institutions.

As I have argued throughout this book, there is a need for representation by marginalised groups in a plural political space, but this should not rest on adhering to dominant modes of public expression and debate. Here



we are once again faced with the dilemma of representation, the seeming inevitability that social plurality will be fixed and frozen through forms of representation (Wingenbach, 2011, p.153). What is important is that, a la Young, Mouffe and Fleras above, these forms of representation are not taken as reflecting pre-constituted group essences, but as potentially playing a role in bringing different identities and collectivities into being, giving them shape and a public presence (Wingenbach, 2011). Drawing on Laclau, Wingenbach (2011) suggests that representation in the constitutive sense “changes the character of the chain of equivalences”, allowing identities to coalesce into broader political constellations. The representation of minority groups is thus not based on capturing their essence within a hegemonic political framework, but in allowing their constitution into a counter-hegemonic movement. A shift from the capturing of difference to the constitution of relations between differences that do not rest on notions of the universal and transcendent positions ethnic media in a field of shifting, unequal positions. Rather than the representation of certain aspects of ethnic communities, ethnic media can be taken as bringing particular positions, collectivities and identities into being. Always contextualised within wider political cultures, ethnic media here may be transformative, they may challenge hegemonies or create their own. Within this context, ethnic media would ideally leave collective identities open to contestation. They would not naturalise or concretise contingent and relational identities, but would accommodate challenges to hegemony based on gender, class or specific ethnic background. Again, this section has raised more questions than answers, questions such as the extent to which ethnic media organisations are open to difference within a broadly defined field of ethnicity? To what extent do they, and the texts they produce, “acknowledge the interplay of ethnicity with other devalued identity markers such as gender and class” (Fleras, 2015, p. 38)? Consideration would also need to be given to the particular position of different ethnic groups, and whether their socio-political context was considered to necessitate a more unitary and cohesive collective identity, or afforded a more fragmented and fluid one.

Revisiting Democratic Approaches Of the three approaches to democracy discussed in this book, agonistic pluralism, particularly when seen through the work of Chantal Mouffe, is unique in a relative lack of work connecting the theory to media. Liberal


democracy and deliberative democracy have been connected to a range of literature on the role of media in democratic societies. Under these approaches, then, there is a relatively coherent, if contested, range of ideas on how media should function in each political and social system. As was discussed in Chapter 4, the place of media in agonistic pluralism is left relatively empty, at least in the work of Mouffe herself. Critics contend that the lack of a foundational position in agonistic theory makes it impossible to distinguish between positive and negative positions. In media discourse, a lack of such foundational positioning makes it harder to identify agonism and pluralism in media texts and practices. The concrete examples necessary to formulate such identifications rest on the establishment of “substantive normative claims to which Mouffe is averse” (Jane, 2017, p. 469). As such, agonistic pluralism seems to leave us unable to judge the relative strength of different arguments. Unlike the Habermasian approach, in which a set of normative procedures are said to arrive at a point where one argument is accepted as the correct one, the pluralism of Mouffe’s approach refuses to reduce political positions to moral ones. The danger, then, is that agonistic politics is reduced to “just the back and forth of various interest groups” (Morrison, 2018, p. 544). The limits to pluralism are important here as a way to provide stable ground to agonistic democratic interactions. However, as we have seen, such limits are themselves open to debate and contestation, and are yet to be satisfactorily articulated particularly in relation to media. Jane’s (2017) discussion of man-spreading on public transport is relevant here, as she questions the arguments put forth on feminist and patriarchal sides of this online debate. Emotion and passion can be used to draw “false equivalence” between spurious claims not based on evidence, as happened when male interlocutors claimed man-spreading was a biological necessity for comfort and health. The most obvious response would be to claim that such an approach does not fulfil the ethos of agonism, and to, a la Cammaerts (2009), identify the limits of agonistic debate. Of course, beyond those more obvious anti-democratic and racist discourses that Cammaerts identifies, there are many grey areas that lack clear evaluative guidelines. It is arguable then that the normative aspect of Mouffe’s theory is its weakest. The strength, instead, lies in its utility in identifying and destabilising current hegemonic sedimentations that shape media. For ethnic media, this is indeed a worthy and important function. As was stated



in the introduction, this book looks at media and democracy from the margins, and it is from the periphery position that agonistic pluralism is arguably strongest. The rejection of universal positions is always more appetising to those that do not hold them. For ethnic media, the importance of a post-foundational approach is that it denies media its self-­ legitimacy. This is not only the legitimacy of media forms that exceed limits of commonly accepted political debate, but also of those that base their legitimacy on the naturalisation of a contingent form of rationality, reason and objectivity. For ethnic media, the agonistic position potentially strips dominant media organisations and systems of their hegemonic power, it opens up the horizon of possibilities for different forms of public expression, political organisation and media. The power of agonistic pluralism as a theoretical model is that it demands more of ethnic media, and as an explanatory model it reveals more. It demands that ethnic media be transformative. Unlike liberalism and neoliberalism, it does not rest on notions of a neutral market, wherein consumption and choice reflect democratic desires. It makes no pretensions that power is not intertwined and embedded in all social relations and structures. It thus denies the possibility of the universality of the autonomous individual, a universality that has been used to exclude many from its orbit (Dean, 2009; Khiabany & Williamson, 2015). In explaining the current characteristics of ethnic media, there is inevitably a gap between broad social and democratic theory, and the diverse actualities of ethnic media. Liberal democratic states have successful ethnic media enterprises within them. In North America, commercial ethnic media have made an impact on politics. Remember that both then US President Barak Obama, and then Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, embraced multicultural and ethnic media, often in preference to the mainstream (Fleras, 2015; Matsaganis, Katz, & Ball-Rokeach, 2011). Harper himself even referred to multicultural news as “the new mainstream media” (Fleras, 2015, p. 30). And yet in many countries some of the most important moments in the lives of ethnic media emerged through policies considered by some to be illiberal. Under neoliberalism, the role of ethnic media is too easily reduced to market strength and commercial success, with little concern for collective movements and intercultural dialogue (Jin & Kim, 2011). The public sphere, or spheres, too, explain much about ethnic media. Critiques of hegemonic journalistic cultures do not mean that there are not ethnic media organisations that strive to meet such cultural norms.


Well-established, large scale commercial ethnic media often strive for this sense of professionalism in order to maintain their market appeal (Husband, 2005; Husband, Beattie, & Markelin, 2000). In many ways, a model of multiple publics formed through, and supported by, ethnic media, captures much about the historical and contemporary role of ethnic media. They support the internal and external constitution of identities and communities, as well as their transformations. The often overlooked complexity of Habermas’ work notwithstanding (Dahlberg, 2014), ethnic media have most often been critically interrogated through a notion of the public sphere, or spheres, as spaces of critical, inclusive and reasoned debate. The danger of closure is ever present, as the push to a legitimate consensus holds the potential of legitimising the exclusion of minority perspectives. As a model of multiple publics, the question of the relations between said publics is still present. For post-foundationalists like Mouffe, the question of such inter-relations is more clear; an ongoing, agonistic set of relations with no external, foundational platform on which to close down contest and debate permanently. In agonistic pluralism, something different can be seen within ethnic media of various types. It is perhaps most obvious in those media that seek explicitly to challenge and change political cultures, but can also be seen in those that align more closely to a consensus politics. This is the role of ethnic media beyond integration and segmentation, the role of ethnic media in transformation, or at least the project of transformation. Here we can return to definitions of ethnic media in Chapter 1, their inherently dialectic nature, the fact that their inevitable contact with a range of communities, organisations and systems yields sometimes unexpected outcomes. This cannot simply be explained by a contribution to what already exists (i.e. how do ethnic minorities come together with mainstream society to reach an inclusive consensus), nor through exclusion from what already exists (i.e. the creation of ethnic markets for niche ethnic products in a neutral market-place). Instead, it requires something different. An approach in which identities and positions are always constituted with reference to their Other. In which ethnic media can be seen relationally and contextually, as neither ‘fitting in’ nor as existing in a perpetual parallel state of difference and separation. This is an approach in which certain values, positions and identities are seen as incommensurable, and yet their construction in reference to the constitutive outside means that they can never be totally independent of others around them.



This is also an approach that demands something more. It is one that demands a strong, plural and agonistic ethnic media. One able to sustain difference and challenge the hegemony of mainstream media. As Yu’s (2017a) work on gender cited above indicates, ethnic media under this approach require funding to sustain local journalism that breaks out of the hegemonic journalistic template. This is not a media landscape that will simply emerge based on the development of new technological capabilities. It instead requires positive political will. In the current political climate—which of course has its roots deep in long histories of racisms and inequalities—I believe this approach to a counter-hegemonic ethnic media is more important than ever. In order to expand on the last point above, we can return to a brief discussion in the introductory chapter on the challenge to journalism of a seemingly fragmenting and stretching field of accepted political positions. One of the central concerns in the so-called ‘post-truth era’ is what the opening up of journalism to multiple perspectives might mean for standards of truth and verifiability. The rise of populist politics has left the media confused, no more so than in those places where the ‘middle-ground’ has always been heralded and held onto as a safe space of accepted political norms. The intensification of political racism has meant that journalism has had to deal with an expanding political ground, one where claims to legitimacy seem to have stretched further and further away from established patterns and frameworks. Recent media and journalistic responses to post-truth and ‘fakenews’ narratives raised at the highest levels of politics have tended to read into the situation a sort of postmodern hyper-relativism, in which truth is opened up to a plethora of untethered interpretations. Reactions have centred on a rediscovery of truth, expertise and singular facts, particularly in journalism: a reversion to the safe space of objective, dogmatic truth. A closer scrutiny of power, fact-checking and the exposure of lies and political spin are still important functions of the journalistic landscape. However, this is a response that often slips into a sense of nostalgia for the good-old-days of journalism, when newsrooms were well-funded and cynical old hacks would uncover political scandals and do serious, investigative reporting. That such a period also reflected major exclusions based on gender, and that racism was a less questioned part of the journalistic routine than today, makes such nostalgia dangerous. For many ethnic and migrant groups, a return to such journalistic culture would signal a loss of decades of hard-fought, yet to be fully


realised gains. What is also missing from such longing for a world of simple truths and facts is an understanding that questions of truth are never politically neutral, but are rather implicated in the struggle to develop, sustain and challenge hegemonic political and social constellations. If anything, the present political culture is cause for a greater need to keep hegemonic discourses constantly open to scrutiny. How might a post-structuralist perspective respond to this situation? Without an external criteria against which to judge different forms of news and journalism, including the work of ‘untrained’ journalists online and through social media, how can we make a distinction between forms of journalism that advance democracy, and those that engage in rumour, propaganda and hate speech? These are well-established questions asked of the agonistic approach itself (Kapoor, 2002). As Kapoor (2002, p. 474) argues, “Mouffe’s (postmodern) critique of reason and lack of alternative means of ‘transcendence’ leaves her with no way of either defending democratic practices or questioning undemocratic ones”. Mouffe’s response to such issues is decidedly situationalist. Rejecting any notion of transcendent universalism, she suggests that distinguishing between “just and unjust…can only be done from within a given tradition” (Mouffe, in Kapoor, 2002, p. 475). How such localised criteria of judgement might reach across diverse political spaces is questionable, and is one reason that Mouffe’s work has been seen as largely inapplicable to non-Western political systems (Kapoor, 2002). There is no doubt that the utility and insights proffered by agonistic pluralism in this book are tied to the unique position of ethnic media in broadly ­liberal-democratic societies. Its application to other cultural and communicative forms would no doubt require a new set of questions and sites of analyses. However, it is important to also recognise that the so-called posttruth era does not signify a turn to post-modernism relativism. It instead consists of a closing down of alternative discourses. Much of the current political moment can be considered an antagonistic closing off of debate, the replacement of one truth with another, rather than the agonistic challenge of hegemonic power. In such a situation, post-­ structuralist perspective may provide a way for reimagining the role of journalism. Rather than revert to stronger foundations in ignorance of their contingency, we must embrace a more plural media landscape at a deep, ontological level. This pluralism would exclude those positions built upon the undemocratic subjugation of people based on their race,



ethnicity, religion or sexuality. And yet these exclusions would not be justified on reference to a pre-political universalism, a rational middle ground that transcends difference, but rather on their inability to agonistically engage with difference as anything other than evil to be destroyed. Those who see increasingly extremist ideological positions in media and journalism, including the undermining of journalism’s empirical and ontological foundations, as necessitating a reinvigoration of a journalistic culture of autonomous, disinterested objectivity overlook the power inherent in that same ‘objective’ culture. Seen from outside of its power-­ centre, the ‘good-old-days’ of journalism offer little comfort to groups traditionally marginalised from its rational logic. Rather than cling on to familiar and safe notions of an essential and transcendent universalism, a foundational media culture that is free from politics, the task is to embrace a genuine pluralism of democratic positions and, perhaps most importantly, to re-think how those positions interact. The point is not to search for a position beyond difference, but to reimagine the relations between difference. The task may involve less of a focus on a universal the common ground, and more of a focus on the unstable yet necessary boundaries of plural political discourse. For journalism, it means an opening up rather than a closing off, an embracing of genuine counter-hegemonic positions, and resisting and challenging the claims of racists that theirs is the victimised and marginalised position, rather than one built on centuries of powerful, institutionalised inequalities.

Concluding Remarks This book has been a broad look at the relationship between theory and ethnic media. It has been motivated not only by the author’s own interest in theory, but by the generally under-theorised nature of ethnic media research, and indeed media research more generally. However, as a result of this macro focus, I have been unable to examine and to capture the sheer diversity of ethnic media around the world, and the different relationships it has to democracy in different parts of the world. Instead, what I have attempted to do is to bring ethnic media into conversation with three theories of democracy: one which enjoys a hegemonic position in much of the so-called western world, another the dominates in critical media studies, and a third that is yet to gain the attention it warrants in media studies and social analysis more generally.


My general alignment with agonistic pluralism has provided a democratic model through which to re-imagine ethnic media’s role in society. It has not explained in detail the myriad of ethnic media forms available in democracies. While it has shed light on some features, my intention in this book was never to provide a forensic analysis of the intricacies of such a diverse media environment. As stated in the introduction, my intention was to provide new ways of thinking about the relationship between ethnic media (and hopefully media more generally) and democracy, and to perhaps see old ways in a new light. More work is needed to further understand ethnic media and democracy. In particular, we need to know more about whether, and how, ethnic media are actually shaping politics (Dean, 2009). More work is also needed on the actual application of Mouffe’s work to media (Jane, 2017; Maeseele & Raeijmaekers, 2017), and on the extent to which ethnic media content and organisations provide a space for counter-hegemony. Despite the remaining questions that surround an agonistic approach to media, for those on the margins, the theory provides important conceptual and theoretical tools through which to challenge and change existing political structures.

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A Advocacy, 12, 14, 132, 136, 137, 140, 151 African-Australian, 137–140, 143, 145, 146, 148, 173 Agonistic pluralism, 6, 9, 10, 19, 20, 97, 101, 103, 105, 109, 110, 112, 117, 120–122, 127, 128, 143, 145, 159, 160, 177–180, 182, 184 Antagonism, 13, 45, 50, 100–103, 111, 112, 119 C Communicative capitalism, 94, 115, 116 Constitutive outside, 59, 102–104, 116, 180 Counter-hegemony, 20, 85, 107–110, 117, 122, 142, 143, 147, 184

D Deliberative democracy, 6–9, 11, 19, 29, 70, 75–78, 81, 83, 85, 89, 94, 102, 129, 166, 178 E Ethnic media, 2–11, 14–21, 27–38, 43, 48, 52–54, 60–69, 75, 79–85, 87, 89–93, 97–99, 108, 109, 112, 117, 120, 122, 127, 128, 130, 135–137, 139, 140, 142–144, 146, 147, 149, 152–154, 156, 158–160, 165, 166, 170–175, 177–184 F Fake news, 2 Fourth estate, 1, 2, 12 Fraser, N., 9, 19, 37, 80, 82–86, 92, 93, 104, 167

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG, part of Springer Nature 2019 J. Budarick, Ethnic Media and Democracy,


188  Index H Habermas, J., 5, 8, 9, 19, 37, 44, 75–85, 92–94, 100, 169, 180 I Integration, 4, 5, 17, 18, 29, 30, 36, 92, 144, 153, 180 J Journalism, 1–3, 5, 11–13, 15, 29, 30, 50, 51, 53, 57, 65, 67, 78, 98, 112, 114, 127–136, 138–142, 146, 159, 174, 181–183 L Liberal democracy, 2, 6, 7, 9, 18, 19, 43–45, 47–49, 53, 54, 56, 68, 76, 97, 110, 168, 177 M Market place of ideas, 68 Media and democracy, 1–3, 6, 7, 10, 46, 49, 94, 179, 184 Mills, C.W., 3, 7, 44, 46–48, 50, 53, 68 Mouffe, C., 5, 7, 9, 10, 20, 37, 44, 58, 81, 92–94, 97–111, 114–121, 127, 130, 131, 142–144, 147, 149, 150, 155, 157, 160, 169, 175–178, 180, 182, 184 Multiculturalism, 4, 5, 21, 28, 38, 49, 62, 65, 68, 79, 84, 86, 87, 93, 104, 120, 137, 154, 156, 165–176 Multi-ethnic public sphere, 86, 90, 91

N Naive pluralism, 70, 89, 155 Neoliberalism, 6, 8, 18, 19, 44, 46, 52–62, 64, 68–70, 114, 122, 155, 179 O Objectivity, 10, 101, 102, 108, 129–132, 135, 136, 140, 159, 179, 183 P Pluralisation, 21, 117, 150, 153–155, 157–159 Pluralism, 5, 8, 10, 18, 20, 21, 43, 45, 46, 50, 51, 53, 64, 66, 68, 83, 99, 104, 105, 109, 110, 119, 120, 122, 131, 142, 146, 147, 149–151, 153–158, 166, 176, 178, 182, 183 Professional, 12, 14, 29, 50, 53, 128, 129, 132–137, 140, 141, 143 Public sphere, 6, 8, 9, 11, 19, 29, 30, 37, 43, 70, 75–86, 92–94, 97, 102, 104, 110, 129, 170, 179, 180 R Racism, 2–4, 13, 28, 31, 36, 47, 48, 53, 61, 62, 68, 69, 122, 142, 172, 176, 181 Rawls, J., 44–46, 168, 176 Y Young, I.M., 4, 146, 172, 175–177