Role of Media in Democratic Regimes Based on Schumpeter's Theory of Competitive Democracy - Defining the Theory and Analyzing it's Application

Role of Media in Democratic Regimes Based on Schumpeter's Theory of Competitive Democracy - Defining the Theory and Analyzing it's Application

Before we can identify the role of media in democratic regimes based on Schumpeter’s theory of competitive democracy, we must define what that theory states and analyze its application. The Schumpeter theory of competitive democracy in (Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, 1942) is, “the democratic method is that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s vote.” The term democracy recurs in the prompt multiple times. Democracy is a term that is used often however is not easily defined. It often becomes an ambiguous definition when one asks people what they believe constitutes a democratic government. The essential factor to recognize is that any democracy is a type of representative government. It is established on the citizens electing a trustworthy representative to make decisions on their behalf. However, if the representative does not fulfill the voter’s expectations or needs then they have accountability mechanisms to ensure that their will is carried out as a whole.

There are three things that democracy requires on a basic level. The first is pluralistic competition, the second is participation and the third is to provide civil and public liberties. These requirements are easily relatable to include the media sector. To enable pluralistic competition the media is to serve as a civic forum to engage discussion about political affairs. The media must be a mobilizing agent in participation of the public as both listeners and learners of the political process. Third, media is to act as watchdogs in the civil and political liberties sector to expose any found corruption or wrongdoing.
In the rest of the essay I will engage in a critical analysis of how the media performed in these three rolls during the ongoing era of the “Second Republic”.

The second republic is the time extending from 1992 to present day Italy. It started with the transitional government and then accelerated with the entrance of Silvio Berlusconi into the Italian political landscape. This is a time of a comprehensive change in the Italian political landscape.
The Christian Democrat party and the Socialist party are destroyed because of Tangentopoli. The most important change in media’s function based on the theory was the shift from a consociational to a majoritarian model of democracy. The consociational democracy was very permissive, allowing all parties representation. The system basically transformed overnight to a majoritarian democracy and this immediately increased the role and function of the media Italian competitive democracy. The majoritarian system mobilizes the parties to participate in a true competitive democracy. Since the change in power can be stark, the media plays a bigger role than ever in deciding the result of an election. The television system is a duopoly beginning at the start of the second republic.

Berlusconi maintained the competitive advantage in television advertising during campaign elections. Evaluating political elections in chronological order is most effective because we will be able to witness the transformation of media’s relationship in the competitive democratic landscape. The 1994 election was the beginning of Berlusconi’s career and an undeniable turning point of the media’s relationship in a competitive democracy. Berlusconi is the only candidate at this time that had the ability to enter politics in January and be elected Prime Minister just months later because of his visibility on television. As indicated, most Italians get their news from the television instead of the newspaper. Berlusconi had the greatest role and increased visibility during the election and this is what enabled him to become a legitimate candidate. His direct ads were proof of direct pluralistic competition. He was forcing himself on the voters and promoting his image more than anyone else. The center left tried to fight back with RAI’s network with participation propaganda. They were attempting to discredit Berlusconi’s ability to lead but this backfired in the sense that this just legitimized Berlusconi as the true competitor to challenge their reign in government. During this time both RAI and Fininvest provided a civic forum for debate but the scales were tilted in favor of Berlusconi getting the most face time. There was an effort by both networks to encourage participation of the public but Forza Italia was more successful than the center left. The Berlusconi camp mobilized the public more by presenting him as a symbol of change and hope, which is a juxtaposition to the previously failed government.

Berlusconi revolutionized the use of media in an Italian election and the transformation has continued through out the ‘Second Republic’. He pushes the fact that he was a successful businessman that has already done a tremendous amount for the general public before being in office. He has brought them entertainment to their lives, he has brought them soccer championships, and he most of all brought an unmatched charisma to enliven the country. Italian media delivered and continues to deliver on all three roles but to varying degrees. Lottizazione actually produced a more balanced distribution of all three functions on RAI. RAI channels are much more balanced than those of Fininvest. The one function that is least well provided is the watchdog function of the media. This is because of the widespread corruption of not only Italian politics but business in general. When you elect Berlusconi, the richest, most visible, well connected celebrity, to become Prime Minister one must realize that he has a hand in anything and self interest takes precedence for Berlusconi over public well being every time.

There are some important topics of discussion raised over the fact that Berlusconi reigns over both the media and political world. First I do not believe that Berlusconi could have won any election without his media empire. His communication and leadership skills are strong but he would have never achieved the opportunity to be displayed on a national scale without his media empire. The shift to a majoritarian electorate allowed him to utilize his media empire to solicit his image to all. Then I also believe because Italy was in such bad economic shape people bought into Berlusconi’s message and did not just fall prey to his propaganda. A very important thing to realize is that even with Berlusconi’s empire as big as it is, he is not invincible. He has lost two elections and this is an extremely important fact because it proves that the media is delivering on all three actions required by democracy today. Despite Berlusconi’s best efforts they are a providing a more balanced public forum for debate. Both RAI and Berlusconi mobilized Italians to learn and become part of political process.