#4 Media Power
Parallel sessions on Friday 25.11. at 10.30-11.45
Location: Room 8, Metsätalo

Anu Kantola (University of Helsinki) – Silence of the wealthy: How the wealthiest 0.1% avoid the media and resort to hidden strategies of political power

As the wealthiest groups have emerged as increasingly significant in societies, this article explores how society's wealth elites yield political power. Bridging the literature on policy advocacy and mediatisation, the article focused on the hidden and public advocacy strategies of the wealthy. Drawing from 90 interviews with the wealthiest 0.1% in Finland as well as an account of their formal lobbying activities, this study shows the wealthy's highly strategic stance towards the media and journalism. Most of all, they prefer to avoid the media and journalism, while actively using hidden advocacy strategies and being confident in their ability to wield political influence. As a consequence, the wealth elites may remain hidden from the public eye, making them ‘shadow elites’, whose power and scrutinisation pose a challenge to society and journalists as well. The findings support the view that paradoxically, one reaction to mediatisation – the media's heightened powers – is the deliberate avoidance of it.

Joonas Koivukoski (University of Helsinki) – Humor and Power in the Hybrid Media Environment: A Multifunctional Framework

From subversive memes on fringe media to advocacy satire on mainstream television, political humor has been integrated into political information cycles in novel ways in the past two decades. This presentation proposes a synthesizing framework for analyzing the politics of humor in the current media environment. Based on multifunctional semiotics developed by Michael Halliday and colleagues, and studies on mediated political humor, I argue that we can examine the political aspect of selected instances of humor through four aspects: content, style, identity, and circulation. In the presentation, these apsects are further broken down into more precise sub-aspects and questions that cover themes like advocacy, focus, tone, polyphony, boundaries, representation, popularity, and participation. I suggest that the framework enables us to analyze more precisely how “the power of humor” works in contemporary public life. The presentation is based on my recently published dissertation on political humor in the hybrid media environment.

Anu Koivunen (University of Turku) – Enduring Elites in Quoted Sources: Curation of the News Flow in Finnish Media from 1999 to 2018

Media systems of the 21st century have been described as “hybrid” (Chadwick’s 2013). The flows of information are understood as being affected by overlapping publics, multiple actors, and multiple voices, which has changed the balance of power in the public sphere. Some scholars, like Williams and Delli Carpini (2004), have suggested that, as new media channels open, reliance on elite sources in news media will wane and the gatekeeping function of news media will erode or collapse.  To examine the effects of hybridisation, we focus on a key journalistic practice: giving voice to actors by quoting them directly or indirectly. The journalistic media continue to operate as fundamental network gatekeepers (Barzilai-Nahon, 2008) curating the news flow and the national public sphere (see Seuri & al. 2021).

To scrutinize the thesis of digital media culture opening “virtually unlimited sources” (Williams and Delli Carpini, 2004: 1208) we ask who are quoted in Finnish news media, and whether the emphasis on elite sources changes throughout the years of transition from 1999 to 2018. Furthermore, we ask whose social media posts are quoted in Finnish news media.  Rather than radical changes, our study of four Finnish news outlets from 1999 to 2018 (HS, STT, Yle, Iltalehti) suggests a continuum, and even consolidation, of elite source dominance in domestic political news. Our hypothesis of enduring elites, based on our pilot studies (Koivunen et al. 2021, Seuri et al. 2021) and the preliminary analyses, suggests that the journalistic practices of quoting are relatively stable and withstand time. It seems that social media has not significantly disrupted the sourcing practices in journalistic political news. It may even be that the hybridisation of the media space rather foregrounds the voices of certain central actors who, because of the network effects, are quoted also for their activity in social media. So, while the news media may incorporate new actors in the wake of the digital disintegration, we suggest, it simultaneously reinforces the voices of the elite at the other end.