What's new? Democracy, politics and the role of the media

20 February 2012

Citizens need to be informed to participate in democracy -- and they rely on the media for information.

Three recent books catalogue the problems with the contemporary media, and show just how much needs to change for the democratic role of the news to be fulfilled.

In Australia, would-be reformers confront a dangerous level of media ownership concentration, declining investment in costly citizenship-focused information gathering practices, and audiences whose tastes have been cultivated in soft entertainment.

Books reviewed in this article are:

  • Malcolm Dean Democracy Under Attack: How the Media Distort Policy and Politics, Policy Press, Bristol, 2011 (432 pp). ISBN 9-78184742-848-6 (hard cover) RRP $61.95.
  • Lindsay Tanner’s Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy, Scribe, Melbourne, 2011 (240 pp). ISBN 9-78192184-406-5 (paperback) RRP $ 32.95.
  • Sally Young How Australia Decides: Election Reporting and the Media, Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, 2010 (346 pp). ISBN 9-78052114-707-1 (paperback) RRP $49.95.

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Dr Tim Dwyer is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Media and Communications at The University of Sydney. His research focuses on the critical evaluation of media and communications industries, regulation, law and policy.

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