Euroopa avalikkus ja euroinfo Eestis



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This MA thesis titled European public sphere and emerging EU publics in Estonia is based in the broader context of EU communication and focuses around the concept of European public sphere (EPS). The most important theoretical concepts informing the empirical construction are Koopmans’s Europeanization of national media and Taylor’s social imaginaries. So far the literature and research on EPS focus on the role of media whereas this thesis also attempts to bring in the different dispositions and resources of the audience for participating in the EPS. The empirical construction of this thesis assumes the following: 1) increased attention to EU related news is a sign of Europeanization of media; 2) social imaginaries that are produced and reproduced in public communication play an important role in constituting a EPS; 3) the process of social differentiation requires that the media interpret various issues and phenomena to wider audiences; 4) public spheres depend not only on media but also the communicative actions of citizens; and therefore focuses on three objects of empirical research – EU related media content, journalists’ perceptions of EU news and the audience’s interest in EU news. The main findings are as follows: • The main sources of EU news are national dailies and public broadcast television, more entertainment oriented media such as tabloid and commercial television newscast have less EU content. • EU is mentioned in the news often as just background, for example the argument of Estonia as EU member is important in Estonia-Russian relationships related news coverage • Journalists perceive the audience as disinterested in EU news and politically passive, which is one of the main obstacles for EU coverage. • Journalists’ perceptions can be described as three different lines of thought – the classical professional discourse which views the audience as politically active citizens and focuses the EU coverage around national interest; the secular discourse which views the audience as consumers and focuses the EU coverage around everyday issues, especially practical and economic matters; the cosmopolitan discourse which views EU topics from a transnational perspective and is to some extent characteristic to Brussels correspondents. • There are groups of different resources and dispositions among the audience who might benefit from different styles of EU coverage. • About 40% of Estonian audiences claim that they are interested in the EU. The three dimensions that EU interest depends on are trust of public institutions, including trust and positive attitudes towards EU; general interest in politics and other public affairs; social and cultural resources such as personal contacts outside Estonia, use of new media etc. The strongest predictors of EU interest are positive attitudes towards EU and general interest in politics and other public affairs. These empirical findings do not suggest a strong Europeanization of public sphere, but there is clearly an emerging European dimension present in the public communication, which also seems to be interesting and important to parts of the audience. The more the media acknowledge Estonia in the context of EU, the more Estonian people will see themselves also as European citizens. As suggested by Craig Calhoun (2003) - if Europe is not merely a place, but a space in which distinctively European relations are forged and European visions of the future enacted, then it depends on communication in public, as much as on distinctively European culture, or political institutions, or economy, or social networks.


H Social Sciences (General)