In this broad-ranging text, Peter Dahlgren clarifies the underlying theoretical concepts of civil society and the public sphere, and relates these to a critical analysis of the practice of television as journalism, as information and as entertainment. He demonstrates the limits and the possibilities of the television medium and the formats of popular journalism. These issues are linked to the potential of the audience to interpret or resist messages, and to construct its own meanings. What does a realistic understanding of the functioning and the capabilities of television imply for citizenship and democracy in a mediated age?

Civil Society and Its Citizens

Civil society and its citizens

A continual difficulty in media studies has been to balance a focus on the media with broader horizons of social theory. Media researchers are understandably inclined to put the media at the centre of their attention, yet our understanding of the media must always be informed by theory and empirical data which highlight their societal contexts. In this chapter, I take a few steps in the direction charted by two concerns within social theory, namely those of civil society and citizenship. The processes of television reception among viewers provide a conceptual link to both of these theoretic terrains.

First, civil society can be seen as offering a way to conceptually gather up the sites of reception and ...

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