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?
To return to a theme I introduced at the outset, the democratic character of the public sphere cannot simply be assumed, but must be continually achieved. It is an intricate and multiply contingent set of social spaces and practices whose boundaries always remain negotiable – and thus potentially renewable. What I have tried to convey is a sense of this complexity and to illuminate the major issues involved. In so doing I have also been emphasizing the importance of conceptually situating the public sphere and the questions which surround it within larger social theoretic contexts. Easy recipes for progressive policies or political interventions are wanting. While focused attention on the public sphere is essential, it is also imperative that efforts at enhancing democracy ...