Media, Society and Politics

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Media, Society and Politics

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    Communication Studies, Media Studies

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    After completion of this course, the student is able to:
    • Understand and explain the interdependence between media/journalists, political actors and the public in theoretical terms;
    • Explain and understand the main effects of media coverage on the behaviour of politicians and political parties, as well as the different
    media publics (differential media effects on groups depending on their characteristics and the media channels and messages);
    • Explain current media-related issues in the public sphere in theoretical terms;
    • Explain and predict the effects of media coverage via social and traditional media on society as a whole (in terms of, for example, polarisation or political participation);
    • Reflect on the increasing economic, social and political relevance of the data industry by large media companies;
    • Reflect on ethical and normative aspects of current media-related issues in the public sphere and from there make recommendations to the various actors (journalists, media companies, broadcasters or political actors) in the debate.

    The central issue in this course is how the media (and media companies), political actors (the government, ministries, politicians, political parties, businesses, interest groups and social movements) and citizens influence each other. We address in particular the changing media landscape (media concentration and integration), political reporting (’Fake News’ and misinformation), the mediatisation of politics (a.o. the work of Jesper Strömbäck) and the mutual interdependence and influence of media and politics (the so-called ’media-politics-media cycle’ by, among others, Gadi Wolfsfeld). The growing political influence of media (companies), the increasing concentration of media ownership and the degree of pluralism of the media landscape all have an impact on the behaviour of politicians and on the quality of the political information citizens receive. We also consider the changing media behaviour of citizens, the use of social and traditional media and the effects of so-called ’filter-bubbles’, ’selective exposure’ and ‘news-avoidance. We analyse to what extent political institutions and actors depend on mass media and are shaped by the ‘media logic’. Important theories in sociology, communication sciences and political science argue that socioeconomic developments are of major importance for the structure of the media landscape and for the political knowledge of citizens. In this course, we discuss ways in which economic and social changes affect the functioning of mass media and thus impact on the quality of democracy and citizenship. Different approaches have been used to reflect on the role of the traditional and new mass media in modern democracies. Some see an important role for the (traditional) mass media to hold those in power accountable (the so-called ’watch-dog’ function of the media), while others see the media as mere ‘lap-dogs’, as they are too passive and subordinate towards those in power too and uncritically us the professional news production of by powerful bureaucracies and companies (see a.o. the work of Noam Chomsky). President Trump often portrays the traditional media as an enemy of the people (and his own government). He accuses media of biased reporting, prejudices and lies. In the lectures and seminars, we analyse to what extent such media bias exists and to what in extent such media bias affects quality of (political) information to citizens. Needless to say, we will focus on election campaigns (with elections at the doorstep in USA and the Netherlands) and assess how and to what extent political campaigns are influenced by media coverage, as well as ways in which politicians try to control mass media coverage about themselves, their own party and their political opponents.

    Lectures and seminars 

    Written exam and assignment 

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

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