The meaning of media democracy is often taken to be self-evident. It is widely assumed that in democratic societies, the media play an important role in monitoring, maintaining, and extending democracy. In a democracy, the media are expected to encourage transparency and accountability and to act as the eyes and ears of citizens. Democracy itself is described as a system of rules based on universal adult franchise, the sovereign power of the people, collective decision making, constitutional rights and guarantees, and the rule of law. Although the press has traditionally been ascribed the role of watchdog, other media including publicservice broadcasting, community media, and in recent years, new forms and uses of information technology and Internet-based media have been celebrated for their role in, and contributions to, the democratization of society.

Community and public service broadcasting have, for example, lobbied on behalf of prisoners of conscience, women’s rights, and the rights of children; in addition, investigative journalism has played an important role in uncovering scandal and corruption in high places. Democratic media in many parts of the world have exposed the gaps between politics as principle and politics as practice. The power of media democracy can best be illustrated by the fact that there are examples of media reporting that have played a critical role in the fall of governments.

Democratic media not only are involved in informing, educating, and entertaining, but also are expected to exercise a social function: to lobby and advocate for social change both within the confines of a country and beyond it. However, extraterritorial media advocacy remains a contested and sensitive issue for most governments. And yet in a globalizing world in which the media themselves are global entities, it can be argued that the media cannot shy away from being involved in global forms of advocacy. Whether or not this role has diminished over the years remains a contested issue. Examples of such media advocacy include the role played by Western media in supporting the case of the Nigerian activist Ken Saro Wiva and more recently that of the prisoner of conscience Aung San Su Kyi in Myanmar (Burma). The theories of media democracy relate to a number of theoretical traditions including media and communication, communication and social change, public service broadcasting, global media governance, media and politics, new media theory, women and media, and the political economy of communication, among other traditions.

Littlejohn, Stephen W and Karen A.Floss. (2009). Encyclopedia of Communication Theory.USA:SAGE.696-697

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