The contribution of intercultural media to pluralism and diversity in the public discourse: necessary voices in contemporary democratic society : the case of Austria
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One of the most important challenges for our present society is the increase in ethnic and social heterogeneity, which also implies great effects on our communication. The democratic ideal of giving all people an equal voice in the decisions affecting them is getting harder to fulfil in the face of a heterogenic population, as there can be the risk that less influential and powerful groups such as migrants or ethnic groups have less possibilities to raise their voices. The media provide the public sphere for negotiating democratic decisions, but often have difficulty in offering equal access. I argue that adequate access for groups in society that have traditionally had disadvantaged access to the media such as migrants is crucial for the democratic discourse. I also advocate that intercultural media giving migrants and ethnic groups a voice in the public arena, could help mitigate the risk described above. The main characteristic of intercultural media is diversity. Firstly, they are produced by ethnic groups of different origins. Secondly, they address an audience with and without a migration background. Thirdly, the content is created with the particular perspective of their ethnic producers, mostly in the language of the host country. I will demonstrate my argument using the case of Austria, whose media are a “murky mirror” of the existing diversity of the country. Media concentration, a variety of channels without a real diversity of reflected opinions, unequal power relations are reasons that deprive the migrant population of adequate participation and representation in the public sphere. However, the state has responsibility to provide an environment for a media system that reflects the existing diversity in a country and does not disadvantage certain groups such as migrants. Human rights underscore this duty of the state to guarantee the right of freedom of expression, stressing the negative, but as well the positive obligations. The theoretical reasoning and the findings of the mapping of intercultural media in Austria illustrate that intercultural media hold a huge potential for a more democratic discourse, as they allow access to the public sphere for migrants, offer opportunities for self-representation, provide information with an intercultural focus for a general audience, create a bridging function, counter discriminatory reporting and strengthen the quality of media pluralism.