Power-Sharing in Media - Integration of the Public?
L. Kendall Palmer
the key role broadcast media played in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia as
well as their importance in the democratization process, the international
community (IC) in BiH has made media reforms a central tenet of its overall
reform strategy. In particular, the
IC hopes to wrest control of the media from nationalist local power structures
and install a broadcast media system able to overcome the boundaries of
ethnicity in creating a statewide public. In
contrast, local power structures hope to keep control of the broadcast media in
order to create the conditions of distrust between ethnic groups that allow them
to maintain their power. This paper
uses theories of power-sharing, to this point primarily used to describe types
of representative political institutions, to analyze the interplay between the
IC and local power structures in determining the types of media reforms that are
developed and implemented in BiH.
The Concept of Power-Sharing
power-sharing have recognized that in societies with severe ethnic divides,
democratic institutions need to go far beyond standard democratic procedures to
ensure adequate ethnic representation and minimize conflict between ethnic
groups. Though not claiming that
power-sharing structures can eliminate deep ethnic hatred, advocates of
power-sharing do suggest that the rules of the political game can be structured
to "institutionalize moderation on divisive ethnic themes, to contain the
destructive tendencies, and to preempt the centrifugal thrust created by ethnic
politics (Sisk, 1996: 33)."
The two most prominent
models of power-sharing are Arend Lijphart’s consociational model and Donald
Horowitz’s integrative model (Sisk, 1996).
Lijphart's (1977) consociational power-sharing relies on elite
cooperation across ethnic divides as the method to manage conflicts. Ethnic
fears of cultural domination are reduced by extending autonomy as far as
possible to each ethnic community, allocating shared resources proportionally,
and, when common decisions must be made, assuaging minority fears by giving them
veto power. But consociationalism, according to Horowitz (1985), relies too much
on elite cooperation and reinforces ethnic identities. Horowitz's integrative
power-sharing, in contrast, uses territorial and electoral reforms to promote
inter-ethnic cooperation and intra-ethnic competition, thus creating
cross-cutting cleavages and bases of identity other than ethnicity.
Community has a mandate to ensure the implementation of the Dayton Agreement
and, on the whole, the IC is interested in promoting inter-ethnic and
cross-entity communication and cooperation in order to bring about not only
peace, but sustainable one as well. As
such, it works for the development of integrative power-sharing arrangements
designed to create bases of identity other than ethnicity.
In contrast, local power structures have no interest in power-sharing at
all. In many ways, the conditions
following the collapse of the former Yugoslavia and the ensuing war remain in
Bosnia-Herzegovina; three nationalist parties – the Bosniak SDA, the Bosnian
Croat HDZ, and the Bosnian Serb SDS – have, to a large extent, retained
control of the tools of economic and social control. Insofar as consociational
power-sharing better allows for parallel ethnic institutions, it is a better
solution for these power structures than integrative power-sharing.
I hence find that the
power-sharing models of Lijphart and Horowitz are helpful in examining the
interplay between the international community and local power structures in
shaping the type of media reforms that are developed in BiH.
Namely, both sides use the rules and regulations encoded in the Dayton
Agreement and the present structure of the broadcast media system to impact the
implementation of the reforms.
The Early Reform Years - Development of OBN and Radio FERN
After the signing of the Dayton Agreement in 1995, the international
community was faced with three ethnically structured, separate media systems
with inflammatory reporting on other ethnic groups in each system (Sucic, 1996).
Nationalist parties had extensive control over the content of each of
these media systems; there was little, if any, separation between politics and
media. Members of the IC considered
this destabilizing for the peace process in both the long and short-term.
Faced with such a media environment, the international community set up
media restructuring as a key component of its strategy.
Early reforms by the
International Community included work on the development of some media pluralism
by providing funding for new, independent TV and radio stations in addition to
the "national" stations, journalist training and protection, and
development of objective standards for broadcasts.
The key reform in the context of this paper, though, was the attempt to
develop inter-entity, cross-ethnic communication networks.
Particularly important were the development of TV OBN (Open Broadcast
Network), by the International Trust Fund and OHR, and FERN (Free Election Radio
Network) by OSCE, both created in 1996. Unlike
pre-existing TV stations, OBN broadcast to the entire Bosnian state – that is,
both entities. Besides making news
and other informative and non-politically controlled programming available to
all citizens of BiH, OBN's purpose was to support independent journalism and
democratization (Udovicic et al, 2001). Members
of the international community invested about $17.5 million dollars in the
development of OBN (ICG, 1997). FERN
was created to impact the 1996 Bosnian elections, though it no longer focuses
only on elections. It is the only
radio station that broadcasts to all of BiH and does not target a particular
ethnic audience. These two networks
were a key component of the international community's early strategy for
creating a national, non-ethnic based, democratic public opinion.
development of OBN and FERN can be classified as primarily integrative reforms.
First, and most importantly, both of these networks were an attempt to
create bases of identity other than ethnicity.
As such, it was clearly an attempt to develop cross-cutting cleavages in
public opinion. In addition,
because both OBN and FERN relied on independent stations to broadcast their
feeds, there was a large degree of local autonomy for each individual member of
these networks. However, the
top-level decision-making structures at both OBN and FERN fit neither the
consociational nor the integrative models of power-sharing.
Instead, in both cases, outsiders were the highest power-holders.
At FERN, OSCE had the ultimate control, while OBN, though locally
registered to fulfill legal requirements, was managed by the International Trust
Fund in London.
So, how well were these reforms implemented?
First, the Dayton Agreement provided openings for entity and local
authorities to create problems for these national networks.
The existing nationalist power structures strongly opposed the
development of these networks and actively worked to create problems for them.
An independent media that could question their power frightened
nationalist politicians and these politicians used their influence over local
institutions (given power by the Dayton agreement) to thwart efforts to develop
OBN and FERN. For example, the
local Telecom Agency in the Federation hindered OBN by not granting it a
frequency license. Also, the
national broadcasters and local authorities did not want to allow OBN to use
existing transmitting infrastructure for broadcasting its programs, despite the
fact that OBN and the international community were ready to pay significant
amounts for the right to use these structures.
The international community, constrained by the letter of the Dayton
Agreement and concerned about the paradox of creating a democratic public sphere
by fiat, could do nothing. Instead,
OBN was forced to use costly satellite transmission between its stations.
The other important
issue was that very few people watched or listened. For example, in June through September of 2000, the average
market share for OBN was about 5% compared to 30% for RTV BiH and 12% for RTRS
and HRT (Mareco Index Bosnia,
2000). This suggests that these
networks did little to create cross-cutting cleavages and bases of identity
other than ethnicity in the public. In
1999, foreign donors abandoned OBN and OBN declared bankruptcy.
Radio FERN will likely be incorporated into the new public broadcasting
network described below (Udovicic et al, 2001). Also, potentially important here
is the names used for the networks by the international community.
"Open Broadcast Network" and "Free Election Radio Network"
mean nothing in any of the languages local to BiH.
Current Strategy - Development of the Public Broadcasting System
Recognizing the ineffectiveness of its earlier strategy, the
international community has taken a drastically new approach to broadcasting
reforms. Instead of attempting to
make deals with local authorities, the IC decided to expand the powers of the
High Representative with regard to media issues.
The Peace Implementation Council adopted a declaration in Sintra on May
30, 1997, giving the OHR broad powers in media regulation and development (Udovicic
et al, 2001). Then, on July 30,
1999, the High Representative laid out a decision to create a public
broadcasting system for all of Bosnia-Herzegovina. This plan was finalized with
a second decision from the High Representative on October 23, 2000, after the
legislatures in the RS and the Federation were unable to come to an agreement on
legislation for the public broadcasting system. This series of decisions creates a new broadcaster - BiH PBS,
a statewide public broadcasting service, and turns the existing “national”
broadcasters, RTRS and RTV BiH, into parts of the public broadcasting system.
According to these
decisions, RTV BiH will run two TV and radio stations, one of each primarily in
the Croatian language and the other in Bosnian, while RTRS will broadcast one TV
and one radio station, each primarily catering to a Serb audience.
As such, the decision contains major consociational principles of
power-sharing. However, it also
adds a number of integrative flourishes. For
example, each entity station will broadcast a one-hour national news program,
created by PBS BiH. Employment and
programming at each entity station should reflect cultural and national
diversities as well as all official languages of BiH.
Also, though the High Representative appoints most positions, some posts
are similar to the rotating Bosnian executive.
For example, “The RTV FBiH shall elect from amongst its members its
president and vice-president who may not be from amongst the same constituent
people (OHR, 1999: Article 46).”
In the creation of PBS
BiH, the IC has abandoned, at least explicitly, its goals of an integratively
structured broadcast media system. However,
in so doing, it has taken steps to ensure that the implementation of media
reforms is more likely to be successful. First,
the OHR was able to overcome some of the legacies of Dayton through a decision
that gave the OHR new powers. In
addition, the decision to create PBS incorporated the previous media
institutions, RTRS and RTV BiH, thus undermining the local power structures’
stranglehold on these institutions. And,
by allowing the continuation of these institutions, dissent by these power
structures was minimized. Finally,
the decision allowed the new Public Broadcasting System to build on, and combine,
separate pre-existing publics, ensuring an audience.
While implementation is likely to be more successful, the question that remains is: how effective will PBS BiH be at creating the cross-cutting cleavages and statewide public opinion that the IC desires? The consociational elements of the network, designed to decrease resistance from local power structures, may also serve to maintain primarily segregated media audiences. The creation of the Independent Media Commission (IMC), not discussed in this paper because of space limitations, to regulate broadcast media in BiH, as well as other prongs of the overall IC media strategy such as journalist training, will likely go far to eliminate the most flagrant excesses of broadcast media controlled by local power structures. But whether the hour-long, statewide news broadcast will be enough to create a public not as divided by ethnicity as the IC hopes remains to be seen.
For full details on the existing power structures in Bosnia see, especially, Reshaping International Priorities in Bosnia and Hercegovina: Part One – Bosnian Power Structures, 1999.
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