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Culture and gender in neo-conservative America

Richard Goldstein talks to Knut Olav Åmås

How far has America really come when it comes to gay rights and gender equality? Richard Goldstein, editor of the influential Village Voice believes that a social backlash in neo-Conservative America is forcing women back into traditional notions of feminity and is provoking new forms of accepted homophobia.

On freedom *

A discussion between Svetlana Boym and Boris Groys

Boym and Groys discuss philosophical concepts on freedom to assess how the term is used in its various dimensions – on the state level, in people’s private lives and relating to economic aspects.
Is there such a thing as societal freedom where the state governs and rules most aspects of people’s lives? Are humans, as Sartre proclaimed “doomed to be free”? Does freedom entail an escape from the economic determinism that rules Western civilisations or is it economic activity that sets us free in the first place? Svetlana Boym and Boris Groys discuss.

Media Policy in Slovenia in the 1990s

Regulation, privatization, concentration and commercialization of the media

During the 1990s the Slovene media were significantly affected by political changes. The events that most influenced the media world of the nineties were the introduction of the new media law (arguments and discussions about the media law in Slovenia have again become topical ten years later), the privatization of the media, liberalization of the print media market and superficial regulation of the broadcasting market, media monopolization and commercialization. These events are the subject of the analysis in this essay.
The Slovene media market is small, so relatively modest financial resources suffice to establish control over it (especially in comparison with the sums involved in the takeovers and acquisitions in other European countries). Before the process of media privatization got underway, the Slovene state expected the invasion of large European and American corporations, similar to what has happened in some other countries in transition. One decade later it is possible to conclude instead that a small number of local owners with stakes in numerous affiliated companies control the major part of the Slovene media market. The concentration is still in progress, while cross-ownership ties remain unchanged. It is obvious that the state, or rather its supervising institutions, do not have any mechanism (and no interest) to introduce order into this field.

Moreover, the legislative body has overlooked another important fact, namely that privatization has nothing to do with the ethics of the media operation, and even less so with the accountability of the media to the public. The democratic and plural media, which were expected to be secured through the Mass Media Act of 1994, proved to have a high price. In democratic societies the prevention of media monopolization is the responsibility of the state. However, in a system which is subject to voluntary steps by the state, market and new owners, that is to say, in which there are no legal and financial conditions for plurality of the media, it is not possible to talk of media freedom.
The story of introducing firstly the Mass Media Act that came into force in 1994 and then the Mass Media Act of 2001 brings to light the state’s attitude towards the media deregulation. In the beginning of the 1990s, the basic dilemmas revolved around the questions of whether a law on the media was needed at all, and what kind of law it should be. Once in force, the law proved to be deficient. Insufficient supervision of the implementation of the deficient law thus resulted in a non-transparent concentration of media ownership and numerous violations of the law for which, unfortunately, there were no sanctions.

The first changes to the Mass Media Act of 1994 were proposed in 1997 followed by four years of debate before the Mass Media Act, which replaced former law, came into force. It treats certain areas (for example, the interests of the state) in minute detail, while others (for example the interests of citizens) are dealt with only loosely. On the other hand, the fundamental question posed over the past decade remains unchanged and, more importantly, unanswered. This question is: What kind of the media policy does the state actually support?

An invisible wall

The hidden factor of Belarusian reality

Contrary to other former socialist Central and Eastern European countries, Belarus has hardly undergone any cultural and economic changes and remains cut off from the international arena. At the core of this problem, argues Nelly Bekus-Goncharova, is the Belarusian media landscape which proves incapable of creating an integrated informational space. State media and independent mass media remain locked in self-absorbed and separate discourses, neither of which provide a projection of what is really happening in Belarus. Can this deadlock be overcome?

Krysztof Pomian examines European attitudes towards Poland and Poland’s attitudes towards the European Union. He uncovers startling similarities in the rhetoric used by the European Left and the Polish Right in their arguments against the enlargement.

A round-table discussion which debates the interplay between media, government and civil society. How big is the media’s influence on the perception of politics and politicians? Does Slovakia possess a functioning civil society that keeps the balance of power in check? And finally, what are the lessons to be learned from other post-communist countries?

Poland as the sick man of Europe?

Jedwabne, "post-memory" and historians

Joanna Tokarska-Bakir investigates the defence mechanisms triggered by the European past: on the one hand the Holocaust guilt-complex and on the other the language historians use to talk about it.

Media reports on the Balkan wars brought for the first time news of widespread rape-practices to the public’s attention. By disentangling the heady mix of nationalism, chauvinism, ethnicity and gender construction, Vesna Kesic asks however, how far we really have advanced in our attitudes towards rape and institutionalised violence against women.

A Growing Gap

Thoughts on the current transatlantic relations

The conflict between Europe and America is a reality. At this point it consists mostly of differences of opinion, but the continents are drifting apart, and a larger break is not unthinkable any more. Impressions of travel and time travel by Michael Freund.

The rise of the NGOs in recent years has raised various new problems, most pressingly that of the “democratisation paradox”: Whilst the NGOs ultimate aim is to promote democratic structures in respective countries, their own structures remain relatively unaccountable and undemocratic. Other questions concern the sharing of power between NGOs and democratically elected chambers and the influence NGOs are able to exert over them. Claus Leggewie looks at the complex mechanisms involved and proposes ways out of the legitimation crisis.

The participation of the author in a symposium on literature and the media, organized by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute (Polish equivalent of the Cervantes Institute) has inspired this contribution to the eternal debate about criticism. In it, Mihály Dés reexamines the role of the critic and of literary criticism, a role, he argues, that remains as important as ever.

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