Between commercialization and public service: vague role of regional mass media in Russia
This research explores implementation of public service function within the regional media system in Russia. Our investigation reveals that factors influencing on transformation of regional media system are multidirectional and conflict with each other. The main point of collision is between commercialization of regional media outlets and their intention to provide public service. Together with dependency on state financing due to weak advertising facilities, this conflict gives birth to a special institutional element of media market – state informational contracts. These contracts aim to eliminate “market failure” of lack of public significant information. Nevertheless, it turns out that they also perform other functions, such as indirect state control over the market and enhancing self-censorship of mass media. Conflict at the level of systems reproduces at the level media outlets that exist in the environment where the boundaries between commercial logic and public service logic are blurred. Regional mass media cannot clearly define their role – whether they are market players or public service providers. However, there is no any critical reflections about it in the media industry. Even more, state interference into the market in the form of informational contracts is widely accepted by media outlets and gets legitimate explanation from them.