Complex relationship between the media and politics

In a new study, researchers examine how close, or far apart, media and political power are from each other in four different countries. The complex relationship between media and politics has consequences with regard to shaping the public image of politics and individual politicians.
Press release
 | 28 January 2019

In a new study, published by Nordicom at the University of Gothenburg, researchers from Sweden, Finland, Poland, and Lithuania analysed the relationship between media and political power in their respective countries. The study shows a complex relationship and a mutual interdependence between the actors.

 – Political power needs media attention in a complex society with an abundance of information. Media, on the other hand, need information and credible sources inside the political establishment in order to produce news and information, according to Gunnar Nygren, Professor of Journalism at Södertörn University.  

The anthology Close and Distant: Political Executive–Media Relations in Four Countries is the result of a three-year research project for which more than 80 political journalists, political advisors, press secretaries, and politicians from the four countries were interviewed, mainly during the years 2015–2016.   

New trend in all four countries 

In all four countries, there has been an increase in governmental resources and efforts to influence the public agenda and the public image of politics. With the strategic use of new digital platforms, such as Twitter, political actors have been given new possibilities to bypass the traditional media and create the public images that they prefer. 

From the perspective of the media, political journalism faces decreasing resources in news­rooms. 

 – There are fewer journalists developing their own networks of sources; those still covering politics have to produce more for multiple platforms. This weakens the position of journalism in relation to the growing staff of communicators within the political machinery, says Gunnar Nygren. 

The researchers point to the risk of professional journalism becoming less influential; this scenario makes it easier for other powerful sources to influence and shape the public image of governmental politics.

A problem for democracy?

Is the fact that that the media and political power interact through interdependent relations a problem for democracy?

 – The traditional research perspective is to caution about this type of interaction from a democratic perspective. If opinions and values of the citizens on policies, politicians, and institutions can be easily manipulated byelites, that can hurt democracy, says Karl Magnus Johansson, Professor of Political Science at Södertörn University. 

At the same time, the researchers suggest that interaction can be necessary for the process through which individuals develop political attitudes. To have the knowledge to be able to assess, accept, or reject competing frames is important when individuals form their own opinions. 

The anthology is available to download free of charge or order in print here:

Omslag till boken Close and Distant

For more information 

  • Karl Magnus Johansson, Professor of Political Science, Södertörn University, phone: +46 8 60 84 282, +46 733 97 28 66, e-mail:
  • Gunnar Nygren, Professor of Journalism, Södertörn University, phone: +46 707 16 12 75 , e-mail:
  • Mia Jonsson Lindell, Communications Officer, Nordicom, phone: +46 766 18 66 22, e-mail: 


Other information
Nordicom is a knowledge centre in the field of media and communications research at the University of Gothenburg. Nordicom collects and adapts knowledge generated by academic research, and mediates it to various user groups in the Nordic region, Europe, and elsewhere in the world.   

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