Media and Current Affairs in France and the European Union

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Course Information
Political Science
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 
Additional student cost: 



This course will explore and critically analyze major institutions, actors and trends in contemporary French media and will attempt to situate them in the larger contexts of “unifying” Europe and the “globalized” world-media-scene.
We will examine the operational schemes, performances and internal decisional and power structures of different branches of French media: written national and regional press, specialized magazines, the publishing industry, advertising, radio, television, and the internet.
We will attempt a specific analysis regarding the international and French implications of the growing potential of social networks and “New Media.” We’ll critically review some aspects of the growing confusion—both in terms of competition and compatibility—between “new” and “old” media and their political, social and cultural impacts. 
In the domain of social and political presence, we will study and question practices of newsgathering, deontological principles and constraints, media performance under pressure of time, context, profit-making-structures, politics, violence, ethics and ideologies.  We will examine forms and styles of “information”, editorial policies and the variety of notions of “democratic pluralism” across the French and European media landscapes.
We will try to define and decode distinctions between “news”, “commentary” and “analysis” as they are being treated on the French and European media scenes.  We’ll analyze what all these may mean, encourage, cultivate or block in terms of both politics, society, culture and media during “high times” of political turmoil, violent crisis or social unrest.
The course will alternate traditional lectures and critical discussions and the analysis of written, illustrated, audio, visual and virtual excerpts.
Every session will include a compact set of short oral presentations (about 4-5 minutes long) of students addressing specific aspects of the assigned reading material, previous (or future) class discussions and the field visits.

Learning outcomes: 
By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  • Analyze, compare and critically evaluate media coverage, operational modes and involvement in the French and European political, social, cultural and ‘mental’ landscape. 
  • Evaluate the historical context and assess contemporary practices and trends in French and European traditional and ‘new’ media. 
  • Compare European media characteristics with US media sphere and integrate ‘global considerations’ into an overall analysis of modern media impacts.
Method of presentation: 
  • Lectures
  • Class-presentations
  • Discussions
  • Case studies
  • Moodle interactive exchanges
  • Field study
Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Class participation and active involvement in discussion - 25%
  • Class reports - 15%
  • Midterm Examination - 30%
  • Final Examination - 30%

Class Reports
Based on elaboration of the bibliography, students will present in class a designated article from the bibliography and submit a written text of approximately 2 pages
Mid-Term and Final Examination
In-class; Essay format

Informed and challenging opinions are highly encouraged during class reports, presentations and discussions.


Please bear in mind that the order and the content of sessions may be modified on short notice due to breaking French or international major news developments. Each day, we will draw upon current examples from primary media sources for our analysis, creating a sort of “mapping of the now.”

Week Topics Readings
Part I: French and European Media within their political, social and cultral context; Historical Background, operations and concepts
Week 1

Introduction: What shall we be looking for? 
How shall we proceed? We will cover the bases of terminology and short-term / long-term definitions needed to deal with French and European media as well as political, social and cultural “spheres”. Students will be given a general introduction to the contrast between traditional media and the Virtual, the NET, Social Networks and the challenges this poses.

  • Chalaby, Jean K. (2002).   Reason of State and Public Communications: De Gaulle in Context The De Gaulle Presidency and the Media, Palgrave-Macmillan, ch. 9    p. 189-205.
Week 2

Mapping the Media & Political Scenes:
“Horizontal view” of French Media scene: Who’s who in the current written Press, Radio, Television, the NET, Publishing & Advertisement Industries; specialized press, “free-time”, leisure and Magazine press; We will consider media institutions of reference and try to establish notions of historical evolutions and ‘trends’.

  • Oates, Sarah. (2008). The Internet and Democracy. Introduction to Media and Politics, Sage, L.A., London. P. 155-176.
  • Kuhn, Raymond. (2011). Historical Development of the Media in France.   The media in Contemporary France, McGraw –Hill Education,   ch.1,  p. 5-28.
Week 3

How do They Function?:   
Media “machinery” and performance: How do they operate, compete, comply, survive, disappear or flourish? We will consider instincts, ambitions, limitations and constraints of media coverage and production and explore the senses of editorial, production & financial innovation facing the “New Media”.

Readings for Week 3:

  • Nye, Joseph S. Jr. (2008). Public Diplomacy and Soft Power, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 616: 94-109, In Daya Kishan Thussu [Ed.] (2009). International Communication: A Reader, Routledge, London & New York. p. 333-344.
  • Harmsen, Robert. (2010). French Eurosepticism and the Construction of National Exceptionism.  Chafer, Tony and Godin, Emmanuel [Ed.] The End of French Exception? Decline and Revival of  the “French Model”. ch. 6. p. 105-122  

Week 4

Media as Public Actors:
Facts, emotions, analysis, power and counter-power. We will look at varying approaches and nuances related to notions of “media influence” in politics, society and “culture”; dynamics and impacts of the “New Media”; notions of the “local”, the “national”, the “European” and the “Global.”

  • Baubérot,  Jean. (2009).  Laïcité and the Challenge of ‘Republicanism’, Modern and Contemporary France, vol. 17, No. 2, p. 189-198.
  • Vince, Natalya. (2010). France, Islam and Laïcité: Colonial Exceptions, Contemporary Reinventions and European Convergence. Chafer, Tony and Godin, Emmanuel [Ed.]The End of French Exception? Decline and Revival of the “French Model”. ch. 8. p. 153-170.
Week 5

Media Business Models; Social and Commercial Realities and Constraints:
Political affiliations and sympathies, regulation and innovation; Free media outlets, advertisement, free downloads and copyrights; We will attempt to answer the question “Who’s really in charge: The Parliament, the Bureaucracy or the Market…?”

Readings for Week 5:

  • Baudrillard, Jean. (1995). The Racing Driver and His Double. TV Fantasies, Screened Out: P. 166-170.
  • Kuhn, Raymond. (2011). Media Pluralism. The media in Contemporary France, McGraw –Hill Education, ch.3, p. 59-80.
Week 6

Mid-Term review

Mid-Term Exam (in-class essay)

Part II: French Media in the Larger Context of EU media Institutions, Politics, and Civil Societies
Week 7

"Civil Societies" French and European Political Landscape:
How does the media influence civil society? What is it’s effect on political awareness, participation and electoral campaigning: on the French internal scene and in the context of European and international positioning? Does media have a role in the European unification process?

  • Drake, Helen (2010). France, Europe and the Limits of Exceptionalism. Chafer, Tony and Godin, Emmanuel ed. The End of French Exception? Decline and Revival of the ‘French Model’. ch. 10. p. 187-202.
  • Ibrahim, Yasmin. (2009). The Mediated ‘Ummah’ in Europe: The Islamic Influence in the Cultural Age. Charles, Alex, ed. Media in the Enlarged Europe: Politics, Policy and Industry, Intellect: 113-122.  
Week 8 The Media and French "Universal Claim"
We will look at “Francophonie” and media using examples of overseas influence of French written press, as well as the case of TV5-Monde.  Media is a tool that has revised the notions of 'Soft Power'; it is a tool in electoral campaigning, in diplomacy and the "peaceful deployment of democracy", "across the borders" with multidirectional impacts.  We will make some comparisons between different EU models: Northern "Rhine Model", British traditions and "solidarity", Mediterranean Europe, the Central-Eastern newcomers to the EU.
  • Mason, Moya K. (1999). La Francophonie: The History, Structures, Organization and Philosophical Underpinnings; report to the "Organisation International de la Francophonie" (excerpts)
  • Kuhn, Raymond. (2011).   The French Media On the World Stage.   The media in Contemporary   France, McGraw –Hill Education,   ch.7,  p. 143-163
Week 9

"La Republique est Une"; European Media and "Identity issues":
Egalité, Fraternité and Laïcité ; What are the media’s contributions and in the domains of “National Identity”, immigration, ethnic diversity and “communautarisme”, cultural “shocks”, nationalism, patriotism, and xenophobia; What controversies does it create?

Readings for Week 9:

  • Dauncey, Hugh. (12010).  “L’exception culturelle”. Chafer, Tony and Godin, Emmanuel [Ed.], The End of French Exception?  Decline and Revival of the “French Model”. Ch. 4. p. 72-84.
Week 10

Entertainment à la Française, à l’ Europé en ne : 
Reality-shows and voyeurisme in France. Through examples and a study of the evolution of “entertainment products,” we will attempt to understand the problematic fascination with media “violence” as well as consider the concepts of “elites” and “peuple” in French history, politics, culture and mass-media.


Readings for Week 10:

  • De Smaele, Hedwig. (2009). The Enlarged Audio-visual Europe: The Many faces of  Europeanization; Media in the Enlarged Europe, Intellect, p. 13-21.
  • Vedel, Thierry. (2009). Pluralism in the French Broadcasting System: Between the Legacy of  History and the Challenges of New Technologies. Czepek, Andrea Hellwig, Melanie & Nowak, Eva  [Ed.], Press Freedom and Pluralism in Europe: Concepts & Conditions. p. 261- 274.
Week 11

Notions of "Responsibility" in Political and Media Behavior:
Interactivity and confrontation between the traditional and the “New” media. In class analysis of case studies on electoral periods and extreme crisis situations.


Readings for Week 11:

  • Bollinger, Lee C. (2010). “Uninhibited, Robust and Wide-Open: A free Press for a New Century”,  Oxford University Press, Ch. 3: Regardless of Frontiers: p. 68-106. 
  • Tworzecki, Hubert. (2012). Political Communication and Media Effects in the Context of New  Democracies of East-Central Europe. Semetko, Holli A. & Scammell, Margaret [Ed.], The Sage  Handbook of Political Communication (2012). Ch. 35. 
Week 12

And What’ s Next? : 
Where are we heading in terms of political, social and “cultural” media coverage in France, within the “Francophonie” and in the European Union? We will review the balances and adversities between “New” and “Traditional” Media, and attempt to summarize contextual relativities and rapidly changing criteria.

Readings for Week 12:

  • Fenton,  Natalie. (2011).  Drowning or Waving?  New edia, Journalism and democracy; In Fenton, Natalie (ed.) New Media, Old News: Journalism & democracy in the Digital Age;  Sage, London, Los-Angeles, Part 1, Introduction , p. 3-15.

Week 13 Final Examination  


Required readings: 

All articles and book chapters listed will also be in the course reader.

  • Baudrillard, Jean. (2002) Screened Out. Verso, London, New YorkBehmer, Markus. (2009) “Measuring Media Freedom: Approaches of International Comparison.”   Czepek, Andrea Hellwig, Melanie & Nowak, Eva (ed.) Press Freedom and Pluralism in Europe: Concepts & Conditions. Gutenberg Press, Malta.
  • Bollinger, Lee C. (2010) Uninhibited, Robust and Wide-Open: A free Press for a New Century. Oxford University Press, New York.
  • Boy, Daniel and Chiche, Jean. (2011) “The Decisive Influence of Image.” Cautrès, Bruno and Muxel, Anne [Ed.], The New Voter in Western Europe, France and Beyond, Palgrave-Macmillan, New York.
  • Chafer, Tony and Godin, Emmanuel (eds). (2010) The End of French Exception? Decline and Revival of the “French Model”. Palgrave MacMillan.Chalaby, Jean K. (2002) The De Gaulle Presidency and the Media. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Charles, Alec (ed). (2009) Media in the Enlarged Europe: Politics, Policy and Industry, Intellect, Bristol, Chicago.Derida, Jacques and Stiegler, Bernard. (2002) Echographies of Television, Polity Press.
  • Grimm, Dieter. (2009)  “Freedom of speech in a globalized world.” Hare, Ivan and Weinstein, James [Ed.], Extreme Speech and Democracy, Oxford University Press.Kuhn, Raymond. (2007) “The Public and the Private in Contemporary French Politics.” French Cultural Studies, June vol. 18.
  • Lilleker, Darren G. and Jackson, Nigel A. (2011) Political Campaigning, Elections and the Internet: Comparing the US, UK, France and Germany. Routledge, London, New York. 
  • Mason, Moya K. (1999) “La Francophonie: The History, Structures, Organization and Philosophical Underpinnings.” Report to the "Organisation International de la Francophonie."
  • Nye, Joseph S. Jr. (2008) “Public Diplomacy and Soft Power, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.” Daya Kishan Thussu [Ed.] International Communication: A Reader, Routledge, London & New York. 
  • Oates, Sarah. (2008) Introduction to Media and Politics. Sage, L.A., London.  
  • Vedel, Thierry. (2009) “Pluralism in the French Broadcasting System: Between the Legacy of History and the Challenges of New Technologies.” Czepek, Andrea Hellwig, Melanie & Nowak, Eva [Ed.], Press Freedom and Pluralism in Europe: Concepts & Conditions.