Bras. Political Sci. Rev.. 11/Feb/2014;8(1):138-49.

Media and Democracy: a Plural Approach

Nelson Rosário de Souza

DOI: 10.1590/1981-38212014000100008

The central theme of Mauro Porto’s analysis is the political role of the media in contexts of democratic transition. His reflection is anchored in a case study of the Globo Television Network, a prominent nationwide network usually referred to as TV Globo. It is interesting to note that the history of theories on political communication runs jointly with the history of the rise of representative democracies. But lacunas still exist in the interface between communication and democracy, and the contributions of Porto’s book are significant.

Power has been a topic of discussion ever since the first studies on the media were published. The model that opened up the debate, the “hypodermic theory,” presented the thesis of the “unlimited effects” of the media over the behavior of individuals, the supposition being that the message acts on them directly and immediately (). The exaggeration of this initial analysis regarding the power of the media can be explained on the basis of its early theoretical and political context. The backdrop for the hypodermic theory was the emergence of behaviorism and mass psychology and the use of radio to mobilize the masses in totalitarian regimes, such as Nazism. Several later theories went beyond various drawbacks of the hypodermic theory, such as the fetishism of technique, discrimination toward “the masses,” the supposition of the stupidity of audiences, the supposition of insulation, the fragility and passivity of the individuals who receive the messages, and even the fear of a democratization of culture (). Adorno and Horkheimer had insisted on the thesis of the unlimited power of the culture industry, but not as an attribute of the new communication technologies in themselves, but rather as an effect of the class struggle.


Media and Democracy: a Plural Approach