Dr. Adam Jacobsson from the Department of Economics at the University of Stockhom, presents the team's findings on June 20.

Hyper-Competition a Threat to Journalistic Performance Swedish-U.S. Research Team Reports at Dresden Conference

Very high levels of competition among media outlets in emerging markets seem to have adverse effects on journalistic performance, according to a paper presented by researchers from Sweden and the United States at a conference in Dresden, Germany, in late June.

The researchers found that as competition increased, journalistic performance initially increased as well, but very high levels of competition–which the researchers called hyper-competition--were associated with reporting that was not fair, not well-sourced and did not follow accepted ethical standards.

“Our study casts theoretical and empirical doubt on the virtues of media market competition,” Dr. Adam Jacobsson from the Department of Economics at the University of Stockholm, said in summarizing the findings of the research team.

Dr. Jacobsson made his comments in a session on media performance held at the 56th Annual Conference of International Communication Association, held from June 19 to 23 at the International Congress Center in Dresden.

Media scholars from around the world attended the congress to discuss a wide range of issues in the field of communication.

The research team pictured at the business meeting of the Journalism Studies Interest Group.

Dr. Jacobsson was joined in the June 20 presentation to the Journalism Studies Interest Group by Eva-Maria Jacobsson, Swedish Royal Institute of Technology, and Drs. C. Ann Hollifield and Lee B. Becker, both from the University of Georgia.

Dr. Hollifield is a faculty member in the Department of Telecommunications in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. Dr. Becker is director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, a unit of the Grady College.

Dr. Tudor Vlad, assistant director of the Cox Center, also was an author of the paper, which was an outgrowth of ongoing research in the Cox Center on the role of media in democratization.

The paper, titled “Examining the Suspected Adverse Effects of Competition on Media Performance,” looked at the relationship between the level of media competition and media performance in 20 countries in Southeast Europe, the Caucasus, Russia and Western Eurasia, and Central Asia, where the media market is still developing and where high levels of competition are taking place.

The researchers used Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a rough surrogate for advertising resources. The GDP was divided by the total number of media outlets to provide a measure of market competition.

Lee Becker with Rainer Hasters at the officers of RIAS Kommission Berlin.

To measure media performance, the researchers used data gathered in 2004 by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), a non-profit organization based in Washington involved in media training programs.

The researchers reported that their findings “are consistent with the expectation of a curvilinear (inverted U) relationship between competition and the quality of journalistic products in that country.”

The paper was selected as a top faculty paper by the Media Studies Interest Group. At the business meeting of the group, the research team was awarded certificates reflecting that accomplishment.

Following the conference in Dresden, Dr. Becker traveled to Berlin to meet with Rainer Hasters, executive director of RIAS Berlin Kommission. The Cox Center collaborates with RIAS on an exchange program involving U.S. and German broadcast journalists.
Three German journalists are expected to spend a week at the Grady College in October of 2006 as part of the program.