Researchers Eva-Maria Jacobsson and Adam Jacobsson visited with students and faculty in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication in October.

Wealthier Countries Tend to Have More Press Freedom, Swedish Research Team Tells Faculty and Students

Wealthier countries around the world tend to have more press freedom than do poorer countries, a pair of Swedish experts told a gathering of about 25 graduate students and faculty in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia in October.

“As economic wealth attracts commercial advertising, the media become financially stronger and thereby also more independent,” researchers Adam Jacobsson and Eva-Maria Jacobsson told the audience.

The Swedish researchers gave their lecture entitled “An economic view on media independence” at the Grady College on October 20. The session was organized by the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, a unit of the Grady College.

Eva-Maria Jacobsson is a media scholar working at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, and Adam Jacobsson is on the faculty of the Department of Economics at the University of Stockholm.

The Jacobssons came to the University of Georgia to collaborate with Grady faculty members Dr. C. Ann Hollifield, Dr. Lee B. Becker and Dr. Tudor Vlad. Dr. Hollified is a professor in the Department of Telecommunications. Dr. Becker is a professor in the Department of Journalism and director of the Cox Center. Dr. Vlad is a research scientist and assistant director of the Cox Center.

The group is examining the relationship between media competition and journalistic performance in developing media markets.

In August, Drs. Becker and Hollifield traveled to Stockholm to initiate work on the project with the Swedish team. That travel was funded by a seed grant from the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation. The Jacobssons’ travel to the United States was supported by a grant from the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research in Higher Education (STINT).

The Jacobssons analysis of the relationship between economic characteristics of a country and its press system is based on the Press Freedom Survey conducted annually by the Freedom House, an organization that studies media and political conditions around the world and is located in Washington, D.C. Drs. Becker and Vlad also have used the Freedom House indicators in their research.

“A casual empirical observation indicates that poor countries tend to have little media freedom, while wealthier nations have more,” Adam Jacobsson told the Grady gathering. The goal of the work he and his wife are undertaking is to provide both an empirical examination of that relationship and a theoretical model to explain it.

“Freedom of the press is one of the cornerstones of democracy,” the pair said. For this reason, examination of the causes of press freedom is of extreme importance.