Imagine that in five to ten years, Central Europe has become a laboratory for democracy and security in Europe, note analysts Wojciech Przybylski and Galan Dall. After decades of following the trail of development left behind by western democracies, the countries of the region abandon the “catching up” paradigm and are experimenting with tactics addressing today’s and tomorrow’s societal deficiencies, they write in a new report for Visegrad Insight.*
In Information Sovereignty: Scenarios for Central Europe, they outline four scenarios arising from current trends and shifting variables in the fields of journalism, advertising and politics as snapshots for how European democracies may develop, highlighting critical areas to consider in order to prevent more devastating outcomes.
- In Centralisation of Media, the consequences of a near total government takeover of the information sphere leads to the deterioration of the section as well as the country’s eventual political isolation from its allies resulting in an adverse security situation.
- With Disruptive Decentralisation, a similar setting of centralised media control as in the previous scenario, but here the model is unsustainable and leads to privatisation of the market. However, the viable options for commercial journalism prove to be too great for smaller, independent and locally focused media, which eventually are swallowed up by national outlets or dissolve. Here, the more rural public loses out and a deeper polarisation of society emerges.
- In Growth of a Fragmented Sphere, governmental policies maintaining stable funding for pro-governmental media corrodes the advertising market and also heightens the polarisation between the outlets, irreversibly damaging the public sphere. Therefore, independent and corporate media turn away from ambitious news journalism. As public finances collapse not allowing for generous subsidies so does the effective propaganda machine leaving the media market overall more fragmented, rather than just decentralised.
- As the region has developed the digital ads market at an even faster pace than other parts of Europe, it has not built up resilience to challenges that come with it. For years, organised crime has been utilising the security gaps in online advertising to make tremendous profit, leading to A Collapse of the Advertising Market.
*A partner of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).