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The aim of this essay is to discuss the topic of alternative media in Slovakia. Alternative media have begun to be very present issue in Slovakia and number of them is constantly increasing. They started to pop up rapidly in the year 2013 and they still grow in popularity among people.
The first part of this essay will define mainstream and alternative media, why alternative media appear and what they usually stand for. The second part of this essay will examine Slovak alternative media. The third part of this essay will provide 2 examples of the same news presented in mainstream versus in alternative media.
2. THE AVAILABILITY OF INFORMATION AND PLURALITY OF SOURCES
In today’s world, people have overwhelming access to information. With upraise of the internet in the past two decades, many are speaking about the information revolution. There are many sources of information and in the terms of media, it can be distinguished by the scale of reached people on mainstream media and alternative media.
2.1 Mainstream media
The mainstream media can be characterized by their reach of the masses and by the impact on people. Mainstream media reflects prevailing currents of thought, influence, or activity. According to Fuchs: “content is strictly defined by what is considered as popular and sellable. Content takes on an ideological form either by reporting that is based on manipulation or by stories that are reported as important, but are not really important for society at large. In any case, such content aims to distract the recipients from confrontation with actual societal problems and their causes.” It is important to point out, that the content of mainstream mass media is considered to be ideological and it represent government and corporate interests.
2.2 Alternative media
On the contrary, alternative media can be define as the media which “differ from established or dominant types of media in terms of their content, how they are produced or how they are distributed. Alternative media take many forms including but not limited to print, audio, video, Internet and street art. Alternative media tend to be non-commercial projects that advocate the interests of those excluded from the mainstream, for example, the poor, political and ethnic minorities, labor groups, feminists, and GLBTQ identities. These media broadcast ignored or overlooked viewpoints. Alternative media have historically been counter-hegemonic, in other words, they challenge the dominant set of beliefs and values of a culture.” Alternative media tend to present themselves as opposite to mainstream media, which are “large-scale, state-owned or commercial, hierarchical, dominant discourses vs. small-scale, independent, non-hierarchical, non-dominant discourses.”
Alternative media are self-organized, small-scale community media, which are usually run by passionate group of individuals or by the civic associations. By their process approaches they enable citizenship participation and the model of citizen journalism. “Anybody can be an author without specific training or expertise. Individuals or groups, which are affected by certain problems, become journalists or at least the positive subject of journalism (concerned citizens). Consumers become producers (prosumers, producers), the audience becomes active.” As ordinary people can become journalists in alternative media, the quality does not need to be always on the same level as in the mainstream media, but people often may feel sympathy with this citizen-controlled journalism.
3. ALTERNATIVE MEDIA IN SLOVAKIA
Alternative media in Slovakia started to appear in the year 2010. The sharp increase of them was two years ago. List of alternative media which operate in Slovak language was composed by Mr. Smatana and it was counted to be 36 media including web pages, internet radio and print journal. The web pages are considered to be Slovak alternative media according to Slovak language in which they are written or spoken. Slovak language use only Slovakia in the whole world, so there is no doubt that they are focus on Slovaks living in Slovakia or abroad.
The topics in the Slovak alternative media are:
•Geopolitical and economic situation in the world, mainly in the countries: Syria, USA, Ukraine, Russia and the countries of European union,
•The immigrants crisis and its negative consequences for Europe including threat of terrorism,
•Globalization – mainly its disadvantages and possible solution for it,
•Transatlantic trade and investment pact (TTIP) – on many web pages it is possible to sign the petition against it,
•Alternative medicine – criticism of pharmaceutical industry and the overproduction of tablets and medicine, criticism of chemotherapy, criticism of vaccination, promotion of natural medicine and homeopathies.
In Slovakia there is just one alternative radio - Slobodný vysielač, which means Free broadcaster. Slobodný vysielač is an internet radio, which starts to broadcast on 14th January 2013 and is run by the same name civic association. It claims on its internet webpage that it is: “noncommercial and not-for-profit project, which was created for people but cannot exist without People’s direct help. The only way, how to maintain independence is just with financial supports from society. We please you, to get aware, that even the small sum as 5 euro monthly can make a big difference, and the same as free spreading of information can change the society to better…” Radio claim in its web page that it stand for “rise of national awareness, support of Slovak economy, Slovak products and Slovaks in foreign countries”. The radio also plans free broadcasting on the radio frequencies as soon as it will get enough money to launch it. On Facebook it has the biggest number of likes, specifically 74 309.
The biggest and the only Slovak alternative print medium is Zem a Vek, which means Earth and Age. It is monthly periodic and it is possible to subscribe. The first edition was published in May 2013. One magazine has 140 pages, it is without advertisement and it cost 3 euro and 2.50 for subscribes. In its page it claims to have already 7 407 subscribers. According to Facebook, it is the second most popular alternative medium in Slovakia with 22 724 likes.
There are many internet web pages, although none of them seems to be significantly more popular and important than the other. For instance there are Hlavné správy, which means The main news and Nadhľad, which means The overview.
There is also one popular Facebook fan page without web page. Its name is Spravodajská alternatíva, which means Newscast alternative. According to number of likes in Facebook it is the third most popular alternative medium in Slovakia with 22 439 likes.
All the above mentioned Slovak alternative media present themselves as unbiased and independent source of information. They define themselves as the one who truly inform people about the current situation in the world so that people can make their own opinion based on real, non-deformed facts. They claim, that when people will start to look for another sources of information – for example them, they can wake up and see the lies which they are told by mainstream media and so they do not have to be any longer ‘sheeple’ as they used to call ‘ordinary people’. The word ‘sheeple’ is created from the words sheep and people and it metaphorically stand for people who blindly believe in everything what they are told especially in mainstream media.
Another common feature of Slovak alternative media is asking for financial support for their operations. On the most of these web pages are barometers, which are showing the current amount of financial support gained from the people for current month. They ask for this support from the people to be able to be and to stay unbiased. In another words – they state, they are not owned by government or any corporation, so they will not advertise or promote anybody’s interests, so they can provide independent and unbiased information for the people.
4. CASE STUDY – VENEZUELA’S OPPOSITION WON THE ELECTION
In the case study I will compare the same news, one published in mainstream medium and the other in alternative medium. The news is about parliamentary elections in Venezuela, which took place on the 6th December 2015. This election won the coalition of opposition parties after 16 years of governance of socialistic party.
The first example is an article translated from Denník N – Slovak print daily magazine, which could be classed as mainstream medium. The second example is an article translated from Zem a vek. The same article was shared also on the web page of Slobodný vysielač. Both articles refer to the election in Venezuela, however it is easy to notice different attitudes towards the current situation there.
4.1 The article translated from Denník N (Mainstream medium)
Socialistic revolution of Hugo Chávez is falling, in Venezuela the opposition won.
“Two years after the death of Hugo Chávez his successor lost the election to the coalition of democratic forces. The islands of socialism are disappearing. After Cuba, which is getting closer to USA, however still with Castro’s followers in power, even the bigger surprise came. The elections in Venezuela was won markedly by the opposition. The party of Nicolas Maduro in the Sunday’s parliamentary election was beaten by the opposition associated in coalition of the ‘Round table of democratic unity’. The coalition got 99 from 167 parliamentary seats.
The failure of local socialists came two years after the death of their leader Hugo Chávez. After 16 years of socialistic government, during which the South America country suffered from economic crisis, now a crucial breakthrough in the political development is expected to happen. The leading block composed of socialistic party and cooperating subjects suffered clear defeat. Socialists got only 46 seats.
After the announcement of the results, in the capital city - Caracas broke out big celebrations and fireworks. President Maduro admit defeat, but behind the result he sees ‘economic war’ against him.”
4.2 The article translated from Zem a Vek (Alternative medium)
The Venezuelan opposition beat ‘Chávezes’ and takes control over the country
“The opposition ‘Democratic unity’ beat in the Sunday’s election the government party and got dominion in the parliament after 16 years of attacking and criticizing the long-lasting Chávez’s platform with Nicolas Maduro as the leader. According to the information, the opposition got 99 seats in the parliament, whilst socialistic party got 46 seats. 53 years old Maduro quickly admitted the defeat. He claimed in his speech to the nation: “We are here and we are aware of this negative result. Economic war triumph today.” He accused local corporations from connections with abroad and the opposition from sabotage of Venezuela’s economy. They profit from the continuing economic problems of the country and the ‘long queues’ when buying certain commodities.
The opposition created the bases for the potential destabilization of the country from the beginning of Chávez governance also through the pouring millions of dollars in the local non-governmental organizations. The Sunday’s elections will be tag by western media for the first time as democratic elections, because ‘their horse’ won and the previous defeats will be assigned to fraudulent election. Unfounded statements of opposition about past elections cheats have got in western media great space and yesterday’s triumph of the opposition will be in our countries probably celebrates in the style: ‘truth and love have won’. However the truth is, that Venezuelan elections system is long-term “the most transparent in the world” as was said by the ex-president of USA Jimmy Carter in the year 2012…
… Venezuela was until yesterday an independent country with independent foreign policy, about which we can just dream in our countries. This is the reason, why Venezuela was for many years demonized by American and European mainstream media, what will after this elections for sure end. 15 years of social measures, the biggest program for increase of literacy, available health care, budget for living for free, cultural successes and the pension are after change of the government shaking in the bases. After the arrival of the new party to lead position of the country, it is expected structural changes to happen, transfer of state property into private and foreign hands and savings reforms imposed by IMF. The television and print media will give us in the close future a beautiful picture of ‘a shining, progressive and free’ future of new Venezuela.”
According to Norman “every news are influenced by the one who carries them. Every word carries its ideological load and nobody can avoid it. The reported can be until some extend neutral but when it comes to the essence of his worldview, it will reflect.” Thanks to our human nature, write and present news without reflection of personal attitudes is difficult.
The alternative media in Slovakia present themselves as unbiased and independent media. “Alternative media was and are built on the thought of bringing supressed information. More precisely, on the bringing of not deformed news as the opposite of deformed news in official mass media. But the same as the corporate media are ideologically influenced, nor alternative media cannot play on worldview neutral.” In Slovakia, the alternative media may have started as an answer to the traditional media perceived as biased, but because of the structure of alternative media it is hard to prove any financial connections as to prove their independence.