Breaking the News: The Role of State-Run Media

Issue Date January 2014
Volume 25
Issue 1
Page Numbers 71-85
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Despite the rise of the Internet, state-dominated media—especially television—remain a crucial tool for regime control in authoritarian societies. Governments in China and Russia are the forefront of the state media model, but such systems dominate in countries as diverse as Azerbaijan, Iran, Rwanda, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. To achieve dominance state media seek to influence four audiences: regime coalition elites; the populace at large; Internet users; and the opposition and civil society. The authoritarian media strategy is not designed to block everything, but instead is aimed at obstructing news about politics or other sensitive issues from consistently reaching key audiences. The Internet may offer a freer alternative to state-dominated media, but the Internet’s fragmented character makes it a poor match for the disciplined messaging of authoritarian regimes that have a single-minded focus on self-preservation.