Democratic Theory and the Potential of Value Frames in Assessing Media Performance

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Democratic Theory and the Potential of Value Frames in Assessing Media Performance


  • Ralph Weiß Institute of Social Sciences, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Germany
  • Raphael Kösters Institute of Social Sciences, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Germany
  • Merja Mahrt Institute of Social Sciences, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Germany


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Abstract:  Media users need information and knowledge to act as free citizens. From this basic democratic assumption, news standards for media performance can be derived. Porto’s (2007) model of the ‘interpreting citizen’ assigns a central role to the diversity of interpretive frames. These frames enable citizens to make judgments about societal issues and related political positions. However, a theoretical foundation for classifying these frames in terms of their content is missing. We propose to derive such a basis from democratic theories of citizenship, which assume that values define a citizen’s position vis-à-vis the political sphere. Building on the cleavage approach from political science, we characterize which values organize political debates. The results of a large-scale content analysis of German news media demonstrate which empirical insights into media performance can be gained with a theoretically derived classification of value frames (most notably, measuring the substantive content of plurality). Based on this, we discuss additional avenues for future research.

Keywords:  cleavages; citizenship; democracy; diversity; framing; media performance; news standards; plurality; political values

Published:   24 August 2020


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v8i3.3058


© Ralph Weiß, Raphael Kösters, Merja Mahrt. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.