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Article

Henrik Örnebring and Michael Karlsson

The notion of journalistic autonomy is the idea that journalism as a societal institution, as well as individual journalists in their workplace (the newsroom), should be free from undue influence from other societal institutions and actors. The term “independence” is frequently used as synonymous with autonomy. Journalistic autonomy is commonly seen as normatively desirable as it is linked to two of journalism’s core democratic functions: information provision (journalists who are not autonomous may produce biased information) and the watchdog function (non-autonomous journalists may act in the interests of other actors when fulfilling the watchdog function rather than in the public interest). Autonomy exists on three distinct analytical levels: first, the institutional level (referring to journalism as a whole, being independent from other societal institutions like the state and the market); second, the individual level (referring to individual journalists having discretionary decision-making power in their own work); and third, the organizational level (referring to the workplace level, where individual preferences frequently are mediated by institutional constrains). In general, journalism research has focused mostly on analyzing autonomy on the institutional and individual levels and less on the organizational level. Research on journalistic autonomy on the institutional level focuses on the autonomy of journalism from the state (or, more broadly, the political sphere in general) and the market. The key instrument for both state and market actors seeking to influence journalism (thereby decreasing journalistic autonomy) is information subsidies, that is, information resources of different types that conform to journalistic genre demands and professional norms but which also advance the agenda of the actors who produce them. Research on journalistic autonomy on the individual level focuses on so-called perceived influences on journalistic work, that is, the factors that journalists themselves see as limiting their autonomy. There are broad cross-national patterns to such perceptions. The political system is the most important determinant of perceived political influence, as journalists in more authoritarian countries perceive more political interference than journalists in democratic countries. Another broad pattern is that nation-level and individual-level influences are perceived as more important than organizational-level influences. Almost regardless of country, most journalists actually see themselves as having a high degree of workplace autonomy. This is in contrast to the research on organizational-level autonomy (as well as much of the research on autonomy on the institutional level), which demonstrates that journalists’ workplace autonomy is constrained in many important ways. Tacit rules, implicit policies, and norms of professionalism all combine to make journalists obedient employees who generally voluntarily accept many constraints on their autonomy without perceiving them as such. Only overt and explicit attempts from political and commercial actors to control reporting are perceived as interference, whereas informal norms of story selection that favor resource-rich actors are seen as “natural” or “normal.” Thus in many ways, journalistic autonomy is a rhetorical construct as much as a normative ideal.

Article

Worldwide, governments subsidize agriculture at the rate of approximately 1 billion dollars per day. This figure rises to about twice that when export and biofuels production subsidies and state financing for dams and river basin engineering are included. These policies guide land use in numerous ways, including growers’ choices of crop and buyers’ demand for commodities. The three types of state subsidies that shape land use and the environment are land settlement programs, price and income supports, and energy and emissions initiatives. Together these subsidies have created perennial surpluses in global stores of cereal grains, cotton, and dairy, with production increases outstripping population growth. Subsidies to land settlement, to crop prices, and to processing and refining of cereals and fiber, therefore, can be shown to have independent and largely deleterious effect on soil fertility, fresh water supplies, biodiversity, and atmospheric carbon.

Article

There is no immediate or absolute relationship between the media and democracy in the sense that, without media, there could be no democracy. Similarly, it does not follow that with the (modern) media comes democracy. Autocracies exist wherein the media supports a political system, and likewise, democracies exist wherein the media works to undermine a political system. However, most often the media and democracy are viewed as supporting each other. This connection is the product of a long historical development, one peculiar to European (and North American) societies, involving not only institutions and practices directly linked to the media-based and democratic processes, but numerous other institutions (such as education, the political system, religion, etc.) as well. The media are not the only institutions that promote (or do not promote) democratic legitimacy. Other major institutions of such influence include education, religion, public authority, cultural institutions, and political systems, among others. From a wider societal viewpoint, the role of the media is rather reduced in influence. If, for example, an education system is based on ethnic or other forms of segregation, or if there is widespread religious intolerance, or if public authority suffers from corruption, it is obvious that the media has only so many resources to encourage systemic legitimacy. The fundamental interrelatedness of different social institutions makes it difficult, or even impossible, to study the media as a phenomenon isolated from the rest of society. For this reason, we should be careful when making comparisons between the media in different countries, even the media outlets within liberal democracies. In addition, there is no consensus as to the right balance of media and other social institutions in a democracy. Throughout the history of democracy, the relations between institutions (the political system, economy, media, and civil society) have undergone renegotiations and adjustments during times of crisis. Over the past few decades, this relationship appears to have reached a new crisis, one that continues to this day and still lacks a clear solution. In many countries, civil society–based media reform movements have been established with clear goals to further democratize media systems. One of the key arguments of these movements has centered on the contradiction between the constitutional obligations of democratic countries and the reality that, in practice, these rights do not apply equally to all. There remain major differences today between different social groups in terms of open access to and the unrestricted availability of information, the ability to utilize information according to one’s needs, having a voice represented by decision-makers, and respect for privacy and personal integrity.

Article

Merryn Sherwood, Timothy Marjoribanks, and Matthew Nicholson

The relationship between journalism and public relations in the 21st century has been mostly marked by tension, at least publicly. Many journalists’ accounts of public relations portray it as “the dark side” and characterize public relations practitioners as purveyors of “spin.” However, extensive research examining the input of public relations practitioners into the news has found that the products of their work—such as media releases or media conferences—are crucial in facilitating the news cycle. As one of the classic studies of news production identified, “News is, after all, not what journalists think, but what their sources say.” Decades of research have established that news sources are often likely to be public relations practitioners, with anywhere between 40% and 75% of news originating from public relations practitioners or the products of their work. Public relations is, therefore, critical to the work of journalism; however, journalists often deny this as part of publicly upholding the standards of their profession and building and maintaining boundaries of control over their work. However, the symbiotic relationship that formed the basis of news production in the 20th century is being upended in the 21st century as organizations become their own media producers. This means the lines continue to blur between journalism and public relations, both for individuals working across once clear occupational and professional boundary lines and for organizations adopting the functions of both.

Article

Organizations regulating the water sector have major impacts on public health and the sustainability of supply to households, industry, power generation, agriculture, and the environment. Access to affordable water is a human right, but it is costly to produce, as is wastewater treatment. Capital investments required for water supply and sanitation are substantial, and operating costs are significant as well. That means that there are trade-offs among access, affordability, and cost recovery. Political leaders prioritize goals and implement policy through a number of organizations: government ministries, municipalities, sector regulators, health agencies, and environmental regulators. The economic regulators of the water sector set targets and quality standards for water operators and determine prices that promote the financial sustainability of those operators. Their decisions affect drinking water safety and sanitation. In developing countries with large rural populations, centralized water networks may not be feasible. Sector regulators often oversee how local organizations ensure water supply to citizens and address wastewater transport, treatment, and disposal, including non-networked sanitation systems. Both rural and urban situations present challenges for sector regulators. The theoretical rationale for water-sector regulation address operator monopoly power (restricting output) and transparency, so customers have information regarding service quality and operator efficiency. Externalities (like pollution) are especially problematic in the water sector. In addition, water and sanitation enhance community health and personal dignity: they promote cohesion within a community. Regulatory systems attempt to address those issues. Of course, government intervention can actually be problematic if short-term political objectives dominate public policy or rules are established to benefit politically powerful groups. In such situations, the fair and efficient provision of water and sanitation services is not given priority. Note that the governance of economic regulators (their organizational design, values or principles, functions, and processes) creates incentives (and disincentives) for operators to improve performance. Related ministries that provide oversight of the environment, health and safety, urban and housing issues, and water resource management also influence the long-term sustainability of the water sector and associated health impacts. Ministries formulate public policy for those areas under their jurisdiction and monitor its implementation by designated authorities. Ideally, water-sector regulators are somewhat insulated from day-to-day political pressures and have the expertise (and authority) to implement public policy and address emerging sector issues. Many health issues related to water are caused or aggravated by lack of clean water supply or lack of effective sanitation. These problems can be attributed to lack of access or to lack of quality supplied if there is access. The economic regulation of utilities has an effect on public health through the setting of quality standards for water supply and sanitation, the incentives provided for productive efficiency (encouraging least-cost provision of quality services), setting tariffs to provide cash flows to fund supply and network expansion, and providing incentives and monitoring so that investments translate into system expansion and better quality service. Thus, although water-sector regulators tend not to focus directly on health outcomes, their regulatory decisions determine access to safe water and sanitation.

Article

As of 2017, the urban access rate to safe water sources in 2017 stood at 84% while rural access was still around 45%. The rates for sanitation were 44% and 22%, respectively. Since the 1980s many high-profile reforms supported by international organizations have been implemented in the region in an attempt to close the access gaps in the water and sanitation sector (WSS). Two recommendations with high international exposure were an increased role for large-scale private sector participation in the management and financing of national or regional utilities and the creation of separate sector regulatory agencies to increase the independence of regulation. Both reforms seemed to contribute to improved water access rates, at least for the urban population, but not enough to catch up with the demands of a fast-growing population; and both failed to deliver on sanitation. The progress these initiatives allowed was correlated with improvements in the average health outcomes for some indicators (i.e., under-five mortality associated to diarrhea) but once again, it was not enough and was not fairly distributed. Indeed, improvements seem to have mostly benefited upper- and middle-income groups. Unfortunately, an evaluation of the health effects of these two reforms have not yet been fully established empirically, which is why it seems prudent to talk about correlations rather than causal effects. Most of the statistically robust evidence on the impact of utilities and regulatory reforms on health is incomplete because details of several dimensions of these reforms and their context are not measured consistently across countries or within countries. In addition, the small amount of econometric evidence available is based on pre-2010 data for SSA. The imperfect data is however solid enough to suggest that without further governance changes in the region, the health risks are likely to increase. This is because due to the high population growth rate of the region, closing the access gaps is likely to get tougher considering current investment levels and technological choices. The necessary changes require improving the match between policy and technological choices, including service delivery technologies that are consistent with the ability to pay and the tariff and subsidy levels adopted to ensure cost recovery without excluding any category of users.

Article

Christine L. Crago

Energy from the sun has vast potential for powering modern society. The first decades of the 21st century saw a rapid increase in the deployment of solar power, with global solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity growing over 25-fold, from 23 GW to 627 GW, between 2009 and 2019. Growth in the solar PV market is supported by financial and regulatory incentives offered by many governments worldwide. These incentives include feed-in tariffs, rebates, and tax incentives, as well as market-support policies governing permitting and grid interconnection. Despite the rapid growth in solar PV capacity, solar electricity accounts for under 3% of global electricity generation, suggesting that there is huge potential for the solar PV market to expand and meet global energy demand. Foremost among the benefits of solar power is its potential to drastically cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the electricity sector. Solar electricity can also reduce local air pollution, and growth of the PV market can enhance energy security and contribute to the green economy. However, there are challenges to future expansion of the solar PV market. One of the key barriers is the cost of solar projects. Although as of 2020 the cost of utility-scale solar projects was beginning to be competitive with the cost of conventional energy sources, further reductions in costs are needed to achieve deeper penetration of solar electricity. Other challenges associated with solar electricity have to do with the predictable and unpredictable aspects of solar resource. On the one hand, solar resource varies predictably based on season and time of day. When solar electricity output coincides with peak electricity demand, solar electricity provides added value to the electrical grid. On the other hand, weather variation, air quality, and other factors can drastically alter predicted output from solar PV systems. The unpredictable aspect of solar electricity poses a major challenge for integrating solar electricity into the electrical grid, especially for high levels of penetration. Grid operators must either store electricity or rely on standby generators to maintain grid reliability, both of which are costly. Advances in storage technology and grid management will be needed if solar electricity is to be a major source of electricity supply. Residential adoption of rooftop solar PV systems has led to the growth of “prosumers” (households that consume and produce electricity) and has provided a novel setting to examine several aspects of consumer behavior related to adoption of new technology and energy-use behavior. Studies show that financial incentives, pro-environmental preferences, and social interactions affect adoption of solar PV technology. Prosumers are also likely to consume more electricity after they install solar PV systems. Decarbonization goals related to society’s response to climate change are expected to drive future growth in the solar PV market. In addition to technological advances, market mechanisms and policies are needed to ensure that the transition to an energy system dominated by solar and other renewables is accomplished in a way that is economically efficient and socially equitable.

Article

Alexandrina Stoyanova and David Cantarero-Prieto

Long-term care (LTC) systems entitle frail and disabled people, who experience declines in physical and mental capacities, to quality care and support from an appropriately trained workforce and aim to preserve individual health and promote personal well-being for people of all ages. Myriad social factors pose significant challenges to LTC services and systems worldwide. Leading among these factors is the aging population—that is, the growing proportion of older people, the main recipients of LTC, in the population—and the implications not only for the health and social protection sectors, but almost all other segments of society. The number of elderly citizens has increased significantly in recent years in most countries and regions, and the pace of that growth is expected to accelerate in the forthcoming decades. The rapid demographic evolution has been accompanied by substantial social changes that have modified the traditional pattern of delivery LTC. Although families (and friends) still provide most of the help and care to relatives with functional limitations, changes in the population structure, such as weakened family ties, increased participation of women in the labor market, and withdrawal of early retirement policies, have resulted in a decrease in the provision of informal care. Thus, the growing demands for care, together with a lower potential supply of informal care, is likely to put pressure on the provision of formal care services in terms of both quantity and quality. Other related concerns include the sustainable financing of LTC services, which has declined significantly in recent years, and the pursuit of equity. The current institutional background regarding LTC differs substantially across countries, but they all face similar challenges. Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive approach that allows for the adoption of the “right” mix of policies between those aiming at informal care and those focusing on the provision and financing of formal LTC services.

Article

Michael Hantke-Domas and Ronaldo Bruna

In 50 years, Chile achieved nearly full urban water and sanitation coverage—even higher than some developed countries. Furthermore, in just a decade, the country obtained full urban wastewater treatment, making it probably the only developing country that will successfully meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in this matter. These achievements can be attributed to policies oriented towards the incremental or gradual improvement of the water and sanitation sector sustained for more than 50 years. This policy was mainly focused on (a) increasing public investment in expanding coverage levels, both for potable water and sewerage; (b) reducing enteric diseases and infant mortality; (c) improving child nutrition; (d) streamlining public utilities; (e) establishing a legal framework for economic regulation applied by an independent body applicable to all utilities; (f) building efficient institutions; (g) a full cost recovery tariff policy; (h) bringing private capital into the industry; (i) subsidizing those who need it most; and (j) de-politicizing the sector. The Chilean experience is not well documented or, at least, there are few references regarding its success story, which reinforces the motivation to understand its history.

Article

Christian A.L. Hilber and Olivier Schöni

Lack of affordable housing is a growing and often primary policy concern in cities throughout the world. The main underlying cause for the “affordability crisis,” which has been mounting for decades, is a combination of strong and growing demand for housing in desirable areas in conjunction with tight long-term supply constraints—both physical and man-made regulatory ones. The affordability crisis tends to predominately affect low- and moderate-income households. Increasingly, however, middle-income households—which do not usually qualify for government support—are similarly affected. Policies that aim to tackle the housing affordability issue are numerous and differ enormously across countries. Key policies include mortgage subsidies, government equity loans, rent control, social or public housing, housing vouchers, low-income tax credits, and inclusionary zoning, among others. The overarching aim of these policies is to (a) reduce the periodic housing costs of or (b) improve access to a certain tenure mode for qualifying households. Existing evidence reveals that the effectiveness and the distributional and social welfare effects of housing policies depend not only on policy design but also on local market conditions, institutional settings, indirect (dis)incentives, and general equilibrium adjustments. Although many mainstream housing policies are ineffective, cost-inefficient, and/or have undesirable distributional effects from an equity standpoint, they tend to be politically popular. This is partly because targeted households poorly understand adverse indirect effects, which is exploited by vote-seeking politicians. Partly, it is because often the true beneficiaries of the policies are the politically powerful existing property owners (homeowners and landlords), who are not targeted but nevertheless benefit from positive policy-induced house price and rent capitalization effects. The facts that existing homeowners often have a voter majority and landlords additionally may be able to influence the political process via lobbying lead to the conundrum of ineffective yet politically popular housing policies. In addition to targeted policies for individuals most in need (e.g., via housing vouchers or by providing subsidized housing), the most effective policies to improve housing affordability in superstar cities for all income groups might be those that focus on the root causes of the problem. These are (a) the strongly and unequally growing demand for housing in desirable markets and (b) tight land use restrictions imposed by a majority of existing property owners that limit total supply of housing in these markets. Designing policies that tackle the root causes of the affordability crisis and help those in need, yet are palatable to a voter majority, is a major challenge for benevolent policymakers.

Article

Sebastián Valenzuela

People use the news media to learn about the world beyond their family, neighborhood, and workplace. As news consumers, we depend on what television, social media, websites, radio stations, and newspapers decide to inform us about. This is because all news media, whether through journalists or digital algorithms, select, process, and filter information to their users. Over time, the aspects that are prominent in the news media usually become prominent in public opinion. The ability of journalists to influence which issues, aspects of these issues, and persons related to these issues, are perceived as the most salient has come to be called the agenda-setting effect of journalism. First described by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw in a seminal study conducted during the 1968 elections in the United States, agenda-setting theory has expanded to include several other aspects beyond the transfer of salience of issues from the media agenda to the public agenda. These aspects include: the influence of journalism on the attributes of issues and people that make news; the networks between the different elements in the media and public agendas; the determinants of the news media agenda; the psychological mechanisms that regulate agenda-setting effects; and the consequences of agenda setting on both citizens’ and policymakers’ attitudes and behaviors. As one of the most comprehensive and international theories of journalism studies available, agenda setting continues to evolve in the expanding digital media landscape.

Article

Nations rapidly industrialized after World War II, sharply increasing the extraction of resources from the natural world. Colonial empires broke up on land after the war, but they were re-created in the oceans. The United States, Japan, and the Soviet Union, as well as the British, Germans, and Spanish, industrialized their fisheries, replacing fleets of small-scale, independent artisanal fishermen with fewer but much larger government-subsidized ships. Nations like South Korea and China, as well as the Eastern Bloc countries of Poland and Bulgaria, also began fishing on an almost unimaginable scale. Countries raced to find new stocks of fish to exploit. As the Cold War deepened, nations sought to negotiate fishery agreements with Third World nations. The conflict over territorial claims led to the development of the Law of the Sea process, starting in 1958, and to the adoption of 200-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in the 1970s. Fishing expanded with the understanding that fish stocks were robust and could withstand high harvest rates. The adoption of maximum sustained yield (MSY) after 1954 as the goal of postwar fishery negotiations assumed that fish had surplus and that scientists could determine how many fish could safely be caught. As fish stocks faltered under the onslaught of industrial fisheries, scientists re-assessed their assumptions about how many fish could be caught, but MSY, although modified, continues to be at the heart of modern fisheries management.