Muzzling the watchdog: Changing media performance in democratic Argentina

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Sallie Hughes - Committee Chair


Media in Argentina, having been partly unchained from the state after the transition to democratic regimes and market-oriented policies at the end of the 20th century, toned down their critical coverage of power actors, even as democracy persists and neoliberal policies reign. How and why is this happening? Using a content analysis to track change and interviews to explain it, I argue that the Argentine case illustrates the linkages between economic and political stability, public opinion, the media agenda, and the political agenda in determining news content in a new democracy. The combination of economic crisis, a public weary of never-ending displays of government corruption without results, the subordination of watchdog commitments to ideological and business concerns, weak professionalization and an elite instrumental view of media have facilitated the successful use of government news management designed to control the media agenda. The primary mechanisms utilized in the Argentine case to keep media purveyors of the official view are indirect, and wielded by media-savvy politicians capitalizing on changes in media economies and the propensity to subordinate watchdog functions to other interests. This is a circumstance with implications that could easily be witnessed in other consolidating democracies, as economic crisis heightens the possibility of media capture and control by political actors.



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