COM 405: Media systems

Content is key

  • The most noticeable element of a media system
  • Content is the focal point when comparing media systems
  • But other hidden elements must also be considered: Audience, regulation of media, finances, access to media; society’s perception of media; impact of culture on content.

Note: information on this page was taken from the book, “Comparing Media from Around the World,” by Robert McKenzie.

Media as a tree

  • Philosophies are the roots
  • Cultural characteristics are the soil
  • Regulation is the trunk
  • Financing is the branches
  • Content and news reporting are the leaves

Influence of cultural characteristics on media

  • Geography
  • Language
  • Society
  • Government


  • Second largest country in Europe
  • French are proud of their language, though the language is less important than it once was
  • Close ties with a network of overseas territories and former colonies
  • 99 percent literacy rate
  • Paris is the most visited city in the world
  • Strong national government
  • Promotes music, painting, drawing and literature
  • Broad range of political ideologies


  • One of five Scandinavian countries
  • Most Swedes speak English well
  • 99 percent literacy rate
  • Love and respect for nature permeates national laws
  • Traditionally open society
  • Swedish government takes care of people from cradle to grave
  • Parliamentary democracy with weak monarch
  • Egalitarian society

United Kingdom

  • UK is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and parts of Northern Ireland
  • 99 literacy rate
  • Aristocracy-based class system is slowly breaking down
  • Classes: Nobility, professional, working and farming
  • British have penchant for reading
  • Parliamentary monarchy
  • Lawmakers elect the prime minister

United States

  • Third-largest country after Russia and Canada
  • 97 percent literacy rate
  • Cost of American dream: Americans work nine weeks more per year than European employees
  • Individual rights are important. People are responsible for their own destiny
  • Representative democracy


  • Eighth largest country in the world
  • Spanish is official language. There are also 20 indigenous languages
  • 92 percent literacy rate
  • Almost 90 percent of Mexicans are Catholic
  • Mexican democracy is still developing
  • Strong president. Three main political parties


  • Fourth largest country after the U.S., Canada and Russia
  • One of the world’s earliest civilizations
  • 6,500 characters in simplified Chinese; 13,500 characters in complex Chinese
  • Communist government tried to simplify language to improve literacy
  • Population of 1.2 billion. 70 percent live in rural areas
  • 86 percent literacy rate
  • Socialist market economy
  • One-party political system.


  • Independence from Britain in 1957
  • New democracy
  • Many political parties
  • Fragile economy


  • Borders Israel and Syria
  • Blend of Muslim and Christian
  • Arabic is official language; French is second
  • 87 percent literacy rate
  • Civil war from 1975 – 1989
  • Fragmented power

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