Beyond the Four Theories: Toward a Discourse Approach to the Comparative Study of Media and Politics

Florian Toepfl


Leading communication scholars have recently called for questions of meaning and ideology to be brought back into comparative media research. This article heeds that call by delineating a discourse approach to the comparative study of media and politics. This discourse approach is introduced with reference to a formerly influential but recently stigmatized strand of research in the tradition of Four Theories of the Press by Siebert, Peterson, and Schramm (1956/1973), although it abandons and goes well beyond this work. To illustrate the benefits of such an approach, a case study of the media-politics discourse dominant in Russia in 2012–2013 is presented. The findings are then marshalled to unravel three seemingly paradoxical observations about the Russian media landscape.


political communication, comparative media research, discourse, Russia, non-democratic regimes

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