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However, he does not take refuge in nostalgia, but looks to new, digital media as the means whereby a more robust and practical citizenship can be built, not least because the relationships between representatives and citizens can be made more routine, transparent and accountable. He even suggests that digital media may constitute a ‘Fifth Estate’. Apart from addressing only one aspect of the impact of new media, the thesis that visual cultures and digital technologies greatly increase the chances of political manipulation and demagoguery, repeats a cardinal sin of retro-nostalgia and flirts with an ersatz determinism.
Being a visual medium, it is technically determined of course, but also carries a complex set of semiotic codes, conventions, formats and production values with which viewers engage. Digitalized media, as we have seen, also possess certain attributes, chief among which are immediacy and individualization. But there is no single communicative logic at work here, and certainly not one that need produce atomized rootless selves rather than reflexive individuals, or which, ipso facto, is ‘corrupting of democracy’ (Barber, 1998: 15).
But the possibility of a multitude of new channels eroded the legal foundations of such regulation. The diffusion of new modes of satellite transmission only compounded the challenge, as even countries whose constitutions and regulatory laws included other justifications for various systems of state control or regulation of broadcasting found it harder and harder to police the borders of their national electronic public spheres. These two global processes, then – the diffusion of the neo-liberal paradigm and the wave of new media technologies – have precipitated a transformation of national communications systems in nation after nation around the world.