Comparing public spheres: normative models and empirical measurements

Most contemporary work on public spheres tends to adopt, either explicitly or implicitly, Habermas’s idea of a deliberative public sphere as a normative model. There are, however, a number of other normative models available that are rarely the subject of empirical scrutiny: republican, liberal and multicultural. This article poses the empirical question of whether actually existing public spheres more closely resemble one model rather than another. To answer this question, the authors develop ways to measure public spheres, at both national and transnational level. They ground this attempt to move comparative media analysis forward conceptually and empirically via a case study comparing media content about the EU Constitution in six countries.