Eike Mark Rinke
When entertainment and justification intersect: Analyzing democratic functions of political talk shows

Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, Phoenix, AZ, 24. bis 28. Mai 2012

Previous research has stressed television’s democratic function as a producer of exposure to opposing political points of view (Mutz & Martin, 2001). In this paper, I argue that the democratic functions of political talk shows go further in that they serve as producers of public political justifications. I begin by describing the significance of this justificatory function based on contemporary democratic theory and outline a general model of first-order justification effects (i.e., consequences of mere exposure to a justification). I then tie this model in with several aspects of the entertainment-orientation of talk shows: How do entertaining features of talk shows (e.g., their “in-your-face” discourse), entertainment orientations in their audiences (e.g., hedonic and eudaimonic motivations) and the mental states evoked by them (e.g., arousal, involvement) affect the outcomes of the political justifications they present to audiences? Future avenues for empirical research into the democratic significance of talk shows are discussed.