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Pandemic communication in times of populism: building resilient media and ensuring effective pandemic communication in divided societies

Grant number: 21/07344-3
Support Opportunities:Regular Research Grants
Duration: February 01, 2022 - July 31, 2024
Field of knowledge:Applied Social Sciences - Communications
Convênio/Acordo: Trans-Atlantic Platform for the Social Sciences and Humanities
Principal Investigator:Danilo Rothberg
Grantee:Danilo Rothberg
Principal researcher abroad: Sabina Mihelj
Institution abroad: Loughborough University, England
Host Institution: Faculdade de Arquitetura, Artes, Comunicação e Design (FAAC). Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP). Campus de Bauru. Bauru , SP, Brazil
Associated scholarship(s):22/03814-8 - Media and public perception of the pandemic in polarized societies, BP.PD


Media serve as important sources of information about public health, and their role increases during public health crises. The way media select and frame information during a crisis can have a significant impact on public attitudes and behaviour; it can encourage social cohesion and compliance with public health measures, or alternatively saw division and distrust. The presence of populist leaders obstructs the capacity of media organisations to engage in effective health crisis communication. It fosters antielite sentiments, contributes to divisive media coverage, and thereby encourages polarized attitudes and distrust among citizens, making them more vulnerable to misinformation spreading through socio-digital networks. Given the growing popularity of populism globally, efforts aimed at making our societies more resilient in the face of future pandemics urgently need a better understanding of how populism affects health crisis communication. This project will develop the first comprehensive, comparative study of health crisis communication in the context of populist politics, bringing significant advances in knowledge at the intersection of political communication and public health. Research will examine the impact of populism on four aspects of the pandemic communication circuit during COVID-19: government-led health crisis communication, media policy, media coverage, and public attitudes. The fifth strand will take a transnational perspective and analyse how the interaction between populism and pandemiccommunication was shaped by China and Russia's pandemic geopolitics. The focus will be on four countries that were led by populist leaders during the pandemic, and which capture different types of populist responses to the pandemic: Brazil, Poland, Serbia, and the USA. This research will inform recommendations aimed at building more resilient media organisations that are better able to withstand the challenges of future pandemics in divided societies. The recommendations will be developed and disseminated in collaboration with key organisations representing media regulators, communication professionals, and public service media. (AU)

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