Research article
Issue: № 8 (15), 2013

Лазарук Я.

Аспирант, Факультет международных отношений, Черновицкий национальный университет имени Юрия Федьковича



В статье рассмотрены практические аспекты структурного функционализма в теории средств массовой информации. Структура испанских СМИ анализирована в виду их функционирования в переходный период к демократии.

Ключевые слова: структурно-функциональный анализ, политические институты, СМИ, переходный период.

Lazaruk Y.

Postgraduate Student of the Department of International Relations, Chernivtsi National University named after

Yuri Fedkovych (Chernivtsi, Ukraine)



The article deals with practical aspects of the structural functionalism of the theory of mass communication. The structure of Spanish mass media is analyzed in terms of their functioning during the transition to democracy.

Keywords: structural-functional analysis, political institutions, the mass media, transition.

In 2000 Michael Schudson, a scientist from the University of California, in his article “News Media as Political Institutions” wrote: “Political science has tended to neglect the study of the news media as political institutions, despite a long history of party-subsidized newspapers and despite a growing chorus of scholars who point to an increasing “mediatization” of politics. Still, investigators in sociology, communication, and political science have taken up the close study of news institutions” [16, p.249].

We would like to emphasize that the current public opinion refers to the media as to the Mass Media Information and as to the Mass Media Communication. Information and communication constitute two levels of the communication process. The former is cognitive, associated with the proliferation of socially important information among a large audience. At this level the information creates the conditions for the formation of ideas, values and behaviour. At the second level of the communication process, the information received by a social agent is combined with the existing system of standards and values, and governs contacts with the social environment. Under these conditions, the communication process is directly related to a social action. All the aforesaid testifies that communication is the process that significantly influences the functioning of society. Therefore when we speak of the media as political institutions, we speak of the mass communication as an important arena of negotiations between the main participants of political life.

In his book “Communication Theory as a Field”, a scientist Robert T. Craig, indicates that communication theorists have no common goal which would unite them as well as they don't have any controversial issues which would divide them, they simply contradict each other. Consequently, there are communication theories but there is no consensus on a common communication theory as a field of research [5, p.200].

Scientists Miguel Antonio Roiz and Munyos Carrion disagree with this point of view: “We can talk about communication theory as a science that studies the communicative phenomena of different types and levels, in perspectives or according to the epistemological motives, in theoretical and methodological terms, though, we consider it as a unitary and global science … which analyze and interpret the communication” [14, p.198].

Spanish researcher Torrico Villanueba established three theoretical levels which are interlinked in a simple way: the first level is theories, the second one is additions to theories, the third one – approaches. The first theoretical level studies the realities of social life and is a consequence of general theories that have four basic theoretical concepts: structural functionalism, critical dialectics, structuralism and consistency [18, p.82].

Mass communication as a social system corresponds to the structural- functional tradition of sociology. Structural functionalism interprets mass communication as a subsystem that manages and adjusts itself according to specific political and institutional conditions. The media act as powerful agents of socialization by transmitting society’s cultural heritage and its basic system of norms and values. The basis of structural-functional analysis is the idea of social order where consensus dominates over conflict. The theory of structural functionalism tries to build a complete system of social action, meaning that it studies the existence of society through the consensus of values and norms between individuals, groups and institutions in order to provide communication and social stability. The media function as social control agents; by gathering information, the media engage in surveillance of the social environment [18, p.40].

The theoreticians of structural functionalism are Talcott Parsons (considers the social system on the basis of social order without conflicts) and Robert Merton (improved the system with manifest and latent functions of the mass media).

The follower of the theory of structural functionalism is a Spanish scientist Rodrigo Alsina. The scientist believes that society should be studied in connection with culture if we want to understand the functioning of important institutions and explain the behavior of their members. Functionalism views the society as a community of free, rational and autonomous individuals. Society is self-regulating,  it produces a pluralistic system and establishes democratic environment. Functionalism perceives the existence of many media communications as a proof that we live in a pluralistic society. [2]

Analyzing the structure of the printed Spanish mass media in the period of  transition to democracy, we can hypothesize that the system of Spanish printed media changed structurally when the press was transformed from the press of the National Movement party to the autonomous body of the Social Media Communication of the State. Functionally, the system of printed media varied according to the role that the mass media were playing in the period of caudillo Francisco Franco and after his death. So, the changes of the functions of media communication had to provoke the changes in the structure of media according to cultural values. Let’s analyze the major changes.

Francoist Spain was an authoritarian and individualistic regime that perceived the media communication as a tool of propaganda and civil control. The characteristic features of the information system of the period of Francisco Franco are as follows:a) the government and trade unions were the main publishing groups (the newspaper “Arriba” represented the press of the Movement, trade unions owned the newspaper “Pueblo”); b) the Catholic Church was ranked number two with its own periodical “Ya” c) the private sector was represented by publishers and groups that previously demonstrated their loyalty to regime.

In the 1960's journalism was a poorly paid profession in Spain, a profession in which those close to F. Franco dominated. This can be proved by the following facts: caudillo personally issued identity cards for journalists; in order to carry out their official duties, all periodicals were to be registered in a State Register; journalistic schools were owned by the state or by the Catholic Church, which was the part of Franco's political machine [19].

The economy was the determining factor in the liberalization of politics in general and in the resumption of Spain's relations with Europe. The need of subsidies form the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development caused the crash of Spanish isolation in Europe. The very fact of cooperation between international institutions and the political regime of Spain at that time indicated that the state was not dictatorial and that the cooperation provided the fulfillment of certain democratic conditions.

Just then the law on the Press and Print was adopted in 1966. With the adoption of the law, the relative freedom of information systems began: working conditions and professional training of journalists were improved. In 1971 the first department of journalism was opened, new private associations such as Democratic Group of Journalists and Syndicate of the Workers of the Press were created [12]. However, the new law was not a guarantee of freedom in any interpretation. After the adoption of the law on the Press, the government used a clear strategy in terms of the media: to  influence the information, active repressive laws were still used. During 1966-1975 nearly 1,270 administrative penalties that contradicted the law on Press were inflicted, 389 of which concerned newspapers and 881 ‒ magazines… [7, p.206-218].

Nevertheless, between 1966 and 1975 there appeared weekly and monthly magazines free of the strict state control, and they voiced the new ideas concerning the end of the dictatorship: “Cuadernos para el Diálogo”, “Triunfo”, “Destino” or “Cambio 16”; popular magazines for women and men such as “Hola”, “Diez Minutos”, “Lecturas”, “Semana”; sports magazines  – “As” and “Marca”.

After caudillo's death, the first government of Transition was characterized by a total control over the media and the slow dismantling of the repressive instruments of the former Francoist legacy, according to Spanish model of Transition based on a reform in accordance with the laws adopted by the regime of Francisco Franco. The party of caudillo – the National Movement – controlled about 38 periodicals and 40 radio stations [17, p.215].

1976 became a new step in history. It was the year when commercial journalism emerged in Spain and six new leading periodicals appeared: “Avui” in Barcelona; “El País” in Madrid; “Nueva Andalucía” in Seville; “Diario 16” in Madrid; “Diario de Castilla” in Segovia; “Informaciones de Andalucía” in Seville and “Cataluña Express” in Barcelona. Together with other private media they constituted 14 periodicals which differed in their political orientation [8].

In the journalistic field, public opinion is outlined and it appears in such periodicals as “El País” and “Diario 16”, whose language was less damaging to the interests of the government and wasn't exposed to strict censorship and self-censorship.

At the same time some newspapers, such as “Pueblo”, “Informaciones”, “Nuevo Diario”, “El Alcázar”, “Arriba” and “El Imparcial”, started to disappear. Previously they had considerable circulation and contingent of mostly orthodox or conservative readers. These periodicals supported the regime in peace issues but were limited to the specific scope of freedom of expression [8].

On April 1st, 1977 the party of Francisco Franco – the National Movement – disintegrated, and its periodicals became the state property. In a few months newspapers of the Movement turned into Social Media Communications of the State. The controlling political machine, atypical for democratic regimes, no longer existed in the form of the Ministry of Information and Tourism but continued its functioning as the Ministry of Culture and Commerce.

The mass media were still under total control – the state was a major publisher who owned about thirty five periodicals, four national radio stations and had a monopoly on television. Periodicals of Francisco Franco, after their transformation into Social Media Communications of the State fully and completely served the interests of the Government. All the information and publishing line were subordinated to the dominant political strategies of the current government. Radio and television broadcasting, integrated into Spanish Radio Television (RTVE), were managed by people close to the president of the government [19].

Independent periodicals were divided into four groups: the media of monarchical direction (for example, “ABC” and “La Vanguardia”); the second group was the Catholic press (newspaper “Ya”); the third group consisted of some provincial periodicals and news agency Logos and Europa Press, which were liberal towards the regime. Finally, there were some illegal newspapers from the Franco's legacy such as “Mundo Obrero” and “El Socialista” of the Communist and Socialist parties; student brochures and newsletters published by the terrorist organization ETA [19].

Analysis of the major shareholders of periodicals of the private ownership of Madrid and Barcelona (the two largest markets of the printed media) helps us to understand their belonging to the political establishment. In Madrid, the foundation of the Luca de Tena family, which existed since 1930 and provided assistance and support to the independent press, was the owner of the newspaper “ABC”. The periodical “Ya” belonged to the Catholic publishing house and represented the Spanish church. The newspaper “El Alcázar” eventually became the property of the Confederation of Ex-Combatants – the political organization of Spain, which was founded in November 1974 to maintain the Francoist regime after the dictator’s death. The periodical “Nuevo Diario” was controlled by the Oriole family which supported the Franco regime. The evening newspaper “Informaciones” was eventually passed into the hands of groups related with national banks Santander and Central.

The newspaper “La Vanguardia”, the leader in Barcelona, was owned by the Godo family since 1881. Two historical newspapers “El Correo Catalán” and “El Noticiero Universal” belonged to publishing families with conservative views. The periodical “El Diario de Barcelona” belonged to the known businessman and former mayor Miguel Mateo. The newspaper Tele/eXprés was founded in 1965 by a group of businessmen, politicians, writers and journalists, but in the 1970's it was passed into the hands of Jose Maria Santakreu and Carlos Ferrer Salad, shareholders of “Diario de Barcelona”.

Despite the Francoist nature of the private press, media communications of Spain, and especially the printed press, played their traditional role of mediators between the government and citizens during the political Transition. A famous Spanish scientist Mercedes Montero in the article “The role of media in the construction of the political community. Press during transitions to democracy in Spain” wrote: “the newspapers played a main role in the public sphere, which consists in cooperation with political power and promoting fundamental democratic values. New political community with new political actors – political parties, trade unions and citizens groups, which have been excluded from political life, contacted with media communications”[13, p.19]. The printed mass media systematically promoted democratic values on their pages: civil liberties, amnesty, autonomy for the regions, elections, consensus, reconciliation... [4, p.37]. The periodicals were responsible for the transitions, passing the “democratic product” to the hands of government officials and opposition, forging a direct qualitative link between informants and politicians. New editions promoted democratic values; the articles of conservative newspapers focused on the topics of peace and economic development; periodicals of the Basque Country and Catalonia – on the requirements of autonomy. According to the statements of that era, press was a “paper parliament” which protected the rights of the Crown and the people. The political power needed press in the form of “independent media” that would promote democratic values and, in accordance, the power. At the same time, the press was to be an example of those values that would ensure absolute trust to the “new” public opinion and to the existing power.

We can conclude that during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco the structure of the Spanish mass media communication was completely subordinated to the political regime. The main function of the printed media was to promulgate  the ideology of the political regime. Liberalization and legislative establishment of the freedom of speech promoted the consensus of values and peaceful transition. The cardinal restructuring of Spanish media communications occurred after the death of Franco. Analysis of the main shareholders of the private press proves that cultural heritage of caudillo had the latent function. However, the political changes led to  revaluation. According to many scholars in the field of the mass media, new political priorities of democracy were becoming the manifest function. Thus, a brief analysis of the Transition in Spain pointed out the connection between the mass media communication and political culture.



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