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Marketdriven and democracydriven freedom
of expression

The legal status for commercial messages as protection-worthy speech or not is debated. Claims to extend the protection for commercial messages have been accommodated in many jurisdictions over time. The concepts of market-driven and democracy-driven freedom of speech are used to study and analyse the (sometimes) contradictory requirements directed towards freedom of speech.

The fundamental issue in this project is whether democracy and the free speech are promoted or not by a strengthened constitutional protection for commercial messages. The answer is not taken for granted.

In the project we will study the legal changes in Sweden, EU and USA, and how media’s dependency on income from advertisement is dealt with in those jurisdictions. One example of legal change is the increased time and space for commercials in television by the EU Audiovisual Media Directive. Another example is the increased protection of commercial speech in the American constitution. An increased protection of commercial messages has hardly been in focus in Swedish law research, other than when there has been debate of decreasing the space for commercial messages.

The overarching question, if increased protection of commercial messages leads to increasing or decreasing freedom of speech, will be answered through two sets of questions:

  1. What is the nature of the legal changes that has been made in this area of commercial messages? How do they relate to the conditions of the media market
  2. What is the relationship between financing and media content and what are the consequences for media trust? What consequences have market driven freedom of speech for journalism and in long term for democracy?


The project is financed for three years by Ragnar Söderberg Foundation with start in July 2013.

Researchers in the project are Eva-Maria Svensson, Department of Law, Maria Edström, Department of Journalism, Media and Communication, and research assistant Britt Börjesson, Department of Journalism, Media and Communication, University of Gothenburg.

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Communicative democracy. Protecting, promoting and developing free speech in the digital era

Conference October 6-6, 2015

Ulla Carlsson, Dr, UNESCO Chair on Freedom of Expression, Media Development and Global Policy, University of Gothenburg, and Tamara Piety, Professor of Law at The University of Tulsa College of Law, were the keynote speakers. Their speeches were filmed and are available on the Department of Law's web site.

Page Manager: Mats Ekström|Last update: 12/28/2015
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