Faculty member's book outlines 'muted democracy' in Israel

University Park, Pa. -- A book by an associate professor in the College of Communications at Penn State that introduced the theory of a "muted democracy" and demonstrates how it applies to the regulatory framework of media in Israel has earned high praise from observers of Israeli culture and media.

In "Muting Israeli Democracy: How Media and Cultural Policy Undermine Free Expression," published this year by University of Illinois Press, Amit Schejter argues that the laws governing Israeli electronic media are structured to limit the boundaries of public discourse. Additionally, he argues that electronic media are designed to provide a platform for some voices to be heard over others.

Schejter's theory derives from an analysis of a wide range of legal documents recorded in Israel from 1961 to 2007.

"Unveiling the case of Israel, Schejter offers a fascinating analysis of the media and media law in a vibrant sociopolitical context," said Gad Barzilai, professor of international studies, law and political science at the University of Washington. "It is a must-read to observers, students and scholars of comparative media studies, politics and law."

While Israel's institutions may be democratic, and while the effect of those policies may be limited, "Muting Israeli Democracy" demonstrates in scrupulous detail how free speech in Israel is institutionally muted through the constraints and obligations imposed on electronic media to ensure the continued cultural domination of the Jewish majority and its preferred hegemonic interpretation of what Israel means as a Jewish-democratic state.

Professor Fania Oz-Salzberger, the Leon Liberman Chair of Modern Israel Studies at Monash University in Australia and founding director of the Posen Research Forum for Jewish European and Israeli Political Thought at the Faculty of Law at the University of Haifa, calls Schejter's book "a refreshing critical view of Israel." She notes that the term "muted democracy" could transcend the Israeli case and draw heated debate among theorists and members of the public. "If it does, this book could help combat the very evil it diagnoses," she said.

At Penn State, Schejter teaches courses on telecommunications regulation, media law, the media and information industries, comparative and world media systems and media activism. He dedicates much of his time to promote and sustain a dialog between academia and the media advocacy community. In that capacity he has traveled to Israel to support the work of the I’lam Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel and of the Program on Cooperative Social Marketing at Tel Aviv University.

Schejter's academic agenda focuses on everyday challenges created by the unequal distribution of resources and the silencing of the public's voice. His work involves identifying regulatory responses to technological change, highlighting social inequalities and communication distortions created by them, and prescribing theoretically informed approaches to policy-making that enhance fairness and equality.

His studies have analyzed challenges raised by the introduction and regulation of radio, television, cable, the Internet, mobile phones and digital technologies in Israel, the United States, Korea, the European Union and across wide international comparative settings. That work has been widely published in both communications and law journals, has won top-paper awards in leading communications conferences and has been cited in Congressional and Knesset hearings.

His previous books include "And Communications for All: A Policy Agenda for A New Administration" and "The Wonder Phone in the Land of Miracles: Mobile Telephony in Israel."

In 2007, Schejter earned the Deans' Excellence Award for Integrated Scholarship. Prior to his arrival at Penn State, he spent a decade holding senior executive positions in the Israeli public and corporate world, including chief of staff and senior adviser to two secretaries of education and culture, general counsel for Israeli public broadcasting and vice president of Israel's largest mobile operator. In addition, he served on and chaired several public committees, counseled media and telecommunications entities in Israel and the Palestinian Authority and held the post of assistant professor at Tel Aviv University.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010