Loughborough University: School of Social Sciences and Humanities academics awarded grant for research project on Pandemic Communication in times of Populism

Professor of Media and Cultural Analysis, Sabina Mihelj, and Senior Lecturer Dr Vaclav Stetka have been awarded an ESRC/Transatlantic Partnership grant, worth c. £700,000, to conduct a project entitled ‘Pandemic Communication in Times of Populism: Building Resilient Media and Ensuring Effective Pandemic Communication in Divided Societies’.

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.

This research will inform recommendations aimed at building more resilient media organisations that are better equipped 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.

Sabina Mihelj (Lead Principal investigator) said: “It is a great privilege to be leading an international team of distinguished experts and impact partners to conduct comparative research on such a timely and important topic.”

Vaclav Stetka (Co-Investigator) highlighted: “Among other things, this project will also enable us to pursue some of the lines of inquiry that we opened in our previous research on the role of news media in the rise of illiberalism in Eastern Europe, and explore the extent to which the pandemic accelerated the rise of illiberal tendencies on a global scale.”

The project, funded under the T-AP Recovery, Renewal and Resilience in a Post-Pandemic World scheme, involves a collaboration with colleagues from Brazil (Danilo Rothberg, Sao Paolo), USA (Dan Hallin, San Diego & Marlene Laruelle, GQU) and Poland (Beata Klimkiewicz, Jagellonian Uni), with Sabina as Lead PI and Vaclav Stetka as Co-PI.

The focus will be on examining the nature and impact of pandemic communication in the context of populist politics. The project also involves a collaboration with key stakeholders, including the European Federation of Journalists, the European Broadcasting Union, and the European Platform of Regulatory Authorities. It started on 1 March and will run for two years.

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