In this paper we propose that the concept of mediatization should be used not only in the narrow sense to analyze the impact of media on the operational modes of the political system, but also in more general terms to capture the transformation of the public sphere and the changing conditions for the generation of political legitimacy. More specifically and with regard to the role of political communication on the internet, we focus on the transformative potential of online media in terms of a) publicity: the capacity of the online media to focus public attention on the political process of the EU; b) participation: the capacity of the online media to include plural voices and activate the audience; and c) public opinion formation: the capacity of the online media to enable informed opinions. We test our mediatization model on the online debates that took place during the 2009 EU elections (May–June 2009) in 12 member-states and at the trans-European level. The findings confirm the mediatizing impact of online political communication on the generation of the political legitimacy of the EU. Online media constitute a virtually shared forum for political communication that political actors and users increasingly occupy developing homogenous patterns of evaluating European integration. Furthermore, the stronghold of offline media in the EU e-sphere and the tendency to discuss the EP elections within the frame of domestic (national) politics reaffirm the key role of national political and media cultures.
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