What political and media systems are likely to produce a ‘good’ democracy? This first chapter attempts to navigate a way through this debate via an examination of cross-country comparative work. Such a discussion, of necessity, also highlights the conflicting democratic norms and practical considerations that push interested parties towards very different conclusions. The intention here is to identify, not just the alternative systems on offer, but also the interpretive frameworks which inform any evaluative process. Such a schema then enables one to place the UK’s own institutions and systems in relative context. The chapter is in three parts. The first introduces the literature on compara-

tive politics, media and political communication. It discusses the many varieties of democratic political and communication systems that currently exist as well as identifying the contrasting normative ideals that underpin those systems. The next section briefly outlines the ‘crisis’ of democracies debate and links it to the preceding discussion. Finally, it locates the component parts of UK democracy in relation to the existing, practised alternatives on offer.