There is a long tradition of academic research addressing the role of media in democracy both in terms of
formal political processes and broader political culture. Academic researchers have been concerned both to
study the different ways in which the media are implicated in the political and to develop normative criteria
by which the political role of the media can be evaluated. Recent developments in media and communications
technology have combined with changes in democracy as it spreads to different social and cultural contexts
across the world and to regional and global governance to raise new challenges concerning the role of media
in democracy. At a time of transformation, perhaps, academics have a responsibility to bring theory and
evidence into public debate and understanding. In this article I first outline some key features of the relation
between media and democracy, focusing on how digital media are challenging concepts of political engagement.
This is followed by a discussion of the different potential contributions made by communications and
media researchers in this area using examples from reports of work conducted by members of the COST Action
Transforming Audiences, Transforming Societies (TATS). These contributions demonstrate the contribution
of research to framing and interpreting social processes, providing evidence for particular policy concerns or
initiatives and of academics developing ways of combining their academic interests with a more interactive or
dialogic engagement with a variety of stakeholders.