The Mass Media of Communication
3 October 2014
The Self-Regulation of the Media
The United States of America was founded upon three core principles: inalienable rights, democracy, and the separation of powers. Among these principles are concepts woven into the
Constitution, such as checks and balances, federalism, limited government, and many others.
One that has always seemed to hold particular significance in American society is the first amendment of the Bill of Rights, which outlines our freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly, and ability to petition the government. In today’s world, where the media presence is not only growing in size but expanding ways in which to reach the people, our freedom of the press seems to be a constant matter of concern--whether it is being suppressed or abused. The question that many appear to be asking is whether or not the media should be responsible for regulating itself. Should the government intervene? If so, when? Or should the media be trusted to impose its own measures of self-regulation?
First and foremost, it is important to understand the background of the first amendment, the media, and the relationship between them. The freedom of the press, addressed in the first amendment of the Constitution, is generally interpreted to mean that the American people have a right to communicate and publish ideas and opinions through mediums such as books, newspapers, radio, television, and many others. Lincoln.edu points out that during the framing of the Constitution, this right was “considered necessary to the establishment of a strong,
Harvey !2 independent press.” The media has been a constantly evolving aspect of American society, providing an outlet for the press to express ideas freely and update the public on governmental affairs without the fear of being suppressed. However, it is commonly known that we take a risk when using the media as our primary resource of such information. While ideally, the media would report accurate, unbiased information on matters of concern to everyone in our society, not only does this rarely occur, but it is nearly impossible to do. For these reasons, we expect the media to regulate itself in order to do the best job possible of upholding society’s standards.
When they fail to meet our expectations, the government then intervenes and judges whether or not the media acted justly. For example, in Time, Inc. vs. Firestone, Mary Alice Firestone filed a
$100,000 lawsuit against Time for discussing private information regarding her divorce from
Russell A. Firestone. Claiming that the divorce resulted from “extreme cruelty and adultery,”
Time divulged this information to the public without her consent. Because she was ruled as not being a public figure, Time lost the case and thus had to retract its statements and pay the
$100,000. Clearly, there is a need for regulation. However, there are arguments on both sides for whether or not the media should be primarily responsible for regulating itself.
UNESCO, or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, defines self-regulation within the media as a “combination of standards setting out the appropriate codes of behaviour for the media that are necessary to support freedom of expression.” UNESCO is one of many organizations that argues for the self-regulation of media.
Seen as both a fundamental right and responsibility of the media, arguments for self-regulation include increased efficiency, compliance and drive of the workers, and cost effectiveness. Selfregulation would provide greater efficiency than government regulation because the media is
Harvey !3 much more familiar with its innerworkings and technological affairs, thus it could implement regulatory protocol with much more efficiency than the government. In addition, it is believed that trusting the media to regulate itself will produce a greater incentive for the employees to