Essay on Pluralism: Policy and Freedman

Submitted By GHOP111
Words: 1027
Pages: 5

In his chapter Pluralism, Neo-liberalism and Media Policy, author Des Freedman presents two frames for conceptualising media policy – pluralism and neo-liberalism. Citing scholars such as Humphreys and Baker, the text acknowledges there are other conceptual frameworks with which to view media policy, but lauds pluralism and neo-liberalism for their capacity to explain the climate’s fixation on the free market (Freedman 2008, pp.24). Freedman offers theoretical and historic analysis of these both pluralism and neo-liberalism and goes on to explain how they are integrated into media policymaking. Read through an Australian lens, his scope is limited to American and British media policy, yet is arguably relevant to a wider Western context. The text sets up a tension between two conceptual frames and contends pluralism is a way of justifying existing media policy, whereas neo-liberalism reflects current conditions in the media climate.

Freedman first discusses the nature of pluralism. Of fundamental importance to the pluralist view is a climate that accommodates diversity of voice and opinion. Freedman uses the American political environment as an example to frame this debate. He outlines the potentially destabilising effect limited influence can have on the democratic capacity of a nation citing as an example of this the 1960s political climate, where ‘a powerful corporate community … dominated the policy making process for its own ends’ (Freedman 2008, pp.29). This pluralist view flows through into the realm of media policy making. Pluralists see media as a necessary is assisting the function of democracy through its capacity to inform and educate the public (Freedman 2008, pp.31). Media policy makers can facilitate diversity of views through regulations on ownership and control and content regulation (Freedman 2008, pp.31). Freedman emphasises the pluralist notion that the media should champion an ‘accountable, impartial and autonomous’ media climate (Freedman 2008, pp.33).

Issues of media ownership are a major concern to pluralist thinkers. Freedman explains how media industries tend towards ‘monopolistic behaviour’ (Freedman 2008, pp.33), which can limit voice diversity. While Freedman focuses on US and British policy, this is a particular concern to Australian policy makers, with Australia having one of the most concentrated media markets in the democratic world (Harding-Smith 2011, p.2). The media ownership regulations that are advocated by pluralist thinkers include artificial market barriers to limit any one media organisation form gaining dominance and restrictions on cross-media or foreign ownership (Freedman 2008, pp.33). Stuart Cunningham in The Media and Communications in Australia places the media ownership debate into an Australian context, arguing that a concentrated media sector could potentially threaten content diversity in Australia if media corporations put delivering value to their shareholders above public service obligations (Cunningham & Turnbull 2014, pp. 85).

Content regulation is another area of media policy which pluralists seek policy to regulate with the desire to ‘safeguard the interests’ of the public (Freedman 2008, pp.35). Quotas designed in the interest of protecting cultural diversity and preserving national identity are one example Freedman explores. Such quotas ensure a diverse range of races, religions, genders and sexualities are represented (Freedman 2008, pp.36). In Television, Nation and Indigenous Media, John Hartley stresses how fundamentally important indigenous Australians to be represented in the Media (Hartley 2004, pp. 8). Australia has regulations in place to ensure ethnic diversity of media content as Stephen Harrington suggests. For instance the broadcasters ABC and SBS function to inform and educate the Australian public and in doing so ‘reflect Australia’s multicultural society’ (Cunningham & Turnbull 2014, pp. 184). Freedman also outlines various