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Thread: Media Pluralism

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    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Media Pluralism

    Since I've read a lot about this particular debate over the last few days, I thought I'd throw it out here to see what people's reactions are.

    The question is pretty simple, basically, should there exist a fundamental right for an individual to receive a plurality of content (i.e. content which is as unbiased as possible, so to allow individuals to make up their own mind about events etc...) in the media? Put alternatively, given the wealth of new media services and sources, can/should market forces be relied upon to provide members of the public with an adequate diversity of information and ideas for liberal democratic purposes? Or should there be a positive obligation on the state to ensure this happens?

    I think this is an issue which is more controversial than I first thought. Pluralism, in my eyes anyway, is generally considered to be more of a group right or a societal right, rather than a fundamental right of the individual. Yet, to all intents and purposes, a plurality in the media is a prerequisite to the well established fundamental right of freedom of expression (which includes a right to receive enough information to form a balanced opinion), which leads me to believe that without some form of pluralism, freedom of expression would be nonexistent.

    This in itself is problematic. Pluralism as a concept has two faces, pluralism of content, and pluralism of infrastructure (i.e. diversity of media ownership). The first type is easy enough to deal with, but the second type raises a number of problems. A pluralism of media structures that comes in the form of regulatory intervention may require restrictions on the freedom of expression for certain individuals (e.g. licensing systems and so on), but serve pluralism through protecting the rights of others. Furthermore, state restrictions of this sort are likely to hinder competition and distort media markets, and as these markets are driven primarily by economic interests rather than human rights interests, this strikes me as an unsatisfactory solution...

    Anyway, rambled on for more than I intended to here. Thoughts would be appreciated.

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    Hall of Fame Member Howe_zat's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=sledger;2850404]Put alternatively, given the wealth of new media services and sources, can/should market forces be relied upon to provide members of the public with an adequate diversity of information and ideas for liberal democratic purposes? Or should there be a positive obligation on the state to ensure this happens?[QUOTE]

    Well given that a complete slew of calculated and deliberate lies and propoganda is your typical order of the day when opening the average paper, I'd suggest no.

    The idea the the current state of the media industry is anything but a shamelessly corrupt and self-interested blight, or indeed is remotely acceptable, is absurd.

    This is one subject where I'm liable to get seriously angry so I think I'll stay out of it from here on in.
    Last edited by Howe_zat; 11-05-2012 at 09:55 AM.

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    Global Moderator vic_orthdox's Avatar
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    I really enjoy looking at these sort of topics, but I really should be going to bed...
    Quote Originally Posted by sledger View Post

    The question is pretty simple, basically, should there exist a fundamental right for an individual to receive a plurality of content (i.e. content which is as unbiased as possible, so to allow individuals to make up their own mind about events etc...) in the media? Put alternatively, given the wealth of new media services and sources, can/should market forces be relied upon to provide members of the public with an adequate diversity of information and ideas for liberal democratic purposes? Or should there be a positive obligation on the state to ensure this happens?
    Don't really agree with this as a definition. There will always be biased pieces, it's ensuring that a wide variety of views are provided, not that they are all neutral.

    It's a much more complicated topic with new media involved. On one hand, you look at major metropolitan cities in Australia with only one daily newspaper, and provided by the same company; I don't think that's a good thing. Now there are a plethora of sources online to find your news, framed through many different perspectives, so the issue is not as drastic as what it may have been 15 years ago.

    But people become attached to someone expressing something resembling their own views and sentiment in public, it's a feeling of representation and association which can't be replicated online nearly as effectively as in daily newspapers.

    It helps political participation, especially at this time where physical newspapers set agendas. We are still some time away from the internet news driving daily issues.


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    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=Howe_zat;2850414][QUOTE=sledger;2850404]Put alternatively, given the wealth of new media services and sources, can/should market forces be relied upon to provide members of the public with an adequate diversity of information and ideas for liberal democratic purposes? Or should there be a positive obligation on the state to ensure this happens?

    Well given that a complete slew of calculated and deliberate lies and propoganda is your typical order of the day when opening the average paper, I'd suggest no.

    The idea the the current state of the media industry is anything but a shamelessly corrupt and self-interested blight, or indeed is remotely acceptable, is absurd.

    This is one subject where I'm liable to get seriously angry so I think I'll stay out of it from here on in.
    I must say, printed media was not high on my list of concerns when thinking about this to be honest. Simply because if you can access the internet, you'll be able to find written content on pretty much any topic from a variety of perspectives. Social Media/Blogging etc... should be enough to protect against any problems in this regard. Nobody forces anyone to buy a Newspaper etc... I'd be a prime example of that actually, I rarely buy a paper, precisely for the reasons you have stated.

    In my view, the problem is more closely tied to broadcast media, which as it is beamed straight into people's homes, it's a lot more invasive. Arguably, this is true of the internet as well. But as previously mentioned, there's a lot more choice over content online than there is on TV, and I don't believe the internet has yet overtaken the TV as a primary source of information for the majority of people.

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    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vic_orthdox View Post
    Don't really agree with this as a definition. There will always be biased pieces, it's ensuring that a wide variety of views are provided, not that they are all neutral.
    Yeah, you're right about that. Much better definition. Was getting confused with the issue of whether public service media providers should be required to keep their content neutral, though that is a somewhat related issue.

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    Global Moderator vic_orthdox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sledger View Post
    I must say, printed media was not high on my list of concerns when thinking about this to be honest. Simply because if you can access the internet, you'll be able to find written content on pretty much any topic from a variety of perspectives. Social Media/Blogging etc... should be enough to protect against any problems in this regard. Nobody forces anyone to buy a Newspaper etc... I'd be a prime example of that actually, I rarely buy a paper, precisely for the reasons you have stated.

    In my view, the problem is more closely tied to broadcast media, which as it is beamed straight into people's homes, it's a lot more invasive. Arguably, this is true of the internet as well. But as previously mentioned, there's a lot more choice over content online than there is on TV, and I don't believe the internet has yet overtaken the TV as a primary source of information for the majority of people.
    I think newspapers are still vitally important because they drive the other parts of the news cycle; here, at least. They control what is discussed more than any other format.

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    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vic_orthdox View Post
    I think newspapers are still vitally important because they drive the other parts of the news cycle; here, at least. They control what is discussed more than any other format.
    It's certainly true to some extent here, most of the news channels have segments where they discuss the paper headlines and so on, but I'm not entirely sure how far such headlines drive discussions on the whole. Would probably make for an interesting study.

    In any event, how true pluralism would even be assessed is surely an extremely difficult task. A European "Pluralism Monitor" was touted by the European Commission a few years ago, but has since been abandoned and I presume it is now defunct. I'd be very sceptical of such an organisation though. Surely there would be a profound risk that such a regulatory agency would end up seeking to tell people what was good for them and undermine their ability to make a rational choice. Whoever was in charge of such a body would be influenced by their own beliefs after all, no matter how impartial they would claim to be. An organisation such as this which would start leaning on regulators to enforce them to adopt new plurality measures with regards to editorial diversity would erode editorial freedom and pose a number of problems for freedom of expression, it leads me to wonder whether such suggestions are out of touch with the reality of how news is reported and analysed.

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    Hall of Fame Member Howe_zat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sledger View Post
    I must say, printed media was not high on my list of concerns when thinking about this to be honest. Simply because if you can access the internet, you'll be able to find written content on pretty much any topic from a variety of perspectives. Social Media/Blogging etc... should be enough to protect against any problems in this regard. Nobody forces anyone to buy a Newspaper etc... I'd be a prime example of that actually, I rarely buy a paper, precisely for the reasons you have stated.

    In my view, the problem is more closely tied to broadcast media, which as it is beamed straight into people's homes, it's a lot more invasive. Arguably, this is true of the internet as well. But as previously mentioned, there's a lot more choice over content online than there is on TV, and I don't believe the internet has yet overtaken the TV as a primary source of information for the majority of people.
    If anything the difference in both reliability and, for want of a better word, quality between printed media and broadcasters is a textbook example of why we need regulation in this industry. TV is regulated much more strictly than print and the BBC far stricter than that due its (justifiably) enforced neutrality. Compare that with newspapers, which is supposedly regulated by the sham and voluntary PCC, for a not unreasonable test of what happens to an industry's integrity without restriction.

    It isn't all clear-cut, of course. I understand that the main reason why newspapers are motivated to be as bad as they are is that for some time now they haven't actually had any news - everything is a day late. But it's the public perception of these things that counts. We have a finite number of news sources that run by professional outlets, so they will be trusted. Since they are incapable of being responsible with that trust, they must be regulated.

    I do hope that the internet and social media represent the possibility of taking people's trust and reliance on old media entirely. If we're really lucky, then we can have a system where everyone is in a reasonable position to assess the validity of their news sources themselves. As it is that's a long, long way off.
    Last edited by Howe_zat; 11-05-2012 at 11:44 AM.

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    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    I'll play devil's advocate a bit here (do forgive me), it's all well and good to say that there should be regulations that ensure a plurality of content, but why should this extend to prohibitions (either partial or total) on legitimate commercial practices? Such measures would undoubtedly violate the principles of freedom of speech, so what is their justification?

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    Cricket Web Staff Member Burgey's Avatar
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    When Jack Curtin died, Frank Packer, Keith Murdoch and one or two other newspaper owners went to see Ben Chifley to express the condolences. Chifley was reported to have looked at them and said "I want you all to know, gentlemen, that I blame each and everyone of you for Jack's death. Good day". That conversation could not and would not happen today. The politicians are trained to fawn over media nowadays.

    There's always going to be interaction between politicians and media proprietors, and the latter will always have their preferences (usually for Tory filth). The problem really is who decides what amounts to plurality.

    I think the days of massive media power will come to an end eventually though. Watching Leveson, it's apparent the relationship in the UK has reached the point of cheer leading, and it's largely the same here (Murdoch owns 70% of newspaper titles in the country apparently).

    The question again is why must a newspaper or any media outlet take a side at all? Sure they might editorialise on election eve, but why must their entire reporting be slanted that way? Strikes me as odd that's an accepted norm in the Old Dart. Here it's far less overt, but no less pernicious.

    I don't think you can mandate plurality within a publication though. You might be able to draw attention to bias, but I don't know that you can say "You must have 3 pro-Tory Scum stories and 3 pro-good and righteous Labo(u)r stories".
    Last edited by Burgey; 11-05-2012 at 03:21 PM.
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    Cricket Web Staff Member Burgey's Avatar
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    Should say that at this time, the vast majority of people still get their news from main stream media. Especially older generations.

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    The Wheel is Forever silentstriker's Avatar
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    Is it fair to say that stations that get government money tend to be better at straight news and analysis rather than sensationalization? In the US, I am thinking about npr, PBS. BBC in the UK, etc?

    Obviously I mean in a proper democracy not where they're the mouthpiece of the ruling party.
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    Cricket Web: All-Time Legend Furball's Avatar
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    Nope. The BBC is hopelessly biased.

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    Hall of Fame Member Howe_zat's Avatar
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    The Beeb is biased and I doubt it's really possible not to be, but I don't think it's notably biased compared to its competitors. Given the amount of targeting it gets from the private outlets I'm actually fairly impressed at the lack of mud they've been able to get to stick.

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