14: New challenges to the freedom of the media
This workshop focuses on the changing conditions of freedom of the Media worldwide.
Freedom of expression and freedom of the media are basic pillars of democracy and the contemporary theoretical framework concerning these rights derives from the liberal revolutions, which took place in Western Europe and in North America from the second half of the seventeenth century onwards. Since then freedom of the media and pluralism have changed considerably in globalising media systems.
It should be underlined, however, that after many years of progress, in more recent times freedom of the media has actually seen a limitation. Indeed, it has been calculated that only 17 percent of the world’s citizens live in countries that enjoy a free press. In many countries, governments and other actors have a strong control over the news that reaches citizens and, in some countries, independent voices are often brutally repressed.
Even in those countries that rank high up in worldwide indexes on freedom of the media, both external factors (such as the market, technological convergence, concentration of ownership) as well as internal elements (digitalization, media management) have had an adverse effect on the diversity of media and freedom of expression.
In the context of this workshop, the term 'media' here signifies any type of communication to the public, including newspapers, broadcasting, the Internet, and even distributing leaflets; and 'challenges' may be political, economic, cultural as well as institutional.
The specific themes to be discussed in this workshop may include:
With the advent of the Internet and various forms of communication channels on it, conventional media (e.g., newspapers and TVs) face economic challenges partly due to the fractionalization of their consumers. As diverse viewpoints become increasingly vociferous, it has become difficult for the media to pretend to be the neutral and fair tribunes and attract subscribers and audiences from the entire field of society. And global media conglomerates try to encroach on the market of each nation. Is there any rosy future for the conventional media? If not, should the government do something to support or protect them?
New media on the Internet frequently accused the conventional media of being accomplices of the establishment; they say that the traditional media have suppressed newly emerging viewpoints and reinforced established ideologies. To what extent are such criticisms valid? And has the traditional rationale for the freedom of the media lost its forces?
With the advent of the new media, the traditional rationale for broadcasting regulation--the scarcity of radio waves and the strong impacts on the audience--has largely lost its plausibleness. Is it still justifiable to manage a partial regulation of the mass media: that is, regulating broadcasting only and guaranteeing full freedom of expression to the print media? If so, what kind of regulation (or self-regulation) is appropriate? And how should we deal with the various kinds of media on the Internet, where the problems of grouppolarization and information-cascade are prevalent?
The public's demand for the protection of personal information is increasing. This trend is understandable partly because once personal information is put on the Internet it will become almost undeletable, universally accessible, and very easily searched. People as well as corporations have become much more reticent about divulging information to the media. Is it still possible to maintain healthy standards of newsgathering in these unfavorable circumstances? Are the robust media activities and the protection of honor and privacy compatible?
Will the apparent enfeeblement of conventional media resulting from the above points undermine the basis of representative democracy? Will the same phenomenon influence how constitutional review courts protect the freedom of the media? And will it throw any light to how we should reinforce the functions of representative democracy?