Friday, October 9, 2009

Analysis Question 2: Governance of Media

Although I recognize the seriousness of the current difficulties facing journalists, especially those in print media, I think that the continued viability of this field rests in the hands of the industry itself rather than in those of nation-states.

The rise of the Internet as a public forum for the spread of news information has significantly cut into the coverage areas of traditional journalism. The idea that the public can now get their fill of current news from anonymous individuals or groups posting unsubstantiated reports worries me. However, the more worrisome phenomenon here is not that people are taking advantage of a new technology to continue the ancient tradition of spreading gossip, but rather that readers view these sources as credible.

In class, we have spoken a bit about media literacy, and I think that this is one area where professional journalists have an advantage. Journalists often work for respected news agencies and can take advantage of the resources therein: credible networks of reporters, editors, sources, organizations, etc. If all these aspects of the journalism community were to come together and agree to set an agenda for educating readers about the importance of looking critically at news, then I think the journalism community could get back on their feet. Of course this would mean that journalists themselves would have to be held to higher standards. Transparency in affiliations of journalists, news organizations and sources would be of utmost importance.

Transparency is also at the heart of the issue when discussing current concerns about media ownership and rights of information and communication. McChesney argues that the commercial media system encourages political cynicism among populations. While I do tend to agree that there is a certain level of acrimony toward politics within neoliberal democratic societies, I think that making the sweeping assertion that voters no longer have any real influence on the direction of their nation's government policies is overly simplistic. The idea that the disinterested attitude of neoliberal society can be singularly attributed to the diabolical scheming of the media industry is a bit far-fetched.

However, McChesney's concerns do illustrate the negative consequences of a global media market dominated by huge transnational media conglomerates. To me the scariest thing about a media market controlled by only a few large corporations is the lack of knowledge about what isn't being shown or written about because these corporations see publishing or broadcasting a piece of information as not being in the best interest of their companies. One way to offset this market imbalance is to require media corporations to act in a manner of full disclosure. For example, if the host of TRL on MTV (I know this show doesn't exist anymore but just bear with me) starts effusively praising the newest Dreamworks film, then it should be made clear to the viewing audience that both MTV and Dreamworks are owned by Viacom. This provision of full disclosure or transparency brings me back to the importance of increased media literacy. Providing readers, listeners or viewers with media ownership transparency means nothing without the analytical skills to critically understand what all the complex media relationships mean. Thus, I think the major role now for nation-states and the global governance community in media regulation is to require corporate transparency and to increase the media literacy of the people.

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