Media Regulation – The Theory

To achieve a higher grade you need to include reference to a specific theory & associated theorist. Some of these have been listed in previous key term documents and most theories have been taught to you, but not named as such. So essentially this is a question of putting a theory / theorists name next to an idea:

Freedom of Expression

Theorist(s): John Milton (1608-74) and John Locke (1632-1704)

An enlightenment idea, which holds that in order to be truly free in a liberal democracy, the  powerful should be held to account via a free press (The Fourth Estate). This principle was enshrined in The First Amendment to the Bill of Rights in America (1791) and is held to be a fundamental principle of liberal democracies.

Harm Principle

Theorist(s): John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

Was also a enlightenment liberal thinker who tried to define the limits on the freedoms of the citizen. He suggested that people should be free in all things, and ‘…that this freedom should only be restricted if their actions may cause harm to others.’ Applying this to freedom of expression, he famously said, “You cannot, without good reason, shout, ‘Fire’ in a public theatre.”

Popper’s Paradox

The Popper Paradox

Karl Popper proposed the following idea, which seems to be a contradiction, but is useful in trying to square the circle of free speech vs protection from harm. He said…

a society cannot be tolerant without limits! If we tolerate the intolerant for too long it is the intolerant who will eventually seize power. So in order to maintain a tolerant, pluralist and multicultural society we must be intolerant of intolerance.

Moralists and Pluralists

Moralists hold that collectively defined rules should regulate and limit media consumption available to the public, especially to protect vulnerable groups.

Pluralists believe in self regulation.

Mark Kermode & Owen Jones assert that people should be given the tools to regulate their own media  consumption. The most obvious being, the power switch or block button.

If you don’t like it, don’t watch it!

Reception Theory

The Byron Report (2008)

Was an attempt by Professor Tanya Byron to regulate video games and the internet in the wake of moral panics about the negative impact of media on young people.

The Bryon report addressed attempted to address the issue of regulating global media. It requested that multinational media companies apply a code of conduct and make themselves open to independent scrutiny of their practices. The recommendations in the Byron report, to date, have only been partially implemented.

The Bryon Report presupposes that the media can influence people in a negative way, especially through copycatting negative behaviors. In this sense they take seriously the Hypodermic Syringe Theory of audience which says that ideas, attitude and beliefs (ideologies) can be ‘injected’ into us through the media we consume.

Barker and Petley (2000)

Suggested in their book ‘Ill Effects’ rejects the ideas proposed by The Hypodermic Syringe theory and built of the ideas of Blumler & Katz , who proposed the Uses and Gratification model of The Active Audience, which suggests that the audience actively seek information to fulfill their need for information and entertainment and their use of media in social interactions and in shaping their personal identity.

Stuart Hall also builds on these ideas with his suggestions of preferred, negotiated & oppositional readings of the media. He also suggests that the influence of media consumptions is also influenced by other factors such as:

  • Situated Culture
  • Demographics
  • Psychographics
  • Cultural Competences

Cognitive Biases (overlap for psychologist and sociologists)

This suggests that human beings are seeking simplified representations of the world which fit our existing knowledge and personal ideologies.

  • Anchoring Bias, proposes we are give more weight to the first arguments / ideas we encounter
  • Confirmation Bias, proposes that we accept ideas and arguments that support what we already believe to be true and fit our existing world view.

This can lead to a lack in critical thinking and make people more susceptible to conspiracy theories and cancel culture.

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