Media Regulation – the big idea – Gatekeeping v Freedom of speech

We noticed that many of you spent too much time, describing in too much detail, the various case studies and examples. You need the bare bones for these as you need to spend the rest of the time, broaching the key contexts and debates in order to maximise your marks.

The key concepts that should be on your radar are:


- A gatekeeper is a person who controls access to something, for example via a city gate or bouncer, or more abstractly, controls who is granted access to a category or status.

So in terms of Media Regulation – they are either the officially recognised bodies that regulate the media or the individual groups elected by the Media platform themselves.

  • ASA
  • UK ONLINE HARMS BILL  – to be made law next year
  • THE USERS – you and me
  • REGULATORS ON EACH PLATFORM i.e. The Oversight Board on Facebook
    • but are they “emptying the ocean with an eyedropper”?
  • You and Me – the consumer.

The main debate about Gatekeepers is that:

  • They regulate content and therefore the contributors – they are powerful!
  • The Internet promised to allow free speech and expression – and has now come unstuck because of this – ‘move fast and break things has become move fast and fix things.’
  • Gatekeeping is dependent on many external factors that relate often, to the culture, politics, country, religion where the media is produced – in other words – gatekeeping is culturally reactive.

How do you resolve the ever present argument of:

“Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re really in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.” — Noam Chomsky


  • Freedom of Speech vs Protection from Harm
  • Pluralist vs Moralist
  • Gatekeeping vs Democratisation
  • Media Regulation will never be watertight – it has to react to technological advancements/convergence.
  • Media Regulation changes over time – historically it reacts to technology and cultural zeitgeists.
  • Media Regulation is closely linked to:
      • Moral Panics
  • Media Regulation can be covert, subversive and ‘invisible’ – think of Chinese interference with internet access
  • Media Regulation has to determine the minefield of:
      • Public v. private
  • Postmodern society is built on the foundations of ‘no absolute truths’ and mini- narratives and Regulation contradicts this zeitgeist.
      • Self Regulation
      • Begs the question that perhaps China has got it right – the re-introduction of the absolute truths/the grand narratives through the back door of covert and subversive regulation of its citizens accessing the internet, may in fact make life simpler, safer and easier to navigate?


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.

Case studies on China censorship and Tech Giants banning Trump.

Chinese State Regulation (Censorship).
Click on the image to see the whole article

‘There have been almost daily anti-BBC articles in Chinese state media since mid-February.

It follows a decision by the UK broadcasting regulator Ofcom to revoke the licence for China’s state-run overseas broadcaster, CGTN. For years, China has broadly criticised Western outlets for reports on affairs in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China, saying they should not intervene in China’s “internal affairs”.

But these latest attacks on Western media are a clear escalation.

Chinese domestic media outlets have praised their government for banning the BBC’s World News channel, although it was only available in some international hotels and residential compounds where foreigners live.’

So Chinese Government censorship of the internet is alive and kicking. Do these actions seem justifiable to protect it’s Digital Sovereignty or is the impact harmful for its citizens?

What about The Western Model of Online Regulation?

And you all remember Trump being ceremoniously dethroned by Twitter who argued he was inciting citizens to violent action. This article in Forbes in the USA, argues this was neither an illegal or unfair action. Platforms can ‘dethrone’ whoever they like – terrorists, abusers, extreme political groups – so in this case, it just happened to be the President of the USA!


This is Twitter’s Explaination in a nutshell:

“After assessing the language in these Tweets against our Glorification of Violence policy, we have determined that these Tweets are in violation of the Glorification of Violence Policy and the user @realDonaldTrump should be immediately permanently suspended from the service.”


Many Trump supporters were arguing it was against the 1st Amendment and therefore an illegal act – however, platforms can apparently refer to their own terms and conditions and this is exactly what they did.

Trump moved to Parler, an app that encouraged free speech, but Parler itself was taken down by down by Amazon, Apple and Google!  The companies pulled support for the “free speech” social network, all but killing the service. Platforms regulating platforms.

This could be a good case study for how internet platforms are endeavoring to tow the line and perhaps do have our best interests at heart. But make sure you put this in context to the fact that in the UK, the new laws on internet harm, won’t be in place to next year and indeed tech giants do not want to ‘police themselves’, Mark Zuckerberg himself is requesting legislation, which at once protects free speech and also regulate against online harm and disinformation.

Online Harms – Laws to be passed in UK to regulate against this

The UK parliament has been debating new laws that should take effect next year in order to regulate the ‘harmful’ side of the internet without encroaching on freedom of speech and pluralism.

It appears that even the ‘Tech Giants’ are going to be included in these new laws where huge fines and even criminal proceedings will be the result of any offensive material that appears on someone’s platform.

Have a read of it and see the key points highlighted with comments by the side.  The technology involved in this process is going to have to be immense as is the ‘gatekeeping’ of it, but the onus seems to be on the platforms themselves, so perhaps the Tech Giants will no longer be able to hide behind Section 230. Smaller companies will have to invest huge amounts of money to ensure their platforms are as ‘safe’ as possible and their responses to complaints etc are as robust as possible.

Click on this link to see comments too on the new proposals. 

Media Regulation – in historical context

Some of the questions in the Media Regulation section of Component 4, are based around examining how regulation works today and how it used to work and the reasons for the changes over time. Read the infographic for some information on just some of the pivotal moments in the history of publishing, news and freedom of speech. It not a definitive list but gives a basic guideline to some key moments.
































































































How regulation on the internet happens without us even knowing it!

Whilst, there are no formal regulations to monitor and censor the internet and the tech giants continue to argue, they do a good job of ‘self-regulating’ content, there are ways that the internet IS BEING REGULATED far beyond our knowledge, reasoning and understanding.

Every time Mrs C, watches a ‘rescue dog’ video on instagram, strange things happen. More dog videos appear!  And it is the same with all our viewing and clicking content – the control of what ‘pops up’ is not within our control

However, what is more worrying is that it is not just the tech giants getting involved in surveillance, algorithms that direct our engagement, governments too are quietly and carefully curating our content.  China is alleged to be a master of this craft. See below.

So the Tech Giants understand our concerns at our fear of being ‘directed’ and ‘managed’ by them and also being at their mercy of seeing harmful, offensive and misleading content. So there are plans afoot to start to self regulate more in the UK – but will these measures go far enough?

So, even though there are no specific laws, rules, legal codes to enforce internet regulation, the regulation will continue to be at the mercy of the platforms and even more worryingly, governments themselves.

WATCH THESE VIDEOS AND MAKE NOTES – they will help with case studies, references, terms to use in any question on Media Regulation, particularly if it relates to how regulation reflects society, reflects changes in politics, reflects the ‘zeitgeist’ of the time or how changes in technology are making it harder for the internet to be regulated. 

Week 4: Task 12, 13 and 14 – Media Regulation – The essay

So we will be back with face to face (mask to mask) teaching tomorrow but we do intend to keep this class blog system going with tasks for the week and classroom resources and tasks, until we are back in Stage 3. This way if any of you are off ill, or waiting for test results, you won’t be disadvantaged and as we can’t do any practical tasks, this system works well.

We will go through this slideshare in person tomorrow and recap on what we have done so far.

In the meantime, you can make sure the previous Media Regulation tasks are complete and if they are, then work on the Quizlet key terms, theories and concepts in classroom in readiness for our Essay writing week etc.

Really looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow.

  • Task 11:  Quizlet on key terms, theories and conceptsSUBMIT MARK ON CLASSROOM FOR THE LEARN QUIZ –  1 hour – Can do today at home.
  • Task 12:  Essay plans x 4SUBMIT ON CLASSROOM 2 hours – wait until we are in the classsroom.
  • Task 13:  Complete the essay allocated to your class and submit on classroom for feedback. We will choose an exemplar from each class to share amongst you so that you will then have 4 really good essays to use as a reference point for revision – Resources and advice on Classroom – SUBMIT ON CLASSROOM – 1 hr – wait until we are in the classroom.

Week 3: Tasks 9, 10 & 11. Online Regulation

News is expensive! and people expect it for free! News broadcasters and papers have, like the music industry before them, lost control of their distribution!

Here is our last case study. Social Media regulation, but in this case there is no regulatory body! Except the social media platforms themselves!

The problem stems from one significant difference between social media and our previous case studies. Social media companies are global organisations. So, whilst it’s relatively easy to regulate adverts and news within the borders of a country, global regulation is highly problematic.

The other essential issue which prevents social media companies from being regulated is, are they a publisher or are they a platform?

Essential watching: A quiz from Mrs Cobb to follow – See Task 10 below:

It is impossible to regulate these American companies who have the protection offered by Section 230 of the American Communications and Decency Act 1996, which states platforms cannot be prosecuted for content posted by their users.

what has been the impact of this? Fake news? Hate speech? Racism? A divided society and weakened democracies?

Here is an opinion piece from Jennifer Cobbe in The Guardian, in which she explains how Facebook and other players in the, “surveillance economy”  have challenged the democracy we take for granted. It suggests:

“We need to confront their surveillance business models, their increasingly central position in digital society, and the power they now hold as a result.”

“As a result, some platforms’ algorithms systematically recommend disinformation, conspiracy theories white supremacism, and neo-Nazism.”

“At a minimum, behavioural advertising should be banned; other, less damaging forms of advertising are available. The algorithms platforms use to recommend content should be heavily regulated.”

A counter argument

As with news regulation, this is not a cut and dried argument. After all should we be allowing our governments to decide what ‘Truth’ should be available to us online?

The video below offers a counter argument to those demanding online regulation and quotes 17th century poet John Milton:

“Truth and understand are not such wares as to be monopolized and traded by tickets or statute, better to let truth and falsehood grapple”

He is suggesting we should not muzzle what we believe to be false or fake news, but allow argument and debate to flourish and in that process truth and greater understanding will come out.

Task 9: Watch the 2 videos and make notes – Social Media and Content Regulation/Don’t Regulate Social Media: 1 hr

Task 10:  Answer the questions on the Newsnight video ‘So Should the Internet be regulated?’ and submit the answers on the sheet in Classroom – SUBMIT TO CLASSSROOM: 1 hr

Task 11:  Internet Regulation – THE GREAT DEBATE. See classroom for instructions –  SUBMIT ON CLASSROOM ON CLASS SLIDESHARE: 2hr.

Week 2: Tasks 7 and 8: Media Regulation: Freedom of Expression and Press Regulation

Here’s Mr Gregson explaining the content of this post

So why is freedom of speech considered to be such an important human right?

Well, to answer that we have to go back to The Enlightenment and the birth of America…

You need to remember that the early American settlers were refugees, who were fleeing from religious persecution and tyrannical monarchies. They were looking for a very different system of government, that was:

‘Government By The People, For The People and Of the People.’

So they started to codify these beliefs in a Bill of Rights, which was then amended a number of times. These amendments were designed to state, in law, the fundamental freedoms of the American people.

The very first amendment was to protect freedom of speech and freedom of expression, because after all, if you are a tyrannical church or monarch, the best way to oppress your subjects is to ban different point of view and kill those who hold them.

So the first amendment states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

So, freedom of the press, in it’s purest form, is about protecting the freedom of the citizen, it’s about the right to hold the powerful to account and is essential in any enlightened democracy!

The question we need to ask in Media regulation is:

Should there be limits to that freedom if that freedom cause harm to the individual?

Because, whilst it’s all very well to hold politicians to account so that we can vote, with full knowledge of the facts, should my freedom of expression extend to saying what I like, about who I like? After all, we do all  love celebrity gossip and the popular tabloid press makes money because it gives us what we love…

Here is a cartoon from Private Eye which draws attention to our collective hypocrisy in the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana in a high speed car crash in Paris, when she and her new boyfriend were trying to get away from the paparazzi (press photographers) chasing them on motorbikes.

Then there was The News of The World, Milly Dowler and the Leveson Inquiry

Watch this video, from the BBC, which explains the story of how journalists from News of The World hacked the phone of a missing girl, Milly Dowler, and in doing so broke the law and invaded the privacy of Milly’s grieving parents.

This sort of law breaking was a new low in press ethical standards and there was an outcry for more regulation of the press and the actions of journalists, who would do anything to get a story.

So the government launched an inquiry, a debate, in front of a judge (Lord Leveson), who needed to advise the government on a new law to regulate the press.

So, where does this leave us? The assertion that freedom of the press to uncover stories should have limits? Well many editors and journalists go back to that principle at the top of this post, that a free press is essential for enlightened democracy:

They argue that if  we limit journalists from uncovering genuine news stories, such as The Panama Papers or the scandal of The Catholic Church coving up the behaviour of priests who were molesting children. The film Spotlight show not only how the story was uncovered, but the degree to which some powerful people tried to kill the story and stop it being published. Well worth a watch… here’s the trailer.

Press Regulatory Bodies – Old and New

The British Government at the time did introduce a new regulatory body. They ditched the regulator  the Press Complaints Commission, a model whereby the papers regulated themselves. And introduced our next case study…  IPSO, who introduced a new Code or Practice for editors, which is enforceable in law if they break it.

Here is the last video. Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, who refused to sign up to IPSO, explaining what this now means for freedom of the press in the UK, which he asserts has now been eroded and the dangers of that for our democracy and the ability of journalists to hold the powerful to account.

“In Britain, we have a free press; it’s not a pretty press, but it’s free!”

Task 7: Monday/Tuesday: Make notes on the above – 1.30 hr
Task 8:  Wednesday/Thursday/FRIDAY: Padlet presentation of Case studies – see classroom – 1.30 hr

This week you will be researching some more of these stories where the press has overstepped the ethical line and bought harm to individuals. Think Caroline Flack. However, we should also look out for stories where journalists were heroes, and bought corruption to light and held the powerful to account. Think Prince Andrew.

Week 1: Tasks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 + 6: Media Regulation – Introduction/Tasks

Listen to Mr Gregson introduce this penultimate module for the exam.

Task 1:

As usual the tasks for the week will be laid out here and will correspond to classroom and MILK.

  • Task 1: Listen to Mr Gregson’s intro to Media Regulation – make notes – 30 mins
  • Task 2: Who are the main regulators? Complete the worksheet – 1 hour –
  • Task 3/4: Who are the ASA?  Listen to presentation, study the infographic and read the notes on its history – make notes and learn the key terms from the glossary – 1 hr.
  • Task 5: Why have these adverts been banned?  –  1 hour –
  • Task 6: Summative Task: 500 word submission  – 1.30  hr. –

Task 3 + 4:


  • Legal, Decent, Honest, Truthful
  • What the Advertising Codes say (in summary):
    • No advertisement should mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise.
    • Marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove all claims, whether direct or implied that are capable of objective substantiation.
    • Marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such.

Notes on its history.

Key terms and glossary of definitions about regulation/adverts.