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Journal ArticleDOI

Statutory media self-regulation : beneficial or detrimental for media freedom?

AbstractIn the wake of the British phone hacking scandal of the News of the World, which proved some limits to the model of media self-regulation, a growing number of experts have suggested a statutory recognition of this model by law to improve its performance. At first sight a statutory recognition seems an oxymoron, as the model of media self-regulation – a voluntary system of media regulation independent from public authorities – was originally developed by media professionals themselves to limit state interference in the field of media. Hence, the article explores how statutory recognition is compatible with the concept of media self-regulation. After clarifying the relationships between media regulation, self-regulation and media freedom, the article investigates whether statutory recognition is beneficial or detrimental for media freedom. To answer it, this article draws a distinction between democratic countries and countries in democratic transition. It is argued that statutory media self-regulation in non-democratic countries is problematic because of the risks of transforming self-regulation into a compulsory system controlled by political interests. In democratic countries, statutory media self-regulation can make this voluntary system more effective, for instance by limiting the number of media outlets that decide to abstain from it. However, when statutory recognition is used by state authorities not as a reward but as a punishment for media, it leans towards a two-speed protection of media professionals according to their respect for professional standards or a lack thereof, which is not compatible with the universal nature of freedom of expression.

Topics: Media regulation (65%), Media relations (60%), Statutory law (55%), Freedom of the press (53%), Censorship (51%)

Summary (1 min read)

Introduction

  • Media self-regulation - a system developed voluntarily by media professionals to ensure respect for their professional and ethical guidelines - has become increasingly popular in Europe.
  • “An act of Parliament could also force the industry to form a self-regulatory entity, and at the same time, pre-establish key institutions, in order to increase accountability and responsiveness.
  • Building upon scholarly debates in the field and based upon a range of expert interviews and fieldwork in press councils and international organisations, this article considers whether and, if so, to what extent public authorities should recognize and support media self-regulation.
  • But even when its goal is to safeguard the right to freedom of expression, legislation affecting the media often creates bureaucratic obstacles and loopholes for abuse by those implementing it.
  • Thirdly, media self-regulation is beneficial for media freedom because it strengthens people’s fundamental right to receive accurate and pluralistic information enabling them to have informed opinions and to engage in the democratic debate.

The risk of “privatization of censorship”

  • Whilst a view of self-regulation is that taking regulation out of the hands of governments is beneficial for media freedom, another perspective is that a lack of legal protection and unclear boundaries might contribute to suppressing free speech.
  • There is a growing tendency for some governments to promote the concept of media self-regulation in order to restrict media freedom from inside and in more subtle manner than through media laws.”.
  • Regardless of the fact that a decision of a press council has not yet been turned against a media outlet in a national court, the ECHR certainly has taken into consideration the question of respect for journalistic ethics in its rulings (Oetheimer, 2006).
  • The ECHR has not, however, based subsequent judgments on this case-law, and took a different approach in the case Kasanova v. Bulgaria (2011).

Conclusion

  • This article demonstrates that there are arguments in favour and against media self-regulation in a media freedom perspective.
  • Statutory recognition may also bring incentives for media to take part in the voluntary system of media self-regulation.
  • In democratic countries, the danger is less visible.
  • But the dangers of the cure must be weighed against the dangers of the disease; every definition of an abuse invites abuse of the definition.

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RSCAS 2014/127
Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies
Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom
Statutory media self-regulation:
beneficial or detrimental for media freedom?
Adeline Hulin


European University Institute
Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies
Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom
Statutory media self-regulation:
beneficial or detrimental for media freedom?
Adeline Hulin
EUI Working Paper RSCAS 2014/127

This text may be downloaded only for personal research purposes. Additional reproduction for other
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ISSN 1028-3625
© Adeline Hulin, 2014
Printed in Italy, December 2014
European University Institute
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Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies
The Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS), created in 1992 and directed by Brigid
Laffan since September 2013, aims to develop inter-disciplinary and comparative research and to
promote work on the major issues facing the process of integration and European society.
The Centre is home to a large post-doctoral programme and hosts major research programmes and
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around a set of core themes and is continuously evolving, reflecting the changing agenda of European
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well as from leading scholars and experienced practitioners interested in and focused on the subject
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importance of freedom and pluralism of the media, to contribute to its protection and promotion and to
develop new ideas among academics, policy makers, regulators, market stakeholders, journalists, and
all other directly involved professionals who take part in the public debate.

Citations
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Abstract: LSE has developed LSE Research Online so that users may access research output of the School. Copyright © and Moral Rights for the papers on this site are retained by the individual authors and/or other copyright owners. Users may download and/or print one copy of any article(s) in LSE Research Online to facilitate their private study or for non-commercial research. You may not engage in further distribution of the material or use it for any profit-making activities or any commercial gain. You may freely distribute the URL (http://eprints.lse.ac.uk) of the LSE Research Online website.

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Abstract: The media in Zambia have been in a state of uncertainty since Zambia reinstated democratic governance in the early 1990s. Despite promising initial steps to deregulate the media that started under ...

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Cites background from "Statutory media self-regulation : b..."

  • ...These efforts propose a Statutory Self-Regulation (SSR) model whose effectiveness or fairness scholars have questioned, especially in emerging or transitioning democracies (Hulin 2014; Iglesias n.d.)....

    [...]

  • ...…their independence and continually defend this right because scholars have argued that “statutory media self-regulation in non-democratic countries is problematic because of the risks of transforming self-regulation into a compulsory system controlled by political interests” (Hulin 2014: iiv)....

    [...]

  • ...CONTACT Youngson Ndawana yndawana@2017.ljmu.ac.uk; youngs5nd@yahoo.com Faculty of Arts, Professional, and Social Studies, LJMU, Department of Media, Culture and Communication Studies, 80–98 Mount Pleasant, John Foster Building, Liverpool L3 5UZ, UK 2018; Hulin 2014)....

    [...]


Dissertation
04 Dec 2013
Abstract: A l’heure ou le modele de l’autoregulation des medias connait un succes grandissant en Europe, avec la multiplication du nombre de conseils de presse, mais aussi une remise en question fondamentale, suite a l’affaire anglo-saxonne de News of the World, ce travail de recherche tente de definir les bienfaits et les limites du modele de l’autoregulation en matiere de liberte des medias. D’une maniere generale, cette recherche tente de montrer dans quelle mesure une responsabilisation collective des journalistes peut soutenir et promouvoir la liberte des journalistes. Pour le comprendre, cette recherche explore les liens entre liberte et responsabilite des medias. Elle montre que si l’Etat et les cours de justice, en tant que representants democratiques, peuvent etre les mieux attribues pour definir les responsabilites de journalistes idealement au service de l’interet public, d’autres considerent qu’il faut laisser aux journalistes le soin de definir leurs responsabilites eux-memes pour limiter tant que possible les tentations etatiques de mettre sous controle les “chiens de garde” du systeme democratique. Cette recherche nous enseigne que le juste equilibre entre regulation et autoregulation des medias depend alors de la nature du regime politique en place ainsi que des traditions et cultures journalistiques. Elle montre qu’une responsabilisation collective des journalistes par l’autoregulation peut promouvoir et defendre la liberte des medias, lorsque des garde-fous existent pour limiter l’instrumentalisation du systeme. Elle montre aussi que l’autoregulation ne peut en aucun cas creer les conditions de la liberte des medias. Cette recherche souligne enfin les avantages de l’autoregulation des medias a l’heure du numerique.

1 citations


13 May 2014
Abstract: In the coming weeks the new press regulator IPSO will unveil its board and officially launch. We can also expect an announcement about the Recognition Panel established under the Royal Charter to audit the new system of newspaper self-regulation. Those expecting to finally see the implementation of Leveson’s reforms are likely to be disappointed, however, argues Damian Tambini.

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01 Apr 2004

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References
More filters

MonographDOI
Abstract: This book proposes a framework for comparative analysis of the relation between the media and the political system Building on a survey of media institutions in eighteen West European and North American democracies, Hallin and Mancini identify the principal dimensions of variation in media systems and the political variables that have shaped their evolution They go on to identify three major models of media system development, the Polarized Pluralist, Democratic Corporatist, and Liberal models; to explain why the media have played a different role in politics in each of these systems; and to explore the force of change that are currently transforming them It provides a key theoretical statement about the relation between media and political systems, a key statement about the methodology of comparative analysis in political communication, and a clear overview of the variety of media institutions that have developed in the West, understood within their political and historical context

4,088 citations



30 Nov 2012

158 citations


"Statutory media self-regulation : b..." refers background in this paper

  • ...The report of 2000 pages published by Lord Justice Leveson in November 2012 concluded that the former British press council (the Press Complaints Commission) had failed (Leveson, 2012) and that a new system of media self-regulation would be required....

    [...]

  • ...In reaction to the News of the World scandal in the United Kingdom, Lord Justice Leveson concluded in November 2012 that the former British press council (the Press Complaints Commission) had failed and that a new system of media self-regulation should be established (Leveson, 2012)....

    [...]


Posted Content
Abstract: Self-regulation has been portrayed as superior to government regulation for addressing problems of new media such as digital television and the internet. This article reviews the literature on self-regulation to define what is meant by the term, to identify the purported advantages and disadvantages of self regulation and to identify the conditions needed for its success. It then analyzes the effectiveness of self-regulation by looking at the track record of self-regulation in other media. After describing and analyzing past uses of self-regulation in broadcasting, children's advertising, news, alcohol advertising, comics books movies, and video games, it concludes that self regulation rarely lives up to the claims made for it, although in some cases, it has been useful as a supplement to government regulation. It identifies five factors that may account for the success or failure of self-regulation. These include the industry incentives, the ability of government to regulate, the use of measurable standards, public participation and industry structure. Applying these five factors to digital television public interest responsibilities and privacy on the internet, it concludes that self regulation is not likely to be successful in these contexts.

87 citations


"Statutory media self-regulation : b..." refers background in this paper

  • ...While the appendix “self” clarifies the key actor – in the present case, the media- the word “regulation” refers to what this actor is doing (Campbell, 1999: 714)....

    [...]


01 Jan 2014

65 citations


"Statutory media self-regulation : b..." refers background in this paper

  • ...…democracy is currently in crisis, “Turkey’s government is improperly using its leverage over media to limit public debate about government actions and punish journalists and media owners who dispute government claims, deepening the country’s political and social polarization” (Freedom House, 2013)....

    [...]


Frequently Asked Questions (2)
Q1. What are the contributions in "Rscas 2014/127 statutory media self-regulation: beneficial or detrimental for media freedom?" ?

At first sight a statutory recognition seems an oxymoron, as the model of media self-regulation – a voluntary system of media regulation independent from public authorities was originally developed by media professionals themselves to limit state interference in the field of media. Hence, the article explores how statutory recognition is compatible with the concept of media self-regulation. After clarifying the relationships between media regulation, self-regulation and media freedom, the article investigates whether statutory recognition is beneficial or detrimental for media freedom. To answer it, this article draws a distinction between democratic countries and countries in democratic transition. 

A recent expert report on the future of media self-regulation in France ( Sirinelli, 2014: 54 ) emphasizes the dilemma: on one hand, a recognition of the system by state authorities appears as an essential pre-condition for its creation ; on the other hand, state intervention risks giving any new structure an appearance of non-independence, which could be the main reason for its failure.