Defining a 'democratic elite': Key media in the battle for ...

Defining a 'democratic elite': Key media in the battle for ...

Defining a democratic elite: Key media in the battle for social responsibility Lee Duffield Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA) Annual Conference, UTS Sydney, 2527.11.14 QUT Abstract This paper offers a definition of elite media arguing their content focus will sufficiently meet social responsibility needs of democracy. Its assumptions come from the Finkelstein and Leveson Inquiries and regulatory British Royal Charter (2013). These provide guidelines on how media outlets meet social responsibility standards, e.g. press has a responsibility to be fair and accurate (Finkelstein); ethical press will feel a responsibility to hold power to account (Leveson); news media will be held strictly accountable (RC). The paper invokes the British principle of media opting-in to observe standards, and so serve the democracy. It will give examples from existing media, and consider social responsibility of media more generally. Obvious cases of quality media: public broadcasters, e.g. BBC, Al-Jazeera, and quality press, e.g. NYT, Sddeutscher Zeitung, but also community broadcasters, specialised magazines, news agencies, distinctive web logs, and others. Where providing commentary, these abjure gratuitous, extreme, unreferenced opinion instead meeting a standard of reasoned, informational and fair. Funding is almost a

definer, many such services supported by the state, private trusts, public institutions or volunteering by staff. Literature supporting discussion on elite media will include their identity as primarily committed to a public good, e.g. the Public Value Test, Moe and Donders (2011); with reference also to recent literature on developing public service media. Within its limits the paper will treat social media as participants among all media, including elite, and as a parallel dimension of mass communication founded on inter-activity. Elite media will fulfil the need for social responsibility, firstly by providing one space, a plenary for debate. Second is the notion of building public recognition of elite media as trustworthy. Third is the fact that elite media together are a large sector with resources to sustain social cohesion and debate; notwithstanding pressure on funds, and impacts of digital transformation undermining employment in media more than in most industries. Abstract This paper offers a definition of elite media arguing their content focus will sufficiently meet social responsibility needs of democracy. Its assumptions come from the Finkelstein and Leveson Inquiries and regulatory British Royal Charter (2013). These provide guidelines on how media outlets meet social responsibility standards, e.g. press has a responsibility to be fair and accurate (Finkelstein); ethical press will feel a responsibility to hold power to account (Leveson); news media will be held strictly accountable (RC). The paper invokes the British principle of media opting-in to observe standards, and so serve the democracy. It will give examples from existing media, and consider social responsibility of media more generally. Obvious cases of quality media: public broadcasters, e.g. BBC, Al-Jazeera, and quality press, e.g. NYT, Sddeutscher Zeitung, but also community broadcasters, specialised magazines, news agencies, distinctive web logs, and others. Where providing commentary, these abjure gratuitous, extreme, unreferenced opinion instead meeting a standard of reasoned, informational and fair. Funding is almost a definer, many such services supported by the state, private trusts, public institutions or volunteering by staff. Literature supporting discussion on elite media will include their identity as primarily committed to a public good, e.g. the Public Value Test, Moe and Donders (2011); with reference also to recent literature on

developing public service media. Within its limits the paper will treat social media as participants among all media, including elite, and as a parallel dimension of mass communication founded on inter-activity. Elite media will fulfil the need for social responsibility, firstly by providing one space, a plenary for debate. Second is the notion of building public recognition of elite media as trustworthy. Third is the fact that elite media together are a large sector with resources to sustain social cohesion and debate; notwithstanding pressure on funds, and impacts of digital transformation undermining employment in media more than in most industries. Elite media - standard set by the inquiries This paper offers a broad definition of elite media and argues their content focus, and best practice in other respects will sufficiently meet social responsibility needs of democracy. It is a response to anxiety that mass media fail in a responsibility to provide society with enough information about itself, to support democratic life.

The assumptions behind such concerns are articulated in the reports of the Finkelstein and Leveson Inquiries and in the United Kingdom Royal Charter pursuant to the latter, all flowing from the News of the World scandal. Prescriptions The paper borrows thought-out understandings and prescriptions of these government-instigated actions to propose a frame or set of guidelines on how media producers meeting a social responsibility standard can get formal recognition. It goes on to suggest that such recognition will separate elite media, being those recognised, from all other

media, in practical terms. Standards as indicated by these sources: Finkelstein (2012:7), on common ground among all those who think seriously about the role of the news media and about journalistic ethics, considers: a free press plays an essential role in a democratic society , has a responsibility to be fair and accurate , is a powerful institution which can, and does affect the political process , can cause harm, should be publicly accountable, and has codes of ethics regarding accuracy, fairness, impartiality, integrity and independence Leveson (2012:55-83), asserting the importance

of a free press to democracy is surely incontrovertible and setting out a framework of understanding which is relatively uncontroversial, prescribes: If a free press in a democracy has a special role in facilitating free communication and in constituting a public forum, then an ethical press will want to enable people to recognise and assess the material being provided. Where it provides information, that information will be reasonably intelligible and accurate ... If a free press in a democracy has special privileges to keep its sources secret, then an ethical press will be mindful of the reasons for and effects of that privilege If a free press in a democracy has a special place because of its ability to hold power to account, an ethical press will consider itself to have responsibilities to do just that A free and autonomous press within a democracy will be mindful of the democratic freedoms and autonomies of others. Standards as indicated by these sources: The Royal Charter (2013), now proclaimed, having survived legal challenges, awaits implementation after the 2015 British elections, and declares as a first principle

it supports the integrity and freedom of the press, the plurality of the media, and its independence, including from Government, while encouraging the highest ethical and professional standards. It is to establish a standards code, taking into account: the importance of free speech, the interests of the public (including but not limited to the public interest in detecting or exposing crime or serious impropriety, protecting public health and safety and preventing the public from being seriously misled), the need for journalists to protect confidential sources of information, and the rights of individuals ... Standards of conduct will include respect for privacy and accuracy, and the need to avoid misrepresentation The regulatory mechanism will include a service to warn the press and other relevant parties such as broadcasters and press photographers, when an individual has made it clear that they do not welcome press intrusion , and subscribers [from the news media] will be held strictly accountable under the standards code for any material that they publish Framework of understanding, standards of conduct Further, the Royal Charter contains

provisions for mediation, voluntary corrections of material published wrongly, mandatory orders requiring corrections, funding of research into standards performance, and ultimately sanctions geared to the financial turnover of the media organisation, up to 1-million (A$1.84million; xe.com 6.10.14). COMMUNITY - public accountability; see capacity for harm; facilitate free communication and a public forum; give reasonably intelligible and accurate information; respect the democratic freedoms and autonomies of others COMMUNITY Note importance of free speech and public interests incl. exposure of crime or serious impropriety, protect public health and safety, and prevent the public from being seriously misled. Protect confidential sources, rights of

individuals, respect privacy. As can cause harm, so public accountability. The regulatory mechanism will include a service to warn the press and other relevant parties such as broadcasters and press photographers, when an individual has made it clear that they do not welcome press intrusion. Framework of understanding, standards of conduct, stipulations POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT, FREEDOM AND AUTHORITY Free presss essential role in democratic society ; a powerful institution, able to affect the political process, must be publicly accountable and may hold power to account. State to support, integrity and

freedom of the press, plurality of the media, and its independence, including from Government. ETHICAL CONDUCT Note codes of ethics accuracy, fairness, impartiality, integrity and independence Enable people to recognise and assess material. With special privileges to keep sources secret, must be mindful of the reasons and effects of privilege NOTE to be enforceable Opting in divide the media The principle of media producers opting-in to observe such

standards, (as in the Royal Charter), and come under specific regulation, can separate them from those with other missions, e.g. all-advertorial. This paper secondly supports the implication of the Royal Charter, that those opting out will be known as exceptions, so that ultimately mass media, while still uniformly enjoying the right to publish, will be in two separate and recognised fields. Functions of elite media It will suggest thirdly that the first group, opting in, and depending on how they fare under the regulatory regime, may obtain the status of elite media. It will suggest fourthly that

media operations meeting that definition will adequately serve the democratic function, especially where maintaining a public record of events and publishing information in the public interest. Not an argument here for universal adoption of the forthcoming British regulatory scheme; but use it, and a formulation of standards from the inquiries, to advance the concept of elite media identified by commitment to public interest. Unlike the public inquiries, no call to consider the code / standards for all mass media -- not alarmed if some, even most opt out. Exclusions, sanctions

Note, as raised in the Royal Charter, perpetrators of egregious breaches of the standards, e.g. breach of privacy, if they are not subscribers, can be denied access to redress and relief processes of the charter. A psychology and practice of exclusion, precaution and delegitimisation, e.g. grounds to object if a journalist invited onto Q.and A. was from an unaccredited newspaper. Definitions: who qualifies for this elite? Consider cases and existing likely candidates; then consider social responsibility of media more generally, to fill out background to the concept. Existing quality media outlets already get wide, informal recognition for application

of the standards, referred to above, associated with serving the public interest. Characteristics of their services: focus on content, e.g. providing journals of record; focus on audiences, though not on consumerist or commercial models. Most observe a liberal ethic, e.g. maturity with commentary - made to a standard of reasoned, informational and fair. Important branches of activity include investigative journalism. Funding is almost a point of definition, many of these services being not for profit. Alternatives are state funding (public service broadcasters), private trusts (The Guardian), support from public institutions, subscriptions and volunteering (community radio). Public good or interest: Elite media are seen as those primarily committed to public good or interest, e.g. the Public Value Test, Moe and Donders eds. (2011). Other literature analyses public service media, flowing from the enterprise of public service broadcasters moving into online; see RIPE 2006 conference, Ferrell Lowe and Bardoel (eds.), and elsewhere, e.g. Debrett (2010), or Burns and Brugger (2012). Further work discusses the mixed media approach, both products and operational, as hybridisation, e.g. Barnett and Seaton (2010). Social responsibility and elites Elite media are seen as those which are primarily committed to public good or interest, e.g. the Public Value Test, Moe and Donders eds. (2011); . Other literature analyses public

service media, flowing from the enterprise of public service broadcasters moving into online; see RIPE 2006 conference, Ferrell Lowe and Bardoel (eds.), and elsewhere, e.g. Debrett (2010), or Burns and Brugger (2012). Further work discusses the mixed media approach, both products and operational, as hybridisation, e.g. Barnett and Seaton (2010). Donders work circa 2010, around the EU value test, establishes how after 15 years of investigation and 20 decisions, the executive European Commission was settling on acceptance of the transfer from public service broadcasting to PS media, to be regulated under its competition policy on the basis of public interest. The process brought a re-examination , and acknowledgment of established principles, with useful updates; all

affirming the social relevance of the sector Social responsibility and elites Donders continuing The EU work to set up a framework to assess the funding of public media, and state-aid control under the competition policy, produced a remit to be based on evidence and transparent, independent review of services; for example it would proportionalise financial aid from the national state between the organisations public service and strictly commercial activities Beyond making PS stakeholders more accountable and responsive, the system will acknowledge public value related opportunities that accompany technological revolutions, supporting the media services: pluralism and diversity of media, choice, inclusion, emancipation, a wide range of programs, balanced, with appreciable levels of domestic program content, measures of individual program quality, innovation, social relevance, cohesion and social responsibility. The EU moves will professionalise independent regulators, to achieve clarity and have checks and balances, consigning to history regulation determined by bilateral negotiation between governments and PS broadcasters. Case studies cited by Donders enforce the legitimacy of PS media, e.g. in Germany, a study of their innovative digital services Mediatheks- exposed better accessibility for audiences, and overall, more public value. Social responsibility and elites

Donders continuing The public value tests can contribute to a better definition of the remit; the public service media organisations had not been marginalised by the new regulatory order, set up in response to media deregulation (bringing new commercial services into the field), and the new digital technologies (bringing complaints from the commercial providers about being competed against). The EU process, for a new media ecology, was not achieved without difficulty: This process did (and still does) not easily fit with public service broadcasting, which is a policy project setting out from the idea that some things (such as the contribution of broadcasting to democracy) are too important to be left to the profit-seeking mechanisms of the free market. Social responsibility and elites The EU case demonstrates the involvement of media and journalism in real-world situations of politics and government, as much as they are any expression of civil society enacted.

Context for this is provided in the 2010 book from Christians et al, including Denis McQuail, History of Communication: Normative theories of the media: journalism in democratic societies. The authors provide a clear and contextualised review the standard theories of journalism in society (Siebert and Schramm, Merrill, Hachten, Altschull, Chadury, Williams, Habermas, McQuail, Jakubowski, Hallin, Mancini; then Marcuse, Schiller, Chomsky, Hall), offering a revision, at three levels of analysis: philosophical, political and media -- where the political is democracy. Roles allocated to media are fairly expansive, being monitorial, facilitative, radical and collaborative. Social responsibility and elites The normative theories, as the philosophical level, are the corporatist, libertarian, citizen participation models, and a revision of thought on social responsibility: This tradition retains freedom as the basic principle for organising public communication, including the media, but views the public or community as also having some rights and legitimate expectations of adequate service. The authors mention the disruptions of new media and trends in society, politics or the

economy, like media deregulation, as reasons to revise the theoretical posits; as does Barbie Zelizer in an article wanting to go further. It abjures the linkages found between successful democratic government and mass media, by the inquiries, Finkelstein and Edelston, and the framers of the Royal Charter, and by the historians of theory. It criticises both democracy and media over grave shortcomings that participants in both strive to deal with, e.g. the grapplings of the EU media and regulators with burgeoning new media technology, neo-economics of the media business, and updating of regulation. Social responsibility and elites The article is a qualifier for the preceding work, for instance, declaring that scandals like the News of the World phone-tapping, reveal problematic aspects of journalistic practice in countries that have been heavily invested in promoting a certain traditional view of the journalism / democracy nexus (2013:466). The argument almost reaches a point of recommending the democratic project itself be given up on; certainly journalism scholarship is chastised for taking sides with it.

It proceeds to caution against positing democracy as a necessarily progressive, reasoned and universal phenomenon; so that: in retaining the centrality of democracy in thinking about journalism, the reasons for journalisms existence have become aligned more with the political world beyond the news than with reflecting the workings of journalism itself. (2013:470). Main choices My formulation of roles and expectations of media, from the inquiries, as well as community relations and ethics, did include dealing with politics and government; with a statement about identifying media that would meet the demands, (and the EU case study from Donders on public service media). Obvious examples, of elite media by the definitions given here, are public broadcasters, e.g. BBC, Al-Jazeera, and quality press, e.g. NYT, Sddeutscher Zeitung, but also community broadcasters, specialised magazines, private subscription

news agencies, e.g. AAP, Bloomberg, distinctive web logs, or corporate media packages with vested interests in delivering tested information in engaging formats. These may make a claim to an elite media status. Main choices Most observe a liberal ethic, e.g. maturity with commentary made to a standard of reasoned, informational and fair. Important branches of activity include investigative journalism. Funding is almost a point of definition, many of these services being not for profit. Alternatives are state funding (public service broadcasters), private trusts (The Guardian), support from public institutions, subscriptions and volunteering (community radio). What about? What about?

A debate can be conducted around opinion media such as tabloid press voicing strong editorial lines, or opinion as entertainment on radio -- in the present era most of it is radical right-wing politics. It may be about social issues and politics of the day, but would be severely tested if trying to obtain certification as trusted elite media, mindful of the democratic freedoms and autonomies of others (Leveson, 2012: 83), along the lines discussed here. New media social media In this scheme of understanding, proliferating social media are seen in two aspects: as participants in all media, and as the early stage of a new and parallel dimension of mass communication founded on inter-activity, many-to-many.

Participants in all media may be subscribers to standards as specified above, e.g. fair and accurate, accountable, be mindful of the democratic freedoms and autonomies of others, preventing the public from being seriously misled. They may be elite media. Mass and interactive media models have their built-in mechanisms for evaluating, embellishing and correcting published material, which can be sustained by transparency, and practical expectations of users, empowered to check on and challenge what they see. Exclusions from discussion The present exercise hardly extends to discussion of futures It hardly extends to discussion of non-elite media, e.g. commercial broadcasters lobbying for protection against public media as marginal but strategic competitors

It does not yet deal with the question of audiences, where issues such as psychological defences against media bombardments, and proactive using of media, would be pertinent, (e.g. Renckstorf, McQuail and Jakowski, Media use as social action , 1996). How could elite media meet the need for socially responsible media in society? First -- a plenary for debate. Many are established organisations geared to rationing of content through limited channels, dating to the era of severe shortage of space and air-time up to the 1970s liberalising of broadcast bands and being able to get the Internet on personal computers after 1995. Able to aggregate services; large established audiences, mainly; salient in the dispersed, crowded market.

Secondly the notion of recognition, as conveyed in the principles of the British Royal Charter, will allay confusion. Thirdly there are many such outlets, collectively well resourced and strong. Despite newspapers and broadcasting among industries most suffering from negative impacts new economy, most have enduring resources and public support. They share in adaptability of media, for example in the case of online products, exploiting the capacity of the medium to bring back of the book material arts, personality, festivals, games, personal finances into the traditional territory of news pages at the top; the subject of a current study by the present author, see Duffield and Keshvani (2014). With digitised media, against censoring,

data harvesting and the like, or criminal threats; corporate strength and strength in numbers, of this well-identified sector, will continue as a useful defence strategy. In the case of dispersed new media, such as the social media model mentioned above, the multiplicity of points in a network may ward off destruction at its core, though individual parts will be vulnerable. Certification Those which sign on and can maintain the required performance will have the better status in public debate ones to take most notice of. Again a possible lead might come from the Royal Charter, where it stipulates the membership of a Recognition Panel to oversee the setting-up of a regulator. It can be imagined that a board well distanced from media interests and involvements, e.g. funded by a

philanthropic trust, could actually certify qualifying media. References Barnett S and J Seaton, Why the BBC Matters: Memo to the New Parliament about a Unique British Institution, Political Quarterly July 2010, Vol. 81 Issue 3, pp 327-32. Burns M and N Brugger (eds.) (2012), Histories of Public Service Broadcasters on the Web, NY, Peter Lang. Debrett M (2010), Reinventing public service television for the digital future, Bristol, Intellect. Donders K (2010), The benefits of introducing European competition principles into national public broadcasting policy, info, Vol. 12 Iss: 6, pp.56 - 68 Donders K (2011), Public service media and policy in Europe, Basingstoke, Macmillan. Duffield L and N Keshvani, Old Mastheads and New Media: newspapers striving to adapt in Australia and South-east Asia, ICA Regional Conference, QUT Brisbane, 1.10.14 Christians C, Glasser T and D McQuail (2009), History of Communication : Normative Theories of the Media : Journalism in Democratic Societies, Urbana, University of Illinois Press Ferrell Lowe G and J Bardoel (eds.) (2007), Public Service Broadcasting to Public Service Media, (RIPE Conference 2006), Gotenborg, Nordicom. The Leveson Inquiry: Report into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press (2012), HM Government, London. Moe H and K Donders (2011) (eds.), Exporting the Public Value Test: The regulation of public broadcasters new media services across Europe, Nordicom (Internet Archive), SF. Renckstorf K, McQuail D and Jakowski N (eds.) (1996), media use as Social Action: A European approach to audience studies, Acamedia Research Monograph 15, London, John Libby. Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Media and Media Regulation by Hon. R. Finkelstein, assisted by Prof. M. Ricketson, Australian Government, Canberra, 2012. Royal Charter on Self-regulation of the Press (2013), HM Government, London. Zelizer B, On the shelf life of democracy in journalism scholarship, Journalism, May 2013, Vol. 14, no. 4: 459-473.

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