News Media

News Media after the myth of self-regulation

The News Media must find ways to avoid competitive-pressures unintentionally leading to bias and misrepresentation – because it will increasingly be held far more accountable


Having industry-members devise their own reform – but avoiding unduly self-interested self-regulation – is particularly important for parts of the News Media. In the UK particularly, newspapers have become extremely competitive, with all the attendant consequences – including law breaking. To put that in context, it is important to remember that some exceptional investigative journalism has also taken place. Some of the journalists involved have indeed broken the law in pursuit of an important story that was truly in the public interest, such as the parliamentary expenses scandal in 2009. But almost everyone rightly accepts ‘Public Interest’ as a legitimate and important justification. However, in addition to concerns about illegality are the long-standing worries that impartiality, accuracy and even basic facts-checking too often have suffered. Those misleading stories then internet around the world. In addition, the 24/7 News cycle encourages unintended bias because journalists and their editors have to choose the juiciest stories and then squeeze the pips out of them.

Concepts of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press need to be brought up to date. They were devised – and for many countries (such as the USA) then cast in stone – at a time when no one had the same power to publish worldwide that is afforded to even the lowliest blogger today. High-Tech has changed what is reasonable and has significantly altered the balance that is fairest between individual freedom and collective security. What is more, as highlighted in the Capitalism System chart, there can be unfortunate side-effects that emerge from the interactions of news media and politics – and sometimes the police. In the modern world, there is a tremendous benefit from a free press being powerful enough to hold government to account, however embarrassing that may be. However, no unelected news organization should be so large – and therefore so powerful – that it can exert undue influence over elected governments. And, to avoid conflicts of interest, the revolving-door of career-moves and consultancy between Establishment bodies such as the media, politics and the police should not spin anything like so fast. Nor does it look good if too many individuals from appropriately-distinct branches of the establishment nevertheless drink at the same places or share membership of the same clubs. Or belong to the same Lodges.

Throughout history, there has always been a balance to be maintained across society. High-Tech has shifted the weight of power toward numerous forms of unelected media. That balance now needs to be corrected. The Media themselves are by far the best people to work out ways to restore equilibrium as well as improve the accuracy of how the public perceive complex topics such as global warming or medical risks or political trade-offs. But the Media will then need help to get their industry – and those that interact with them – actually to change.