Media Capture Series Pt. 2: Policy to Limit the Power of Media Capture over Independent Journalism

mediacapture2In October, the Institute for International Communication hosted Dr. Marko Milosavljevic who discussed his cutting-edge research on media capture . A group of undergraduate students of International Communication reflected on the theme. 

Preventing media capture, and ensuring that the media can fulfill their societal duties, has been an increasingly difficult issue for the international field of Independent Journalism. How much of the media you consume on a daily basis, whether it be print, music, television, film, or digital media, actually comes from a completely independent, autonomous source?
The answer to that question may surprise you. Media capture happens when the media is unable to provide unbiased and untouched stories to society because they are constantly being flooded with several vested interests, including the government, who are misusing the platform. The media has a critical role in society: to regulate the behavior of government, businesses, and other organizations by watching and ensuring that their actions are in harmony with societal standards. But in order for the media to play this role, it must be completely independent and dissociate, especially from those on whom it is reporting.

Media Capture can be grouped into four broad sections: ownership, financial incentives, censorship, and cognitive capture.

Ownership is when individuals and corporations buy media; this can be done for a number of purposes, including as a business proposition or to advance their political philosophies. Many purchase media because they see the possibility to influence thinking and interpretations of public events; that mentality combined with the wealthy class’ narrow perspectives creates a large capture and influence on the media provided to society.

Financial incentives occur obviously for business-driven objectives, but even when owners have non-economic objectives, they still have to be concerned with their profitability. In this case, the owners have to worry about their advertisers and subscribers were their press not accurately or favorably capturing the viewpoint of those entities.

Censorship happens both externally and internally; governments and media owners can simply censor what is written by press, while self-censorship is being practiced constantly. The media is constantly concerned with losing advertising revenues, subscribers, and access to important news stories that are vital if they are to remain with the competition, which forces them to sometimes alter their original, uncensored stories through softening the message or simply dropping a story altogether.

Cognitive capture relates to how the reporter or journalist perceives the world and how they interpret it through their writing. Cognitive capture in media can be a slippery slope towards cognitive capture in society; the media helps shape the views of the members of society and if the media is captured, then that may give rise to the acceptance of certain views over others. As we said earlier, the media should be completely independent to provide society with a form of checks and balances, but the media are embedded in society and are no different than the reflection of views within it.

At a time when the internet and digital age were just emerging, there was a brief hope that these developments and economic changes would lead to a less captured press that could successfully fulfill its duty to society; but unfortunately, that is not the case internationally and media capture is alive and well.

Several countries are continuing to explore options to implement legislations to limit technology and digital media companies. For example, Germany recently passed a law stating that social media companies operating in Germany face fines of as much as $57 million if they do not delete illegal, racist or slanderous comments and posts within 24 hours. Independent German media owners greatly oppose big companies like Google and Facebook because these platforms previously did not have to abide by the same laws and did not receive the same penalty as local smaller media operating within the same boundaries. These platforms have extremely arbitrary rules and standards; Facebook has the power to regulate and control whatever they seem fit. We, as users, do not know why certain content is blocked, we don’t know the algorithm used that determines what we can and can’t see on our newsfeed, and we don’t even know if the articles we see are valid news sources. Facebook is an international platform with a much further reach than any local, independent media company, so why isn’t the company responsible for the content being posted on its website?

It’s questions like these that create awareness and a better understanding of the presence of media capture in international markets, which encourages positive efforts to further limit the power it has over independent journalism.

In October, the Institute for International Communication hosted Dr. Marko Milosavljevic who discussed his cutting-edge research on media capture . A group of undergraduate students of International Communication reflected on the theme. 

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