We have tackled the definition of governance, how it can be viewed through the policy/law/econ. lens, but also how cultural and social aspects of a society are equally important in shaping what governance is. This week, we will examine those who are concerned about, and who influence, media governance. We will look at them through different lenses (which you already recognize): Power, Issues/Areas, Local-National-Global axes.
1. Circuits of Power that Define Stakeholders: Micro, Meso, Macro
This week, we look at the STAKEHOLDERS of media governance. We have determined that we can look at governance in terms of societies, specific organizations, and individuals. Somewhat more theoretically, we can follow Steward Clegg’s (1989) idea of the circuits of power (that’s what governance is about…). Originally, Clegg theorized about the context in which power is being used and in which it potentially appears. He views power as a process that has several circuits. The first is the overt, or macro-level, circuit of (political) decision-making. The second is the systemic-economic circuit of power that contextualizes policy-making decisions (this is what we can see within organizations). The third, social, circuit describes cultural meanings, membership and belonging – elements that also provide context to the macro-level circuit (and what we can experience as individuals in our everyday lives).
2. ISSUES that Define Stakeholders: Old vs. New; Diversity vs. Rights
You may have noticed this during your studies. There are ‘mass media’ scholars from journalism, cultural studies, political economy, sociology; there are ‘science and technology studies’ folks that analyze networked cultures. (Media law people seem to cross borders more easily.)
Similarly, in Media Governance the ‘old media issues’ of ownership concentration and biased content, and their relationship, often remain separate from questions of access, intellectual property rights, privacy, net neutrality, online freedom of expression, and so on. The ‘old media’ questions include regulation for media ownership and for better journalism, and challenges of commercial advertising culture. Debates around these issues are often happening in the sphere of ‘official’ policy-making. In contrast, in the field of ‘new media’ rights, activists sometimes build mesh networks for those in need, crowdsource to do whistleblower work, and help bloggers working in undemocratic circumstances to remain anonymous with circumvention tools.
In other words, the issues that dominated in the mass media era were mostly about the lack of media (ownership, content, localism) DIVERSITY. More recent issues are framed as digital (individual) RIGHTS.
But, again, these borders really do no longer exist, do they?
In terms of biased, ‘narrow’, content, we know the power of legacy journalism, but also viral hate speech online. Lack of accountability in terms of media ownership, and the power of the big corporations is no longer an issue of only the News Corp and Disney.
As The Economist put it, a Game of Thrones battle of sorts is happening in ‘new’ media business. and digital platforms. Many have noted their commercial power but also their role in providing access and human rights — resisting censorship — as well as their role in fundamentally shaping how we communicate, what we know, what we share.
3. CONTEXT that Defines Stakeholders: Globalization
Most media governance stakeholders in the past decades have focused on national contexts — mass media, after all, were structured around national systems. But the philosophical grounds are shared in many countries. Ever since the Greco-Roman tradition of public communication as a tool for problem-solving and decision making (think Aristotle & Socrates) the ideas and ideals of communication and democracy have been closely linked. The rise of mass media in the 19th century took that idea to another level when information could be shared, at least potentially, not only by the elites, but by vast groups of people, regardless of economic or social standing. No wonder the printing press was influential in educating and activating the proletariat.
Later on, in the 20th century, many countries chose to establish a public broadcasting system to ensure several components that had to do with the media’s relationship with democracy: universal access to media contents; diversity of all kinds of contents (famously, the trinity originally attributed to the BBC: public media should inform, educate and entertain); as well as a variety of voices and viewpoints, also those of minorities. In the academic contexts, the normative model of the public sphere by Jürgen Habermas was often used in defense of such thinking: a democracy needs a diverse functioning media to guarantee a public sphere where citizens (virtually) meet to debate (rationally) and agree (consensus) on common issues.
The above discourses on media and democracy have a Western conceptual history, but with globalization have become prominent in international contexts. The idea of Development Communication often included the idea of (more) universal access and, hence, establishment of vehicles of public service media.
And Internet and mobile communication multiplied opportunities and challenges. The new platforms also made many media reform issues increasingly borderless, global. The array of slogans of transformations includes: Globalization of media markets and conglomerization (often vertical integration) of media companies; fragmentation of audiences and their transformation into prosumers; deregulation of media policies; commercialization of media structures – and an incredible proliferation of platforms, contents, and producers of media. All this affected traditional media as well as networked and mobile communication. In terms of the global outlook, the idea of democracy and democratization now embraced the concept of ICT4D.
The context of the United Nations and global debates on the role of the media reflect the above development:
Freedom of Expression is defined already in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1946, Art. 19.
The discussions on Right to, and Freedom of, Information entered the debate in the 1960s — when the role of governments and states were questioned and the rights of individual citizens to information were brought forth.
Around the same time, the lesser developed countries begun to bring up the Right to Communicate: They wanted to challenge the Western domination of mass communication. Active partners in the conversation were UNESCO, proposing the New World Information and Communication Order and the so called UN McBride Commission (1980).
In the 1990s, the idea of the Right to Cultural Identity was added to UNDHR — and challenged in fora such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) , and later in the World Trade Organization (WTO) in terms of copyright agreements. (A fun fact: Here’s the fake website by anti-globalization activist that describes what GATT/WTO does).
At the same time, the UN recognized the increasing importance of the Internet and organized two major meetings on the issue: The World Summit on the Information Society. It soon became clear, also with the beginning of the UN-driven Internet Governance Forums, that Communications Rights was the term several stakeholders started to use as an umbrella term for the new challenges of the networked era.
Read more here from a short summary article on the historical developments above.
Much of the recent debate has focused in the Internet and Human Rights. In late 2009, Finland declared broadband access a legal right. The UN followed in 2011 in declaring the importance of access:
“Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all states,”
– Frank La Rue, a special rapporteur to the United Nations, in his report to the UN Human Rights Council
But while human rights seem universal, they can also been seen as relational and contextual, even when we think about the Internet. For instance, the question of access may include challenges of corruption and concentration of ownership, as some African activists argue.
NOTEWORTHY FOR ICM experts: While many issues, from censorship to surveillance, are no longer national, nations and regions still matter. Media Governance — that is, who gets to control the media — is both a global and a local matter = has local and global stakeholders.
It goes without saying that multinational media and technology conglomerates as well as international organizations, such as WTO and ITU, and supra-national bodies such as the EU, influence areas beyond nation-states.
As this outline of media governance shows, a part of the governance does happen in multi-national contexts.
Yet, much of media regulation is nation-bound. National mass media systems differ from authoritarian (the government practically decides everything, including acceptable content), to free market driven (self-explanatory), to public service-oriented ones (the government may have some say, e.g., some media outlets are financed by public funds, but the outlets operate relatively independently. A classic example: the afore-mentioned BBC). And old mass media regulatory frameworks often influence attempts to nationally regulate the Internet and mobile communications.
In addition, much of the history of consumption, of political participation, of economic structures still influences the present. They affect global challenges and bring about specifically local issues.
Alone the basic statistics on internet access and use in different regions in the world attest to vast differences.
4. CAUSES that Defines Stakeholders: From Policy-Makers to $-Makers to Change-Makers
Harvard professor Joseph Nye (in his famous book Governance in a Globalizing World — read the review here) identifies the layer of governance as follows: Private sector, public sector, and third sector; in supranational, national and ‘subnational’ levels.
To give an example of Nye’s matrix:
But today, in our increasingly media and technology-dependent world, we also have individuals and groups — perhaps the 4th Sector — that are not necessarily focused and organized to govern the media, but need to engage in media governance:
Further in the book by Hackett & Carroll (your reading for Week 4, Chpt 3) they note that three kinds of groups potentially engage in struggle for more democratic media:
(1) Those within and around media industries – journalists, other media professionals, librarians, communications researchers. Today, we can add information technology specialists (just think of Manning and Snowden) into this group;
(3) Those ‘diffuse’ sectors who occasionally mobilize for better media when they feel that media pose a threat to their cause (e.g., a classic example would be children’s protection/rights activists that might oppose violence on TV, be concerned about children in social media, and so on).
H&C wrote their book some 8 years ago. Is their view still accurate?
I suggest that we can add at least a few other groups in the mix:
(4) Semi-professionals. As mentioned by many, citizen journalism, for example, has flourished in the past decade. Is it media reform — reforming the news media landscape? Could we call organizations such as Wikileaks a media reform group? How about crowd-sourced crisis mapping platform Ushahidi — that clearly performs public service?
(5) Foundations. Many international foundations understand the power of the media in the processes of democratization — or maintaining democracy. For instance, the Open Society Foundations (global; former Soros Foundation) Mapping Digital Media project seeks to provide information and data for activists, advocates, policy-makers and other stake-holders. Nominet Trust (UK) ranks most inspiring social media innovations, and so on.
(6) Consumers/Users/Netizens? How much can we change by our individual actions?
Given these many media landscape shifts, how should we should conceptualize, support, and act towards ‘media democracy’ and ‘good media governance’? Multi-stakeholder modeling has been offered as the solution by scholars and change-makers alike.
The idea of using a multi-stakeholder approach to conceptualize media-related issues and processes is nothing new. Multi-stakeholder modeling has been used, for instance, in tracing technological diffusion in media industries, by mapping developments in organizational, industry and environmental levels, or discussing how to frame media ethics.
Also, the field of media management has embraced the concept of ‘multi-stakeholderism’ over the last decade. For example, McQuail, 2000 (whom many of us might have read in other courses) has discussed the many ‘pressures’ that a media organization faces from actors, ranging from competitors, news agencies, owners, and unions, to those that have legal and political control; from diverse pressure groups and other institutions; distribution channels and audiences to pressures created by events and constant information and culture supply. (The organizational media governance — governance from within — will be discussed in detail later in the course.)
Yet, Internet Governance, and the UN-driven IG Forums has brought the need of multi-stakeholder dialogues in the forefront of policy-making, as well as media reform mobilizing. The challenges are so great that without the collaboration of governments, the industry, and the civil society, there is no way to democratize the net. Here is a wonderful account on multi-stakeholderism in Internet Governance by Consumers International.
Assignment: Case Copyrights
As the famous law professor and anti-copyright activist Lawrence Lessig has noted, the more commercial and mass-focused our media has become — and the more industrialized the nations — the tighter the copyrights regime (“who owns cultural products”). Then came the Internet, with the philosophy: Free content, freely shared, many thought. (For those interested, here’s Lessig’s famous book Free Culture, online, for free…)
Not everyone agrees, as some may remember regarding the legal battles around Napster, or the SOPA-PIPA governance battle a few years back. This was a policy fight like no other in that citizens around the world, as well as companies like Google and sites like Wikipedia protested against national (U.S.) legislative proposals. Here, Hitler reacts to SOPA and PIPA:
– This week, we will explore different takes – views, stakeholder – on copyrights.
– Your W4 reading is by Hackett & Carroll, Intro_ Chpt 1 & Chpt 3.
– In addition, everyone (YES) will get a different article to read and comment on, showcasing the different aspects — multi-stakeholderism — of the copyrights governance challenge.
– Details will be posted on Blackboard, and on FB.
– Due 2/20 by midnight.