The Independence of Mass Media - at the Border between a Stated Goal and Reality

By Orzeaţă, Mihail | International Journal of Communication Research, October-December 2018 | Go to article overview

The Independence of Mass Media - at the Border between a Stated Goal and Reality


Orzeaţă, Mihail, International Journal of Communication Research


1. INTRODUCTION

Mass media plays a significant role in the society because it contributes to the preservation and development of democracy by ensuring the right to free speech and to correctly inform the public opinion regarding the relevant aspects of the society.

By permanently monitoring the state institutions and public figures, the means of mass communication may find out in time and inform the public opinion of the slippages committed by them from the legal and moral norms. Therefore, they contribute to fixing some problems in the activity of the state's institutions and to the development of the citizens' civic spirit.

Fulfilling the self-accepted role by the mass media professionals assumes that they are free from any constraints and restrictions, either financial or of any other nature.

The high influencing capacity of the media represents the main reason why some journalists, politicians, businessmen and owners of mass communication means break the media's independence in order to fulfil some personal goals which are in conflict with the legal and moral norms.

2. HOW ONE CAN UNDERSTAND AND ASSESS THE FREEDOM OF MASS MEDIA

2.1. How one should perceive the independence of mass media

Traditionally, mass media is considered independent when it acts according to the self-assumed principles and goals and when there are no limitations to the journalists' activity of collecting data and broadcasting them to the public.

There are some authors who distinguish between the independence and neutrality of mass media because, they consider that neutrality represents a limitation to independence, even if it is self-assumed. According to Katrin Voltmer, the same neutrality represents "the highest degree of political independence." (VOLTMER, 1993)

Normally and in principle, media independence has to exist not only in respect to the political forces but also in regard to other forces, such as any kind of interest groups - political, economic, ideological, financial, cultural, ecological, military etc.. The Royal Charter of the BBC 2016, for example, states that "The BBC must be independent in all matters concerning the fulfilment of its Mission and the promotion of the Public Purposes, particularly as regards editorial and creative decisions, the times and manner in which its output and services are supplied, and in the management of its affairs" (BBC, 2016).

In a similar manner, the status of mass media in Norway states that: "NRK (Norsk rikskringkasting) shall have editorial independence. NRK should guard its integrity and credibility in order to act freely and independently in relation to persons or groups who for political, ideological, economical or other reasons wish to influence the editorial content" (NRK, 2015).

Due to the previously presented conditionings, some authors consider that the independence of mass media represents a luxury that only the developed countries can afford from an economic point of view since the underdeveloped states as well as the emerging ones have to have among their priorities the economic development, the eradication of poverty, the improvement of education, social assistance and the ensuring of individual and national security (SHANTHI, 2011). This opinion is wrong and counterproductive in regard to the natural development of the human society towards democracy because it diminishes the role of media in promoting and supporting some economic and social goals. Therefore, the media's contribution to the general progress of society is marginalized and even denied, inclusively by preventing and revealing abuses, corruption and the political power's involvement in the editorial policy of the media.

The appearance and development of the Internet facilitated interpersonal communication using social networks, built the launching platform in the virtual space of the bloggers, independent journalists (the so-called "citizen journalists") and of other participants in the data and information flow. …

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