Thursday, 2 February 2012

Normative Theories of mass communication

Explain normative theories of mass communication.

·         Professionalism, a crusade to clean up the media and make it respectable and credible, followed the era of yellow journalism; its objective was to eliminate shoddy and irresponsible content. 

·         Media professionals and social elites used normative theory to answer questions regarding media reform.  Social responsibility is the normative theory used in the United States.

·         Social responsibility theory

The Origins of Normative Theories of Media

Ø Two opposing viewpoints

o   Radical libertarians (First Amendment absolutists) & Technocratic Control

§  First Amendment absolutists take the idea of “free press” as literal and oppose government regulation.

§  Technocrats do not trust the media and believes in the use of regulators to act in the public interest. 

o   Propaganda and mass society theories are used to justify media regulation. 

Normative theory:

The type of theory that describes an ideal way for media systems to be structured and operated.

Normative theories:

1. Authoritarian theory

The theory that places all forms of communication under the control of governing elites or authorities. Under this theory , the intellect of a common is greatly undermined. Criticism on ruling elites is not tolerated. Many steps are taken to curb the freedom of press like licensing, censorships, approval of content prior to publication and punishments etc.

2. Libertarian theory

The Origin of Libertarian Thought

·         Libertarian theory opposes authoritarian theory, which requires all forms of communication to submit to governing elites.

·         If freed from authoritarian rule individuals would “naturally” follow their conscience, seek truth, engage in public debate, and create better life for themselves and others.

·         John Milton asserted in fair debate good and truthful arguments would always win out over lies and deceit, the self-righting principle. The self-righting principle is fundamental within social responsibility theory.

·         The founding fathers also subscribed to liberal thought.

·         Three fundamental concepts underpinning the founders’ belief in press freedom:

o   Theology

o   Individual rights

o   Attainment of truth

o   At the nation’s founding, the US was one of the first nations to adopt Libertarian principles lined out in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights.

o   Restrictions on communication:

§  Libel

§  Gag Orders

§  Regulations prohibiting false advertising, child pornography, and offensive language.

§  Laws have been written to restrict communication freedom so that other seemingly equally important rights might be guaranteed.

On the other extreme, there is libertarian theory, which considers that people are rational and have the right to all angles of an issue to decide between truth and falsehood. The government cannot interfere in matters of press.

3. Social responsibility theory

Press has a right to criticize the government and other institutions but it also has  a responsibility to preserve democracy by properly informing the public. The press is not free to do as it wills, it is obligated to respond to society’s needs. he government may involve itself in media operations by issuing regulations (e.g. Pemra), if public interest is not being adequately addressed.

·         The first major test of social responsibility theory occurred during the 1950s with the rise of anti-communist sentiments at the time of the Cold War.

·         Joseph McCarthy successfully used propaganda techniques to draw national attention to himself and to stimulate widespread public hatred and suspicion of people whom he linked, most often inaccurately, to communism.

o   This illustrates how difficult it can be for journalists to adhere to social responsibility theory in crisis situations.

Social Responsibility Theory
Once journalists began to doubt McCarthy, his popularity was so great that it was risky to oppose him.

1.     Values media responsibility
2.     Values audience responsibility
3.     Limits government intrusion in media operation
4.     Allows reasonable government control of media
5.     Values diversity and pluralism
6.     Aids the “powerless”
7.     Appeals to the best instincts of media practitioners and audiences
8.     Is consistent with US legal tradition

1.      Is overly optimistic about media’s willingness to meet responsibilities
2.      Is overly optimistic about individual responsibility
3.      Underestimates power of profit motivation and competition
4.      Legitimizes status quo

4. Communist Theory

It promotes communism and strives to achieve goals set by the communist party. Media is owned by the representatives of the communist state. It works best in a closed society where information is tightly controlled by the government.

5. Developmental theory

Government mobilizes media to serve national goals in economic and social development. Information is considered a natural resource and must be carefully manipulated to achieve national goals for literacy, economic self-sufficiency etc.It is considered that media should support the government until society is well developed.

Other Normative Theories

}  Developmental media theory: A normative theory calling for government and media to work in partnership to ensure that media assist in the planned beneficial development of the country

}  Democratic-participant theory: A normative theory advocating media support for cultural pluralism at a grassroots level

}  Western concept: A normative theory combining aspects of Libertarianism and social responsibility theory

}  Development concept: A normative theory describing systems in which government and media work in concert to ensure that the media aid the planned, beneficial development of a given nation

}  Revolutionary concept: A normative theory describing a system in which media are used in the service of revolution

}  Authoritarian concept: A normative theory advocating the complete domination of media by a government for the purpose of forcing those media to serve the government

}  Communism concept: A normative theory advocating the complete domination of media by a Communist government for the purpose of forcing those media to serve the Communist Party

}  Transitional media approach: A less category based, more flexible approach to evaluating media systems than traditional normative theory

1 Responses to “Normative Theories of mass communication”

WLCI Media School said...
20 August 2012 at 11:51

your blog is very informative.......

WLCI Media School also offers programmes in mass communication and media production.

Mass Media Courses | Mass Communication Institute

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