Table of Contents
During the epoch of the print-only media, various media content could have been effectively maintained only within the national and cultural boundaries. In the contemporary world, the media have become global. The question of “medium vs. message” has now turned into a major discussion in various parts of the globe. The results of the discussion have yielded dramatic implications, and at times have been so profound as to become rather dangerous. This essay presents a discussion of why the United Nations should create, implement and administer global standards of media freedom by analyzing the presumed media basis for such controls, UN legal authority to control the global media as well as a discussion of the global standards of “free speech”.
Presumed Media Basis for Such Control
There are various presumed media bases as to why mass media should be regulated. The fundamental basis focuses on promotion of the aspect of peace in various societies all over the world. Unregulated media content can possibly trigger insecurity in a society and shift a nation’s political stands. In most of the modern nations, content related to politics makes up a substantial proportion of the total information of various forms of media. In fact, some of the globally acclaimed television stations, such as the CNN and Aljazeera, are primarily dedicated to presenting political news, twenty-four hours a day (Sambrook, 2014). As such, different political news from around the world may have a significant influence on the way that different global audiences react to the presented information. Political instability in a nation can be characterized by, among others, use of violence, riots, torture and insecurity.
These are undesirable occurrences that could otherwise be avoided through an efficient regulation of the content aired via mass media. Cohen and Tsfati’s publication (2005), The case of Gaza Settlers gives an example of how unregulated media content can cause political shifts in a nation (Cohen, 2005). The publication is a case analysis of research done on the impact of presumed media influence on a nation’s democratic legitimacy. The research focused on finding out the reaction of a sample of Jewish settlers in the event that the Likud Party voted in Ariel Sharon as the new Israeli Prime Minister. This relates to the condition that had to evacuate all settlers based in the Gaza Strip from their homes.
According to the findings of the research, the presumed media had a significant influence on the perceived image of the settlers. This, of course, regards the Israeli public opinion. Consequently, this affected two conceptually relevant and linked measures of outcome. These included the justification for resorting to violence in order to attain results (Cohen, 2005). It gave the members of the public intent to resort to violent media protests. The presumed media also led to political inefficacy as well as to thoughts about the refugees’ residential mobility (Cohen, 2005). The findings of the research proved that unregulated media could very well trigger unrest in a society and a consequential resort to violence in a bid to find solutions for the prominent societal issues.
There is also another basis for regulating global mass media content in a society. This category includes protection of a nation’s public order and maintaining the instruments used by governments as well as a nation’s justice department. Regulation of mass media can also help in the protection of both personal and sectional rights as well as protection of the interests that might be compromised by an unrestricted usage of mass means of communication (University of Leicester, 2016). Regulation would also promote efficiency as well as development of appropriate communication systems by incorporating technical as well as innovative standards for information reporting.
One could also make an argument that mass media should also be regulated in order to promote access to highquality information as well as freedom of communication in a society. In addition, regulation would aid in securing communicative as well as cultural ends, which people would choose for themselves. Mass media regulation can also aid in maintaining the ideal conditions that are necessary for effective operation of free global markets of media services. This is lies in managing competition and securing the ease of access to information. The final basis for media regulation would be to ensure that only the precise and unbiased information reaches the global audience.
UN Legal Authority to Control Global Media
In the past, there have been numerous inquiries regaring the legal authority of the UN in controlling the global media. It is true that the UN has legal authority to control the global media. The UN can use any strategy at its disposition as a way of raising awareness and creating policies for the members of various societies, non-governmental organizations as well as regional organizations. This comes from an effort to fulfill the goals of the organization and its duty to the public. The primary obligations of the UN include maintaining international peace and security, upholding international law, promoting sustainable development as well as protecting the human rights. The global media, if not regulated, may have adverse effects on the members of societies, which the UN aims to protect.
The adverse effects of some mass media content could manifest itself in the form of violent acts between the members of a society as a result of watching unregulated media content. According to a peer-reviewed article written by Kanz (2016), consumption of violent media content might trigger aggression as well as violence, especially among the youths in a society. In light of this publication, the social cognitive theory defines the various cognitive functions in humans, such as the normative beliefs (Kanz, 2016). This implies that if a global society would be exposed to violent media content, it would eventually turn into a violent one. Such a society would be characterized by an increasing rate of violent crimes, from crimes like theft to terrorism.
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In addition, it is imperative for the UN to exercise its authority in controlling global media in order to regulate the depiction of crimes in mass media. The consequences of this phenomenon are well described by the theory of framing and agenda-setting, which is an extension of the theory of selective presentation (Garofalo, 1981, Pp.1). The agenda settings theory describes the potential of the media to influence the salience of various topics listed on the public’s agenda. This means that if mass media covers a particular news story more often and more prominently, the general public might tend to regard that particular story as more important than others.
If not regulated, a constant depiction of crimes on various media sources may influence the perception of crime by the global audience’s in their societies. Consequently, this may foster growth of destructive behaviors in a society, such as popularization and increase in rates of crime among the youths. If mass media constantly depicts resorting to violence as a norm, there would surely be a rapid increase in the amount of cases of violent acts around the world. The UN has a fundamental role in maintaining the global peace and security for all of the citizens in various societies. For this reason, it should regulate the global media scene in order to control the nature of content that is presented to the societies.
The UN also has the mandate to enforce its authority in regulating mass media in order to reduce the long-term adverse effects of low-quality content on the global audience. This is supported by the social theory that primarily analyzes the various long-term effects of a variety of types of television content in a society. The approach was invented by George Gerbner, and it is one of the core theories employed for discussing the adverse effects of media towards a society. According to the cultivation theory, people who regularly watch television are often at a greater risk of being influenced by the messages they receive from the television. The influence increases to such a degree that their worldview, as well as perceptions, being to reflect on the contents of what they repeatedly see or hear through various media sources. Television, for instance, greatly contributes to the way the public normally perceives the social reality.
In addition, according to an article written by Porter, W. J., there are three distinct conceptions for the cultivation theory that are useful for researching the effects of global mass media on the members of a society (Potter, 2014 Pp. 1). The first one is the macro-system conception, which offers explanations of mass media effects as developed by George Gerbner. Gerbner states that the intensity of media exposure to the public influences the nature of the actions of individuals. The second conception relates to the patterns of operational practices that research the link between a singly exposure to television and a variety of television exposures. In this case, the actions of the public are evaluated regarding the aspect of how they react towards a single television exposure as well as their reaction towards a variety of television exposures.
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The third conception is the generalized forum of media influence explorations. In this conception, researchers of global mass media break away from the traditional boundaries and conceptions of mass media as discussed by George Gerbner. This is undertaken by employing criteria of precision, empirical support as well as heuristic values for performing the research. In this conception, researchers normally analyze the findings of various forum reports from a variety of persons who are regularly exposed to various forms of mass media. A conclusive finding on the effect of mass media on their daily lives is determined on the basis of similarities between their actions and various types of contents channeled through a variety of mass media sources.
Global “Free Speech” Standards
In a big way, the global free speech standards have been targeted from the perspective of media content transmission via the internet. This has resulted due to the rapid process of globalization as well as the current advancements in the information technologies. People today increasingly gain access to modems, cable systems, home computers, cellular phones and internet connections. By utilizing these types of communication devices, people can access more media content that was created by and for other nations/countries faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before in the history of mass media. The internet has created an influential medium for transfer of media content all over the world, since it enables unprecedented speed and scope of expression as well as exchange of information among people from diverse geographical locations. According to the U.S. Supreme Courts, the internet is “a unique and fully new medium of global human communication” with content “as diverse as human thoughts.” (White, 2009).
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According to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the “Congress should not make no law… that abridge the freedom of speech.” (White, 2009). Nevertheless, as of today, there are no treaties that would guarantee the freedom of speech over the internet. For this reason, the national laws of various countries govern the access to media content online, within their respective legal boundaries. This means that by publishing various media content online, people subject themselves to laws from multiple jurisdictions. Nevertheless, the UN has been involved in efforts to structure the free speech legislations for media and communication exchange via the internet. On July 5, 2012, The Human Rights Council (HRC) developed a legislation meant to protect the free speech of people or other entities on the internet (Zeldin, 2012). Nevertheless, this is the single and only resolution ever made by the UN in an effort to regulate and control the freedom of mass media on the internet.
Findings and Recommendations
It is evident that there are no major global standards enacted by the UN for promoting and controlling the standards of free speech. However, there is an exception of the HRC legislation (created on July 5, 2012) that aims at offering a certain level of protection to people who express information on any type of online platforms. Nevertheless, there are two primary recommendations that the UN can adopt in order to to control the nature of mass media content that is presented to the global audience, especially on the internet. First, the UN might enact a global directive that would govern the nature of media content published on the internet by persons or internet service providers (ISPs). Secondly, the UN should adopt a Global Free Speech Act, with provisions regarding the media content regulation in order to control the nature of information presented to the global audience.
In conclusion, it is essential for the UN to create, implement and administer some global standards for media freedom. This is an essential strategy for controlling and eliminating the adverse effects mass media might have on the global audience. In addition, the UN has an implied legal authority for controlling the global media in the global society. This is because it has a responsibility of maintaining international peace and security by upholding international law, promoting sustainable development as well as in protecting the human rights. Currently, there are no complexly enacted legislations enforcing free speech standards in the world. However, the UN, through HRC, structured a resolution meant to protect persons of ISP from prosecution because of posting relevant media content on the internet.