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MAC 111


An illustration of the Soviet system would appear to be the same as the authoritarian model, in that both theories acknowledge the government as superior to the media institutions. However, there is a major difference between the two theories that needs to be clarified: The mass media in the Soviet model are expected to be self-regulatory with regard to the content of their messages. Also, the Soviet theory differs from the authoritarian theory in that the media organizations have a certain responsibility to meet the wishes of their audience. Still, the underlying standard is to provide a complete and objective view of the world according to Marxist-Leninist principles.

3.2.4. Social Responsibility Media Theory

Social Responsibility Theory emerged as a result of conflict between professionalism and self-regulation of the press and pressure for greater regulation of the media. In response, Henry Luce, CEO of Time Inc. provided funding for an independent commission to make recommendations concerning the role of the press. The Hutchins Commission on Freedom of the press was established in 1942 and released its report in 1947.

The Commission members were sharply divided between those who held strongly libertarian views and those who supported some form of press regulation. Press regulation advocates argued that anti-democratic press can easily subvert the “market place of ideas” and use the media to transmit propaganda to fuel hatred for their own advantages. (e.g. Hitler used the media against the Jew). On the other hand, placing the media under a control or regulation will hinder the freedom of the press.

The Commission therefore decided to place their faith in media practitioners and called on them to redoubled their efforts to serve the public and that the media have certain obligations to society. These obligations were expressed in the words "informativeness, truth, accuracy, objectivity, and balance"

This theory states that the media can be used by anyone who has an idea to express but they are forbidden to invade private rights or disrupt social structures. It emphasizes the freedom of the press and places responsibility on the media practitioners to abide by certain social standards. It opposes media regulation but believes that the press is automatically controlled by community opinion, consumer protest and professional ethics.

It calls on the media to be responsible for fostering productive and creative “Great Communities” (Baran and Davis 2003:109), and that media should do this by prioritising cultural pluralismby becoming the


MAC 111


voice of all the people – not just elite groups or groups that had dominated national, regional or local culture in the past. It also points out that the media, in carrying out their obligations, must adhere to the highest ethical standards.

Social Responsibility Theory basic principles, summarised by McQuail (1987), include:

To serve the political system by making information, discussion and consideration of public affairs generally accessible.

To inform the public to enable it to take self determined action.

To protect the rights of the individual by acting as watchdog over the government.

To serve the economic system; for instance by bringing together buyers and sellers through the medium of advertising.

To provide “good” entertainment, whatever “good” may mean in the culture at any point in time.

To preserve financial autonomy in order not to become dependent on special interests and influences.

3.2.5 Democratic-Participant Media Theory

This theory advocates media support for cultural pluralism at a grassroots level. The media are to be used to stimulate and empower pluralistic groups. It calls for development of innovative “small” media that can be directly controlled by group members. In other words, the existing bureaucracy, commercialisation and professional hegemony in media system should be broken down to allow or guarantee easy media access to all potential users and consumers.

The theory reflects disappointment with Libertarian and Social Responsibility theories for failing to deliver social benefits expected of them. It condemns the commercialisation and monopolisation of private owned media and the concentration and bureaucratization of government owned media. It also criticises the public media for being too elitist, too susceptible to the whims and caprices of the government, too rigid and too slavish to professional ideals at the expense of social responsibility

It therefore calls for greater attention of the media to the needs, interests and aspirations of the receiver in a political society. It calls for pluralism in the place of monopolisation, decentralisation and localisation in the


MAC 111


place of centralism. Also that media conglomerates be replaced or mixed with small-scale media enterprises. It also calls for “horizontal” in place of top-down communication to ensure feedback and complete communication circuit. However it holds that the mass media have become too socially important to be left in the hands of professionals.

3.2.6 Development Media Theory

Development media theory advocates media support for an existing political regime and its efforts to bring about national economic development. It argues that until a nation is well established and its economic development well underway, media must be supportive rather than critical of government. Journalists must not tear apart government efforts to promote development but, rather, assist government in implementing such policies.

The duty of the press practicing this theory is to promote development. It also emphasises grassroots participation. The tenets of this theory are:

1.Media must accept and carry out positive development tasks in line with nationally established policy.

2.Freedom of the media should be open to economic priorities and development needs of the society

3.Media should give priority in their content to the national culture and language(s). The media should also give priority of coverage to other development countries.

4.Media should give priority in news and information to link with other developing countries that are close geographically, culturally or politically.

5.Journalists and other media workers have responsibilities as well as freedoms in their information gathering and dissemination tasks.

6.In the interest of development ends the state has a right to intervene in, or restrict, media operation; and devices of censorship, subsidy and direct control can be justified.


Normative theory seeks to locate media structure and performance within the milieu in which it operates. Explain.

3.2 Mass Society Theories (All-Powerful Media Effect)

These are perspectives that stress the influential but often negative role of the media. They believe that the media are corrupting influences that undermine the social order and that average people are defenseless against their influence. These theories emerged in the second half of the


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