UK Media Struggling With Ethics, Should The US have a Watchdog?

media-ethicsAccording to a report that was put out this morning by the AP, Lord Justice Brian Leveson  submitted a 2,000-page report that was originally triggered over a year ago by the phone hacking scandal. In this report Leveson suggests that Britain needs a new independent media regulator, Leveson went on to further suggest that this new regulatory body should be established by law.

Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the idea for a new regulator to settle disputes, oder corrections and fines. But he believes that asking for legislative backing in law will mean “crossing the Rubicon of writing elements of press regulation into the law of the land.” Or in other words, controlling freedom of the press.

As of now, Britain has what is called the Press Complaints Commission, which is a voluntary regulatory body for newspapers and magazines with representatives of the major publishers. But the PCC has been heavily ridiculed in recent years especially during the phone hacking scandal. Politicians, such as Cameron, calling for it to be scraped and replaced with something new in place.

The article states that Leveson does insist in his report, that  politicians and the government should play no role in regulating the press, which should be done by a new body with much stronger powers than the current PCC.

“What is needed is a genuinely independent and effective system of self-regulation,” said Leveson.

But how exactly would this new system be independent if it is put in place by legislation? Wouldn’t government ultimately have the final say with the new system’s decisions?

“The ball moves back into the politicians’ court: they must now decide who guards the guardians,” he said.

The United States used to have a volunteer non-profit watchdog organization known as the National News Council that was started in 1973 but dissolved in 1984. A short life for this org. but it lacked support from certain outlets that probably could have kept it afloat such as The New York Times. Nowadays only Washington, Minnesota and Hawaii have state-level councils. The NNC had no legal power but rather worked off of publicity, bringing bias into public attention.

I have written in the past about media bias. And here in the states it is something that has been running rampant and even more so now with the digital age where information is constantly being shared. Sometimes it seems as if media outlets take advantage of the First Amendment, never having to really worry about government involvement. But unfortunately there is no national watchdog to call out NYT, FOX or CNN on their mishaps. Sure the internet is full of hot-headed bloggers such as myself that can try to spread the word, but to have national representation could more likely put these outlets back into their place. If the media can hold everyone else accountable, who is going to hold the media itself accountable when they mess up?


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