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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Mass Media Influence? On the Voter?

If you follow multiple or at least a few news sources, or just a big fan of Jon Stewart, then you have probably heard some bashing about Fox News holding a biased right wing agenda. And of course, News Corp denies such claims. But lets not forget MSNBC who some commentators claim to have a left wing agenda or CNN which has been accused of both liberal and conservative bias.

Being accused of biases in the world of journalism is kind of like getting spit in the face. It’s pretty harsh. This is because one of the core ethics of journalism is objectivity or neutrality.

So what are some examples of media bias?

Well, media outlets such as ABC, NBC and CBS pushed a gross amount of positive reporting on Obama’s first 100 days. The man’s actions were truly pushing towards socialism and people who watched these networks failed to see that. Reporting is by no means supposed to lavish on one aspect of a story. During his run as the 2008 candidate, Obama was often portrayed in near religious imagery.

Rejoice my children. I come with Obamacare.

It appears that the majority of bias in the media leans toward the left. But there are examples of conservative bias as well. Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp, exerts his power and influence on Fox News.

How can such bias affect voters?

Portraying Obama as a messiah is a pretty obvious example. But so can doing subtle reporting about Obama and more on Romney hint towards bias. Conservative/Liberal bias in the media occurs when their ideas have undue influence on the coverage or selection of news stories.

There was also a study done in 2007 titled The Fox news effect, Media Bias and Voting where the researchers had observed Fox news was launched in 1996. In 2000, it was available to 20% of American homes. The study’s authors took advantage of the fact that not all cities had access to Fox News at the same time for technical reasons having nothing to do with their political orientation. They compared the changes in the proportion of Republican votes between the presidential elections of 1996 and 2000 in the cities receiving Fox News before 2000, and the cities that hadn’t received it yet. They concluded that Fox News caused an increase in the Republican vote of about a half percentage point, or 200,000 votes, enough to change the result of the 2000 presidential election.

What has been some effect on Romney by liberal bias? Seems that most of my peers view him as a snide and greedy man pursuant of abolishing women’s rights and pushing the homosexuals back into their closets.

Is it possible to avoid bias in the media?

As of right now, I could not tell you if it is possible. But here is what you can do, watch more news. And not just one news source either, in fact that is the worse thing anyone can do. I suggest that if you watch CNN, watch Fox News as well and see if you can find contrast between the two if they are reporting on the same topics (especially politics). Also, Twitter is probably one of the best sites for someone to get the news. Sources such as the Associated Press are constantly updating the news.