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Media Policy and Theories of Justice

Abstract Communications policies are based on normative assumptions and establish the types and goals of communication processes secured. Policies regarding the Internet and the media that emerged as a result of the former’s growth as the predominant communications network developed along utilitarian principles. We believe, however, that new media’s unique characteristics allow the normative goals of communication policy and the communicative concerns underlying them to merge. This may happen if a transition occurs from a utilitarian policy framework to one whose foundations lie in distributive justice based on Rawls’s and Sen’s theories of justice.

Keywords Justice • Democracy • Freedom • Equality • Media policy • Utilitarianism • John Rawls • Amartya Sen

Communications policy has a variety of roles, often contradictory and at other times complementary, whose individual features can be seen as emanating from the metaphor of communications used by those designing them. Policies rooted in the transactional paradigm focus on the end-to- end condition of communication channels and networks as well as on the information being managed over this infrastructure. Indeed, the transactional metaphor is the dominant image directing communications policy.

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016

Amit M. Schejter, N. Tirosh, A Justice-Based Approach for New Media

Policy, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-41510-9_4

The relational view, however, affects policy development as well. Policies embedded in this view of communications look at such concepts as diversity of representation, for example, which reflects a concern with communicators and the environment in which they operate and is not necessarily based on the messages they convey to each other or to third parties, but rather on the ways in which their social positioning affects the conditions in which communication takes place.

Studying communications policy constitutes “normative research about alternative ways of organizing and structuring society’s communications system” (Pool, 1974, p. 31). As such, it uncovers the normative assumptions on which communications policy is based and identifies the type and goals of communications the policy aims to secure. A decade ago, research focused more on media regulation, Internet policy, and freedom of expression than on other issues (Reinard & Ortiz, 2005). However, even within this corpus of research, normative conventions often overshadow communicative concerns, and it is by now axiomatic to say that the media reflect a control system founded on the basic assumptions and beliefs of a society (Siebert, Peterson, & Schramm, 1956).

New media allow for a new type of policy conversation. Their unique characteristics allow the normative goals of policy and the communicative concerns underlying them to merge. Making the transition we envision from a utilitarian policy framework to one whose foundations lie in distributive justice will demonstrate this transition. We first need to see how utilitarianism affects contemporary media policy in order to understand the potential in adopting a new framework.

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