Theories about Government Control of Media Content Authoritarian theory – text page 98 Libertarian theory – page 100 Soviet Communist Theory – page 102 Social Responsibility Theory – page 104

Theories about Government Control of Media Content Authoritarian theory – text page 98 Libertarian theory – page 100 Soviet Communist Theory – page 102

Embed Size (px)

Citation preview

Theories about Government Control of Media Content

• Authoritarian theory – text page 98

• Libertarian theory – page 100

• Soviet Communist Theory – page 102

• Social Responsibility Theory – page 104

The Authoritarian View

• You Can’t Handle The Truth!

• Or can you?

• The oldest theory

• Plato – would ban poets from his ideal Republic

• 16th and 17th centuries – religious and government leaders controlled content of the press.

Should Authorities Control Media Content?

• Some argue that information is too powerful a tool for the average person to handle.

• Information equals power so those in authority want to control information so they can control ideas so they can control those over whom they have power.

Who are these tyrants?

• Kings

• Feudal Lords

• Popes, Cardinals, Bishops, Ministers, Lay Church Leaders

• Dictators

• Presidents Of School Boards.


Johannes Gutenberg … the man who made the word available to the masses.

borrows money . . . 1457

Buys a press and from 1457 to 1458 prints a bible. Uses moveable type.

In 1448, Gutenberg and a typesetter named Peter Shoffer developed engraved steel signatures for each number, letter and punctuation mark. Metal matrixes were formed to hold the figures and, voila, movable type was invented. The book could be published.

Gutenberg - 1454 (MCDLIV)

The Bible, Old Testament: Book of Judges (Latin)

1521. A humanist named William Tyndale gets an idea: how about a vernacular translation of the Holy Bible.

How about a bible the

average guy can read?

What’s Wrong With A Bible In English?

• Latin was the language of the elite – those in authority.

• One of Tynedale’s FRIENDS told him it is better to listen to the word of the church than the word of God.

• Church: You can’t handle the truth.• Tynedale was hunted down, sentenced to death,

throttled (choked to death), then burned.• Message sent, message received.

Don’t mess with God,

er, the church, er, with me. Ah, just

choke the bloke.

Henry VIII - The King of Authority

• In 1529, after Dutch tracts that challenged royal authority began showing up in England, King Henry VIII outlawed imported publications.

• He also decreed that every English printer must be licensed. Printers caught producing anything objectionable to the Crown lost their licenses, in effect being put out of business.

• Remaining in the government’s good graces brought favors. A license guaranteed a local monopoly and a lock on government and church printing jobs.

Vas? I vrote a bible auf Deutsch

… and no one strangled and burned me.

Martin Luther wrote a bible in German and got away with it The church didn’t like it but they were preoccupied and didn’t kill him.

• By the 15th century (1600s), battles between factions in England plus a huge bureacracy was preventing some writers from being published.

• The protestant reformation encouraged revolt against feudal authority – a chance for change, an opportunity for ideas to flourish.

A new idea – Birth of The Libertarian Theory

John Milton

Wrote Areopagitica – 1644

•The king required printers to get a license for each published document

•Milton argued against government licensing.

Adam Smith1723-1790

1776 published “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations,"

Laissez Faire – hands off policy of economic governance. Let the “invisible hand” of the competitive free market guide economics.

Economic marketplace supports the marketplace of ideas envisioned by Milton.

John Stuart Mill(1806 - 1873)

Greatest good for the greatest number. His son was more clear about defending the minority.

Mill Jr: “If all mankind minus one were of a contrary opinion, then mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”

Enlightenment ideals and Mass Media

• Pre-enlightenment: Divine right of kings meant that kings had a special connection to God who gave them a unique understanding of truth (applies also to church hierarchy).

• The common man had no such insight.• Enlightenment: A man by his own mind without help or

guidance from priests or royalty can come to understand truth.

• To understand truth, all information must be available to everyone, a Marketplace of Ideas, so the individual can see what is truth and what is not.

Authoritarians Are Still Hard At Work … but how to be an authoritarian in an era of


Authoritarian Techniques

• Licensing – Germany during Hitler’s regime required writers and artists to belong to guilds - had to be a 3rd generation Aryan to belong to the writer’s guild.

• Bribery – paying newspapers to print what the government wants printed.

• Repression – arrests, jail, execution. It’s hard to say what you want when you are dead.

What is the first amendment?

• Congress shall make no law respecting an• establishment of religion, • or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;• or abridging the freedom of speech, • or of the press;• or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, • and to petition the government for a redress of


Soviet Communist Theory

• Karl Marx – said Mass Media ought to be the government’s partner in facilitating the evolution of a perfect social harmony – one, ironically, that would ultimately need no government.

• Vladimir Lenin: The media was to be composed of “collective propagandists, agitators and organizers.”

• The 1925 Soviet constitution: The fundamental purpose of the press was “to strengthen Communist social order.”

Difference Between Authoritarian and Soviet Communist Theories

• Modern authoritarianism allows for a capitalistic press. Authorities only interfere when their direct interests are in jeopardy.

• Under this system, profit has more to do with what ends up in the media than external controls.

• Unconcerned about profit, communist media people choose to provide coverage that furthers the government’s ideological goals.

• Media decision makers usually are government officials chosen because they are ideologically bound to the Communist Party line.

The Media Is Going To Eat Us!

“Over a period of several months the subcommittee has received a vast amount of mail from parents expressing concern regarding the possible deleterious effect upon their children of certain of the media of mass communication.” Senator Estes Kefauver, D-Tenn, as the Senate launched a series of hearins in 1954 into the threat posted by . . .

American comic books.

Why Plato Thought Poets Ought to Be Banned From The Republic