Recommendations on Media and Ethics

Recommendations on Media and Ethics (2007). Media and Ethics International Symposium Speeches and Final Report, Gazi Üniversitesi İletişim Fakültesi, 2007, Kırkıncı Yıl Kitaplığı No: 6, ISBN: 978-975-507-222-7, pp. 205-210

İrfan Erdoğan

The International Symposium on Ethics in Media organized by Turkish National Commission for UNESCO, The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) and Gazi University, aimed at discussing the intricate relations among communication, society and ethics.

The media and ethics issue has been one of the enduring issues in communication over a century. It has been discussed by interested parties from public and academic institutions to non-governmental organizations. Since the emergence of the new liberal policies in mid 1980’s, the control of the access of information through media concentration has led to increased debates concerning the ethical dimension of communication in national and international levels. The UNESCO which is one  of major international organizations is naturally concerned with the ethical issues in media.

Media ethics have been discussed extensively in the developed world, while mostly given no proper and adequate attention in the other parts of the globe. This symposium was organized in order to address the issue in different setting. It was named as The International Symposium on Media and Ethics and has been convened in Ankara, on November 3-4, 2006. It was organized in cooperation with Turkish National Commission For UNESCO, The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey and Faculty of Communication, Gazi University. Many international scientist and representatives of non-government organizations have participated in the symposium as speakers and guests. The major topics were included “Communication, Society and Ethics”, “Technology, Content and Ethics Issues”, How to deal with the ethics issues: Problems and Solutions from Media Industry and NGO’s”, “How to deal with the ethics issues: Reflections from Academicians.” There were lively and enlightening exchanges among the speakers and participants during the panel discussion on the ethics in global and local markets.

Dealing with the interconnections among and practices on the communication, society and ethics, speakers talked about the economic, social, cultural, technological and informational structures, pointed out that the USA seeks to establish a widespread control in the US and throughout the world, and provided concrete examples of bias, coercion, punishment, manipulation, mind management and domination.

Following general and specific recommendations emerged from the presentations and discussions during the symposium:

o   Every society has its own ethical values and practices.

o   Ethics is not the regulating and ruling force of the society.

o   Ethics is not a product of an universal idea, thought, practice or will. Ethics is an integrated part of historically formed organized human activity.

o   Ethics is an end-product of the material and immaterial production relations with normative prescriptions.

o   Ethics mostly performs a legitimizing function in the society by providing standards of thought and conduct and by creating myths to foster the existing dominant ways of doing business. Thus, ethics should be addressed and discussed within the confines of the organized structure and activities of the political, cultural and economical marketplace.

o   Business or organizational or any kind of ethics include every aspect of production, distribution and consumption/use in industrial activities.

o   Production, distribution and use/consumption relations (e.g., wage policies, working conditions, worker rights, and working hours) are important ethical issues to be discussed.

o   Human rights, right to organize, right to work, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of thought should also be considered as ethics issue.

o   All workers, including information workers and knowledge workers should have a labor union. Having  the union is an ethical practice. Therefore, destroying the unions or setting obstacles on them are unethical.

o   Auto-censorship (in the mass media) mostly means auto-control that enhances the interest of the dominant forces instead of the public interest. This is unethical.

o   The concepts like “wise use”, “family controlled use of internet and television”, “educating the consumer” and “content rating” are good examples of ethics that are ethics of malpracticizing industry that blames the victims for their preferences and behaviors.

o   Definition of social responsibility should include the “content rating” and “controlled production” for the “free/global market.” No one is free to produce as he/she wishes. Such freedom is unethical.

o   “Clear Net social responsibility” should be addressed.

o   Public trust should not be based on the forged images that redefine the realities of life. This is unethical.

o   Media ethics that are reduced to the prescribed, but hardly practiced principles for the journalists are unethical, since these ethical principles blame the working people (journalists) and ignore the real issues of ethics.

o   The prevailing issues on the ethics in media focus mostly on the ethical nature of the content of the media products. This is an extremely narrow approach to the ethics in media industry.

o   The nature of the media content mostly reduced to the quality and morality (mostly sex and violence). It is very convenient to think about media ethics in terms of only sex and violence. Such thinking itself is unethical.

o   The media industry provides (sells) “gadgets” for the audience for “an educated and responsible viewing.”

o   Instead of providing gadgets and content rating mechanisms, the media industry should be socially responsible by not producing the junk.

o   Hence, ethics in media issue is primarily the issue of the content production and distribution, not the use/exposure issue.

o   Social control of the industrial practices are considered  as against the freedom (censorship). Thus, self- censorship or auto-control is provided as the solution. It  is also said that the media should set their own ethics principles of conduct and production. This is also unethical. The media today are as they are, because of the self-censorship, auto-control and responsible production. So, they can not be different than what they are at the present time.

o   Dominant ethics in media can not be different than or dissimilar to the general business ethics in the country.

o   Media ethics are related with the structure of international market and the mode of dominant relations of this market. Thus, the issue of media ethics should be considered and investigated as integral part of the dominant ways of international economical and political relations of production, distribution (structure of wealth) and consumption.

o   Media ethics is related with the creation of recreating the facts of life, thus, with shaping the human consciousness. That’s why, ethics should be studied not only as a subject of moral codes and practices, but also  as an issue of mind management through mediated representations by communications media.

o   Human beings who are subjected to mediated representations of modern communication technologies that are used to further the dominant interests are far beyond being mere “audiences”; they are both produced and producing ones.

o   There are always auto-control or auto-censorship in  decision making and reproducing in daily life. Auto- censorship or auto-control is not and can not be  independent of daily production relations. Unfortunately, the auto-control is presented as if it is the only viable alternative to the censorship organs of the state. Such presentation creates forged agenda and fake solutions. Auto-control cannot be real solution for the problems of ethics in media, because the existing media products and relations are themselves also end-products of a dominant auto-control. If there are ethical problem in the media products and relations, it also means that  there are problems in the nature of auto-control. Auto- control should be handled and studied as a problem  rather than a solution.

o   Similarly, the content rating systems in television and movies are not real solutions, rather mechanisms of (a) legitimization of industrial practices, (b) identifying wrong culprits, (c) providing solutions that are not real solutions, (d) blaming the victims and freeing the industries from responsibility and (e) stimulating interest for viewing and consumption.



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