THE COMMISSION ON FREEDOM OF THE PRESS known as the Hutchins’ Commission
Reason for concern l Worries about large amount of concentration in mass media ownership l Was press operating in the best public interest?
HUTCHINS COMMISSION l Citizens group (academics, civic and religious leaders) NOT press people l Report issued in late 1940s l More than 50 years later, the current “civic” or “public” journalism movement contains some of the same elements
The COMMISSION ON FREEDOM OF THE PRESS l After several years of work, the Commission issued a report that set forth a code of social responsibility for the press, requiring these five basic services :
a free press will provide l a truthful, comprehensive, and intelligent account of the day’s events in a context which gives them meaning; l a forum for the exchange of comment and criticism; l the projection of a representative picture of the constituent groups in the society; l the presentation and clarification of the goals and values of the society; l full access to the day’s intelligence.
Hutchins Commission recommendations l What the gov’t can do l What the press can do l What the public can do
What the government can do: l give radio and movies full First Amendment rights l facilitate new ventures in the communications industry l maintain competition through antitrust laws
What the government can do: l reform libel laws l repeal sedition laws l inform the public about gov’t policies and the purpose underlying those policies
Has it happened yet? give radio and movies full First Amendment rights l Broadcast media have most First A. rights but gov’t still regulates on grounds that airwaves belong to the public and spectrum is a limited resource.
Regulation of Broadcasting l 1996 revision of federal Communications Act moved from fiduciary model to marketplace model of regulation
Broadcasting Regulation l Licensing of radio/tv stations Less frequent renewal (3 years to 8 years now) l Equal opportunity rule applies to political candidates Candidates for federal offices must be allowed by BUY time For state & local candidates, all must be treated equally
Broadcast Regulation l Fairness Doctrine no longer being enforced But Personal Attack Rule part of the Fairness Doctrine is still in effect.
Has it happened yet? Facilitate new ventures in communi- cations industry l Gov’t financed development of the Internet
Has it happened yet? Maintain competition through antitrust laws Gov’t gets mixed reviews on this point. l Joint operating agreements (allows limited exemption for some newspapers) l 1996 Telecomm Act allows greater concentration of ownership; more cross- media ownership, mergers
Has it happened? Reform Libel Laws l False, defamatory statement now protected by 1 st Amendment if not made with fault. l Remedies short of court cases have not been enacted.
Has it happened? Repeal sedition laws l Repealed or not enforced unless expression incites immediate violent action
Has gov’t met recommendations ? inform the public about gov’t policies and the purpose underlying those policies l Federal Open Records Act (1967) l Federal Open Meetings Act Also on state level. Does not apply to all gov’t entities
What the press can do Accept the responsi- bilities of common carriers l Media are NOT common carriers l Internet Service Providers (ISP) and telephones ARE examples of common carriers
What the press can do? Assume the responsibility of financing new, experimental activities in their fields. l Modern printing techniques l Video/Audio text l Television l Gov’t developed Internet
What the press can do Engage in vigorous mutual criticism of each other l But things may be changing l Journalism review magazines l Some cross-media criticism
What the press can do Increase the competence, independence, effectiveness of its staff l Colleges, universities now teach communications courses. We hope they are effective toward this goal.
What the press can do Radio industry take control of its programs and treat advertising as it is treated by the best newspapers l This is true in principal today. Advertisers do not create programming as in early days of radio.
What the public can do l Nonprofit institutions can help supply the variety, quantity, and quality of press service l Contributions to PBS l Sponsorship of public service programming l Money for research and special projects (like civic journalism
What the public can do l Create academic- professional centers of advanced study, research, and publication in communi- cations l Poynter Institute for Media Studies (St. Pete) l Freedom Forum Centers l Pew Charitable Trust
What the public can do l Existing schools of journalism should use total resources of their universities to give students broad liberal arts training l To become and remain accredited, a communication curriculum must require approximately 75% of courses to be in liberal arts
What can the public do? l Establish a new and independent agency to appraise and report annually upon the performance of the press. l National News Council failed l State news councils little success
Press reaction l Rejected report in 1947; afraid of government censorship l No press representation on Hutchins Commission l Major news organizations have been uncooperative toward press councils l Press has implemented some recommendations
Today--50 years later l The new “civic” or “public” journalism movement contains some of the same elements first expressed in the Hutchins Commission Report. Much of the current movement isn’t new at all.
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