The Challenge the Internet Poses to Media Policy, Regulation, and Governance

04Oct11

Image Courtesy of Green Africa

The idea that the Internet is throwing actors in media industries for a loop is not novel. The Internet poses a special problem for policymakers in several ways, including supranational relations and the dichotomy between freedom of expression and ensuring various public interest benefits. As new technologies develop through the use of the Internet, more and more discourse grows on how to manage this new media from a policy, regulatory, and or governance standpoint. I draw this distinction among policy, regulation, and governance because I believe Terry Flew accurately highlights the difference by defining media policy as “the development of goals and norms,” media regulation as the “application of media policy principles by specialist agencies,” and media governance as the “incorporate[ion]. . . of means of shaping media systems.”[1]In determining how to handle the Internet from these three points of view, countries are trying to work together more and more.

Reuters recently published an article about “BRICs push for bigger say in running of Internet.” The article highlights the movement towards agreement between countries on how to run different aspects of the Internet. Much of my research interest in the area of Communications Law is in global Internet governance. In my research paper on this subject I suggested the development of guidelines or principles to be agreed upon by multi-stakeholders from various countries. I suggested that the Internet Governance Forum would be a good avenue to get such an initiative going. The Reuters article suggests the same idea minus the multi-stakeholder approach I suggest. The Internet Governance Forum met this year in Nairobi, Kenya at the end of September, and several of the countries represented at this forum indicated the desire to develop a global methodology to dealing with the Internet.

Based on my analysis of the situation, I think the main reason why such an initiative has been inhibited deals with question Flew raises of “the extent to which the conduct of media policy should be seen as reflective of established political and ideological positions and interests.”[2] The policy, regulatory, and governance systems we have in place are created and maintained by processes that are very political and ideological, which diminishes the ability to really act in the best interest of the public. This problem has not only affected the progression of Internet governance, but it has for years shaped the type of policies, regulations, and governance in media industries making it essential to understand how political systems operate in order to function in this industry as well as to effect change in the management of this industry.

–Sade


[1] Terry Flew. New Media Policies, in MARK DEUZE, MANAGING MEDIA WORK 59, 67 (2011).

[2] Id.

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