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The Handbook of Political Economy of Communications by Janet Wasko, Graham Murdock, Helena Sousa

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13

Journalism Regulation

State Power and Professional Autonomy

Helena Sousa and Joaquim Fidalgo

It is widely accepted that journalism plays a relevant role in forming the concepts, images, and belief systems used to interpret the world. There is a robust dispute, however, as to the best approach to ensure the positive functions of this performative role and to reduce the negative social consequences of journalists’ actions and omissions. Though in different ways, media regulation is expected to raise journalistic standards and therefore to contribute to the expansion of public and private media social responsibilities.1

Quite frequently, the opposition between journalistic duties and obligations, on the one hand, and media freedom, on the other hand, has been dichotomized as if both dimensions were not constitutive of democratic societies. Commercial media companies tend to argue for more autonomy in order to pursue their business objectives, suggesting that the market is the most adequate regulatory mechanism. Other social actors have been defending a progressive sophistication of regulation, particularly state-centered, as a last resort to ensure fundamental values in an increasingly commercially driven environment. Though the balance of power between state-centered regulatory bodies and professionally based mechanisms differ quite considerably from country to country, the overall regulatory construct is designed to bring about change in the name of the “public interest” and it is ...

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