Essential Principles for Contemporary Media and Communications Policymaking

Report by Robert G Picard and Victor Pickard, published by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. 

This report proposes principles to guide contemporary media and communications policymaking in democratic countries seeking to improve the contributions those operations and systems make to society. It articulates statements of principles to inform the development of policy objectives and policy mechanisms and to provide consistency across varying issues, technologies, and actions by defining fundamental criteria that can be used to inform discussion and guide policy decisions.

Media and communications policies are central to many of the social and political issues that societies face today. Policies pursued in the past for broadcasting, telecommunications, and media are often inadequate for contemporary media and communications. The complexities of contemporary digital systems and networks, cable and satellite operations, internet-­distributed content, social media, and cross-­platform activities necessitate different methods to address the issues and challenges they pose. Domestic policies can address some issues, but global policy is progressively more germane to address communication challenges.

Establishing policy principles to guide both domestic and international decisions is crucial if effective, coordinated, and socially beneficial policies are to be developed. Many existing policies are unable to respond to rapid technological, economic, political, and social developments because they are not clearly founded in policy principles but were primarily developed to address particular media and communications challenges at specific points of time.

Fundamental principles, however, remain constant and can provide guidance on how to respond to new concerns and challenges and to make appropriate policy choices.

Consequently, this report steps back from specific policy measures to articulate principles that are relevant and applicable to a wide range of media and communications platforms, infrastructures, and activities addressed at the local, national, regional, and global levels. The purpose is to help policymakers and policy advocates think initially at a more principled level and then link policy objectives and tools to these normative foundations rather than merely seeking immediate problem solutions.

Download the report

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