Philosophy 2730F/G Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: John Stuart Mill, Applied Ethics, Super Bowl
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Media Ethics, Class 5:
Choosing Intermediate Principles for Regulating Media Behaviour
To this point, we’ve considered an argument that the Media reveals a
fundamental characteristic of our nature as humans.
One (maybe the primary) way in which mass media has changed human
nature has been to provide for the possibility of government that is
determined by the consent of the governed (i.e., provided for the possibility
We further investigated the nature of the mass media through Chomsky’s
While the traditional view holds that the media facilitates democracy,
Chomsky argues that the mass media serves as a mechanism of control in a
democratic society – evident if we think about the media in light of the five
But the idea that the mass media serves the role assigned by the propaganda
model is disputed by Mayer... there is, on his account, more data supporting
the claim that the media is left-leaning than that they favour
And though it’s true that Anderson accepts the media negatively affects the
deliberative powers of citizens (consistent with the propaganda model), he
denies that we need to perceive that effect as negative; it all depends on what
you expect from citizens in a democracy.
From this point we are going to assume that Chomsky was wrong about the
effects of the existing power structures on the role of the Mass Media, and
proceed as though it is and has been a necessary ingredient of democracy.
We are making this assumption because it is the most widely held view, and
is even the view that Chomsky adheres to inasmuch as he believes the media
could and should be a meaningful source of information in a deliberative
Recall that a significant part of the traditional understanding of the
traditional view of the media is that they satisfy three basic (and related)
principles: 1. They are independent, 2. They are neutral when they present
information, and 3. They critically assess the information they present.
While helpful, these principles are pretty vague... yes, for example, we want
the media to be independent of government influence, but what does
fulfilling that independence require?
We need a set of more specific moral rules or principles that, when satisfied,
will increase the chances the media presents independent, neutral, and
critically evaluated information in particular circumstances.
The two related questions asked in all the articles for the next three/four
(i) What exactly are the intermediate moral principles we should rely upon
in particular circumstances to satisfy the broader principles the media in a
democratic are meant to satisfy, and
(ii) What are the respective justifications of those more specific principles?
In our first article for today, Buckley tries to show we can develop principles
that will help us determine how to choose when and whether a particular
broadcast media outlet should be granted access to the broadcast media
In the second article, Stoll argues that three separate sets of uniquely ethical
principles can be used to resolve a single ethical dilemma faced by the media
and generate nearly identical results.
B. Michael Buckley – How to Select the 2 Principles that will Guide our
Choices in determining who Should be Granted Access to the Broadcast
The Point: It is possible to use a political constructivist methodology to
specify which principles should be preferred to guide our decisions about
distributing the broadcast media spectrum. Principles that regulate a free-
market distribution in a manner sensitive to the requirements of democracy
are preferable to those that do not.
Sub-Point: A Political Constructivist model can be an effective method for
addressing a wide variety of problems in applied ethics.
Part I: The Approach of a Political Constructivist
Part II: The Hypothetical Scenario and competing principles for determining
the distribution of broadcast spectrum access
Part III: The reasons (facts) that show we should accept the hypothetical
scenario as outlined as a matter of political (democratic) significance
Part IV: The criteria by which we will assess the relevance of the
hypothetical and choose between the competing principles
Part V: Why, in light of the criteria outlined, the principles that explicitly
incorporate democratic ideals would be preferable to those that depend on
market forces alone.
Part VI: Limits to the analysis – there could be other principles that would
be equally acceptable in the context of this analysis, though such principles
would also be preferable to one that appeals to market forces alone.
I. Political Constructivism (pages 821 – first column of 823)
The need to present principles to guide decisions about the distribution of
the broadcast spectrum is owing to the vague nature of the language
currently used to make those decisions (in the US by the FCC).
The means by which those principles will be presented and defended is with
the creation of a hypothetical bargaining scenario, one which, when
constructed properly, should help us to see why principles that structure a
free-market are preferable to those that do not.
In A Theory of Justice, John Rawls presents and defends two principles that
are intended to regulate an ideal liberal, democratic society.