Week 6 What the citizens of a democratic society should be doing about
the Media, Politically and Ethically
Having completed our limited attempt to define the effect of the mass media
on human nature and provide an account of the role of the media in a
democratic society, we started a deeper investigation about the ethical
principles we should use to evaluate the actions of the media.
Souder argued that a system of media ethics could be modeled after Adam
Smiths economic system, informed by his ethical focus on fellow-feeling
as a basis for showing self-restraint.
Meyers argued that an amended version of W.D. Rosss deontological
pluralism, one that provided a more detailed account of how to identify
actual duties, could serve as a plausible ethical model generally, and for the
media in particular.
Our two articles today continue our investigation of the principles that
should be used to evaluate the media, though in both cases, the discussion is
applied to specific examples.
In the first article, 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 spectrum.
In the second article, Stoll argues that three separate sets of ethical principles
can be applied to 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.The mechanism Rawls uses to defend his two principles involves the
creation of a hypothetical bargaining scenario, known as the Original
Rawls argument goes something like this: In the original position, any
rational being would choose these two principles as principles that should be
used to regulate the basic institutions of society.
Whats life like in the original position? All the (pretend) negotiators are
behind the veil of ignorance, meaning they are all rationally self-interested
and they all possess knowledge of the basic structure of our existent
The key is that none of them know where they fit in society, i.e., are they
rich or poor, educated or uneducated, male or female, member of a majority
or minority cultural group etc?
Rawls believes that in this situation, any rational agent would choose
principles that ensure, first an