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Joseph R. Dominick University of Georgia--Athens. Part IV. Regulation of the Mass Media. Chapter 16. Ethics and Other Informal Controls. Personal Ethics Performance Codes Internal Controls Outside Influences. Chapter Outline. Personal Ethics.

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Joseph R. Dominick University of Georgia--Athens

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Joseph r dominick university of georgia athens

Joseph R. Dominick

University of Georgia--Athens

Part iv

Part IV

Regulation of the

Mass Media

Chapter 16

Chapter 16

Ethics and Other Informal Controls

Personal Ethics

Performance Codes

Internal Controls

Outside Influences



Personal ethics

Personal Ethics

Ethics are rules of conduct or principles of morality that point us toward the right or best way to act in a situation.

Personal ethics1

Personal Ethics

Principle of the Golden Mean – Aristotle

Moral values lies between two extremes. Moderation is the key. The proper way of behaving lies between doing too much and doing too little.

Example: coverage of civil disorders

Personal ethics2

Personal Ethics

The Categorical Imperative – Immanuel Kant

What’s right for one is right for all. We act according to rules we want to see universally applied. Conscience informs us what is right.

Example: Use of deception in news gathering

Personal ethics3

Personal Ethics

Principle of Utility – Bentham and Mill

The best ratio of good to evil for the general society. How much good is done? How much evil is avoided? 1. Calculate the consequences. 2. Choose the path that maximizes good and/or minimizes evil.

Example: printing the Pentagon Papers

Personal ethics4

Personal Ethics

Veil of Ignorance – John Rawls

Justice is blind. Justice emerges when we treat everyone without social differentiations. All parties in a dispute should be placed behind a veil of ignorance.

Example: Press – politician relationships

Personal ethics5

Personal Ethics

Principle of Self-Determination – Judeo-Christian

Human beings have value apart from any circumstances. They should not be used to accomplish an end if that violates their self-determination. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Example: press should avoid being used by sources

Personal ethics6

Personal Ethics







Pro Basketball Superstar

Kobe Bryant

What are the facts? What are our alternative possible actions?

What values are involved? Which values are more relevant to deciding a course of action?

What ethical principles apply?

Where do our loyalties lie? To whom do we owe our highest moral duty and obligation?

~ Ralph Potter

Personal ethics7

Personal Ethics

Acculturation in a media context is the tendency of media professionals to accept the ideas, attitudes, and opinions of the group they cover or with whom they have significant contact.

Example: California policemen in a bar

Performance codes

Performance Codes

The Print Media

American Society of Newspaper Editors

Seven Canons of Journalism (1923)

  • Responsibility

  • Freedom of the press

  • Decency

  • Accuracy

  • Impartiality

  • Fair play

  • Independence

Performance codes1

Performance Codes

The Print Media

Society of Professional Journalists

(1923, 1973, 1984, 1987, 1996)

  • See the truth and report it

  • Minimize harm

  • Act independently

  • Be accountable

    APME, Gannett also have codes

Performance codes2

Performance Codes


National Association of Broadcasters

Code of Good Practice (b. 1929, d. 1983)

  • Children’s TVIndecency

  • ViolenceDrug and substance abuse

    2000: Lieberman and McCain’s failed bill

    Radio and Television News Directors Association: 11-part code

Performance codes3

Performance Codes

Motion Pictures

Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (1930)

Motion Picture Production Code

  • What to avoid; what to be careful about

  • 20 pages of specific text

    Legion of Decency

    Motion Picture Association of America (1968+)

    Ratings of individual movies:

    G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17

Performance codes4

Performance Codes

The Advertising Industry

American Association of Advertising Agencies

Standards of Practice (1924)

  • Misleading price claims

  • Offensive statements

  • Rumors about competitors

    Advertising Code of American Business

    Public Relations Society of America (1954+)

Internal controls

Internal Controls

Self-Regulation in Television

  • 1950s+: “Standards and Practices” departments made thousands of decisions on dialog, plot lines, and visuals

  • 1980s+: S&P departments smaller, far fewer content decisions. Networks rely on program producers

  • Influence of cable on broadcast

  • Most local stations have a policy book

Internal controls1

Internal Controls

Self-Regulation in Print

  • Operating policies

    • Everyday problems and situations

    • Freebies, deceptive practices, junkets, and outside jobs

  • Editorial policies

    • Used when persuading the public on certain issues or to achieve specific goals

  • Boosterism (example: Flint, Michigan)

Internal controls2

Internal Controls

Self-Regulation in Advertising

Council of Better Business Bureaus

American Advertising Federation

American Association of Advertising Industries

Association of National Advertisers

National Advertising Review Council


Internal controls3

Internal Controls

Self-Regulation in Advertising

  • NARC composed of two divisions

  • National Advertising Division (NAD)

    • Handles complaints about ads

    • Competitors or consumers

  • National Advertising Review Board (NARB)

    • Handles complaints unresolved by NAD

    • Complaints can be forwarded to the FTC

Outside influences

Outside Influences

  • Economic Pressures – Pressure from Advertisers

    • Dependency on ad revenues 

      susceptibility to advertising pressures

    • Product placement

    • Esquire kills story about gay student (1997)

    • Boston Herald’s reporter

    • Columbia Journalism Review (2000): 33% of reporters avoid stories that are detrimental to their advertisers

Outside influences1

Outside Influences

  • Economic Pressures – Business Policies

    • Trading positive news coverage for ad space

    • Trading away negative news coverage for ad space

    • Nike and San Francisco’s “Bay to Breakers” race

    • Revenue-related reading matter

Outside influences2

Outside Influences

  • Pressure Groups

    • BoycottsBad publicity

    • Legal – Civil suits and attempts to revoke licenses 

    • Action for Smoking and Health (ASH)

    • Action for Children’s Television (ACT)

      • Supervisor for children’s programming

      • Ban drug and vitamin ads from kid’s shows

      • Ban on host selling

      • Reducing ads on Saturday morning

      • 1990 Children’s Television Act

    • Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)

Outside influences3

Outside Influences

  • Press Councils

    • An independent agency who monitors the performance of the media on a day-to-day basis

    • Handles complaints through reports and publicity

    • Only a few in the USA

  • Education

    • Teaching and practicing ethical reasoning

    • Developing a system of ethical reasoning

    • Developing an awareness of ethics in a student’s media outlook

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