Are media ethics in a mess?
Of course media ethics are in a mess but in no more of a mess than the ethics of the society about which the media reports.
Writing in the Guardian, Simon Jenkins sets the scene for the current debate about what many see as this terrible media beast that is corrupting our society.
While not condoning all the media's excesses, especially where there has been political or unduly commerical collusion (you know who you are), Mediabeak would argue that the media is no more running amok than the society it reports on and is as much the victim of the laws that are supposed to regulate it as its victims.
(1) There is a disconnect between what society wants to consume and its technological ability to consume it and what it wants its media to deliver.
(2) To be viable journalism has to be embedded in a business and as such is susceptible to commercial drivers.
(3) The commercial drivers are geared towards what consumers will read +/or pay for and not what might be ethically or journalistically justifiable content but is nowdays content that sells.
(4) It is hypocrytical of society to malign the media while at the same time wanting to consume the content it maligns.
(5) The laws - not least privacy and defamation - need to be revised from a regulatory and guiding principles perspective rather than a knee-jerk censory approach - problem is that an absence of legislative appetite to tackle this has resulted in random haphazard case-by-case law that ultimately serves no one - albeit that some dodgy 'celebrities' or sports bosses get big payouts for being caught in the act or commented on.
Its time for some proper dialogue to reach a sensible consensus on how to balance the opportunities and risks posed by mass communication consumption available to all and create some realistic rules that protect the public, guide the media but don't pander to those who rightfully get caught in the act of wrongdoing.
While phone tapping may be considered wrong and illegal - to the extent it exposes wrongdoing and illegality it is exposing an end that may be more illegal and morally more repugnant than the means of exposing it. So, tapping into and knowing what is happening in the personal life of a tv personality suffering from botox overexposure is wrong while using similar means to expose corruption amongst elected politicians in relation to public finances or misrepresentations as to the true need to go to war are, arguably, are more readily defensible and under current legislation not necesarily illegal.