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Principles for Policymakers

Principles for Policymakers

Media and communications policies are proliferating globally as policymakers race to respond to the increasing array of issues and challenges posed by developments in telecoms, digital media, new platforms, and social media. Some are based on previously established policy regimes and trajectories; others on new approaches specifically developed to address emerging issues. In many cases, there is little concurrence among policies developed for different technologies and policies even for the same technologies are increasingly conflicting among themselves. The values underlying the policies are often unclear and policy is rarely based on principle, but rather on narrow interests or expediency.

Such weaknesses can be avoided if policymaking is guided by principles, an argument we recently put forward in a report for the Reuters Institute at the University of Oxford.1 We propose principles to guide contemporary media and communications policymaking in democratic countries that are intended to inform efforts toward providing optimal social benefit. By articulating statements of policy principles that undergird policy objectives across varying issues, technologies and processes, we provide fundamental criteria that have universal appeal but are versatile enough to address a wide range of policy discussions and decisions.

Defining such criteria is not merely a theoretical exercise. Media and communications policies are central to many of the challenges facing societies today, but in many cases, have outpaced policy. Earlier paradigms for broadcasting, telecoms and media are often inadequate for contemporary media and communications. Today’s digital systems and networks, cable and satellite operations, internet‑distributed content, social media and cross‑platform activities necessitate different methods to address contemporary complexities. Furthermore, while domestic policies can address some issues, global policy is often more germane to address contemporary communications challenges.

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