Media & Democracy

Virginia Held
March 14th, 1997

What follows is a summary of a presentation given at Ohio University by Dr. Held. A videotape of the presentation is available. Please write to the Institute for details.

The communications media have achieved a heretofore unknown authority and status. The “media society” in which we live possesses an unsurpassed potential for democracy and democratic discourse, but the near monopolization of the media by commercial interests limits discussion and prevents the development of this potential. Realizing the democratic potential of a media society may require the establishment of not-for-profit media outlets and/or appropriate government regulation.

Despite current rhetoric, new technologies such as the internet offer no real remedy. On the contrary, like television, they appear to lead to increased isolation and decreased public participation in civic life.

Is there hope for reversing the trend to ever greater commercialization of the news? Critical attitudes and resistance to commercialization appear to be on the rise among audiences. Such attitudes should be promoted.

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