Global Media Ethics: Fundamental Values Amid Plurality

The growth of global news media presents a fundamental challenge to the theory and practice of media ethics. We live amid a technological revolution in the media that blurs geographical, cultural and even temporal boundaries. News media are global in reach and impact. Therefore, there is a need for a media ethics that is global in its principles and in its understanding of news media. The duties of the world-wide news media cross borders, altering the parochial perspectives of existing media ethical frameworks. These issues have sparked a growing debate and a search for a global media ethics, at roundtables, conferences and in journals. But the “search” so far has been preliminary and exploratory, inconclusive and lacking in theoretical rigor. Theoretical, one set of issues orbit around the tension among universal and particular values, global power relations and specific cultural frameworks. How can a global ethic be based on universal principles yet allow for diversity of media systems and cultural values? Another set of issues involves the meaning of a socially responsible global media. In a global world, who is the “public” that the news media serve? How is the notion of “socially responsible media” interpreted across cultures and media systems? This project develops a theoretical foundation for a global media ethics by resolving the central theoretical issues and clarifying bedrock concepts. The project explicates and validates these theoretical constructs by reference to cross-cultural knowledge of media systems in Africa, Europe, India, North America and beyond. The results are based on a philosophically rigorous and culturally informed theory of global media ethics that can serve as a basis for future research and practical media reform.

Project leader(s):
  • Herman Wasserman (Stellenbosch, Sheffield)
STIAS fellow(s):
  • Clifford Christians (Illinois)
  • Stephen Ward (British Columbia)
  • Shakuntala Rao (State University of New York)
Publication(s):

Clifford G Christians, Shakuntala Rao, Stephen JA Ward and Herman Wasserman, Toward a Global Media Ethics: Theoretical Perspectives, Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies 29(2) (2008) 135-172.