MOghia (17/12/2021). Media Pluralism. In Belli, L.; Zingales, N. & Curzi, Y. (Eds.), Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms (online). FGV Direito Rio. https://platformglossary.info/media-pluralism/.
Author: Michael J. Oghia
At its core, media pluralism refers to the diversity of media sources and opinions available to any given audience. More specifically, Reporters Without Borders (2016)1 stresses that media pluralism can either refer to
a plurality of voices, of analyses, of expressed opinions and issues (internal pluralism), or a plurality of media outlets, of types of media (print, radio, TV, or digital), and coexistence of privately owned media and public-service media (external pluralism).
Media pluralism is imperative to a healthy, functioning democracy, as it fosters an information ecosystem that enables citizens to access a range of opinions, confront ideas, make informed choices, and conduct their life freely. Yet, consumption habits, changing economic models, and technical systems are threatening media pluralism around the world. Media consolidation and concentration (Wikipedia)2 are also a key threat. As fewer individuals or organizations control increasing shares of mass media producers, editorial independence3, narrative diversity, and public-interest reporting are much more limited and controlled.
In the age of digital and technological convergence, both internal pluralism and external pluralism are relevant to Internet governance discussions. When taken together, they reflect myriad digital policy areas – specifically, access to information media sustainability. Diversity – ranging from gender perspectives to the voices of minorities and marginalized groups – is a crucial component of internal pluralism, for instance. Internal media pluralism is also inextricably linked to bridging the digital divide(s) as well as encouraging skill development via digital media literacy and local capacity development. New technologies pose a threat to internal plurality as well, specifically the phenomenon of artificial intelligence (AI) applications being used to replace editors and content curators. Digital platforms have an important responsibility to promote and ultimately preserve internal media pluralism in their role as a primary gatekeeper (Helberger et al., 2015)4 to information diversity. Key recommendations (Global Forum for Media Development, 2020)5 to safeguard this role include remodeling platform algorithms and moderation practices, as well as reversing commercial incentives that discriminate against journalism and news media.
On the other hand, external pluralism is intrinsically tied to discussions around digital markets and media market failure (Pickard, 2019)6, competition and innovation, media funding, and zero-rating. Dominant Internet business models continue to place strain (Chicago Booth, 2019)7 on both legacy and new/digital media outlets, which in turn, makes local and regional media ecosystems more fragile, more prone to closures, and the creation of news deserts (UNC)8, and more susceptible to media capture (Center for International Media Assistance)9 – a form of governance failure that occurs when the news media advance the commercial or political concerns of state and/or non-state special interest groups controlling the media industry instead of holding those groups accountable and reporting in the public interest. Looking ahead, media plurality and platform governance go hand-in-hand. Recognizing how vital media plurality is and ultimately working to safeguard it is a critical endeavor going forward.
- Reporters Without Borders. (2016). Contribution to the EU public consultation on media pluralism and democracy.
- Wikipedia contributors. (2021). Concentration of media ownership. In: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
- Article 19. Media Freedom. https://www.article19.org/issue/media-freedom/.
- Helberger, N., Kleinen-von Königslöw, K., Van Der Noll, R. (2015). Regulating the new information intermediaries as gatekeepers of information diversity.
- Global Forum for Media Development. (2020). Joint Emergency Appeal for Journalism and Media Support. Available at: https://www.hirondelle.org/de/blog/1172-joint-emergency-appeal-for-journalism-and-media-support.
- Pickard, V. (2019). Public Investments for Global News. Centre for International Governance Innovation. https://www.cigionline.org/articles/public-investments-global-news/.
- Chicago Booth – Stigler Center News. (2019). Stigler Committee on Digital Platforms: Final Report. Chicago Booth. https://www.chicagobooth.edu/research/stigler/news-and-media/committee-on-digital-platforms-final-report.
- UNC. (2021). Do You Live in a News Desert? The Expanding News Desert. https://www.usnewsdeserts.com/.
- Center for International Media Assistance. What is Media Capture? https://www.cima.ned.org/resources/media-capture/.