What Can Be Done?
In their book Remaking Media,1 academics Robert Hackett and William Carroll identify three broad strategic approaches to democratic media reform:
- Reforming media internally — cultural producers and media workers, including journalists, as the prime movers
- Creating new and parallel media — progressive ‘alternative’ publications and programming in all available media
- Changing the media’s environing conditions — communications policies, public education about media, socio-political activism
Of these, the first and third are broadly directed at hegemonic institutions including the corporate media and the state — everything that is part of the system — while the second is concerned with building and nurturing counter-hegemonic media, working within what media theorist Jürgen Habermas has called the lifeworld, the everyday activities of people in communities.
Habermas believes there has been a shift from the old politics of social and economic security to a new politics of participation, quality of life, individual self-realisation, and human rights that is essentially seeking to decolonize the lifeworld from repressive authoritarian systemic control.
Four approaches to media activism
Within this broad framework, Hackett and Caroll identify four distinct approaches to democratic media activism (DMA):
- Creating alternative progressive media — includes traditional community media (print, radio, cable TV) and digital/Internet media;
- Public education about the contemporary state of the media — includes watchdog activities identifying prejudices and deficiencies in corporate media;
- Using the existing media system to promote progressive policies — developing positive media relations and attempting to reform journalism from within; and
- Reform of media policy framework, media legislation, and state regulation — generating public support and political pressure, often focussed around CRTC hearings.
Hackett and Caroll have developed a matrix of possible strategies for democratic media activism. This matrix is summarised as two tables (Focus on Media and Focus on social conditions, following. The first explores possible actions focussed on media (the system), while the second considers possible actions focused on lifeworld (social conditions). The possible actions are are further divided as to whether the activism is coming from the grassroots or from the system, and whether the activity is aimed at cultural or system change.
Remaking Media, Robert A. Hackett and William Carroll, Routledge, New York 2006 p.52-6 ↩