Free Press? A luxury few states can afford


May 2nd, 2017 – Fort Russ News – 

– Op-ed by Denis Churilov for FRN – 

You can’t have free press if you don’t have a well-developed economic system.

Free speech is only possible in the countries that are relatively rich, because it is not just some abstract concept that exists in isolation from everything else.

The core issue with the media is that no media outlet is truly free to say whatever they want as they always have to go in line with their owners and sponsors. If your TV-channel is funded by the government, it is highly unlikely that you would be allowed to air viable anti-establishment opinions. If you work as an editor-in-chief in a newspaper that is owned by Rupert Murdoch, you would not be allowed to publish materials that criticise him or his business affiliates (many of whom obviously have their own political agendas).

So, in order to overcome it, it is necessary to work towards pluralism, i. e. a system where you have multiple media outlets that are independent from each other. Each media outlet individually will still be controlled by its owners and sponsors, but, if they all are truly decentralised, they would, collectively, publish a wide spectrum of views and opinions, making it possible for the public to complete the puzzle and construct a whole picture of what is going on.

And, if the number of media outlets is too high, the authorities simply wouldn’t have enough human resources to monitor and police them all (so they would just rationally give up on it).

So you achieve the free press environment through media decentralisation and pluralism. But it’s only possible if there are various businesses that are willing to sponsor all those outlets.

TV-channels, radio stations, newspapers, magazines and web-sites have to be funded by someone, so you have to have well-developed advertisement market, with multiple companies and small businesses willing to pay money to those media outlets.

Obviously, only rich countries can afford the luxury of free press. There can be no pluralism in the media if there is no money in the system to spend on ads.

So, say, if you somehow topple the government in North Korea in an effort to bring them “freedom and democracy”, the pluralism in the media won’t develop there anyway, because North Korea is a poor country, so newspapers and TV channels would not be able to make enough money from advertisements to sustain. Only those funded by the government would be able to stay afloat and influence public’s opinion anyway.

So, no well-developed economy – no freedom of press.

Freedom of speech is fully achievable only in rich countries.

But that’s only in theory.

In reality, though, there is still no guarantee that the masses will be getting a well balanced view on the issues, even if they live in countries with strong economies.

Because in each system, those who have more financial resources often have better means of spreading their view points and getting the “right” information across.

So, say, even if you run a truly independent newspaper that makes money by advertising a local beer company, you still won’t have the same audience reach as the media magnates who own multiple TV-networks, dozens of web-resources and who can afford printing millions of copies of their newspapers daily.

Big media magnates and big corporations also have the resources to hire the best journalists and the best propagandists in the industry. The most talented people will be working for them, not for you.

Even if you succeed at developing a successful, independent media platform, as soon as it reaches a certain threshold of popularity, someone from the elite will try to buy it. Or lure your best staff on their side.

They will try to take over the momentum and integrate your platform into their system.

The big players with resources will always be better at persuading the masses and getting their voices heard.

The Internet can ease this issue, to a certain extent, but still, even in the cyberspace, the same rules apply. Those who have more financial resources are more efficient at getting their points across (as they can pay more money to Google and Facebook to show their content, and they have better capacity to make their content go viral).

Your YouTube channel (or a blog at WordPress) won’t be able to compete with the likes of CNN and BBC, in terms of audience reach, no matter how interesting you are or how much truth you speak.

You will always be an insignificant marginal outside the system.

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