Social Responsibility Theory

in Mass Communication,Political Communication


In mid 20th century most of the developing countries and third world nations have used this social responsibility theory of press which is associated with “the Commission of the Freedom of Press” in United States at 1949. In the book “Four theories of Press” (Siebert, Peterson and Schramm) it’s been stated that “pure libertarianism is antiquated, out dated and obsolete.” That paved way for replacement of Libertarian theory with the Social responsibility theory.

Social Responsibility Theory:

Social responsibility theory allows free press without any censorship but at the same time the content of the press should be discussed in public panel and media should accept any obligation from public interference or professional self regulations or both. The theory lies between both authoritarian theory and libertarian theory because it gives total media freedom in one hand but the external controls in other hand. Here, the press ownership is private.  The social responsibility theory moves beyond the simple “Objective” reporting (facts reporting) to “Interpretative” reporting (investigative reporting).  The total news is complete facts and truthful but the commission of the freedom press stated that “No longer giving facts truthfully rather than give a necessary analysed or interpretative report on facts with clear explanations”.

The theory helped in creating professionalism in media by setting up a high level of accuracy, truth, and information. The commission of press council also included some tasks based on social responsibility of media, which are as follows:

  1. Formulate the code of conduct for the press.
  2. Improve the standards of journalism.
  3. Safeguarding the interests of journalism and journalist.
  4. Criticise and make some penalty for violating the code of conduct.

The theory allows

  1. Everyone to say something or express their opinion about the media.
  2. Community opinion, Consumer action and professional ethics.
  3. Serious invasion of recognized private rights and vital social interests.
  4. Private ownership in media may give better public service unless government has to take over to assure the public to provide better media service.
  5. Media must take care of social responsibility and if they do not, government or other organisation will do.

Critics of Social Responsibility Theory:

  1. Avoids the conflict situation during war or emergency by accepting the public opinion.
  2. Media will not play monopoly because the audience and media scholars will rise questions if media published or broadcast anything wrongly or manipulate any story.
  3. Media Standards will improve.
  4. Media will concern all class audience rather than focus on higher classes in the society.
  5. Media may work autonomously but certain thing is controlled by the government and other public organisation.

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