Media play a huge role in our lives. TV, radio, the Internet, movies, books and newspapers inform and influence our ideas, opinions, values and beliefs. They shape our understanding of the world and should give us the information we need to hold our representative leaders accountable.
But our media system is failing. The monolithic, ruthlessly objective, single-voiced editorial style that media have grown so accustomed to doesn’t work in a world where anyone and everyone can be a publisher, a reporter, a columnist or an editorial writer. So old-skool media is bad for society, since it deprives people of the information they need to make important judgments about issues that affect their lives.
If we want better media, we need better media policies. If we want better policies, we must engage more people in policy debates and demand better media to make sure the media serve the public interest. A vibrant, diverse and independent media is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy. Consumer advocates, media reformers and the civil rights community (like FSF) should work together.
But there is a fundamental problem:
The leading principles of consumer law could be summarised in two concepts: transparency and the fair division of responsibilities. Transparency helps consumers make informed choices, while the fair division of responsibilities guarantees that the operating practices and standard terms of businesses are governed by a set of minimum requirements.
The central principles of consumer law can also be seen at a general level in the United Nations Guidelines on Consumer Protection, last expanded in 1999. The UN guidelines are strongly influenced by the requirement for effective competition. The UN lists the following consumer rights: consumers’ physical health and safety, safeguarding of consumers’ economic interests, the right to information and consumer education, sustainable development, the availability of effective consumer redress, and ensuring the freedom to form consumer organisations and giving such organisations the opportunity to present their views where necessary.