Children and the media
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Systems of media regulation vary from country to country, and operate
with varying degrees of success. Most systems - those supervised
by the state and the media industries - include special mention
of the vulnerability of children and the need to protect them. Few
take a stand on children's participation in media (see the MAGICmedia
section of this website, for examples of individual regulatory codes).
On the one hand there has been growing emphasis on protection of
children from pornography and depictions of violence. On the other
there has been concerted pressure from within media industries for
deregulation and increased opportunities for 'the market' to decide
on what is, or is not, acceptable.
Technical quality and compliance with the laws of the land is only
one aspect of media regulation. Regulation of content and the behaviour
of media professionals is an even more fraught arena of debate.
Independence of thought, freedom of expression and freedom from
vested interests are supposed to be hallmarks of good journalism.
It is understandable that media professionals resent the notion
that the state, or even their own industry, should tell them how
to do their job. Yet in 1998, the International Federation of Journalists
itself initiated a global debate about the need to establish baseline
guidance for its members on reporting about children, when it became
clear how few journalism codes of conduct even mentioned children.
If children are to benefit from the opportunities afforded by the
expansion of mass media markets, there needs to be both a recognition
of their rights and a willingness to incorporate them in the media
agenda. Ideally this should come from commitment and conviction
from within the industry, rather than compulsion from outside. Nonetheless,
it is clear that media is primarily an adult preoccupation.
Concerted effort is needed to ensure that there is room and a welcome
for children in the media, not just as the talent of the future,
but as contributing members of society. Since there are no international
regulatory frameworks to which all media give credence, seeking
an acknowledgement by the media industries that they have a role
to play in assisting States Parties to comply with their obligations
under the UN Convention on the Rights of the
Child may require organized lobbying. The starting point could
be to encourage media owners and regulators to appreciate and reflect
upon the implications of the Convention for media practitioners.
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