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Children and the media

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Media regulation

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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