There is no doubt that the media plays a very vital role in the life of people and society. It reaches into every aspect of the culture of all people. The distribution of news is certainly an important part of the role of the media. By and large it has done a very good job of that, but not in every country or situation.
Sometimes governing bodies control the press to the extent that one has to distinguish between news and propaganda. Today’s media has shown that it is resilient enough to overcome these difficulties. Sometimes one may wonder if the media just reports the news or makes the news according to its own bias.
It seems that at times it is difficult or unwise to criticize the media because it is argued that you will not persuade them to another point of view. The media, in all its forms, is increasingly owned by fewer and fewer people or influences. Therefore, social, political, religious or moral bias is becoming easier to predict, while at the same time harder and harder to influence or change.
Pope Benedict XVI recently said that this kind of media behaviour “risks being transformed into systems aimed at subjecting humanity to agendas dictated by the dominant interests of the day”. He continued, “while claiming to represent reality, it can tend to legitimise or impose distorted modes of personal, family or social life”. He also accused the media of the ability to “present and support models of development which serve to increase rather than reduce the technological divide between rich and poor countries”.
These are strong words but the Pope believes that the media seems not only to “represent reality but to determine it”. I certainly agree with him because when the good of society or people is involved, not everything possible is ethical or permissible. When the media is no longer under society’s control, it ends up risking the dignity of the human person.
There are two areas in which the media in general has stepped over the line. It tends to become the spokesperson of “materialism” (consumerism) and “relativeness”. Today’s society tends to suggest that there is no objective truth – it is all a matter of how and what you believe. Media must make the truth known and defend against those who would deny or destroy it. Yes, times are changing; media must change as well for the common good and the future of our society.
I doubt if the media can, in fact, be self regulatory. It would seem that now is the time for good governments to step forward and “protect the common good”.