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Home arrow Economics arrow A Justice-Based Approach for New Media Policy: In the Paths of Righteousness


Abstract All media are new when they appear on the horizon and old by the time another, newer, medium arises. Indeed, the depiction of a medium as new connotes that something in this medium is different that sets it apart from existing media. In this book we will elaborate on the unique features that define new media: their interactivity, their potential to be mobile, their potential to access and deliver infinite amounts of data, and the potential they give users to express themselves in a variety of ways utilizing written words, sounds, and still and moving images and be heard by many others simultaneously. We will then explain why these defining elements of new media carry the opportunity to shift current communication policies from their utilitarian-based approach to a justice-based one.

Keywords New media • Media policy • Social media

‘This is essentially a battle between the extremely wealthy...and the merely rich.’ (William Kennard, former FCC chairman) [William E. Kennard, Op-Ed., Spreading theBroadbandRevolution, New YorkTimes,21 October2006, atA13 ( html?_r=0)]

‘I think there is a Mercedes divide, I would like to have one, but I can’t afford one.’ (Michael Powell, former FCC chairman) [As cited in Revenaugh, M. (2001). Haves...and have mores. Curriculum Administrator 37(5), 31]

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016

Amit M. Schejter, N. Tirosh, A Justice-Based Approach for New Media

Policy, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-41510-9_1

All media are new when they appear on the horizon, and “old” by the time another newer medium appears. The first US Supreme Court case to use the term new media took place in the 1940s, and the first scholarly article using the phrase was published in 1948 (Braman, 2006). Newness, therefore, is relative. Indeed, the depiction of a medium as new implies that something about this medium is different and sets it apart from existing media. Contemporary “new media” are undergoing four processes that characterize the early years of the current century: they are digitized; their main conduit is the Internet, which mainly serves commercial interests; they are affected by the introduction of the mobile-phone-turned- smartphone; and they are converging, obscuring accepted and traditional differentiations between print and audiovisual media, between interpersonal and mass media, and between what can be perceived as infrastructure and what is deemed content (Schejter & Tirosh, 2014).

These processes have resulted in electronic media that, unlike their predecessors, are interactive, have the potential to be mobile, have the potential to access and deliver infinite amounts of data, and allows users to express themselves in a variety of ways utilizing written words, sounds, images, and moving images and be heard by many others simultaneously. This generational development of communication media, in particular the fast pace of changes they have been undergoing since the 1990s, leaves language often helpless in categorizing them. Perhaps the most blatant example of this phenomenon is the rise since the late 2000s of the term social media. Since, all media are social (Schejter & Tirosh, 2012) that descriptor does not convey much information about the phenomenon it describes. However, “[s]ocial media is an area for which new (and likely multiple) metaphors may be needed as the information and communications policy debates in this area grow” (Osenga, 2013, p. 47). Indeed, the challenges associated with choosing the proper metaphor or model lie in an inability to encompass all the many layers these media overlie.

To note that contemporary media are ubiquitous is by now trivial. It is as trivial to try to either attach revolutionary powers to these media or to dismiss their uniqueness and see them as nothing other than one more instance of much hype about very little (McChesney, 1999). Indeed, the omnipresence of contemporary media technology obscures the reality regarding fundamental questions of access to them and to the ability to put them to meaningful use. Policymakers nowadays act in a growing neoliberal hands-offish atmosphere while facing environmental, population- dispersal, violence, and health crises—all on a global scale. In the process, they tend to allow the media to mind themselves, often noting that policy and regulation always play catch-up with technology. Many, as the earlier citations demonstrate, refer to demands for better media access as a luxury. However, contemporary media call for more rather than less attention as their importance in society has only grown, their potential in bettering lives has become more pronounced, and the need for their fair distribution has only increased. A new framework for such consideration is the topic of this book.

In previous work (Schejter & Tirosh, 2014, 2015), we identified four characteristics whose combination in one medium differentiates contemporary media from their predecessors: abundance, mobility, interactivity, and multimediality. We also called for a reappraisal of the underlying ideology directing new media policies and for the application of a proper theory of social justice to the policies regarding the distribution of these characteristics among users, as they would lead to the constitution of a just policy of contemporary “social media,” at least in the current and foreseeable stages of their development. This book expands on these previous works.

In Chap. 2 we define what we refer to as contemporary media, why they are new, and what does it mean to say that they are “social”. We then discuss the importance of media in present-day democratic life. We introduce “communication presence” and “information richness” as both the qualities and goals of mediated interactions and participation in democratic life as their ultimate use. In Chap. 3 we invite readers to explore the underlying ideology of Western media policy in the past century, utilitarianism, and we introduce alternative philosophies that are rooted in concerns of distributive justice as developed in the works of John Rawls and Amartya Sen. We then make the connection between theories of justice and democracy, stating that a just distribution of the capability to express oneself using the tools of expression and enabling their use should be the goals of media policy. Chapter 4 describes how competing theories of justice—utilitarianism, Rawlsian and Senian justice—have affected media policy so far.

In Part II, following Chap. 5, which describes the growth in the digital divide in Israel between Jews and Arabs and between immigrants and “old timers,” Chaps. 6-8 present case studies demonstrating media use by three disadvantaged groups in Israel. Chapter 6, which was written by our colleague Shula Mola, describes activists among the Ethiopian minority who immigrated to Israel but cannot integrate into its society.

Chapter 7 discusses the Bedouin people of the demolished village of Al-Arakeeb, and Chap. 8 tells of Israelis (predominantly Palestinian Israelis) who wish to relate the story of the Palestinian Nakba (“catastrophe”), which is officially silenced.

We conclude the book by offering prescriptive theory—applying Rawlsian and Senian principles to new media policy, taking into account the four characteristics that typify today’s media and the goals of interaction in a democratic society. We believe that a transition in the conventional mindset and the introduction of an alternative to the established normative guidelines is needed to eradicate the smugness that has characterized much of the policy talk in recent years. We propose that policy should focus on putting media in the hands of the least advantaged members of society and enabling such people to make use of the media in a way that meets their needs and allows them to make their voices heard.


Braman, S. (2006). Change of state: Information, policy and power. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

McChesney, R. (1999). Rich media poor democracy: Communication politics in dubious times. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Osenga, K. (2013). The Internet is not a super highway: Using metaphors to communicate information and communications policy. Journal of Information Policy, 3, 30-54.

Schejter, A., & Tirosh, N. (2012). Social media new and old in the Al-‘Arakeeb conflict—A case study. The Information Society, 28, 304-315.

Schejter, A., & Tirosh, N. (2014). New media policy: The redistribution of voice. In Y. Liu & R. Picard (Eds.), Policy and marketing strategies for digital media (pp. 73-86). London: Routledge.

Schejter, A., & Tirosh, N. (2015). “Seek the meek, seek the just”: Social media and social justice. Telecommunications Policy, 39, 796-803.

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