Should press be liable or not? (16684-1)

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Should press be liable or not?

Recent years have increased legal accountability of producers and advertisers for providing SAFE products and RELIABLE information to customers. A government influences a wide range of market operations from licensing requirements to contract actions. That control announces and enforces determined norms of quality.

Each of these regulations is designed to protect consumers from being hurt or CHEATED by defects in the goods and services they buy. This matter, when producers look to the law rather than to the market to establish and maintain new standards of quality (of their goods), shows, that modern market has an ability of selfregulation. But it also shows another unbelievable feature: consumers are both incapable of rationally assessing risks and unaware of their own ignorance.

Companies and corporations all over the world are systematically inclined to SHIRK on quality and that without the threat of legal liability may subject their customers or other people to serious risk of harm from their products if it could save money by doing so.

According to this point of view, for most goods and services, consumers are POWERLESS to get producers to satisfy their demand for safe, high-quality products! The unregulated market lets unfair producers to pass on others the costs of their mistakes.

Legal liability is ready to correct these "market failures" by creating a special mechanism (feedback), regulating relations between producers and customers. Unfair producers should be punished and their exposure is increasing.

One market,however, has completely ESCAPED the imposition of legal liability. The market for political information remains genuinely 2 free of legally imposed quality obligations. The electronic mass media are subject to more extensive government regulation than paid media, but in their role as suppliers of political information, nothing is required to meet any externally established quality standards.

In fact, those, who gather and report the news, have no legal obligations to be competent, thorough or disinterested. And those, who publish or broadcast it, have no legal obligation to warrant its truthfulness, to guarantee its relevance, to assure its completeness.

The thing is: Should the political information they provide fail, for example, to be truthful, relevant, or complete, the costs of this failure will not be paid by press. Instead they will be borne by the citizens. Should the information intrude the privacy of an individual or destroy without justification an individual's reputation again, the cost will not be borne by producer of it.

This side of "activity" of producers of harmful or defective information (goods, services, etc) practically is not acknowledged. Producers of most goods and services are considered worlds APART from the press in kind, not just in degree. Holding producers in ordinary markets to ever higher standards of liability is seen as PROCOMSUMER. Proposing holding the press to any standard of liability for political information is seen as ANTIDEMOCRATIC. The press is constitutionally obligated to check on the government.

Most of policymakers justify legal liability for harms, caused by goods and services and quite limited liability for harms, caused by information. Liability for defective consumer products is PREDICATED on a market failure. As for "unfair" producers, power of possible profits PREVENT consumers from translating their true preferences for safety and quality into effective demand. So, customer preferences remain outside the safety and quality decision-making process of producers. Today, it'll be a new mechanism to force producers to follow customers true preferences.

Lack of liability for defective or harmful political information can be predicated only on a different kind of supposed market failure not a failure of the market to SUPPLY the LEVEL of safety that customers want but its failure to supply the amount of political information that society should have. Some experts say, that free market has tendency to produce "too little" correct information, especially political information.

The thing is: political information is a public good and it has many characteristics of a public good. That is a product that many people value and use but only few will pay for. Factual(real) information cannot easily be restricted to direct purchasers. Many people benefit who do not pay for it because the market cannot find the way to charge them. As you can see, providers of political information try to get as much profit as possible spreading it, so they HAVE TO supply "too little" info. Otherwise the market FAILS!

Here is another reason. Some analysts consider that the market also fails because of low demand. Even if suppliers could "earn all their money", they wouldn't provide the socially optimal amount of info! Private demand for political info will never be the same as social demand. And it will never reflect its full social value.

If it were true, that political information was regularly underproduced by the market, there would be cause for serious concern that might well justify generous sibsidies in the form of freedom from liability for the harms they cuase for information providers. But a proper look at modern market shows that producers of political information have developed a wide range of strategies for increasing the benefits of their efforts to solve the public good problem.

The most obvious example of a spontaneously generated market solution to the public good problem is ADVERTISING. By providing revenue in proportion to the relative size of the audience (for radio & TV) or the readership (for magazines & newspapers), advertisers play a SIGNIFICANT role in the internalizing process. In effect, the sale of advertising at a price that varies according to the number of recipients permits information producers to appropriate the benefits of providing a product that many people value but few would pay for directly. Advertising has an effect of transforming information from a public into a private good. It makes possible for information providers to make profits by satisfying the tastes of large audiences for whose desire to consume information they are unable to charge directly.

Thus, customer of goods or services and citizen of any country are in the same conditions. Like customers citizens may have (and they have) different preferences for political information, but citizens do not value information about politics only because it contributes to their ability to vote intelligently and customers do. Like customers citizens' tastes differ in many ways and that generate wide variations in the intensity of their demand for political information.

Since it does not appear to be true, that political information market is blocked by an ongoing problem of undersupply, the conventional justification for granting the press broad freedom from legal liability for the harms it causes must give away! It does not necessarily mean that the economic case for legal sanctions has been made. Although it seems the market could be relied upon to supply "enough" information. So that subsidies in the form of protection from legal liability are not needed. Personal responsibility and legal accountability would be 100% if the information market could internalize to producers not only the benefits but also the costs of their activities & failures. As for victims, they'll get one more chance to avoid the harms happened from the production of defective information.

Legal accountability for harm is desirable in a market that systematically fails to punish "unfair" producers for defective products. This kind of failure occurs in two quite different cases:

) The first occasion has to do with the market's responsiveness to the demands of consumers. The failure occurs when customers are unable to detect defects before purchase or to protect themselves by taking appropriate precautions after purchase, when they are unable to translate their willingness to pay for nondefective products into a demand that some producers will satisfy and profit from. It also occurs when suppliers are unable to gain any competitive ad vantage either by exposing defects in their rivals' products or by touting the relative merits of their own. 2) The second kind of market failure is an inability to internalize harm to bystanders third parties who have no dealings with the producers but who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a product malfunctions. Even when these kinds of failures occur, legal accountability is problematic if it in turn entails inevitable error in application or requires the taking of such costly precautions that they cover up all benefits.

Conceiving of quality as a function of accuracy, relevance and completeness, consumers of political information are not in a strong position when it comes to detecting quality defects in the political information they receive. Revelance may well be within their ken, but since they are quite unable to verify for themselves either the accuracy or the completeness of any particular account of political events. In addition, since political information usually comes bundled with other entertainment and news features that sustain their loyality to particular suppliers, consumers are not inclined to punish information producers by avoiding future patronage even when they commit an occasional gross error.

Nevertheless, competition among journalists and publishers of political information tends to create an environment that is in general more conductive to accuracy than to lies or half-truths. Journalistic careers can be made by exposing others' errors, and they can be ruined when a journalist is revealed to be careless about truth. These realities create incentives for journalists not to make mistakes.


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