Understanding and Maintaining Ethical Standards in Broadcast Journalism
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January 8, 2019

Understanding and Maintaining Ethical Standards in Broadcast Journalism

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Broadcast journalism is arguably one of the most evolved fields in the past couple of decades with the advent of new technologies. It is no longer restricted to conventional media like print, radio, and television but has gone way beyond. With the humongous force of the internet which has taken over the world, it is absolutely necessary to understand responsible journalism in today’s world.

What professionals who wish to enter this field should keep in mind is that though the core principles, values and ethics of journalism pretty much remain the same, they have to be adapted and made relevant in the new media. Broadly put, the tripod of ethical practices in journalism is still of accuracy, fairness, and objectivity, but one has to tread a very fine line regarding bias and favoritism extremely carefully.

While this rearview mirrorism is the base of it all, media ethics today have to definitely be rethought if not reinvented for the media of today and tomorrow and go beyond the past. The current media consumer is a mixed breed. Today, content is consumed across various media platforms. So, we now have to make an active shift to new mixed media ethics which should be applicable to amateurs and professionals alike. These set guidelines should apply to all media communication, whether it is a vlog, a tweet, an article or TV news.

Today’s broadcast media professionals also need to understand a few more pressing issues. Moving beyond adapting the already existing journalistic ethics, one needs to give due credit to the tension or friction between traditional journalism and new-age journalism. In addition to the core values of traditional journalism like pre-publication verification, accuracy, objectivity, etc. today’s media culture is big on immediacy, transparency, journalistic power to all and post-publication amendments. New-age media ethics not only need to identify this friction but also address it and mitigate the value conflict. Practically speaking, these codes may have to be revamped for them to be relevant in this age of broadcast journalism.

Another factor that needs to be considered is the global impact of new media. Since we have gone way beyond the local impact of print media, should new media ethics also consider the potential ramifications and flesh out guidelines that guide journalism which is now global in impact?

The fundamental, time-tested cornerstones of ethical practices and their consideration in broadcast journalism are as follows:

  • Accuracy

As ethical media practitioners and even as consumers who may share these content pieces or news on any medium, it is their duty to ensure that all communication done is validated by multiple sources and has to be doubly / triply checked beforehand. Errors are bound to occur, but they have to responsibly owned up to and corrected as soon as possible via legitimate media.

  • Libel

Libel laws may differ from nation to nation, however, in principle, they mean that legal recourse can be taken against reporters/content makers who intentionally or unintentionally

  1. Expose individuals or groups to public contempt, hatred or ridicule
  2. Tarnishes reputation of any individual or group
  3. Cause harm to any individual professionally
  4. Cause ostracization

The key to libel is that the reporter/content maker has to be aware of the consequences of his / her actions. Whether it is intentional or not, the person can be prosecuted. Also, even if the names of the concerned parties are not directly mentioned but the reader understands the context anyway, even in such cases content makers are liable.

  • Boundaries

To give a rough example, if a reporter bends/breaks laws to investigate a crime, the reporter ironically becomes a criminal and might not be viewed differently. There is a fine line that needs to be addressed carefully, especially in the field of investigative journalism. Reenactments and staging which occur under the heading of creative liberties and subtly following protocols are also like fine print disclaimers and are under scrutiny and their ethics are still debated about.

  • Harm Limitation Principle

Simply put, the Harm Limitation Principle creates an ethical dilemma. The question that arises in the course of reporting, is that whether all information collected should be disclosed or not. The consequences/ramifications of full disclosure need to be weighed and if to be reported, how should it be done also remains a persistent question. Bias also plays a part in this vis-à-vis, should a content maker’s subjectivity play part? For example, extra sensitivity shown towards any tragedy paints a subjective picture and creates an ethical dilemma.

Active attempts must be made to keep any content in perspective. Inflating the news and invading someone’s privacy are matters of utmost importance. Privacy is a dubitable concern these days with the advent of electronic devices like laptops, phones, microphones, cameras, etc., but these devices have to be used responsibly. To summarize it all, journalistic duties must be executed by professionals and nonprofessionals keeping in mind principles like transparency, objectivity, truthfulness, honesty, and genuineness. The motive of authentic journalism is to provide consumers with the objective truth and that should be the foundation of any action taken in this field.

At Seamedu School of Pro-Expressionism, we emphasize on the value and importance of journalistic ethics and teach these as a part of our comprehensive degree course in broadcast journalism. If you are thinking about building a career in the journalism industry, ethical practices and education of how journalism works are of utmost importance.

Take a look at what this Broadcast Journalism degree has on offer and get in touch with our team to know more.

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