This essay is a personal inquiry into the nature of media technology, law, and ethics in an era marked by the convergence of media that have been largely separate-print, broadcast, cable, satellite, and the Internet-and by the consolidation of ownership in all of these media. What inventions, practices, and norms must emerge to enable us to take advantage of this vast new information-based world, while preserving such important professional values as diversity, objectivity, reliability, and independence?
The right to know belongs not only to individuals, but to the public at large, it can (or, perhaps, must) be vindicated by government intervention when private interests threaten to stifle the free flow of information. And that, or so the theory goes, is precisely what is happening today. Through mergers and acquisitions, private media companies have so consolidated their hold on the mainstream media that they have effectively frozen out dissenting or unorthodox voices and compromised editorial integrity in the quest for the almighty dollar. We do not need to be told that convergence and consolidation jeopardizes our most deeply held values. If the right to know is enforceable without reference to any speaker, then it can provide a powerful tool for protecting the public interest in the free flow of information by preventing the government from granting intellectual property rights that would have the opposite effect.
Annotating the News: Mitigating the Effects of Media Convergence and Consolidation, 23 U. Ark. Little Rock L. Rev. 143 (2000). Abridgement presented at Symposium on "Media Law and Ethics Enter the 21st Century," UALR (April 2000)