What are Media Ethics?

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  • Written By: Jim B.
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Media ethics is the broad term describing the proper modes of behavior to which all branches of the modern media should attempt to adhere. The branches of the media that try to live up to ethical standards include television, print communications, and the Internet. Different issues arise depending upon the branch of the media in question, issues made more complicated by burgeoning technology. Many of the complications in media ethics arise from the conflict of ethical standards and the media companies' desire to make money.

It's difficult to simplify media ethics, because the issues that stem from different media can be contradictory in nature. What makes sense and seems fine for one branch of the media might cross ethical lines if applied by another. In addition, technological advances have actually created far more ethical dilemmas for media outlets than they have eliminated. All media companies and creators must walk an increasingly fine line to serve the public and stay morally sound.

For television and motion picture producers, the ethical dilemmas come from what kind of entertainment they bring to the public. As an example, violence and foul language are a part of everyday life and, as such, often are depicted in TV and movies. Many parents don't want children to be exposed to such things, however. By the same token, restricting an artist's vision can become a form of censorship, which is another huge issue in media ethics.


News organizations have their own set of media ethics to consider as they bring information to the public. All news outlets should be truthful and properly represent the issues or stories being reported, but they also must be wary of the truth doing some sort of damage to a portion of the public. The ethics of pursuing news is also a constant issue, because the public's need to know may clash with an individual's right to privacy.

In recent years, the Internet has become a huge part of media ethics discussions. Whereas other media often have organizations that oversee their operations, it is nearly impossible to police everything that finds its way onto the Internet. Websites are often left to their own devices to decide what is ethical to show to the public and what's not, which means that the standards may vary from one site to the next. These examples are just a small portion of the ethical issues that infiltrate all aspects of the media.


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Post 3

I have noticed that over the past few years that North American television is becoming even more permissive towards swearing and violence. Do you think that the Internet has had a part in this change?

Post 2

I think like people, each media distributor has its own set of ethics based on a cultural and environmental background. A good example of this comes with how nudity is portrayed in the media.

In Europe there is a great deal more nudity on prime time television, with shows like, How To Look Good Naked, not shying away from showing people of all shapes and sizes in their skivvies.

For North Americans, unless you are model perfect, there is no chance you will be caught naked in the public eye. Even then, you will have a rating stamped on you to protect our sensibilities.

Post 1

I believe that media ethics is getting more and more complex as technology is making more information available to the public.

There was a case awhile ago of a bully choosing the wrong victim to beat up at school, and in turn was smashed into the ground. The video a student made of the event became a viral hit on the Internet, despite the two boys involved not knowing the footage was released.

When does something like this become public property? With cameras everywhere, is it now acceptable for underage children to be filmed doing violent acts and have it picked up by the media and distributed publicly just because it became a hit online?

It seems to me that a lot of media ethics get thrown out of the window when something has been done first on the Internet.

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