Multiculturalism and the Mass Media

Law and Ethics of Human Rights 1 (1):169-212 (2007)
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In light of the importance of culture for the autonomy, sense of identity, and self-respect of individuals, cultural minorities have a right that their cultures flourish. Since cultural minorities are frequently in a disadvantaged position in the cultural market-place, a commitment to equality implies that the state ought to take steps to assist these minorities in preserving their cultures. This Article examines the ways the mass media can assist cultural minorities in preserving their cultures. For instance, when the media present contents that relate to the cultures of minorities, individual members of the minority group are exposed to their culture; media designated for cultural groups facilitate dialogue between group members, thus enabling the cultural group to determine which parts of its culture to retain and which parts to change. With that said, contemporary media frequently provide insufficient cultural contents due to the influence of commercial operational logic. This Article examines why the motivation for profit leads to under-production of cultural materials for minorities and to insufficient inclusion of cultural minorities in the public discourse. It is argued that the inequality caused by the media—which provide minorities with too little of the cultural contents so pertinent to the realization of their right to culture—merits corrective intervention. The Article examines possible forms of State intervention with the media on behalf of cultural minorities, taking into consideration that such intervention is a sensitive issue, since it has ramifications concerning the scope of the freedom of the press. Accordingly, it is argued that the State ought to be permitted to create legislation which intervenes, mainly by means of subsidies and structural regulation, to improve the manner in which the media fulfill their roles in a multicultural democracy. In contrast, there should be sparse use of conditionality in the issue of licenses for media operators.



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