Self-regulation and Ethics

by Sonyo Ferstl, Andrea Hall, Rong Qu, Yuting Yang

The Codes

Definition: The Code of Practices for Television Broadcasters was a set of ethical standards adopted by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) for television. The code was established on December 6, 1951. Compliance with the code was indicated by the “Seal of Good Practice”, displayed during closing credits on most United States television programs from 1952 through the early 1980s.

Seal of Good Practice as it appeared in 1958

NAB Code


Definition: The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is a trade association, workers union, and lobby group representing the interests of for-profit, over-the-air radio and television broadcasters in the United States. The NAB represents more than 8,300 terrestrial radio and television stations as well as broadcast networks.

logo of National Association of Broadcasters



Definition : The V-chip works in concert with the voluntary program rating system developed by the television industry that identifies programs with sexual, violent, or indecent content. The V-chip represents of blend of legal regulation and self-regulation.

FCC Explores Improved TV ratings, V-Chip


The Obama administration is exploring an overhaul of the nation’s television ratings, potentially enabling the use of alternatives from religious, parental, and other groups that utilize more-rigorous standards, government, industry, and advocacy, sources said.

After updating V-chip, parents could program their televisions to filter content based on guidance from Focus on the Family and similar organizations that have independent ratings, the sources said.


President Bill Clinton holds up a V-chip during ceremonies where he signed the Telecommunications Reform Act in 1996

Self Regulation and New Media Ethics

Social media plays a huge role in everyone’s life. From our personal life to the business world social media such as Facebook, Twitter tends to be used for various reasons. It used to be that Facebook was considered a casual networking site, however businesses are utilizing social networking including Facebook to not only expand their network base, but market their products and lead people to other articles and sites on the web. However, self-regulation plays a role in the positive and negative ramifications of the content posted on social media sites by its users. A Washington Post online article posed the important question “Is a news organization responsible for what its journalists put out on Twitter?” This was after a Post opinion blogger retweeted a controversial opinion originally posted by someone else.

As the rise of new media climbs, so too the fear of the type of content released legally or illegally such as the Wikileaks scandal and Rubert Murdoch. The Daily Beast, a European online news source covered the most recent testimony from Nick Davies, a journalist who described the phone hacking scandal as a “culture of bullying.” The more technology evolves along with the internet, a mass open pool of information, the more new media evolves into a powerful tool both useful and harmful. A recent CNN article reveals how one country other than the U.S. is handling their “new media fears” by cracking down on their regulation policies. Southern Korea is starting to buckle down to “Intensify the review of social networking sites to ‘ combat illegal and harmful’ information” states the Government of South Korea.

Media Ethics in Reality

The field of ethics has been around for a very long time. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy says that ethics “ involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior.

Since the media has such a strong effect on individuals, there are many ethical issues to consider. The curricula of many journalism schools often include classes on media ethics, since journalists are supposed to be exposing the truth and/or explaining “ the way it is.” There are always new stories popping up regarding questionable ethics in the media. For example, many question the coverage of Occupy Wall Street. A September 29th article in the The New York Observer reported that, “On September 21, Keith Olbermann chastised New York newspapers and major news outlets for ignoring the demonstrations in their first five days.” After the pepper spraying and eviction incidents during the week leading up to November 22, however, Occupy Wall Street saw the most media coverage yet.
Some may say this demonstrates the “bad news bias,” which the Rhetorica Network website explains as the belief that “ good news is boring (and probably does not photograph well, either). This bias makes the world look like a more dangerous place than it really is.”

Casey Marie Anthony Case

Casey Marie Anthony, a 22-year-old woman, was tried for the first degree murder of her two-year-old daughter in 2008, but was acquitted in 2011. However, she was convicted of misdemeanor counts of lying to police officers. On July 5, 2011 the jury declined to convict her of either first degree murder or manslaughter. reported that in a press conference after the verdict, one of Anthony’s attornies, Cheney Mason, criticised the media for their coverage of the trial, “remarking that it was ‘media assassination’ filled with ‘bias and prejudice and incompetent talking heads.'”

Another of her defense attornies, Jose Baez was quoted as saying, “While we’re happy for Casey, there are no winners in this case. Caylee has passed on far, far too soon.”

The article also cited comments from on-the-street interviews. One woman said, “I’m sick, you know, she killed a little girl,” said SusanMcDougal. “So she gets off and she goes home and maybe has another baby that she can abuse and hurt.”

ABC News, Casey Anthony smiles as she gets fingerprinted after hearing the verdict in her murder trial, July 5, 2011.

Video Link:

A November 16 article from the Mail Online (the website for the Daily Mail newspaper) reported that “a hit man allegedly located her hideout and stuck a death warrant to her door saying: “I know where you are, I’m coming to put a bullet through your brain.”

This recent article shows a continuation of what some may call the “media circus” that surrounded the Casey Anthony trial.

Hugh Grant accused the UK Mail

British Actor Hugh Grant recently accuses UK Mail for invading his privacy, leaking his medical records, breaking into his home and hacking into his phone. During his Nov. 21 testimony, he “gave details of what appeared to be a large number of incursions into his privacy.” He accused of the press of having “no mercy” and “no ethics.” Specifically, concerning the Mail on Sunday, Grant claimed the newspaper’s story alleging he had an affair with “a plummy-voiced English executive from Warner Brothers,” claims Grant denies. However the Mail on Sunday denies Grant’s accusations of hacking, calling them a “mendacious smear.” Grant called for a media code of ethics and tougher regulation. “There has been a section of our press that has been allowed to become toxic over the past 20 or 30 years,” he said, urging Britain to find the courage to stand up to tabloid “bullies.”

The News Corporation phone-hacking scandal

The News Corporation phone-hacking scandal is an ongoing controversy that has drawn public and media attention for a long time. Starting in 2005, employees of News International, a subsidiary of News Corporation, were accused of engaging in phone hacking, police bribery, and exercising improper influence in the pursuit of publishing stories. Investigations conducted from 2005–2007 concluded that the paper’s phone hacking activities were limited to celebrities, politicians and members of the British Royal Family. However, further investigation was pursued in July, 2011, since it was revealed that the phones of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, relatives of deceased British soldiers, and victims of the 7/7 London bombings were also accessed, resulting in a public outcry against News Corporation and owner Rupert Murdoch.

News International announced on 8 April 2011 that it would admit liability in some of the breach of privacy cases being brought in relation to phone hacking by the News of the World. The company offered an unreserved apology and compensation to eight claimants, but will continue to contest allegations made by other litigants.

Laura Bazuik, a Canadian journalist, suggested that the News of the World controversy exemplified how the internet has caused a competitive, high-pressure environment to emerge in media and journalism, where errors and ethical issues in reporting bypass normal checks.

NBC News Hacked, Group Posted Fake News about 9/11 Anniversary Attacks

NBC News’ Twitter account was hacked Sept. 9. In a matter of a few moments, four fake tweets were published claiming that the site of New York’s World Trade Center had been attacked. The fake tweets claimed that “Flight 5736 has crashed into the site, suspected hijacking.” A few minutes later, a fake tweet claiming that “Flight 4782 is not responding, suspected hijacking. The hashtag “#groundzeroattacked” was attached to the fake tweets. In a final tweet, eight minutes after the hacking appeared to have occurred, hacking group “The Script Kiddies” accepted responsibility for the hack. Shortly after, NBC News’ Twitter account was suspended. As the fake tweets were posted, a few journalists including NBC News’ Ryan Osborn and NBC’s chief digital officer Vivian Schiller tweeted announcements about the hacking and calling on readers to ignore the bad information.

Media issue their guideline for social media recently

The Associated Press has updated its social media guidelines to include guidance on re-tweeting (when a Twitter user essentially forwards another user’s post to all followers). The new guidelines warn AP staff to carefully re-tweet so that followers don’t think “you’re expressing a personal opinion on the issues of the day.”

Earlier in this November, the BBC released its new social media guidelines. In sum, the guidelines are in line with BBC’s earlier social media ruless and, based on the guidelines, it can be summarized as ‘don’t do anything stupid.'”
The Agence France Presse (AFP) has announced new guidelines on reporting from social media. The AFP calls on employees to “monitor Twitter, Facebook, etc. just as they do other sites” and to verify information as if it came from any other source. However, the AFP noted that “an unverified statement on a social networking site may not be used as the source for a news break, nor for a description of unfolding events unless we are sure of the authenticity of the account.”

If you are interested in learning more about self-regulation and media ethics, we suggest you watch the following original videos of Newhouse professors’ takes on related topics:

Prof. Thompson, Syracuse University

Prof. Gutterman, Syracuse University

Prof. Prescott, Syracuse University

Prof. Branagan, Syracuse University