Regulating Media, Populism in the liberal market


Des Freedman in “Populism and media policy failure” argues that media has failed in four ways and that populism continues to be given credence in an unregulated media market. Populist use media to transmits sentiment over fact, Freedman asserts, appealing to the political outsider to send a message. I argue that appealing to the ‘outsider’ is a method of creating and subsequently appealing to the proposed desires of the ‘common people’ that media has produced. This appeal to the ‘common’ is a tactic of Populists, a concept I explored last week.  As Freedman points out, media created with failed regulation has allowed for Populists to transmit sentiment over fact, often appealing to one group rather than the other. Alt-right alternative media carries a message to the ‘common’ people who are not represented by the elitist’s traditional news sources such as the New York Times.


The failing of policy regulation of the media industry include:


1.       Concentration of ownership

2.       Little to no regulation of social media

3.       Failure to protect the ‘fourth estate’ (investigative journalism)

4.       Failure to protect public service media.


These fallings have come to pass under a policy regime that has “vested interests that dominate at any one time; communications policy is a highly political, value-laden, interest-driven field of decision-making. Since the 1980s, this has generally followed ‘the logic of the marketplace’,” wrote Freedman. In this way the economy, specially the liberal marketplace, is a driving factor in shaping the conditions of the media industry allowing Populist to win out by way of market failure. The structuring of the liberal economy to reward the success of some at the loss of others keeps many on the margins. It is in appealing to the those placed on the margins and also those categorized by capitalism that media carries the message of Populists. This appeals to economic anxieties to further unit the ‘common’ under a banner of rhetoric. “one potential solution is regularly proposed,” wrote Freedman,  “an independent public service news media that is strong enough to defy the pressure of both government and market and to serve citizens without fear or favour.”


D. Freedman, “Populism and media policy failure” European Journal of Communication

33(6)(2018): 604-618

One Reply to “Regulating Media, Populism in the liberal market”

  1. While you summarize Freeman’s arguments surrounding how the lack of media regulation has empowered populist groups to more easily spread their message, my understanding of the text differs when you recount the impact of the liberal economy.

    You connect how “the structuring of the liberal economy to reward the success of some at the loss of others keeps many on the margins” and that populism “is appealing to those placed on the margins.” This sounds like you are linking how the free market has created two groups, and thus populism, and this in turn supports the current liberal media landscape. While I believe Freeman argues the liberal media landscape enables populists to spread their message, I’m not sure this relates to the emergence of populist ideas, as you suggest.

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