In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Media Policy and Governance

  • Introduction
  • Foundations of Media Policy
  • General Studies of Media Policy and Regulation
  • Handbooks of Media Systems
  • From Media Regulation to Media Governance
  • Press Freedom
  • Public Sphere and Democracy
  • Public Interest
  • Regulation and Regulators
  • International and Global Media Policy
  • Convergence and the Internet
  • Methods

Communication Media Policy and Governance
Monroe E. Price, Manuel Puppis, Stefaan G. Verhulst
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 July 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0119


One of the most important institutions of modern society, the media, has witnessed a dramatic transformation over the last few decades. The advent of the Internet, the rapid growth of mobile and other platforms, and the move toward digital convergence have transformed the sector practically beyond recognition. Inevitably, these changes have had important ramifications for media policy, too. As technology has evolved (and as the way people use and consume media has similarly evolved) several cornerstones of the media policy field have come into question. Regulators and policymakers have had to revisit—and question—the meaning of long-standing media policy principles such as free speech, fair use, universal access, diversity, public interest, and the marketplace of ideas. And, perhaps most important, the boundaries separating other policy fields, such as telecommunications policy, communications policy, information technology policy, and even cultural policy, are becoming increasingly porous as the digitization, convergence, and globalization of communications technologies blur traditional technological and regulatory distinctions.

Foundations of Media Policy

The works in this section provide a broad overview of media policy in recent times, considering how media policy has changed and how regulators have had to adapt to new technologies and new forms of media consumption. Van Cuilenburg and Slaa 1993 is a seminal article that illustrates how convergence has rendered it more difficult to maintain a distinct boundary between “media” and “telecommunications” policy, and the authors call for a rethinking of the field in light of these technological changes. More recent works by Philip Napoli (Napoli 2003, Napoli 2007) and Sandra Braman (Braman 2004, Braman 2006), two of the leading scholars in the field, are representative of the need to go back to first principles, in which the authors present some of the key theoretical and practical challenges confronting regulators and show how the solution to those challenges will have a bearing not just on our consumption of information, but also on the shape of nation-states and the health and strength of democracy. Braman 2004 situates media policy within the broader spectrum of information policy; the author later (in Braman 2006) examines the increasing role of the government in controlling information production and transmission. Napoli 2003 and Napoli 2007 consider how media principles are applied in a changing information environment, emphasizing, in particular, that media policy is not defined by any particular technology. Freedman 2008 moves beyond the United States to provide a comparative perspective on the key institutions and arguments behind policymaking in the United States and the United Kingdom.

  • Braman, Sandra. 2004. Where has media policy gone? Defining the field in the twenty-first century. Communication Law and Policy 9.2: 153–182.

    DOI: 10.1207/s15326926clp0902_1

    This paper examines media policy as a category within the broader spectrum of information policy, understood as all law and regulation dealing with the information production chain. The author strives to provide a comprehensive definition of the field of media policy.

  • Braman, Sandra. 2006. Change of state: Information, policy, and power. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    This book examines theoretical and practical ramifications of the transition from a bureaucratic welfare state to an information state, emphasizing the government’s role in controlling the creation, processing, and flow of information. The author explores the effects of US information policy on the identity, structure, borders, and change processes of the state and of its components.

  • Freedman, Des. 2008. The politics of media policy. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

    This book provides a comparative perspective on the dynamics of media policy in the United States and the United Kingdom by identifying the key arguments and institutions that drive media policymaking. The author critically examines claims about the openness and democratic framework of media in these countries, suggesting that a market bias leads to distortions and undermines democratic principles.

  • Napoli, Philip M. 2003. Foundations of communications policy: Principles and process in the regulation of electronic media. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton.

    This volume focuses on principles behind media policy in the United States, describing why they continue to serve as important objectives for policymakers. The author examines how these principles are approached and applied in a changing electronic media environment and why they provoke policy controversies.

  • Napoli, Philip M. 2007. Media policy: An overview of the field. McGannon Center Working Paper 19. Bronx, NY: Fordham Univ.

    This paper emphasizes that the boundaries of media policy “do not revolve around particular communications technologies or dynamics.” Rather, the field is more appropriately defined “in terms of its emphasis on particular substantive communicative concerns.” The paper conducts an overview of the theoretical foundations of media policy and examines the key issues and current challenges.

  • Picard, Robert G. 1985. The press and the decline of democracy: The democratic socialist response in public policy. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

    An examination of economic concentration and public discourse; this book is a study of government policies and the erosion of democratic participation.

  • van Cuilenburg, Jan, and Paul Slaa. 1993. From media policy towards a national communications policy: Broadening the scope. European Journal of Communication 8.2: 149–176.

    DOI: 10.1177/0267323193008002002

    This seminal article calls for an integration of media and telecommunications policy, arguing that it is not possible to sustain the regulatory and policy separation between media and telecommunications due to the convergence between the two and as new technologies have made it impossible to focus exclusively on one of the two sectors when devising viable policies.

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