The Issues in Ethics in Media and Entertainment

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This paper focuses on the topic of ethics in media and entertainment. The aim of this paper is to examine the phenomenon of ethics in the entertainment media. Media ethics includes specific ethical principles and standards of media, including broadcast media, film, theatre, arts, print media and many others. It invokes promoting and defending values such as a universal respect for life and rule of law and legality. The ethics of journalism is one of the most well-defined branches of media ethics. Journalistic ethics tend to dominate media ethics. There are several many sub-topics covered by journalism ethics like news manipulation, truth, conflicting with the law, etc. Ethics of entertainment media includes the depiction of violence and sex, the presence of strong language, fluff or “celebrity news”, product placement, advertising, tattoos or taste, etc. There are many issues in the ethics of media and entertainment which we are going to present in this paper. There are many problems which already had resolved but there are many more which still have to be resolved.


The aim and purpose of this paper is to examine problems in the field of media ethics, in order to possibly increase the awareness of the effects of this problem. Research and publications in the field of information ethics has been produced since the 1980s. Life was simple before 1980s or television came about. People either worked or talked. Families and friends would gather around and tell stories or talk about daily events. At times, they would find entertainment from print media. Many people relied on radios when it was introduced and newspapers for information. However, this form of communication was not the best solution when one was trying to quickly obtain news. For example, one may have just heard about an earthquake held in California when it actually happened days before. The difficulty of it all changed once media entertainment was come into process. Today, the entertainment industry offers us more possibilities than ever before to fill our leisure time: Books, music, films and games, which are available any time, any place which makes thanks to the wonders of digitization. But on the same side it has many disadvantages too.

This paper involves Ethics which reflects a society’s notions about the rightness or wrongness of an act and the distinctions between the virtue and the vice. It is often defined as set of principles or a code of moral conduct. Ethical judgments are like that no matter who makes them, they are not often easy, and they are almost certain to strike some of us as perfectly proper while others regard them as wrong-headed, stupid, unfair, and possibly as evidence of intellectual and/or moral decay. Ethics in media communication is one small contribution to this pursuit of ethical knowledge. It offers a systematic approach to moral reasoning by combining ethical theory with the practice of ethics by media professions.

There are many Controversies in Media Ethics which develops multiple perspectives on media ethics issues presenting vast ‘grey areas’. It includes a wide range of subjects, and demonstrates a willingness to tackle the problems raised by new technologies, new media, new politics and new economics. Media ethics concerns right and wrong, good and bad, better and worse actions taken by people working in the field of journalism and mass communication. Media themselves, of course, cannot be ethical or unethical-only workers in the media can. When we deal with media ethics, we are really concerned with standards, media people have and the kinds of actions they take [2].

It is generally concerned with the Issues of moral principles and values as applied to the conduct, roles, and content of the mass media, in particular journalism ethics and standards and marketing ethics; also the field of study. In relation to news coverage it includes issues such as impartiality, objectivity, balance, bias, privacy, and the public interest. More generally, it also includes stereotyping, taste and decency, obscenity, freedom of speech, advertising practices such as product placement, and legal issues such as defamation. On an institutional level it includes debates over media ownership and control, commercialization, accountability, the relation of the media to the political system, issues arising from regulation (e.g. censorship) and deregulation.

Over the years, print media has been dying out so journalists began to report on what is referred to as “Celebrity News”. As more outlets adopt this topic to report on, people become dependent on them. According to Alden Weight, most people know not to completely trust these outlets due to ethical discrepancies, but the issue arises when people who are not as mature or educated find these reports to be completely true. Their ethics are misguided by the media. Entertainment media often questions of our values for artistic and entertainment purposes. Normative ethics is often about moral values, and what kinds should be enforced and protected. In media ethics, these two sides come into conflict. In the name of art, media may deliberately attempt to break with existing norms and shock the audience. The people of our country are witnesses of a large number of tabloids which publish a variety of lies about public figures, for the sake of exclusive story and good sales. Advertising and entertainment media often make heavy use of stereotypes. Stereotypes may negatively affect people’s perceptions of themselves or promote socially undesirable behaviour. The stereotypical portrayals of men, affluence and ethnic groups are examples of major areas of debate. Entertainment media often exploits female bodies by objectifying and de-humanizing them. By doing so, the concept of female bodies being bought and sold becomes common. Media outlets usually use either images or imagery of female bodies to counter negative news that is provided throughout the day.

“Seeing is Believing” but techniques influence perception and a picture is always an interpretation of reality, not reality itself. For example, the Photo journalists who cover war and disasters confront situations which may shock the sensitivities of their audiences. Moreover, human remains are rarely seen but the ethical issue is how far one risks shocking an audience’s sensitivities in order to correctly show and fully report the truth. Journalistic ethics may conflict with the law over issues such as the protection of confidential news sources. There is also the question of the extent to which it is ethically acceptable to break the law in order to obtain news. [3] ‘Using today’s high digital technology, a journalist shapes reality and sells it as a product to users, i.e. public opinion, on the market.

Literature Survey

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According to Article 33, The Public Information Act of the Republic of Croatia, any private information or personal written record (letters, diaries, notes, digital re-cording and the like), a figure record (photograph, drawing, film, video, digital, etc.) and voice recording (tape, gramophone, digital, etc.) cannot be published without the consent of the person to whom the information relates, or the person whose words, figure or voice it includes. According to Article 3, The Code of Ethics for Electronic Media states that broadcasters must avoid stereotypes and biases when reporting about a community. They should oppose the interlocutors who express stereotypes and prejudices in interviews and discussions. Local media do not oppose the stereotypes and prejudices, they encourage them. The special edition of Ecquid Novi (1989) dealt with press freedom in South Africa – or rather the lack thereof. Five years later the country has its first fully democratically elected government; media restrictions imposed under the Emergency Regulations of the mid-1980s have been removed, and media deregulation has become a reality. The question of media ethics, however, has stayed on the back burner. This article explores some of the basic tenets and questions in media ethics that might become part of a public agenda on the topic of responsible media policies and decision making.

Case Studies

Let us consider the first example. Most journalistic code of ethics comprises the principle of “limitation of harm”. This involves the withholding of certain details from news reports like the names of minor children, crime victims or information not relevant to particular news reports, the release of which might harm someone’s reputation or life or impede the function of the administration. The Aarushi murder case that set off a media frenzy is a case in point. A teenager girl named Aarushi Talwar was murdered along with a domestic servant of her house in a posh Delhi locality in 2008. The double murder case came under intense media scrutiny with the manner and grammar of the coverage triggering a debate on the limits of the media. The media pronounced guilt and innocence without proper corroboration by the concerned authority. Media’s constant pressure forced the investigating agency (the CBI) to take the help of the Supreme Court which passed a restraining order barring the media from any scandalous or sensational reporting on the case. Justice Altamas Kabir stated “We are asking the press not to sensationalize something which affects reputations.” But the broadcast media and the press cannot be unilaterally blamed. The news was in circulation in the internet too and the television channels and newspapers used the technique of “reconstruction” of the crime scene and incident to accentuate hype and interest of the audience/readers in the issue. The need to sensationalize the news emerged from the need to remain relevant and crucial in the public domain.

The coverage of 26/11 attacks by the television channels in India came under severe criticism for turning a blind eye to the safety of the hostages, the security of the rescuers and above all the national interest. While all the other attack points were freed from terrorists by the 28th morning, the Taj Hotel remained under the control of the terrorists. The television coverage helped the terrorists by showing everything in their live coverage from the vantage point of the rescuers to the possible strategies and measures to be adopted by the National Security Guards in the “Operation Black Tornado” without bothering about the impact it would have on the security concerns and delaying the rescue process. The sensationalism of live coverage of a rescue mission assisted a buoyant viewership which perhaps goaded the news channels to plan their telecast in the said manner. Neelamalar, Chitra and Darwin (2009) concluded that the newspaper’s coverage of the 26/11 terror attacks was more balanced and ethical than that of electronic media. But this can be attributed to the nature of the print medium which had time to verify and present the relevant facts and stories, unlike the television channels which had to rush with their reports and had to always concentrate on ‘being the first in the race’. Neelamalar, Chitra and Darwin (2009) stated that there was strong opposition to the way the electronic media sensationalized the attacks and a necessity to regulate media content during emergencies was felt.


The ethical norms and legal standards make clear distinction between “in public interest” and “interest to the public”. While the first regards the issues relating to the benefit of the public, the second concerns issues which the public may find interesting. The news items which belong to the second category should be carefully chosen and judiciously presented so that it does not intrude upon the privacy of subjects or impair their reputation. Mass media, being easily available and highly accessible, need to be vigilant and differentiate clearly between what and how much the general public needs to know. The issues that “interest the public” can become at times become grave threat to the security of individuals and nation. The television channels can claim that the live feeds were available in the social networking sites and the internet but there is no doubt that the television was a more prominent presence and the pictures telecast by the TV cameras were uploaded by the social networking sites. The commercial viability of the transmission in terms of popularity and advertisement sponsorship muted ethical principles.


This paper concludes that people are generally dissatisfied with the media and their specific content (which is not ethical), it can be concluded that people believe that there are many incompetent people working in media. Don’t deceive an audience that expects your pictures to be accurate representation of a particular quality of reality. The imperative allows exceptions, depending on audience expectations. But: “While art may be manipulative, information may not.”

Permissible is an act when:- the photographer’s intent is to merely make the photo more aesthetically pleasing and not to deceive; and the intended audience recognizes the difference; or the difference does not make audience members think or act in a manner in which they might not otherwise have thought or acted. We can undoubtedly conclude that journalism in this country is interpreted as a major problem, and both media presenters and media consumers are aware of it. We could say that the media life where we all live in is ruled by anarchy instead of democracy, and that the codes and laws are obeyed and sanctioned rarely. On the one hand, media have ‘no mercy’ in presenting and publishing anything that they stumble upon, persistently and successfully escaping from ethics, driven by the desire for wealth and fame. When morality and good taste are balanced against the first amendment rights of freedom of speech and the Spector of censorship, protection of the young is invoked to tip the balance toward limiting what is broadcast. While some countries a government department decides on how content should be rated, in the United States the Rating Board decides for whom content is suitable.

Journalists have to act independently not only for the sake of maintaining ethical standards but for zealously guarding their freedom and their constitutional rights. Journalists everywhere play a vital role in providing the public with knowledge and understanding. They must therefore remain sensitive to issues such as fairness, accountability and accuracy. The journalistic code of ethics calling on accuracy of facts, minimizing harm to sources and subjects, resolve to act independently and freely whatever the circumstances and determination to remain transparent would be the mast-bearer for the conventional media. The high standards of Indian journalism in the past and the acceptability and availability of the mass media at present would ensure the existence of ethical principles in the Indian news media.

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