The Commission describes new technologies as offering unheard-of scope for the media. By way of illustration: censorship is becoming increasingly difficult, the media can reinforce a sense of global solidarity, and multi-media technologies are creating new artistic and intellectual challenges. But there is another side to this coin, such as the tendency for power to become concentrated in the hands of a few broadcasting companies or media giants, the inability of the poorest sections of the population to gain access to the media, and the high violence/pornography content of some of the items on offer. The challenge that faces us here is to find ways of harnessing the vast potential to promote cultural diversity, creativity and the empowerment of all, not only that of a small elite. At national level there are all manner of regulatory mechanisms, and most countries opt for a combined system of public and commercial media. The Commission believes that an international regulatory system is needed, which would encourage the combination of public and private ownership of the media on a global scale.
The need for competition and diversity
In many of the countries of both North and South, the rise of privately-owned media and the privatisation of the public media are the order of the day. This trend does not automatically lead to an increase in competition. Quite the opposite: the concentration of interests is steadily increasing, and as a result the supply of programmes has become less heterogeneous. This concentration of interests also blurs the distinction between information and entertainment, software and hardware, product and distribution, and calls for a countervailing force. The Commission suggests that an international body might be set up to scrutinise activities in the realm of telecommunications and radio and television.
Many countries pursue a cultural policy that ensures balanced programming, for instance by setting aside sums of money for high-quality indigenous programmes. At international level this would be far harder. Where would the money come from? One potential source might be a tax levied on the commercial use of the global commons. Or a tax could be levied on all commercial media. The Commission recommends that these options be looked into.
Media and moral standards
Various measures have been adopted to remove undesirable messages from the media. These range from censorship (a ban on satellites in Islamic countries) to encouraging adherence to generally accepted standards (through regulation, voluntary codes of conduct and so forth). The Commission recommends that a thorough survey should first be made of measures taken at national level, before going on to seek out points of similarity on which it might be possible to gain international agreement. Here the Commission has in mind messages with a violent or pronographic content.
Balancing efficiency and equity
How can the workings of the market be reconciled with the public interest (access, diversity and human development)? Improving access to the media for all is not only in the public interest but also quite clearly impinges on commercial interests. Negotiations between private, public and community interests can produce results for all parties. This is of at least as much importance at international level. The Commission is convinced that there is a need to encourage innovative cooperation between international organisations, public authorities, the media industry and civil society.