Submission from the Press Council of Ireland to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment
Press Council said today (Monday 28th December) that the proposed new curriculum on “Politics and Society” being prepared by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment should include a new emphasis on the power of the press, the accountability of the press, and on new media.
Students, the Press Council submission states, should be able to analyse the ways in which media operate in a democracy, in the context of traditional ideas about press freedom and the social responsibility of the press.
They should also, it says, “be able to identify the strengths and weakness of various forms of media accountability, and identify relevant examples of media accountability in action.”
“They should be able to compare the social effects of old and new media, identify the special characteristics of new media, and describe the challenges – for regulators and others – posed by the new media.”
The Press Council’s submission to the NCCA says that in this way students should be helped to achieve some of the objectives of the new curriculum, including especially the development of “a commitment to, and a capacity for critical, discursive and independent thinking”, and the skills of creative thinking and information processing.
The full text of the submission follows.
"Politics and Society"
Submission to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment
On behalf of the Press Council of Ireland
The aim of this submission is to provide the NCCA with an outline of the contribution that an active and participatory study of the media, its role, methods and effects, can make to the formation of senior cycle students. Although this submission is being made on behalf of the Press Council of Ireland, the suggestions and arguments it contains apply, mutatis mutandis, to other forms of media, including new and digital media. The word ‘press’ is therefore used generically, except where otherwise indicated.
The objectives of this submission are centred on the objectives in “Politics and Society” identified as the development of “a commitment to and a capacity for active participation in the student’s social and political worlds” and of “a commitment to and a capacity for critical, discursive and independent thinking.” In pursuit of these objectives, the submission aims to enhance students’ ability to
- Develop a critical and analytical framework for consumption of media;
- Develop an awareness of media professional practices;
- Assess the power of the media within the overall power structures in society;
- Explore the role of the media in the context of globalization and localization;
- Explore the role and effectiveness of the media as an informal regulator of societal institutions generally;
- Evaluate the media’s own systems of self or independent regulation and accountability as a societal institution in its own right; and
- Engage positively and creatively with media institutions at all levels.
3. Relevance to Draft
This submission is of primary relevance to, and is in part a critique of, topic 3.4 in Unit 1 (interdependence and conflict). However, it also has relevance to Topic 1 (active citizenship) and Topic 5 (cultural and normative accounts of social order).
4. Key Skills
Of the five key skills identified in the draft, two in particular may be expected to benefit from the ideas contained in this submission. They are the key skills of critical and creative thinking, and of information processing. The three other key skills would also be involved, but at a subordinate level.
5. Topic 3.4: the role of the media in a democracy
There is a need to enlarge the range of concepts addressed in this topic to include
(a) the power of the press,
(b) the accountability of the press, and
(c) new media.
(a) The power of the press. This enlargement of the draft syllabus would be informed by the realization that the power of the press is not confined to the power wielded by owners or advertisers, and that media professionals also exercise substantial power independent of (although sometimes constrained or shaped by) the power of these specific interests (See Onora O’Neill, bibliography). Students who have become familiarized with this issue should be able to identify and evaluate the modalities of the different forms of power exercised by all these interests, and to analyse the ways in which the exercise of these powers modifies our understanding of traditional concepts such as press freedom and the social responsibility of the press. This also has a relevance to Topic 5 (cultural and normative accounts of social order), especially insofar as the media’s implicit values, norms and beliefs operate within Giddens’ account of culture to shape both the apparent and real range of political and social choices, and to affect the relationship between people as citizens and creators of culture on one hand, and people as consumers and replicators of culture on the other.
(b) The accountability of the press. The press has traditionally been understood as one of the ways in which social and political institutions are held to account. This concept has now been enhanced to include the accountability of the press itself, partly as a reflection of the power the press exercises, partly because of the growing realization that an institution which holds other institutions accountable should be accountable itself. This raises the issue of public versus private, or independent versus self-regulation of the media. (See OSCE in bibliography). Students should be able to identify the strengths and weakness of various forms of media accountability, identify relevant examples of media accountability in action, and learn to operate the structures of media accountability to address perceived media failures in areas informed by their own experiences and values. The latter objective has a strong relevance to Topic 1 (active citizenship).
(c) New media. In an era characterized by an explosion of digital, user-generated media content, social networking and related innovations, to which students in particular increasingly contribute and by which they are increasingly affected, students will learn about the interaction of media and new technology, and of new and old media. (See Anderson in bibliography)They should be able to compare the social effects of old and new media, identify the special characteristics of new media, and describe the challenges – for regulators and others – posed by the new media. This also has a strong relevance to Topic 1 (active citizenship).
O’Neill, Onora , Re-thinking Freedom of the Press (RIA, 2004), available at http://www.ria.ie/reports/pdf/pressfreedom.pdf
The Media Self-Regulation Guidebook (OSCE, Vienna 2008)
Anderson, Peter J. and Ward, Geoff, The Future of Journalism in Advanced Democracies (Ashgate, Hampshire and Vermont, 2007).