Media law is the body of regulations that guide media production and use. It encompasses different forms including basic broadcast television, internet and print media amongst others. The practice of media law may involve all of the types of legal issues that might arise during the production or consumption of various types of media. In the same way, the media laws of different nations of the world vary on the basis of these legal issues.
World over, governments treat media types differently especially as regarding regulations and oversight. This is largely because of proliferation. Broadcast media has the largest regulation platforms. It basically includes media that’s intended for a general audience and mass consumption like radio and television, bill boards and other traditional information dissemination systems. However, by contrast, the internet, a most recent broadcast media has fewer regulations.
In Nigeria, apart from a direct regulation of the use of media, media law intersects other laws. One of the fields that’s often an issue in the use of media is intellectual property law. Issues of privacy, piracy and image reproduction are frequently treated today and in many cases, media producers and organizations struggle to protect their trademarks and copyrights. Media law also touches contract, criminal law, Torts, taxation, insurance and Environmental law amongst others.
No society can develop without the existence of these media laws as with other laws. However, the rise of new phases like freelancing and citizen journalism has posed a serious challenge to the observance of media laws owing to the fact that citizen journalists (both in Nigeria and other climes), with the aid of any digital device write, copy, download and upload as well as post pictures, information and videos as much as they want on the Internet. The official broadcast media are regulated by the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, National Communications Commission and other regulatory bodies (federal sgencies and lsboir unions alike) unlike these new phases of the media which until recent times have no umbrella regulations. A pointer is the recent findings which reveal an increased level of awareness of media laws (87%) among Nigerians (especially youths) leading to considerable level of familiarity of media laws. The findings indicate that Nigerian undergraduates observe media laws in posting stories in new media but do not observe the laws in posting pictures and downloading videos. The study among other things recommends concerted effort by all stakeholders in the new media era including the Nigerian Communications Commission, Internet Service Providers, GSM operators and mobile phone users to combat the erosion of media laws by citizen journalists.
The media in India is basically self-regulated. The existing bodies for regulation of media such as the Press Council of India, which is a statutory body, and the News Broadcasting Standards Authority, a self-regulatory organisation, issue standards which are more operational like guidelines. In India, the Press is free but subject to few restrictions imposed by the Constitution of India, 1950, as amended. Before the impact of globalization was felt, media was controlled by the government, which let the media project only what the government wanted the public to see and in a way in which it wanted the public to see it. Today, the situation has undergone a drastic change.
By the recent times development and Implementation of media laws in Respective Climes, media law continues to change and grow. It is dynamic and a unique part of the developments in the legal system of any country. The reign of the internet and its neutrality is one hotspot debate concerning the media and this largely looks like the future for media in many countries of the world. This debate includes positions whether media outlets should be able to give priority level on some contents over others when they operate their networks.
Proponents place intellectual subscriptions to the net neutrality policy and say that giving preference based on content is tantamount to censorship. Opponents however say that some consumers, like internet-based visual media company Netflix, use a disproportionately large amount of bandwidth that can slow down other users. Adding to uniquely local national media law issues, there are also international issues to be aware of. In that same way, some countries may have varying content limitations for media than others. That way, there are different rules and customs regarding piracy and intellectual property rights. For India, there should be an objective look into these varying laws to find a balance.
Popular media systems of the world vary from each other according to the economy, polity, religion and culture of different societies. In societies, which followed communism and totalitarianism, like the old USSR and China, there were limitations of what the media could say about the government. Almost everything that was said against the State was censored for fear of revolutions. On the other hand, in countries like USA, which have a Bourgeois Democracy, almost everything is allowed. In Nigeria, there is a protection for freedom of speech. However you cannot be guaranteed of freedom after speaking, especially if it's a talk against the government.
In such an era of media upsurge, it becomes an absolute necessity to impose certain legal checks and bounds on transmission and communication, plus a conscious effort to allow voices to air.
By Digital trends and media explosion, it is no wisdom to remain confined to the boundaries of traditional media. The media world has expanded its dimensions by encompassing within its orbit, the widening vistas of cyber media etc. In result, the laws governing them are also numerous with various important legislations affecting the branches of Media Communication, making citizens aware of their rights and its exercise within the framework of the law.
This article was first published by Its.Legal, an Indian legal platform for students and young lawyers.