BLUE BOOK - The state of freedom of the media, proposals for policy reform | Journalism | Propaganda

The state of freedom of the media

proposals for policy reform
by Enzo Marzo
English translation by Cristina Di Battista


1. to be aware that the media are not free
Freedom of information, to some extent, is guaranteed by constitutions and laws. The media, with their networks that encircle the globe, declare themselves free, but everywhere they are in chains. The bonds, of course, are increasingly virtual, invisible, binding minds and directing them. A very long struggle has guaranteed, officially, the freedom to inform: Today in industrialized countries one can print, broadcast, transmit signals, sounds, and messages. All (almost) freely. The freedom of the media is (almost) legally guaranteed, often subsidized. And so the world of symbols has superimposed itself on the real world, covering it, reshaping it if not replacing it. The new era is under the aegis of information. The profusion of information tools is impressive – even excessive, some fear. However, if each segment of this cluster is tainted because it is not free, the Whole is transformed into a nightmare of conformity and unfreedom. Public opinion is praised as paramount and omnipotent, but in fact it is manipulated, other-directed, weakened. The means of communicating are inexorably and gradually becoming concentrated. Everywhere there reign, if not monopolies, then oligopolies and expensive, elephantine structures, unreachable by ideological minorities. The reader, the viewer and the listener, who appear everywhere to be protagonists, are actually reduced to unknowing objects. They have no rights. The fruits of the hard-won freedom of the media are disheartening. The viewer-readers defend themselves as best they can and regress: gradually abandoning the “most difficult” instruments and succumbing to the “easiest”. People go less and less to the newsstand to buy the daily newspaper and instead lie in front of the TV assimilating dubious

television news that overlaps in the mind in a jumble of serial dramas and news. Today, in Italy, in the age of Berlusconi, the state of the television media has undergone a true collapse: it has been transformed from an oligopoly to a near-perfect monopoly. Direct control of almost all private TV, as well as indirect control of public TV, ownership of production formats, domination of the advertising market, a dominant position in publishing and among market research institutions, are all in addition to the public power, and sustain it, contaminating the formation of a political will and tampering with the basic requirements of any democracy. In the game of politics, Berlusconi is openly cheating, and by warping the political struggle at every stage until election day, he reduces democracy to little or nothing. Almost all his opponents either have a culture of democracy so meager that they do not perceive this danger or, in their indolence, become his accomplices. The cancer that has befallen us cannot lead us to forget, however, that information anywhere—even in so-called “normal” conditions—represents the first and most serious problem of our democracies.

2. there is no democracy without independent information
According to Robert A. Dahl, of the five criteria that distinguish an ideal democracy three regard the media: 1) effective participation (“before a policy is adopted [...], all the members must have equal and effective opportunities for making their views known to the other members”), 2) the right to information (“within reasonable limits as to time, each member must have equal and effective opportunities for learning about the relevant alternative policies and their likely consequences”), 3) control of the agenda.


Others have argued that “offering opportunities to attain a clear understanding of public issues is not only part of the definition of democracy, it is a fundamental requirement of democracy”i. If by democracy we mean more than a form of government, the minimum requirements are “freedom of expression” and the possibility of “access to alternative sources of information.” Of course, many totalitarian states thrive, but can the so-called western democracies continue to call themselves democracies without pursuing at least those minimum requirements that we ourselves consider necessary? Can we still call ourselves democratic if we do not reclaim the observations and prescriptions of liberalism, and instead continue to trust in a political system that increasingly has became an empty shell? We are far from “the democracy of a civil society.” If the masses do not have proper and multiple tools to form an appropriate idea of the current political agenda, their transformation into a “civil society”—able to verify and evaluate constantly the work of government and of the political forces that contend to do this work— will be increasingly illusory. We are experiencing the failure of constitutional democracy, that is, of the democracy of rules. Now the game is visibly rigged both by the manipulation of public opinion and by the limited and predetermined options of the individual voter. Today's citizen-voter—who, increasingly, is convinced that the most forceful way to express a political choice is by not going to the polls—must realize that before being a voter he is (and must become) a mindful reader, with a recognized right to know and a right to transparency, and not a consumer of media, easy prey to propaganda and manipulation. We fought so hard to ensure free elections; we must begin to fight—as Italian political scientist Giovanni Sartori argues—so that opinions are free, “that is, freely formed” ii. Today, however, the media are identified with their holdings. And no one believes that the newspapers are the

mouthpiece for public opinion when they serve only as a tool to deform it.

3. public opinion and propaganda
Although all Propaganda is (somewhat forced) Persuasion, not all Persuasion is Propaganda. If alongside these two we add Testimony, which is the only modus operandi of authentic journalism, we have three contiguous concepts, with large areas of overlap in many cases and the tendency to absorb into one another. The most colossal mistake is to define Persuasion and Propaganda as positive or negative from their content or their purpose, or because of their principal characteristics, such as the intentional manipulation of the propagandist, or their simplicity, or rather, simplistic nature, or their repetitiveness. Propaganda is not distinguished from persuasion by its "conveyed" content nor by the "intentions" of the communicator, nor by the techniques used, but rather by the quantity of information that floods people's minds without their having sufficient alternatives. Propaganda does not accept being contradicted. The only antidote to propaganda is plurality of sources. We thus return to the primary importance of the division of media power at a time when it is impossible even to have reliable data on the process of consolidation of the media, which is happening at such a frenetic pace. Information in the hands of a single entity leads to perfect propaganda, but this monopoly is not the exclusive domain of totalitarian states. Democratic states, at certain times in their history, have also built monopolistic systems to promote propagandistic themes that were particularly dear to their executives. Even in periods of so-called "normalcy" it is not necessary for the government to officially establish a monopoly; often it is the whole 2

informational apparatus that self-adjusts and becomes uniform. What's more, there is also the different "weight" of the various information media: unfortunately there is not only a monopolistic trend within each medium, but also the excessive dominance of one medium, such as TV, on all the others, with the result that it absorbs the individual's attention almost entirely and leaves no critical alternatives.

separate the diffusion of sound from the diffusion of the image. It is impossible to break up the "experience flows" or even resist the process of integration. All efforts should be directed instead at antitrust policies of a horizontal type, that is, those that while acknowledging the oneness of the informational experience, limit its quantity to minimum thresholds and do this so strictly as to stimulate an increase in the number of producers and therefore in the sources of information, creating a market in which competition is as effective as possible. Both the Left and the Right, and not only in Italy, lack a consistent policy on freedom of communication. They continue to reason with the old logic of the contrast between the public and the private. Those on the Right confuse "freedom" with “Absolutely handsfree”, even if this leads to concentration of information and opacity, and they tend to use this particular "commodity" (information) for blatantly irrelevant purposes. Those on the Right confuse the market with the absolute absence of rules. Inconsistent with the ideas they profess, they aim at low or no level of competition and, at the same time, at substantial public funding. The Left still champion the ancient conviction, disproved by the facts, that pluralism can be maintained by the public sector. As if the public sector were neutral and not the "actor" making a variety of choices and representing its own self-interest. As if objective information could exist. As if the problem were ensuring this objectivity. As if it were enough to release the media from the "private" sector to elevate them as the exclusive font of who knows what Truth that would be otherwise distorted by self-interest and partisan choices. As if the news were not always “partisan.” The Left with Communist origins does not know how to respond to these questions and in the end “public” boils down to mean the coarse lottazzazione, the partitioning of posts in state conglomerates among trusted party members. When will the Left understand that the task of the state is not to provide news that is passed off as objective, but to ensure the effective diversity of information sources? Moving

4. the relevance and the revolution of the new media
Digital technology brings together the three systems of signs that make up communication: the written word, sound and the image. Since all three signs are disseminated by one means (bits), the merger of these media is inevitable. So far, nothing has been done to govern this process. At the same time, how can we fail to notice or fail to come to terms with the change in our concept of goods? “In place of markets there are networks," writes Jeremy Rifkin iii. In the new type of market is that the network, property and goods break down. Above all, the “new masters” of the media do not sell material goods but mainly “experience flows,” experience of text, sounds and images. With the "goods" becoming intangible, the term "property," referring to a physical transfer from one subject to another, suddenly becomes obsolete and destined to regulate only “residual” relations. But in this case what is the most effective anti-merger policy, assuming that there is an authority capable of devising one and enforce it? Perhaps it is unhistorical and unscientific to have an antitrust policy that attacks this type of vertical integration, that is, a policy that tends to separate the different forms that make up experience. It is impossible to


from lottizzazione to pluralism means changing one's own philosophy of history. The idea that all forms of communication are controlled by of a handful of oligopolists (just think that no more than ten portals manage 80% of the hundreds of millions of daily page hits on the Internet) is frightening, but on the other hand the idea that the State (dictatorial or otherwise) should manage such an enormous power is no consolation. The Net is now a giant producer of freedom, but it has feet of clay. If the state is weak, public choices are easy prey for economic power; if the State assumes tasks beyond its scope, it has a crushing impact on the freedom of its citizens. There is no decent solution except an acquisition of real autonomy and a limitation on the "political" power. Today, politics, too often reduced to a mere operating tool of private power, appears increasingly like a corrupt and complacent arbiter. The State cannot manage any type of mass media. The State must underscore its neutrality and ensure the effective plurality of information, as the sole guarantor of an untainted democratic process.

these "functions" The State? The Party? The Church? The three foremost qualities, "objectivity", "impartiality" and "completeness", that abound in the legislation on journalism and in codes of ethics, have not helped to advance the quality and the freedom of information. The journalist does not perform, and should not perform, any function other than that of a witness to reality, his task is to "report it" as seen and perceived, without laboring under the illusion of being free from subjectiveness and from the uncertainties inherent in any witness. In the past, unrealistic and unproductive theses have been put forth on the social mission of the journalist, even at the expense of news. Meanwhile, more subtly, in the mind of the journalist there has remained firm the mission to defend the interests of the Ownership. Well-informed citizen-readers know that saddling the journalist with additional functions opens a debate on the “right/duty to news" and does not improve the readability and accuracy of our newspapers. Rather than fighting a war among “rags,” “the right to news” and “the freedom to be informed" should ally themselves and become aware that one cannot exist without the other. And above all, we must establish, almost from nothing, a “right of readers,” who are currently unprotected both as citizens (they are guaranteed neither the plurality nor the independence of information) and as consumers (it is not even taken into consideration that as buyers of a product they are "consumers" and therefore they should at least acquire rights analogous to those of buyers of any other consumer good, as regards transparency, the absence of intermingled interests, and the absence of pollution of the news.

5. citizens, readers, consumers
Freedom of information and the “right to be informed” are two different but complementary values, and pitting them against each other is asking for trouble. Both are to be guaranteed. First, we have included the "right to be informed" among the essential conditions for a democracy that is not false. But the freedom to inform is a prerequisite of (because it is fundamental to) this very right. In the same way, freedom itself includes equality, and not vice versa. It is an absolute good (though, paradoxically, many journalists argue the opposite), not may be tied to certain functions. And then who should determine 4

6. the conformist swamp
Article 21 of Italy's Constitution on the freedom of the press is a fine example of

liberalism. Very rigid, and Cavourian [editor's note: Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, one of the founders of Italy, always believed it was better not to legislate the information sector], it suggests that, in this field, less legislation is better than more. But unfortunately, there has been more legislation, and there are many ordinary laws that contradict the spirit of the constitutional principle. Some of these rules openly violate its letter (for example, the requirement to register newspaper titles in the courts).Others create obstacles and redundancies. But there is also a "positive freedom” that must be ensured but that is not ensured. The Italian Constitution has not forgotten about it, and Article 3, despite its general nature, responds well to the purpose. Article 3 establishes the duty of the Republic to remove economic and social obstacles that, by limiting the freedom and equality of citizens, prevent the full development of the human character. From here springs the duty of the legislator to work effectively to ensure that all have the concrete opportunity to express themselves freely. "Functionalism", the theory which automatically assigns to journalism an extraneous function, having lost the battle with Article 21, has wanted to vindicate itself in the decades that followed. The ordinary legislation seems to be influenced by the substantially illiberal spirit of the times rather than by Article 21, and reached its climax both with the famous 1984 sentence of the Corte di Cassazione [editor's note: Italy's supreme court of appeal] and with the entire season of the cries for ethics which, not surprisingly, opens the darkest period of Italian journalism, still ongoing. We have thus arrived at the current situation, the worst, in which predominate, cloaked in rhetoric, perverse, tangled relations between legislation that disowns or restricts accepted principles and legislation that has fallen into disuse, or was never applied; between uncritical exultation of "public service" (where the inevitable political conditioning and corresponding servility have become even vulgar) and the unconditional surrender to

private monopoly; between insecure contracts and weak unions. Journalists are drowning in the swamp of irrelevance and conformity. But publishers too, especially those of the “printed press,” out of ignorance and gluttony, act for their own interests. The inexorable decline in sales, an increasingly insignificant function in the face of more modern communication tools, a feudalistic internal organization, are plain to see, but nobody seems to see and to be aware of it. We are content to serve as a vehicle, no longer for our own ideas and information, but for books and various knickknacks. The result? The massive distortion of the message, the evident intermingling - if not the outright subordination - of the editorial text and advertising, the unawareness of our own role. Hence there has been a drastic reduction in the authority of the media and the reliability of journalists. The competition between "the printed press" and information on the Internet is seen as inevitable only by those who forget the importance given to the means of communication in connection with the message to be transmitted, and that the various means of communication play different roles and are irreplaceable. The contest between the two means of communication has a predictable outcome only if the current traditional media act without any ability for self-transformation, and without a strong emphasis on their independence, their distinctiveness, and the irreplaceable value of professional journalism. The blindness of editorial managers is evident and it will lead to an unconditional surrender, with severe damage to the entire legacy of information dissemination.

7. five criteria for media reform
Among the current “democratic emergencies” we must include a genuine reform, legislative 5

and otherwise, that builds the structural conditions both to ensure freedom of information and to establish the rights of reader-consumers. To be effective, the reform should pursue five criteria: 1. to confirm that free information is of primary importance to the public interest, as a necessary component for the existence of a political democracy. 2. to establish that the freedom to inform cannot be guaranteed except by an effective plurality of sources. 3. to maximize the separation between the powers of the "public sphere," which goes beyond the obvious separation of state powers. 4. to recognize that the commodity of "information" has a different status than that of a mere commercial good, and thus to build an exclusive and unique form of governance for publishing companies. 5. to consider as fundamental the presence of the reader-consumer among the protagonists of the information process.

political will of parties, one can imagine in modern societies the total “public sphere,” consisting precisely of the state apparatus, the economic power and the power of the media. In this sense the “public sphere” is identified instead with the polis, as a place where relations and exchanges of citizens' actions are entwined. By chance, we have another three-way division of real powers that find strength in each other. But the liberal principle of separatism is largely upset: so, rather than the legitimate and desirable conflict between the powers we witness a continuous effort of each power to limit the autonomy of the others and to weaken mutual competition. The main factor that reinforces the downward spiral in this division is that all three powers are off their rails. Societies that like to call themselves democratic must finally acknowledge that they lack - in substance and in form - that "separation of powers" that was once at the root of all liberal thought. That is why the current situation is mostly a return to the premodern state. The media has enormous strength, but does not possess any degree of autonomy; it is fully reined in, and the reins are in the hands of the economy and/or politics. Political power has lost large shares of its autonomy because it has been unable to conclusively resolve the problem of its own financial autonomy and of the constraints involved. Moreover, the politician is tightly in the grip of the close connection between economic power and media power. That same economic power is strongly influenced by the choices of public policies. The reciprocal overstepping of boundaries is common. The "political" verges into communication: it sacks and enslaves television, takes possession of news agencies - until recently, the state even managed a daily newspaper. Political power exerts constant pressure and blackmail on owners of newspapers. For their part, communications

8. from the three powers of the state to the three powers of the "public sphere": a new separatism
Liberalism has invented a principle that is revolutionary because it is based on the realization of the inevitability of power and of the need to divide it; now the task is to extend this theory to the entire "public sphere," of which the state's power is but one part, and perhaps the increasingly less relevant one. Only power can inhibit the perverse effects of power. If one considers the state's power as a whole including all the classic functions and also those that have been added, such as administrative power, or that expressed by the


entrepreneurs have always considered the economic return an extra compared to the gain that they derive from their power to use the media to do more than inform. Even the economic players that do not directly possess means of communication control and divide among themselves that "extra" by influencing the advertising budgets. Sometimes, they proclaim so shamelessly. If the principle of the separation of these three powers were recognized and pursued in the practice of politics, the leap in the quality of democracy would be enormous. But first, it would be necessary to make public knowledge the damage brought about by the terrible distortion of information caused by the dependence of political forces on licit and illicit funding from the economic apparatus, the damage created by otherdirected information, and the damage to the market created by political bureaucracy and public financing.

"prohibitive rules": "Property, under prohibitive rules, shall be made non commercial, and as such, not subject to trade on the market. The subject can present shades and gradations. [...] Here it is useful to note that commercialism, that is, the destination of exchange, it is not a natural character of the property, but always only a legal character”iv. All these arguments show that it is possible to intervene, even drastically, with proposals that remain within the logic of private enterprise and the free market. In fact, it is completely foreign to us, and truly ludicrous, the idea of the State as the guarantor, or even the operator, of a presumed objectivity or neutrality of information, according to an anti-subjective logic that has already inflicted so much damage.

10. a model for freedom of information. premise
Our model provides, for major publishing companies, competition between private entities (not polluted by any public representative) within the market. But this is competition between particular "individuals” subjected to specific constraints that pursue the goal of avoiding the influence of both the other two powers. How can a model of ownership and management of communications firms, that is radically different from the current model and wholly inspired by the separation between economic power and media power, establish itself? Some, overestimating the irrepressible industrial and economic character that that is an integral part of every communications business, might find this reform plan completely utopian, although they may agree, in theory, with its underlying objective. Yet this is a possible utopia. No one doubts an industrial component in the mass media, but there is a need to emphasize the unique nature of the media business and to differentiate its business model from those of other industries 7

9. the neutral state’s role as guarantor
Even the most obsessive liberal knows that economic freedom cannot be in contrast with freedom tout court, and if it were, it should step aside. If the right to information were only a social right, it would not prevail over economic freedom. If, instead, the freedom of citizens is questioned – such as in the case of media distorted by interest other than their own – it is a constitutional duty to an open a specific market, stripping it of many plainly economic aspects and designing a statute that fully guarantees, and renders autonomous and transparent, precisely this surplus of power. Information must put in parentheses its status as a commodity in order to enhance its status as a specific good. The intervention of political authority is more than legitimate, because it does not go against free enterprise or free expression. The legal and economic doctrine provides for the legitimacy of

because its production aim and profit aim are absolutely secondary to the comprehensive public purpose of a type of enterprise which, by its nature, is unique. Of course it is difficult. It clashes with a concentration of interests that have no equal, but the world of politics, if it wishes to save its legitimate power - tied to its role - and in the end some kind of function, one day will have to understand that instead of occasionally descending into bargaining, blackmail and non-transparent influence, it will have to pursue a coherent policy of “separation" that can bring a liberal order to the entire “public sphere”. There is no market that does not have a strong tendency toward monopoly, but capitalistic countries demonstrate their greater or lesser ability to develop in the greater or lesser resistance they offer against concentrations of power, and in affirming rules that give order to industrial democracy. We believe that placing the liberalization of the media on the agenda will be welcomed by voter-readers to the point that any economic losses (of which there would be none) would be of minor importance, as usually happens with major reforms. All the critics from within the capitalist system have never stopped preaching against economic concentrations; in fact, the more they adhere to liberal theories, the more they fight for antitrust laws. Only in Italy flourish a strange species of economists and politicians who claim to be liberal but take sides of with the monopoly. If the United States, the home of the most mature form of capitalism in the world, for example, can pose and try to solve the problem of separation between finance and industry, then the eighteenth-century liberal separatist principle still "works" as the cornerstone for any policy that takes on the issue of power. Today, unfortunately, there are few voices crying out against a concentration of power (the sum of economic and media power) that in the world has led to the death of all free expression. Yet we are far beyond the “immense power” denounced by the New Deal.

11. the public relevance of information
The revolution of the separation of economic power from media power can be guaranteed only by the "publicizing of media enterprises” where "publicizing" does not mean “giving publicity to” or “rendering unto the State", but rather, recognizing the public relevance (not function, mind you) of information. The free contribution to the formation of public opinion must be considered, not only in manuals but in practice, fundamental and a necessary element that defines any democracy. A warning is necessary: certainly we are pursing a freer formation of public opinion, but at the same time we fear, along with Alexis de Tocqueville, "the tyranny of public opinion” as it has never occurred to us that that the opinion of the many is inherently more valuable than that of the few. Our goal is reform. We would like for public opinion, not to be mythologized, but to have more critical instruments and to be less a victim and less affected by external interests. Only this, but this is no small thing. All that is necessary is for the media industry to be truly removed from the exchange of goods and the for the elimination of any economic control on the media industry. Here we propose a model that responds to the principle that the ownership of a newspaper must belong to those who work on it and those who read it. The solution of the formula of a public company, which has been proposed a number of times, is absolutely the worst because its characteristic element is that control is contestable. A newspaper (or any other form of media) thrown into the market and quoted on the stock exchange suffers from all the disadvantages of having a sole owner, and in addition, it faces disadvantages due to greater


instability and lower transparency of the ownership. The separation is accomplished with the formation of "pseudo-public companies," that is, companies without large shareholders and not subject to takeover by the shareholder base. The pseudo-public company is defined as "a model in which, as in the public company, control is exercised by an individual who has a limited share or no share of the capital and ownership is widespread, but, unlike the public company, the pseudopublic company does not allow for turnover of control against the wishes of those who exercise it”v. The example in this regard used in the specialized literature is that of the three German Grossbanken (Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Bank and Commerz Bank), in which control is exercised by management. These banks qualify, as we have seen, because of the incontestable nature of their corporate control.

The first measure, and the most important one, limits current owners in the entire media industry (print, television, other forms of communication) to possessing a single example of each type of media: one newspaper, one TV network, one Internet portal, etc. This measure aims not to quash the synergies that are established between different areas, but it prevents the formation of dominant positions within each field. The excess should be sold in forms and ways provided for by law. The second measure introduces the requirement of a listing on the stock exchange. We should ask ourselves: in a typical marketplace, how would a product that is clearly oriented to goals other than economic exchange be received? Knowing the goal (the pseudo-public company) would discourage neither the participation of the shareholder base nor the intervention of institutional investors (insurance companies, mutual funds and pension funds). The first group, the shareholders, while knowing that their role is only nominal and that they cannot exercise corporate control, could be even more attracted by a final structure that, by making the publishing company truly "pure" (or less "impure"), would be more secure than the unpredictable politics and the unscrupulous exploits of an industry leader. The consequence, inevitably, is greater value of the good. For the second group, the institutional investors, the literature is reassuring, because it supports the fact that the presence (even the prospect) of a fixed and predetermined control does not sway the options for institutional investors, as "the profile of voting by institutional investors has often been considered quite secondary because, according to widespread belief, they (since they are concerned only with maximizing the value of their securities and hold highly diversified portfolios) are not interested in intervening in the management of enterprises, but only in assessing the evolution of the management from the outside and the exchange rate of securities and possibly, in divesting their participation.”

12. problems with this model and possible solutions
By adopting this model of liberalization, the political will to reform would work against players (the current owners) who are strongly opposed and resolved to reject what they would depict as an outright expropriation. But expropriation it is not, because the transformation into a pseudo-public company should serve to guarantee the current economic value of the commodity. The public “hand”, interested in re-balancing the powers and establishing true freedom of expression, can influence, limit, and place conditions in many ways. It should gradually begin a process openly aimed not at acquiring the good for itself but at the gradual creation of private companies that are increasingly selfreferential. The main tool is antitrust legislation.


The third measure: placing limits on stock ownership. This rule was critical for privatization in Italy, as it is for any policy in support of public companies: "Setting a maximum threshold of holdings for individual shareholders aims to prevent a stable acquisition of control by a single individual or group of shareholders, linked by shareholders' agreements or business alliances (witnessed by the existence of a pact in third companies), each of which remains below the threshold. The goal is to shatter the shareholder base on the assumption that the absence of large shareholders is a prerequisite for the development of a public company.”vi. We recall that the government program of reorganization of public investment of 1992 also indicated that the formation of a diffuse shareholder base was one of the main objectives of the privatization procedures. Another, far bolder restriction is prohibiting media company shareholders with a substantial number of shares from owning significant shares in any other company of any kind. And, of course, prohibiting any form of cross-ownership. This step does not aim to create a "pure" editor i.e., one not engaged in industrial action in other fields (such a figure we would consider false, and in any case, useless). The measure would have a deterrent value, to encourage abandonment of the concept of domination from the entire media sector. After these three measures, the phase of “destroying” the current system gives way to a phase of "constructing" the new system. To sum up: the model new media company may have only one product in each medium of communication; its corporate structure is that of a pseudo-public company; it shares some features of the public company, such as a listing on the stock exchange and the goal of a widespread shareholder base; it is managed on the corporate side by management and on the editorial side by journalists, however, it differs from a public company because its management is self-referential (in the sense that responds only to investors for financial matters and to readers for editorial matters), it

is incontestable and not subject to large shareholders. The model must preserve also, in the initial phase of implementation, that which is defined as "efficient disposal" and, therefore, we must strive to "maximize the profits of the selling shareholder", who must be justly compensated for gradually relinquishing the commodity. Perhaps the decrease in value usually caused by a rather high degree of constraint in the sale would be relieved by a gradual nature of the whole operation. And then, how can we exclude even an extremely positive effect unleashed by the newness and the increased value of the good due to the new structure, which may be of even greater interest to public shareholders? Working within these parameters, we can recover the ability to distribute to the management and professionals of the new liberalized company a minimal quota of shares that can form a stable nucleus that is incontestable and nontransferable. It goes without saying that, next to this model, valid for large publishing firms, there should co-exist different framework-formulas for the various types mass media and their various corporate sizes, with each framework inspired by the five general criteria stated earlier. As with traditional public companies, the new media company must meet certain "framework" requirements and abide by a statute capable of ensuring, to readers and to the shareholders, efficiency and true independence. The Board of Directors, constituting the stable nucleus, therefore, representative of management and workers on the one hand, and journalists on the other, is divided into two units: a managerial unit, with normal administrative tasks, and an Editorial Board. One could argue that this model is too static. The lack of dynamism is not a handicap remotely comparable to the absence of independence, but it does limit efficiency. With a little imagination, however, we can design a form of management that is not untouchable. Similarly, we can devise clauses


to make the editorial body more fluid. For example, the individual journalistic contract could be have a fixed term (ten years and renewable) and no longer be for life like now. Today, very rightly, journalists refuse any limitation in time and mobility, because if they were to yield on these two points now that the market is oligopolistic and rigid, they would give the current ownership an additional, ultimate weapon of blackmail and enslavement. On the other hand, in a liberalized context, and with the disappearance of the other owner, a mobility that would be able to make the whole sector much more fluid could be accepted. Furthermore, the current system of guarantees is already completely crumbling with the emergence of an extensive black market and insecure, fixed-term contracts.

The solution of the pseudo-public company is drastic. There are other more subtle solutions that would retain the current ownership system, but subject it to mandatory rules already planned in other areas. If we assume the unreasonableness and the perversity of the merger of different powers, the non-separation between a part of the economic power and the world of information puts into action the most classic and the least denounced conflict of interest. With the glaring exception of Italy, rules were invented that in some cases (though not perfectly) respond to the need to keep the ownership separate from the management. Similarly, rigid anti-trust policies could fragment the media giants and reduce the to a competitive size, quelling cartel agreements between publishers or establishing much lower concentration thresholds than there are currently. The owners, if concerned -- as claimed - only with economic proceeds, could themselves initiate reform of their businesses that would scale back their “secondary” power but that would greatly increase their economic gains, because the new company would be much more appreciated by shareholders and consumers. The desired decommercialization of the media would not occur in this case, but at least there would be less collateral damage. Already Luigi Einaudi argued that “the current owners [of newspapers] have an interest in giving up rights, which they are inevitably destined to be stripped of, if they want to save what they should hold most dear, the economic fruits of their business. In addition, they should persuade themselves of the advantage of such an abdication.”vii. Nearly one hundred years have past since the owners of the "Times" and "The Economist" of London voluntarily abandoned their absolute power in the selection of editors and devised of a Board of Trustees. Einaudi asked himself, "Why should the owners of the major Italian newspapers see this restriction as a harmful constraint, when it would surely be a guarantee of the prosperity of the

13. plan B: on one's own initiative
History teaches us that proposals against vested interests that seemed absolutely indestructible have made progress and have reached their objectives. The absolute state has been dismantled. Slavery and torture were abolished. The same fate will affect the death penalty. Women have won their rights. Even the IRI was dissolved....[editor's note: IRI: Institute for Industrial Reconstruction, a corporation set up by the Italian government in 1933 to rescue failing companies that could no longer afford to pay their creditors]. So we cannot rule out that the need to be free to communicate and to be informed, as urgent and as trampled on a need as it is, will help a project such as the one described to develop and come to fruition, a project that now could be deemed chimerical, as were all the those cited above. But any policy of reform has a duty to always have a Plan-B, just as long as it takes us down the same road and recognizes the same principles. The goal is always the same: to separate media ownership from editorial management. 11

business?"viii. The answer is simple: in Italy the entrepreneurial class is very backward and mediocre, and it does not dedicate itself exclusively to business. Even the current editors are more antiquated than their predecessors of some generations ago, who with the “director-manager” gave Italian journalism a brief period of great dignity. To implement Plan-B, given the public importance of pluralism in information public policies should: a) provide substantial public expenditure conditional on the voluntary choice of the owners of publishing companies to eliminate their conflict of interests through the conferring on a third party the shares held in those companies, through a non-revocable “trust” or a blind trust. The political debate in Italy on these institutions of guarantee and of separation is misleading because it is conditioned by the current paradoxical situation , but it is not proper to deprive of value all the institutions and rules that the legal system has devised or may devise to achieve even partially - the aforementioned goal. However, it would be a revolutionary step compared to the current situation. b) apply strict anti-trust laws including rules already laid down for Proposal A: ie, the requirement of current owners across the media spectrum (print, television and other forms of communication) to own no more than one of media element in each production area; the requirement of a listing on the stock exchange and nominal shares; limits on stock ownership by preventing possession of more than one hundredth part of the share capital, in order to reach the goal of a diffuse shareholder base, if anything linking the acquisition of shares to an innovative policy towards the readerconsumer. c) to require complete compliance with the current legislation on the press, in part not applied by the highlighting the rights already acquired by readers and expanding them with rules on

transparency of ownership, budgets and decision-making processes, as well as on the right of correction and the defense of one's good character and one's own version of events. d) redefine the relationship between advertising and editorial product, severely punishing the current widespread mixing, which is both a serious fraud on the reader and one of the primary causes of the current degradation and the unreliability of communications. If they pursued the goal of increasing the scope, the authority and the material value of their businesses, owners - without waiting for constrictive legislation - should independently launch a reform for maximum transparency and the full empowerment of different and distinct roles, through: a) a new corporate statute, which provides a clear separation between corporate management and editorial management, giving the latter to an Editorial Board composed of a) permanent members such as former editors of the newspaper, the most authoritative and oldest contributors and guarantors co-opted by the board itself because of their recognized authority and independence; - temporary members such as the readers' representative, the representatives of the editorial body and – why not? – persons in civil society chosen for their momentary, prestigious role (for example, the Chancellor of the local university, etc.). The Editor of the publication is appointed by the Editorial Board, receives a term that lasts a fixed number of years, may not be reappointed and is removed only if a qualified majority of the board acknowledges a failure to meet quantitative and qualitative standards pre-established in the company charter. The Editor, to be up to this task, must be able to make hiring decisions (now he can only


recommend) as well as actually use all the powers that have already been designated, but only formally, by national journalistic labor contract (Article. 6), such as the power to "establish and issue policy and technical-professional directives of the editorial work, to define the duties of each journalist." Each year the Editor has an estimated budget for editorial expenses, adjusted to the company's economic state. Of course, the Editor's power is rebalanced by rights now acquired the editorial staff. Today most of these powers are completely overridden by “agreements between publisher and editor." b) the appointment of a "readers' representative”, chosen by periodically by readers (for example, by subscribers) from a range of former journalists of the newspaper, who is not tied to the hierarchical structure of the newspaper and is given an independent space, in which to write each week his own opinion on information provided by the newspaper and on the comments of the public. c) the introduction of ethical standards in the journalistic contract concerning both the journalists and the administration.

informed of how “his” newspaper shapes its informative process, and there are few legal defenses against the prevarications he believes to suffer. Perhaps just a few rules would be enough to remedy the most visible faults: a. Abolition of the required membership of the Ordine dei Giornalisti [register of journalists]. Therefore, cessation of its corporate privileges. As Einaudi wrote, "the requirement of the register is immoral, because it tends to place a limit on that which does not and must not have limits, on the free expression of thought"ix. Obviously all citizens should be allowed to found and direct any organ of expression of thought, with no need of special personal qualifications or registration or permission for the newspaper (in whatever way it is distributed). Moreover, the current obligatory register cannot even enforce the minimum ethical standards and properly punish the most glaring irregularities. If journalists want to keep their register, they must renounce its compulsory nature and related privileges. b. The requirement for each publication of a certain size to have a statute that states the internal rules of conduct. This statute shall be made public and any violation may be raised in assessment by the editor and the reader. c. Similarly, with the register remaining as it is today, it would be an ethically significant move to transform the current two-way division between professional journalists and journalist publicists into a three-way division covering also journalist communicators. d. Prohibition of hiring in newspapers of journalists who in the last three years have worked in press offices, advertising agencies, consulting firms and public relations agencies. And vice versa, for the principal of reciprocity, a ban on hiring in these offices journalists who have worked in a newsroom in the last three years. By law, professional

14. the rights of readers and the guild of journalists
No one has ever thought to guarantee the rights of readers. Yet, they are consumers of a commodity that is much more delicate than others, because it conditions the public mind and the health of the democracy. The reader now has only very few legal guarantees on the product he buys and those few are disregarded. Likewise the reader is not








journalists should be hired at newspapers and journalist communicators should work in press offices, but today the distinction between the two careers is not considered, to the severe detriment of both groups and with irreparable harm to the accuracy of the information. Absolute incompatibility between the work in the newsroom of a newspaper and any other professional work, even if not official. Public Statement signed upon hiring and repeated periodically, containing a list of the political and para-political organizations and other groups related to the sphere of the interests of journalism, to which the journalist belongs. Effective enforcement of the whole system of regulations on information, starting from Article 21 of the Italian Constitution (also not observed). Let's go back to the civil code and the criminal code. There is nothing worse than a rule that is not enforced and falls silently into the oblivion of disuse. Similarly useless are all the “shouts" about ethics without any severe penalties. Introduction of these rules in the national contract of journalistic work. The interest of publishers in employees who are easy targets of blackmail, and therefore predisposed to servility, is well-known; this is why it is necessary for everyone to assume collective responsibility in the realm of professional ethics. Elimination of the most visible inconsistencies of the restrictive legislation. The most serious example is the restrictive contradiction of professional secrecy for journalists: Article 200 of the penal code on professional secrecy with one hand extends this right to journalists and with the other takes it away. Severe reduction of civil and criminal consequences of "libel" for the press. From 1984 the Court of Cassation

[Italy's supreme court] has separated the criminal proceedings from civil proceedings. From that time, Italians, since they care so much about their honor, can have it restored in civil court, asking for millions in compensation and neglecting to demand a criminal sentencing. Honor is now regarded as a concrete thing. Often the value of the claim is enormous and the only purpose of the demand is to intimidate.

15. conclusions. the birth of the "pannunzio society for the freedom of information"
We formed the "Pannunzio Society for the freedom of information" among those who care about the fate of what Kant called "freedom of the pen" and who wish to discuss and advance projects for reform inspired by the principles and criteria set out in the Blue Book. The "Pannunzio Society" is an association that does not stop at an account of ideas, but is also committed to practical action in reporting the continuous violations, by now widely tolerated, of the current legislation. The “Society” is inspired by the “Societé des Amis de la liberté et de la presse” that arose in France in November 1817. Joined by such figures as Benjamin Constant, Achille de Broglie, Paul-Louis Courier, and JeanBaptiste Say, the Societé, through a frenetic activity of appeals, petitions letters and subscriptions to pay the penalty fines that opposition newspapers were assessed, was able to influence the reform of French legislation on the press. The experience was historically important because, for the first time, people formed associations to fight for the freedom of expression, showing that they understood that in their time - as in our time – freedom of expression assumed a strategic importance. Indeed, the attacks on freedom of the newest forms of communication can be


seen as similar to those suffered by the printed press at the birth of that medium. The “Pannunzio Society” also takes inspiration from the civil battles conducted by the newspaper “Il Mondo” and by its editor and founder, Mario Pannunzio, as well as by the “Salvemini Movement” The "Pannunzio Society" does not support any political party, and invites as members all those European citizens, across the entire political and ideological spectrum, who are concerned about the miserable state of information. The "Society,” which grows by cooptation and by the membership of supporters, has determined that journalists may not exceed on-third of the membership, precisely to underscore that the Society's action is alien to the corporate spirit and concerns every conscious citizen. Similarly, the "Pannunzio Society" will not only provide analysis, debate and concrete proposals, but will adopt, in Italy and Europe, every possible means to pursue its goals of freedom x.

R. A. DAHL, On Democracy, Roma-Bari, 2000 G. SARTORI, Democrazia: cosa è, 2000 iii J. RIFKIN, Voici venu le temps des reseaux, in "Maniere de voir - Le Monde diplomatique", n. 63, 2002 iv N. Irti, L’ordine giuridico del mercato,, Roma-Bari, 1998 v F. BOAT and others, Assetti proprietari e mercato delle imprese, vol. I, Bologna, 1994 vi R. PERNA, Public company e democrazia societaria, Bologna, 1998 vii L. EINAUDI, Il problema della stampa quotidiana [1943], now in Giornali e giornalisti, Florence, 1974 viii Ibid ix L. EINAUDI, Albi di giornalisti [1945], now in Giornali e giornalisti, Florence, 1974 x This Blue Book is largely derived from E. MARZO Le voci del padrone, Dedalo Editions, 2006, where the treatment is obviously broader and more reasoned.
ii i


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