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Public Interest

Stylianos Papathanassopoulos


As mass media play an increasing role in our societies by providing an arena of public debate and making politicians, policies, and relevant facts widely known, they are expected to follow certain rules of conduct. These rules and the normative media theories they draw upon typically imply presumptions as to the public interest the media should serve ( McQuail 1992 ; 2005 ; →  Journalism: Normative Theories ). Presumptions about what is the public interest, directly or indirectly, determine the institutional set-up of media systems, legal regulations, and media policy measures as well as journalistic codes of ethic and performance standards (→  Communication and Law ; Ethics in Journalism ; Ethics of Media Content ; Media Performance ; Media Policy). Not surprisingly, there is no agreed definition of the public interest, although its history goes back to classical times. The modern understanding of the concept can be traced back to the Enlightenment era when political philosophers who discussed the notion of interests in general, especially partisan interests and the aggregation of private interests, developed the idea of a public interest as a normative objective of political action. The various meanings of the concept we can find today may be subdivided into substantive and procedural interpretations. While the former are concerned with the content of political actions ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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