Creating Competition for Quality Media

Mar 15th, 2011 | By | Category: Daily Mail, Ethics

Media and Society Foundation logoAn often noted problem with media stems from the competition among a large and growing field of television stations and newspapers. This competition is believed to be responsible for a severe decline in the quality of journalism including the proliferation of conspiracy theories, the use of anonymous sources that promote political bias, sensationalism, and the rush to be the first to break a story at the expense of verifying facts. But competition should not mean a decline in quality. The creation of industry standards has been used by other industries to create incentives for improving quality. The same should be done in the media industry.

The International Organization for Standardization is the world’s largest developer and publisher of international standards spanning 160 countries. The Central Sectariat of the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) resides in Geneva, Switzerland which seeks to create consensus on solutions that meet the needs of both business and the society. Pakistan is a member of the ISO through the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) which has headquarters in Karachi.

At the PSQCA website, individuals can find lists of licensed manufacturers of products such as biscuits, cement, edible oil, razor blade, and three wheelers. Also available are lists of brands that do not meet the basic requirements as well as a list of each product’s non-conformities and when it was tested.

These standards, certifications, and exposures of non-conforming brands helps inform customers about the quality of products while also creating an incentive for manufacturers to provide products that meet minimum standards of excellence. This is especially important for items such as foods and building materials, but why not for media also?

Actually, this question has been asked in the home of the ISO, Switzerland, where the Media and Society Foundation developed a set of international quality standards for media known as ISAS BCP 9001:2010.

The MSF initiative is a concrete response to broadcasters’ demand for independent evaluation and recognition of their quality-management system in order (1) to benefit from unbiased, external reviews of their services and productions; (2) to create an ongoing process ensuring that the highest standards of quality would continue to be pursued in the following areas:

  • Service to listeners, viewers and the general public
  • Service to the society in which they operate, notably by promoting the free flow of information essential to democracy
  • Service to other important stakeholders, including staff and advertisers

Most importantly, this programme is designed as a voluntary compliance so there is no threat of government censorship or interference with media freedom. Also, as the guidelines are based on international standards, it avoids the possibility of undue influence from the owners of domestic media groups and internal politics.

Adopting the ISAS BCP 9001:2010 standards for media could do much to cut through the confusion presented by the present unregulated media environment. With questionable newspapers like The Daily Mail setting a standard of the lowest type, otherwise professional media groups get dragged to the same depths of irresponsibility and unprofessionalism as well. However it is the public and society which suffers from this degradation as the people are left misinformed and confused about issues of vital interest.

Presently, the proposed media standards of the Media and Society Foundation are quite fresh and new. This presents the opportunity for Pakistan to take a leadership role not only at home but on the world stage by transforming the present situation which is a mockery in world opinion to a shining example of how to enact voluntary reforms that ensure a high quality media free from outside interference. Best, though, would be the improved knowledge and understanding of current events and issues of the national interest among the public which would lead to progress in the society and improvements in the lives of the people.

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