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Question 1:

What are the four theories of press? Explain briefly about all of them. In
what system the Bangladesh media falls? Give your arguments with
examples.

Answer:
Four Theories of the Press:
Normative theories often called western theories of mass media were first
proposed by Fred Siebert, Director of the School of Journalism and
Communications at the University of Illinois, Theodore Peterson, Associate
Professor of Journalism and Communications at the University of Illinois and
Wilbur Schramm former Dean of the Communications Division of the
University of Illinois, Professor of Journalism and Communications at Stanford
University in their book called Four Theories of the Press during the cold
war (1956). Normative theories are strain of ideology, which describes the
ideal settings for media system to be structured and operated. These
theories usually focused in the relationship between press and the
government than that of the relationship between audience and press. These
theories are more concerned about the ownership of the media and controls
over the press or media in the country. Four theories main of the press are
the normative theories that derived from observations and not from testing
of hypotheses. The four theories of press are:
(1) Authoritarian Theory:
The Authoritarian Theory was developed in the late Renaissance period that
describes the press and communications system to be controlled by the
governing elite, authorities or influential bureaucrats. Authoritarians control
the media to refrain people from any form of communication, information or
news to hold their power and control. Press is used as an instrument to
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restore and enhance the rulers power in the country rather helping people
with information or news. The authorities have all rights to permit any media
and control it by providing license and make certain censorship. If any media
violate the government or authority, the authority can cancel the license and
revoke it. The governments have all right to restrict the press to express any
sensitive issues that is harmful for the authority often in the name of
maintaining peace and security of the nation. The power of censorship often
used as suppressive instrument to avoid any threat to the ruling authority.
(2) Libertarian Theory:
The Libertarian Theory, one of the four Normative Theories of Press that
emerged from the thoughts of scholars like Milton, Locke, Mill, and Jefferson
in 16th century in Europe. They perceived that the search for truth is one of
man's natural rights. According to this theory people are rational and their
rational thoughts lead them to find out what are good and bad It emphasizes
on the individuals freedom and free thoughts. Liberalism believes that
information is knowledge and knowledge is power. The press should not
restrict anything for knowledge that leads to better decision making.
Libertarianism is free from any authority, control or censorship. It is found
that most of the countries are not willing to allow libertarian thoughts
because of the fear of loosing control over individuals to be in the power and
have authority.
(3) Social Responsibility Theory:
Social Responsibility Theory considered being the most modern theory of
press that evolved in the mid 20th century. Third world nations have used
this theory which is associated with the Commission of the Freedom of
Press. Pure libertarianism has been described as antiquated, out dated and
obsolete in the book Four theories of Press by Siebert, Peterson and
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Schramm. This theory approves free press without censorship. However,


public panel can discuss content of the press and obligation derived from
public interference or professional discourse should be respected by the
media, it says. The theory gives media freedom in one hand and the external
controls in other hand put this theory between authoritarian theory and
libertarian theory.

(4) Soviet Communist Theory/ Soviet Totalitarian Theory:


The Soviet Union was reformed with new political system based on the
Marxist-Leninist ideology after the 1917th revolution. The newly formed
communist party lead by Lenin was interested in the media that serves to
the welfare of working class.

The government undertakes control of the

entire media and communication to serve working classes and their interest.
Therefore, a theory was generated in the Soviet Union with the thoughts of
Marx, Lenin and Stalin with mixture of Hegel ideology is known as the Soviet
Communist Theory or Soviet Totalitarian Theory. This is believed to be an
expanded and little positive version of the Authoritarian Theory. It is said that
similar theory was followed by Adolf Hitlers Nazi in Germany and Benito
Mussolini in Italy.

Theory denotes state should posses absolute power to

control any media for the benefits of people. They put end to the private
ownership of the press and other forms of media.
The System That the Bangladesh Media Falls:
There may be varied opinions regarding the media system in Bangladesh
depending on the interest and status of the person or group looking into it. In
theory, it looks like libertarian or Social Responsible while

a fair, non-

political and non-partisan look and analysis would confirm that Bangladesh

media falls within the scope of the Authoritarian system or Authoritarian


Theory.
Though article 39 of the Constitution of Bangladesh ensures citizens
freedom of thought and conscience, and of speech, many of the laws related
to the press, some of which have been there since colonial regime, restricts a
non-partisan media from functioning even in democratic times.

After the

independence in 1971, the media has faced varying degrees of restriction,


from both civilian and military regimes, successive governments of AL and
the BNP, caretaker government of 2007-2008. During the tenure of all
governments there have been allegations of murder, torture and intimidation
of journalists by party loyalists in one form or the other.
The media laws and regulations from the British Colonial period have been
enacted to curb the freedom of expression of people. Several laws that
include the Printing Presses and Publication Act (PPPA) 1973, the Code of
Criminal Procedure, 1898, the Official Secrets Act of 1923, the Special Powers
Act of 1974, the Newsprint Control Order of 1974, the Post Office Act of 1869,
the Dramatic Performance Act of 1876, the Contempt of Court Act of 1926,
the Foreign Relations Act of 1932, the Censorship of Film Act of 1963, the
Special Powers Act 1974 and recently the Telecommunications Act 2001,
shows how much has been done to restrict the media, press and freedom of
speech or expression and may be good examples of Authoritarian attitude
toward media.
Repression of the media has varied from banning certain publications for
extended periods of time to officially pressuring publishers to regulate the
content of news articles. For example, the English-language Bangladesh
Observer was banned for three months in 1987, and the weekly Banglar
Bani (Bengal's Message) was banned through much of 1987 and 1988.
In January, the government shut down a pro-opposition newspaper, accusing
it of fabricating information. In April last year, police sealed off the printing
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press of another pro-opposition newspaper called Amar Desh, shortly after


arresting its editor Mahmudur Rahman, a critic of the ruling Awami League. A
month later, the government closed two television stations, charging them
with inciting violence. (SYED ZAIN AL-MAHMOOD, Bangladeshi Government
Proposes Tighter Controls of Courts and Media, The Wall Street Journal dated
Sep. 8, 2013)
Moreover, the National Broadcast Policy-2014 is the most recent mechanism
believed to curb the freedom media further is highly condemned by the
media personnel and civil society.
In addition, to the restriction by law, censorship and licensing control,
Journalists/ media personnel in Bangladesh at all times have had to work
within active state intimidation and legal action.
With regard to the new media, the Bangladeshi government has also tried to
monitor and censor these tools in various ways. Putting down restriction to
u-tube though for a short period of time on the ground of hurting religious
feelings can be one of the examples of controlling the new media.
The above arguments, brief analysis and examples clearly

show that the

Bangladesh media falls within the Authoritarian system and theory.

References:
1. http://communicationtheory.org/normative-theory-four-theories-of-thepress/ (Down loaded on 13 November 2014)
2. http://communicationtheory.org/authoritarian-theory/ (Down loaded on 13
November 2014)
3. http://communicationtheory.org/libertarian-theory/ (Down loaded on 13
November 2014)
4. http://communicationtheory.org/social-responsibility-theory/ (Down loaded
on 13 November 2014)
5. http://communicationtheory.org/soviet-media-theory/ (Down loaded on 13
November 2014)
6. http://primenews.com.bd/english/2014/08/08/tib-unilateral-imposition-ofpolicies-to-control-media-counterproductive (Down loaded on 14 November
2014)
. 7. SYED ZAIN AL-MAHMOOD, Bangladeshi Government Proposes Tighter
Controls of Courts and Media, The Wall Street Journal dated Sep. 8, 2013).
http://online.wsj.com/articles/bangladeshi-government-proposes-tightercontrols-of-courts-media (Down Loaded on 13 November 2014)
8. S M SHAMEEM REZA, Media Governance in Bangladesh: Rhetoric and
Reality of Broadcasting Policy, the Daily Star (Volume 6, Issue 05 May 2012.
http://archive.thedailystar.net/forum/2012/May/media.htm (Down loaded on
13 November 2014)