Friday, April 5, 2013
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Deven R. Sesai, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, is publishing Speech, Citizenry, and the Market: A Corporate Public Figure Doctrine in volume 98 of the Minnesota Law Review (2013). Here is the abstract.
Corporate speech is out of balance. Corporations now enjoy expanded speech rights, but the ability to speak about corporations is restricted. This situation must change. That corporations are people for First Amendment questions is a fait accompli. We can debate the merits or wisdom of that fact, but the fact remains. I argue that under current Supreme Court jurisprudence, corporations are not only people for speech purposes, but corporations are often public figures.
Corporations no longer exist in a purely commercial world. Like other public figures, corporations affect public affairs, take political positions, engage in matters of public concern and controversy, and have reputations. A host of political issues from fair trade to gay rights to organic farming to children’s development to gender bias to labor and more intersect with and are shaped by corporate policies. Thus Google urges countries to embrace gay rights; Mattel launches a girl power campaign; activists question Nike’s labor practices, McDonald’s food processing, and Shell Oil’s business practices; and bloggers police the Body Shop’s claims about its manufacturing practices. The social, political, and commercial have converged, and corporate reputations rest on social and political matters as much, if not more, than commercial matters.
A foundational commitment of free speech law, perhaps the foundational commitment, is that public figures don’t and can’t own their reputations. Yet, through trademark and commercial speech doctrines corporations have powerful control over their reputations. If corporations are people for free speech purposes, as a constitutional matter, their control over their reputations can be no greater than the control other public figures have. Corporations cannot have it both ways. Corporations want and receive many of the legal rights natural persons receive. They should be subject to the same limits as other powerful, public figures.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.
Lesley Hitchens, University of Technology, Sydney, has published Commercial Content and its Relationship to Media Content: Commodification and Trust, in Routledge Handbook of Media Law 87-104 (Monroe E. Price, Stefaan G. Verhulst & Libby Morgan eds.; Routledge, 2013). Here is the abstract.
In a 2010 lecture, Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the well-known British newspaper, The Guardian reminded the audience of the importance of subsidies in media. He was not referring only to public funding for public broadcasters such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), but to advertising. Advertising is at the heart of media, and media occupy a commodified space. Yet despite the intimacy of this connection, the relationship is not without constraints. Commercial interests have not been allowed unrestrained access to these communication channels. Although there are major differences in policy and regulatory attitudes to commercial communications, both the US and the UK have required commercial communications to be transparent. The US has maintained a consistent policy and regulatory approach towards the use of paid-for content. The UK, however, has recently undergone a significant policy and regulatory change and permitted some forms of product placement, although it has retained the principle of editorial independence. The introduction of product placement in the UK provides an opportunity to re-examine the relationship between commercial interests and the media. Are the protections which have been put in place sufficient to alleviate disquiet, or do practices such as product placement put at risk at some fundamental level — and in a way that cannot be fully ameliorated by regulatory design — the public’s ability to access trusted content? To consider these questions the chapter follows two paths. First, it reviews in more detail the two principles that may be seen as protections to mitigate the impact of commercial interests: the transparency principle and the independence principle. It does this by examining how they are reflected in regulatory design, using the US and the UK as illustrations. Secondly, it considers the place of commercial interests and the disquiet around such interests by posing three lines of inquiry. The first considers whether there is an inherent limitation in the rules that weaken their effectiveness in constraining the influence of commercial content. The second inquiry reviews the disquiet by considering the principle of access. The final line of inquiry examines the problem using Sandel’s argument from corruption, which suggests that the value of certain goods are diminished or corrupted by the market. The chapter asks whether media content is such a good.
The full text is not available from SSRN.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Many studies find that presentation of balanced information, offering competing positions, can promote polarization and thus increase preexisting social divisions. We offer two explanations for this apparently puzzling phenomenon. The first involves what we call asymmetric Bayesianism: the same information can have diametrically opposite effects if those who receive it have opposing antecedent convictions. Recipients whose beliefs are buttressed by the message, or a relevant part, rationally believe that it is true, while recipients whose beliefs are at odds with that message, or a relevant part, rationally believe that the message is false (and may reflect desperation). The second explanation is that the same information can activate radically different memories and associated convictions, thus producing polarized responses to that information, or what we call a memory boomerang. An understanding of these explanations reveals when balanced news will produce unbalanced views. The explanations also account for the potential influence of “surprising validators.” Because such validators are credible to the relevant audience, they can reduce the likelihood of asymmetric Bayesianism, thus promoting agreement.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.
Kathryn Kleppinger, George Washington University, has published Maghrebi Crossings: North African Authorship and the Media in France, as an ASA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper. Here is the abstract.
Based on research recently completed for a book manuscript, this paper analyzes ways in which novels written by the children of North African immigrants to France (commonly called beurs) have been debated and discussed on mainstream television. With its rich heritage of literary programming on the airwaves, France is a fruitful domain of study. Authors are frequently invited to appear in interviews, and this medium is a crucial way for them to make a larger public aware of their work. Through close readings of both the novels under study as well as the ways in which they have been promoted on television, it becomes clear that the authors who are invited to make the rounds of interviews fulfill certain expectations: that they address contemporary sociopolitical concerns and that they offer some sort of insider perspective on these matters. These conversations thus reveal both the frames of reference used to understand the North African community in France as well as the ways in which these authors are situated in the literary field and in French society more broadly.
The full text is not available from SSRN.