Media Reform: An Overview

15 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2015

See all articles by Des Freedman

Des Freedman

University of London - Goldsmiths College

Jonathan A. Obar

York University; Quello Center - Michigan State University

Date Written: July 17, 2015


Media reform is a great and formidable challenge. Across international contexts, reformers are inspired by what the late C. Edwin Baker referred to as the democratic distribution principle for communicative power: ‘a claim that democracy implies as wide as practical a dispersal of power within public discourse’ (Baker, 2007, p. 7). The challenge is made manifest in battles over the future of investigative journalism, media ownership, spectrum management, speech rights, broadband access, network neutrality, the surveillance apparatus, digital literacy and many others waged in pursuit of the normative ideals at the heart of Baker’s vision. At the same time, those committed to media reform confront formidable challenges: entrenched commercial interests and media conglomerates; sometimes powerful, sometimes disorganized and sometimes neoliberal governments; a general public often disenfranchised, digitally illiterate and not focused on issues of media reform; and always, the uphill battle of organization, mobilization and influence that is the work of any activist.

In light of these significant challenges, the central question addressed by this volume is: what strategies might be utilized to overcome these obstacles in the pursuit of media reform? The chapters included in this volume aim to present and analyze successful strategies that have helped to advance media reform efforts in a variety of countries and contexts throughout the world.

The remainder of this introductory chapter includes a working definition of media reform in light of the many challenges we currently face, and concludes with an overview of the chapters included in the volume.

Keywords: Media reform; activist; activism; political economy; media industry

Suggested Citation

Freedman, Des and Obar, Jonathan A., Media Reform: An Overview (July 17, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Des Freedman

University of London - Goldsmiths College ( email )

Lewisham Way
New Cross, SE14 6NW
United Kingdom

Jonathan A. Obar (Contact Author)

York University ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3

Quello Center - Michigan State University ( email )

East Lansing, MI 48824
United States

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