Many media industries have been subject to waves of regulation and deregulation over their histories. The internet has complicated the issue, as it is global in scope and does not necessarily obey national borders. Choose a specific media industry and develop an argument in relation to how the internet has complicated regulation and/or governance of the industry.
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The debate concerning the issue of media deregulation and regulation takes place following diverse approaches deployed in different nations to address the subject, especially considering that it applies within a given jurisdiction. This claim suggests that what may be termed as an acceptable film for a TV broadcast in one nation may be prohibited in another. However, the Internet has complicated the issue of film regulation since it is global in scope and it does not necessarily obey national borders. This paper narrows down to the film industry to argue that although the Internet has eased the way media content is transmitted, its global nature has been an obstacle that many nations have to battle with in their media regulation/governance endeavors.
How the Internet has Complicated Regulation/Governance in the Film Industry
The Motion Picture Association of America (US MPAA) is a typical case example of a regulatory body that deals with films broadcasted through television. The organization is voluntary, with the mandate of rating various films released by different distributors. Rating forms an important tool deployed in the regulation of films that are shown on broadcast television. The TV parental gridline receives backing from the Federal Communication Commission to help in regulating films that are aired on broadcast television. However, amid such regulation, materials that are considered inappropriate for broadcast still reach the audience through the Internet. In today’s technologically advanced world, the fact that the Internet can be accessed from mobile phones and other inexpensive personal computers following the affordability of broadband and other forms of Internet-connected devices renders the regulation on films aired on broadcast TV ineffective.
Internet diffusion has given rise to horizontal interactive communication networks. The networks connect both global and local societies in real time. As Castells reveals, the networked society is characterized by “the global web of horizontal communication networks that include the multimodal exchange of interactive messages from many to many both synchronous and asynchronous” (246). As a result, following the convergence of mobile communication coupled with the Internet that is accompanied by broadband diffusion, people have acquired an immense communication power, both within and beyond jurisdictional borders, hence making it almost impossible to control contents that are worth including in films. Hence, the Internet has enabled them to reach all realms of global society’s social lives. Using the power of the Internet and its borderless traits, people have developed their own communication networks, for instance, YouTube and other channels, which allow the sharing of films and clips globally, irrespective of the content. This situation has eroded the possibility of regulating films in today’s Internet-connected society.
While the regulation of films on broadcast television has successfully prevented access to inappropriate contents such as sexually explicit materials, whether legal or illegal, the Internet has complicated the matter. Convergence characterizes the current trend in the media industry. Regulation and Censorship supports this assertion by noting, “multiple or bundled packages of services such as telephone, the Internet, and television are provided to a market using shared infrastructure, for instance, fiber optics.” For example, Google fiber deploys optic cables to deliver the Internet at overwhelmingly high speeds compared to a broadband connection. Through the shared infrastructure, materials that are not allowed to be disseminated through the broadcast television would still reach the audience through the Internet.
On the global context, jurisdictions recognize the difficulties of film regulation in the era of Internet technology. Digital technology has altered what has been traditionally understood as ‘media’. The Internet has now altered and opened a new debate on the concept of media regulation. In three decades ago, before the massive spread of the Internet, the film industry was subjected to massive censorship and regulation (Regulation and Censorship). This situation explains why contemporary films, including the Saw Franchise, could not be certified for TV broadcast. The Internet marks a transition into desensitization where audiences are extremely exposed to saturated media. This Internet-based cultural and/or social shift has even received the audience of regulatory authorities such as BBFC, PCC, and Ofcom. However, the bodies are unable to respond swiftly following the difficulties in the regulation of the film industry.
A classical case of BBFC illustrates well the regulation and governance challenges in the film industry in the Internet era. Although the organization rarely imposes bans on films, in 2012, it banned the film Human Centipede 2 (Regulation and Censorship). This decision was attributed to the argument that its original script portrayed obscene acts or sexual violence. However, the organization offered its director an option of eliminating some key scenes and reframing certain shots that supported the ban. However, there was high public interest in the unedited version. People resorted to a massive search of the uncut version via the Internet. Despite director Tom’s success in removing some sections of the film, the original version can still be accessed via the Internet. This situation renders the regulation of the film ineffective since consumers have a choice to view both versions over the Internet, despite the witnessed success in the regulation of Human Centipede 2 in broadcast television.
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Through media convergence, film content that could only be scheduled for broadcast in the past has acquired other means of transmission via a plethora of different systems, including mobile phones and/or the Internet, as opposed to the earlier airwave dissemination. While films aired through broadcast television would have to follow specific decency guidelines, broadcasting regulators only have the mandate of controlling what is filmed through other means. However, they are unable to regulate and/or control materials transmitted through an Internet-enabled shared platform. Hence, despite the efforts to regulate films that are broadcasted via televisions, it is now complicated to achieve regulatory goals in the contemporary Internet-based economy.
In the social economy, content is produced by users rather than by the owners of a website such as Facebook or Instagram. Most people welcome the ability to freely use these content-sharing platforms to keep in touch with their friends, share pictures, or even write content for others as on the Wikia websites. Given that the companies that own these content-sharing platforms make vast sums of money, are the user-producers being exploited by producing content without pay? Choose a specific example of a website where users upload content for others to enjoy, but are not paid to do so, and develop a normative argument. You can focus on the experience of users, the ethics of the situation, the economics, or the overall implications for society of unpaid content production.
Researches on how investments in ICT and new media technologies, including social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, can boost economic development have been advancing over the last two decades (Awoleye 24). Social media vastly replaces the direct face-to-face interactions and socialization processes among people of all occupations. Therefore, it is most likely that a large number of people would access a video advert placed on social media networking site, for instance, Instagram or YouTube. However, this situation introduces a question concerning the possibility of the social media sites to foster economic development, especially where users are the generators of the content. Indeed, in the social economy, content is produced by users rather than by the owners of a website such as Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram. This section examines whether the user-producers are being abused by coming up with sensible contents while not receiving any pay for their work.
The Case of Facebook
Most people welcome the ability to freely use content-sharing platforms to keep in touch with their friends, share pictures, or even write contents for others as it is done on Wiki websites. Companies that own content-sharing platforms make vast sums of money. An important scholarly question is whether the user-producers are being exploited by producing content without pay. What are the ethical issues of the situation, the economics, or the overall implications for society concerning unpaid content production? Since these concerns cannot be fully examined on a limited scope, this section focuses on the ethics of the situation of unpaid labor using the case of Facebook. A major social media concern that attracts ethical concerns entails the concept of free labor.
Awoleye (27) argues that all social media users are working akin to the fact that they continuously use their ideas and/or spend an incredible amount of time on various social media outlets. For example, in the case of Facebook, such users generate content that leads to financial gains on the side of the company. In this case, the debate concerning ethics stems from media convergence concepts, which offer a different perspective on the meaning of work. Hesmondhalgh asserts, “Work could range from sitting behind a desk in an office, to sitting at home on social media promoting the company” (268). A theoretical argument is that this situation may be regarded as a way of exploiting Facebook users through free labor.
Hesmondhalgh further argues that this case is unethical for organizations that have to make profits without commensurately paying their workers (268). The author provides a substantive argument on the concept of free labor, raising questions on the ethical aspects that surround the failure to pay content producers in social media platforms such as Facebook. He notes that consumption and production manifest a complicated relationship, which stems right from the meaning of free labor. The concept may imply a form of unpaid labor or uncontrollable job where monetary value can be allocated to it. Consequently, even though it is unethical to engage people in content production without paying them, it is intriguing to concisely define what needs to be paid, including the type of the acceptable form of free labor. If people cannot control the extent of their labor input into an organization such as Facebook, then the question on whether they should be paid or not lacks a direct and obvious response.
Facebook users who generate free content for the company acquire an opportunity to use a service, which arguably amounts to a kind of payment. Social media platforms such as Facebook enable people to chat with friends not only via computers but also through any Internet-enabled mobile devices, for instance, smartphones. Using Facebook to achieve the company’s interest increases professional education linkages, a situation that has the effect of increasing knowledge exchange among people working in different organizations. Such exchange fosters innovation and creativity. Besides, it provides reliable organizational benchmarks. Where the sharing of information is between customers and employees, social media platforms’ use to pursue companies’ objectives facilitates the learning of consumer needs, which form the basis for developing new product lines. In the context of these arguments, Hesmondhalgh’s arguments that free labor and exploitation should not be paired in the discussion of Facebook’s criticism concerning the free use of content generated to make profits becomes substantive (272). Does this finding imply that Facebook users and content producers are involved in what Graeber calls “bullshit” jobs?
In the current economy, Graeber argues that some people may be preoccupied with the creation of jobs, which they pointlessly keep on working. John Keynes made predictions that people in the technological world would work for 15 hours and still enjoy the incredibly increasing living standards. Graeber provides a contrary opinion that even if technological predictions of Keynes have been realized, people are now pointlessly involved in useless work. He attributes this phenomenon to the availability of free time among the productive population, a situation that he equates to a mortal danger (par.7). Applying this argument to the case of Facebook and the aforementioned ethics behind free labor, the emerging question is whether the company would pay users and content generators in case it lacked willing free workers who have lots of free time. A “yes” response to this question would imply that social media takes advantage of the readily available productive labor to generate content for sale to yield profits, yet it fails to pay the respective producers.
On such accounts and based on the expositions raised in the paper, it suffices to conclude that user-producers are exploited by producing content without pay. The paper declares this move by Facebook unethical.
The shift toward Post-Fordist immaterial labour in the information economy was originally hailed as bringing more flexibility for workers and freeing them from tight control by bosses. At the same time, this shift has resulted in the rise of precarious gig work and the primacy of unstable short-term contracts. Using examples of new working arrangements in the digital economy, develop an evaluative argument about the benefits, problems, and/or possibilities that these new internet-enabled flexible working conditions might have for workers, media producers, or businesses.
The global labor market experiences a growing popularity of a shared economy. Such growth points to the need for the global workforce to consider the increasing options, which they can utilize to earn a living. The markets provide support for freelancing and contract-based employment opportunities. People tap into this pool voluntarily rather than because of the crises that arise from the lack of formal employment opportunities. In fact, the shift toward Post-Fordist immaterial labor in the information economy was originally hailed as bringing flexibility to workers, including freeing them from the earlier tight control by employers. People anticipated this situation to be an incredible benefit since they would acquire the power to make decisions on their work schedules. However, this shift has resulted in the rise of precarious gig work and the primacy of unstable short-term contracts. As the paper reveals, the outcome is an array of benefits, problems, and/or possibilities arising from the new Internet-enabled flexible working conditions.
Merits and Demerits of Internet-Enabled Flexible Working Conditions
Workers, media producers, or businesses face benefits that accrue from the Internet-enabled flexible working atmosphere. However, they also encounter various problems while working in such environment. For example, workers who deal with modding or digital computer game modification have the freedom to choose their work schedules. Kücklich asserts, “Modding shares some traits with voluntary work as well, as it is neither motivated directly by financial motives or coercion.” This observation implies that modding workers enjoy flexibility while working in a digital gig economy. Such workers can voluntarily consider modifying games while working at home alongside undertaking other chores such as pursuing their passionate projects. Thus, they can engage in parallel activities while still generating enough financial resources to cater for their bills.
Secondly, the gig digital economy provides an array of options. It offers numerous inroads to various career paths. For example, modding workers can productively engage in a number of individualized contract arrangements as a mechanism for developing a new set of skills. This opportunity has the merit of developing a multi-skilled micro work economy in the digital industry. Thus, all people who wish to become multi-tasked computer game modifiers can undertake the challenge, irrespective of their socio-economic status, gender, or nationality, in a manner that is unique to each person. Most importantly, modding workers can accomplish this goal without having an inventory of academic papers to prove their skill sets, provided they deliver on their chores. Kücklich supports this assertion by adding that modding workers in a digital economy utilize the sense of community developed through experience as their primary source of motivation. Arguably, this motive is instrumental in various types of voluntary work. However, modding is well aligned with highly profitable entities while voluntary work is usually associated with non-profit-making agencies.
Thirdly, the gig digital economy provides modding workers with the benefit of safety cushions. Modders no longer have to scramble to secure job interviews, a situation that is commonplace in traditional employment arrangements. They have higher quality and varied options of sealing unemployment gaps through temporary individualized contracts with game companies. Indeed, Webster asserts, “the rising options for on-demand gig-style employment can take some of the stress out of job searching” (58). This opportunity cushions employees by providing an opportunity to choose and committing their time to attain sustainable incomes. Personal projections about the future of the individualized contract provide an opportunity for considering one’s best fit in a new contract.
Although the gig Internet-based economy provides benefits to modding workers, it also presents some challenges. The modding industry, as it is the case with the entire games sector, depicts gaming as a technology that encourages mass participation by all interested game modifiers. This ideology makes modding as a gig Internet-enabled work precarious (Kücklich). It presents uncertainties regarding various traditional notions and the understanding of work and leisure. Modders can interpret their utilization of leisure by working for a parallel client as good use of their time. Nevertheless, the move deprives them of their intellectual property. In fact, the intellectual property concerning modified game workers does not belong to the modder, but the original maker (Kücklich).
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The advantages associated with on-demand Internet-enabled work platforms, including modding, such as low entry barriers are accompanied by demerits that include minimal exit opportunities. An individualized contract in a gig Internet-supported work economy lacks adequate security. This situation, which creates the possibility of sudden drying up work, occurs where reviews about a given online worker are provided publicly and freely on an Internet-enabled platform. Continuous monitoring of workers based on their frequency of accessing the Internet provides an opportunity for employers to choose their prospective recruits selectively. Such bosses also have a unilateral power to accept or reject an already completed work, a situation that exposes employees to high job pressure. The gaming industry presents an even larger risk. A games application can get out of the market due to funding issues, litigation, new competitors, and/or unprecedented fall in demand among other economic factors.
New Internet-enabled flexible working conditions present the problem of failing to accord workers the protection they deserve. Individualized contracts imply that safeguarding methods that are available under the traditional work arrangement do not exist in an on-demand work plan. For example, full-time workers enjoy protection benefits, including disability leave, sick day pay, and workers’ compensation. Individualized contract workers in an Internet-enabled work environment lack adequate capacity to negotiate contractual terms with employers (Webster 59).
Although flexible work arrangements in an Internet-enabled gig economy present a high risk compared to full-time or part-time conventional work settings, merits such as independence and flexibility compel modding workers to embrace a gig economy. Nevertheless, problems that include lack of intellectual property for modified games remain a necessary concern for modding workers.
Awoleye, Martin. “Economic Value of ICT Investment in Nigeria: Is it Commensurate?” International Journal of Economics and Management Sciences, vol. 1, no. 10, 2012, pp. 22-30.
Castells, Manuel. “Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Network Society.” International Journal of Communication, vol. 1, no. 1, 2007, pp. 238-266.
Graeber, David. “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs.” Strike Magazine, 2013, Web.
Hesmondhalgh, David. “User-generated Content, Free Labor and the Cultural Industries.” Ephemera, vol. 10, no. 3, 2010, pp. 267-284.
Kücklich, Julian. “Precarious Playbour: Modders and the Digital Games Industry.” Fibreculture Journal, vol. 25, no. 1, 2005, Web.
“Regulation and Censorship.” BFI, 2014, Web.
Webster, Juliet. “Microworkers of the Gig Economy: Separate and Precarious.” New Labor Forum, vol. 25, no. 3, 2016, pp. 57-64.