In this write-up, I will use the Four Theories of Press to explain an ever-evolving media system known as THE NEW MEDIA. These four theories are The Authoritarian Theory, The Libertarian Theory, Soviet-Communist Theory, and Social-Responsibility Theory.

Furthermore, several case studies have been deployed to explain how to press theories in recent times have been exhibited in the context of new media.



Mass communications continue to operate by the theories of the writings of Fred S. Siebert, Theodore Peterson, and Wilbur Schramm in a small but comprehensive book entitled “Four Theories of the Press”.  Written in 1956, this book continues to be used in the education of mass communications throughout the country instructing students in the four basic systems that embody the operations of the mass media. The four theories used by mass communications formulated by the authors include the authoritarian, the libertarian, social responsibility, and the Soviet-totalitarian.  These theories were devised to impart mass communications with a philosophical, historical, and international perspective on the workings of the press. 

The State (the elite that runs the state) directs the citizenry, which is not considered competent and interested enough to make critical political decisions. One man or an elite group is placed in a leadership role. As the group or person controls society generally it (or he or she) also controls the mass media since they are recognized as vital instruments of social control.

The mass media, under authoritarianism, are educators and propagandists by which the power elite exercise social control. Generally, the media are privately owned, although the leader of his elite group may own units in the total communication system. A basic: assumption a person engaged in journalism is so engaged as a special privilege granted by the national leadership. He, therefore, owes an obligation to the leadership.

The libertarian press concept is generally traced back to England and the American colonies of the seventeenth century. Giving rise to the libertarian press theory was the philosophy that looked upon man as a rational animal with inherent natural rights. One of these rights was the right to pursue truth, and potential inter­feres (kings, governors et al) would (or should) be restrained.
Exponents of this press movement during the seventeenth century, and the 200 years which followed, included Milton, Locke, Erskine, Jefferson, and John Stuart Mill. Individual liberties were stressed by these philosophers, along with a basic trust in the people to take intelligent decisions (generally) if a climate of free expression existed.

The communist theory of the press arose, along with the theory of communism itself, in the first quarter of the present century. Karl Marx was its father, drawing heavily on the ideas of his fellow German, George W. F. Hegel. The mass media in a communist society, said Marx, were to function basically to perpetuate and expand the socialist system. Transmission of social policy, not searching for the truth, was to be the main rationale for the existence of a communist media system.

Mass media, under this theory, are instruments of government and integral parts of the State. They are owned and operated by the State and directed by the Communist Party or its agencies. Criticism is permitted in the media (i. e. criticism of the failure to achieve goals), but criticism of basic ideology is forbidden. Communist theory, like that of authoritarianism, is based on the premise that the masses are too fickle and too ignorant and unconcerned with the government to be entrusted with governmental responsibilities.

This concept, a product of mid-twentieth-century America, is said by its proponents to have its roots in liberta­rian theory. But it goes beyond the libertarian theory, in that it places more emphasis on the press's responsibility to society than on the press's freedom. It is seen as a higher level, theoretically, than libertarianism-a kind of moral and intellectual and evolutionary trip from discredited old, libertarianism to a new or perfected libertarianism where things are forced to work as they really should have worked under libertarian theory.
The explainers and de­fenders of this theory maintain that they are libertarians, but socially responsible libertarians, contrasted presumably with other liber­tarians who (if their views and actions do not agree with those of the new libertarians) are not socially responsible.


New media most commonly refers to content available on-demand through the Internet, accessible on any digital device, usually containing interactive user feedback and creative participation.

Common examples of new media include websites such as online newspapers, blogs, or wikis, video games, and social media. A defining characteristic of new media is dialogue. New Media transmit content through connection and conversation.

It enables people around the world to share, comment on, and discuss a wide variety of topics. Unlike any of past technologies, New Media is grounded on an interactive community and it keeps evolving.

The rise of new media has increased communication between people all over the world and the Internet. It has allowed people to express themselves through blogs, websites, videos, pictures, and other user-generated media.

Flew (2002) stated that, "as a result of the evolution of new media technologies, globalization occurs." Globalization is generally stated as "more than the expansion of activities beyond the boundaries of particular nation-states". Globalization shortens the distance between people all over the world by electronic communication (Carely 1992 in Flew 2002) and Cairncross (1998) expresses this great development as the "death of distance".

According to Ingrid Volkmer, "public sphere" is defined as a process through which public communication becomes restructured and partly disembedded from national political and cultural institutions. This trend of the globalized public sphere is not only as a geographical expansion form a nation to worldwide but also changes the relationship between the public, the media and state (Volkmer, 1999:123).

"Virtual communities" are being established online and transcend geographical boundaries, eliminating social restrictions.[9] Howard Rheingold (2000) describes these globalised societies as self-defined networks, which resemble what we do in real life.

"People in virtual communities use words on screens to exchange pleasantries and argue, engage in intellectual discourse, conduct commerce, make plans, brainstorm, gossip, feud, fall in love, create a little high art and a lot of idle talks" (Rheingold cited in Slevin 2000: 91).


(The Arab Spring Case Study)

The Arab world has experienced an awakening of free the expression that entered the body politic of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and has helped break down the stranglehold of state-sponsored media and information monopolies in those countries which run AUTHORITARIAN media.

Indeed, from Morocco to Bahrain, the Arab world has witnessed the rise of an independent vibrant social media and steadily increasing citizen engagement on the Internet that is expected to attract 100 million Arab users.

These social networks inform, mobilize, entertain, create communities, increase transparency and seek to hold governments accountable. To peruse the Arab social media sites, blogs, online videos, and other digital platforms are to witness what is arguably the most dramatic and unprecedented improvement in freedom of expression, association, and access to information in contemporary Arab history. Worldwide, the number of Internet users by late 2010 was expected to exceed 2 billion users.   The State (the elite that runs the state) directs the citizenry may not have envisaged how the coming of new media would shape a new generation where its grip on information dissemination would easily fizzle away.

The mass media, under authoritarianism, produce a propagandists system by which the power elite exercise social control. But the inadvertent coming of new media by the case study of the Arab spring completely changed the dynamics.

(The Tiananmen Square Case study)

Citizens’ voicing dissent through social media as well as the Communist Party’s efforts to quell speech it deems a threat to the rule is nothing new in China.
In the late 1970s, at a wall near Tiananmen Square in Beijing—which would become known as the Xidan Democracy Wall or simply Democracy Wall—people would voice their grievances and yearnings for change.
To prevent the Communist Party from losing its monopoly on political power and to prevent the chaos that occurred during the Cultural Revolution, Deng set forth Four Cardinal Principles in March 1979 that established limits on speech and expression. These four principles called for Chinese citizens to uphold 1) the socialist road; 2) the dictatorship of the proletariat (workers); 3) the Communist Party’s leadership; and 4) Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought.
It would be a decade before the violence against protesters at Tiananmen Square occurred, quashing the hopes that many people inside and outside of China had about the formation of a more liberal form of governance.
Till date governments like that of China, North Korea and Russia heavily censor or clamp down on new media so as to keep up with their tight grip and repressive media agenda.

(Occupy Wall Street Case Study)

This was a protest movement that began on September 17, 2011, in Zuccotti Park, located in New York City's Financial District, receiving global attention and spawning the Occupy movement against social and economic inequality worldwide. It was inspired by anti-austerity protests in Spain coming from the 15-M movement. The Canadian, anti-consumerist, pro-environment group/magazine Adbusters initiated the call for a protest all of which was born and made possible out of the use and advent of New Media.

The main issues raised by Occupy Wall Street were social and economic inequality, greed, corruption and the perceived undue influence of corporations on government—particularly from the financial services sector. The OWS slogan, "We are the 99%", refers to income inequality and wealth distribution in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population.

The philosophy of the libertarian media was brought to bear in the Occupy protest, the protest went as far many other continent like the occupy Nigeria protest. One of the many rights, it guarantees was the right to pursue truth, and potential interference and it was made possible by the heavy use of Social Media.

(The #FreeEse Oruru Case Study)

As earlier stated, the Social responsibility theory places emphasis on the press's responsibility to society than on the press's freedom.
SUNDAY PUNCH’s explosive cover story on February 28, 2016, titled, “PUNCH launches ‘Free Ese’ campaign: Kano man steals, forcefully marries 14-year-old Bayelsa Girl” sparked national outrage and forced the authorities, including the Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, to release Ese Oruru immediately.
The next day, Monday, the Nigerian media – traditional and online – boiled over with righteous indignation at what many felt was injustice done to a teenager and her family.
Aside from the report, SUNDAY PUNCH’s #FreeEse campaign went viral online and on social media. In 24 hours, it ensured that Ese was released to the Kano State Police Command on Monday, February 29, for onward transfer to the Force Headquarters, Abuja.
On her release, PUNCH launched another hashtag, #JusticeForEse, which continued trending that week.PUNCH gave Ese’s story the most coverage daily in its print and online version throughout the week leading to her abductor, Yunusa Dahiru’s prosecution.
This represents a strong case study for how new media and the social responsibility theory came into play to rescue a very delicate situation.

As well-represented above, the onus was to establish the relations that exist with the press theories and new media. However, that substantially has been evident in the case studies showcased in the third chapter.

There’s no doubt that new media have evolved how the press and information are being disseminated. In a few cases and counties has highlighted above we can assert that even new media itself is still being repressed. But on a larger scale, New media has been unstoppable and will continually pierce through much more controlled regions/countries with the help of the ever-evolving tendency.

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