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The 4TH Estate In Practice

by on May 15, 2014


I believe it was John Dalberg-Acton that coined the almost cliché phrase outlining the risks of concentrating power, but alas some 100 years later, and the same institutions (which he was a part of) are more monopolistic than ever. So then, as thinking, pragmatic, socially aware individuals; our ideal world would have an entrenched, and efficiently regulated 4th estate. Separate from the other three powers.


The fourth estate manifests itself today as print media, news broadcasting and more and more increasingly; online journalism. The BBC for example, an older outlet comes under criticism from a variety of angles, as although impartiality is an idealistic cornerstone, this has come into question several times. The subsidies from the government (the BBC is part funded by government taxation) therefore it’s not in its own interest to be overtly critical of a specific government; its stance on the Arab-Israeli conflict being major points arguably detracting from its independent and fair image. The relevance of print media once the hub of journalism has also declined in recent times due to a global economic downturn and an emergence of things such as rolling news networks and mobile media.  A guardian article stating; the Times had lost $74m on the quarter and 40% of its advertising revenue to Craigslist. The BBC isn’t alone in its spotty reputation within the public, (News of the World, CNN etc) the lofty ideals of an intrinsically benevolent democracy advocate when all businesses are in their core, money interested.


‘Citizens need to be assured that their media provide them with a non-partisan, comprehensive and partisan, comprehensive and balanced view over which they are expected to form views and pass judgement’.




Online sources and whistleblowers have become the new Holy Grail for information and state assessment. Although they are hardly ever strictly impartial, their lack of ties to the executive allow them the freedom to completely critique policies, but at the same time seclude them for much of the relevant technical information to give a balanced review.


Twitter seems to have the dual function of being a social media network and the fastest acting news source, leading the market as it allows users to dictate their own news, and its basic self-verifying method; stories become more popular the more they’re spoken about consistently. Online, the fourth estate seems to be going through a transitional period but is still at its most apparent. China, a nation whose culture is relatively mysterious and has a ‘Firewall’ preventing cross communication seems transparent when images of natural disasters are spilling onto western timelines before their own news networks report it. The age of citizen journalists seems to be upon us


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