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Friday, June 06, 2008

Ethics in PR - Influence of Mass Media

Y. Babji
presented at the PR Group Dialogue of
National Media Conference
Mt Abu, 22nd to 26th May 2008

PR has graduated from the rudimentary practices like courtesies, etiquettes and common sense. Stripped to its originality, PR is nothing but 'presentation of facts'. At the turn of 20th century the practices like 'spin doctors', 'pr ploy', 'lobbying', 'pr maneuver', 'pr effort', and 'press agentry' etc have now come to stay as a full-fledged PR profession practiced as a specialized, tactical and strategic management function.

Every full time profession, every full fledged profession will have to have ethics and along with etchis the 'ethics police' too will emerge. Every minute of the day, every day of the year, this ethics police will keep a watch while the PR profession faces the challenges like (1) Misleading information (2) Influence of management action (3) Promotion of inferior product or service (4) various discriminations that are inevitable (5) political influence etc

Against the challenges, what is ethics? who formulates ethical codes? the definition of ethics itself differ from person to person, place to place. According to Josephson Instt., ethics is defined as "Standards of conduct that indicate how one should behave based on normal duties and virtues" It means the ethical standards of conduct are determined by one's own personal decision, by the employer, by the profession and by the very society.

Traditionally, ethical systems have been categorized into 3 main categories.

I. Ethics based on results-oriented approach like
a. The suggestion that PR should serve the public interests
b. making choices not based solely on financial considerations

II. Ethics based on duty or humanitarian approach like
a. choosing not to disseminate false information because that would constitute an act of lying which is wrong

III. Ethics based on decisions taken on a case-by-case basis like
a. choosing not to comment to the press when releasing the information could result in considerable harm to one's client or the public.

What I mean to say is, as the profession advances, as and when it changes its course, the ethical values too change. The advancement of any profession or its change of course is largely dependent on Mass Media. As Media develops, the ethics get altered in every profession. It has a direct bearing on PR profession.

Let us see the growth of Mass Media and how it is classified
1. Printing from 1740
2. Recording devices from 1800
3. Cinema from 1900
4. Radio from 1910
5. Television from 1950
6. Internet from 1990
7. Mobile from 2000

No.1 is print medium. No. 2 & 3 are electronic media. No. 4 & 5 are broadcast media. No. 6 & 7 are digital media. Mobile telephone is named as 7th Mass Media. What TV is to Radio, Mobile phone is to Internet. Social Scientists and Researchers are afraid that Mobile Phone has become a powerful mass medium to redefine values and ethics in the very society.

With the above, I initiate discussion for the group dialogue No.5 on "Values, Ethics & Spirituality in Public Relations"