Petros Iosifidis on media policy and communication

Petros Iosifidis is the Professor of Media Policy at City, University of London, UK. He is the author of 9 books in contemporary media and communication.

You are the author of 9 books on communication and media theory. Can you tell us more about the three communication principles you swear by? 

My books deal with contemporary media and communication issues such as Public Service Broadcasting, Communication Policy and Regulation, Media Concentration and Pluralism, Global Media and Sport, the Information Society and Digital Exclusion, Disinformation and Digital Democracy. I’ve used the critical Political Economy theory that focuses on the interrelationships among citizens, governments, business, and media policy. Through this theory, I’ve been able to study how economic issues affect socio-cultural systems and eventually implement public/media policy.

Communication Principles:

  1. All citizens should be able to access reliable information
  2. There should be clarity, coherency and unambiguity of communication
  3. Timeliness of communication should also be a key principle

In my view, the above communication principles should be delivered by accessible and affordable media, so there is a meaningful contribution to the creation of an online public sphere in which rational dialogue can be conducted.

What does your role as special advisor to the Greek government on media and communication issues include? 

This was an advisory, non-paid role. Basically, I was participating in governmental meetings that were discussing the digital strategy of the country (for example, in relation to allocating frequencies to terrestrial, satellite and cable media, digital and social media, online platforms and video on demand, etc.) and provided data and academic reports to inform governmental policies and strategies.

How can governments globally improve their communication policies? 

First and foremost, there should be transparency in governmentsl communication policies so the citizens are aware of them and can assess their usefulness. In effect, citizens can participate and even influence public policy. Second, widening participation in the policy process should be a priority. In this sense, not only politicians, regulators, business actors, but also civic society, NGOs, and grass roots have the option to participate in media policy-making.

Considering the world has gone digital because of the pandemic, how have communication policies shifted in the digital world? 

As citizens confined indoors during the pandemic, reliable and affordable connectivity became an issue. More and more people joined digital platforms like Facebook/Meta, Google, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram in order to get news, keep in touch with relatives/friends, exchange messages, etc. Communication policies need to ensure that people have the required skills to use online materials, as well as distinguish between accurate and misleading news. A potential way to achieve these is to promote media literacy, i.e., the ability to access and analyse media messages to make sense of the world. Governments should also encourage digital platforms (or internet intermediaries) to take voluntary steps to deliver reliable information, but in cases where self-regulation is not enough, governments should oversee these powerful digital platforms and impose formal regulation in order to serve the public interest.

The metaverse is growing larger, impacting how people will communicate with one another in the future. How can policies be designed to ensure ethical communication in the age of anonymity? 

Considering ethics has become paramount in the digital era so policymakers need to ensure confidentiality, anonymity, surveillance, protection of vulnerable groups, protection of minors from harmful content, etc. There should be guidelines for businesses and people alike to behave at high standards and therefore create an ecology of trust and transparency. 

Please tell us more about some communication topics you are keenly focusing on at the moment. 

I’m currently focusing on the issues of social media, self-regulation and the possibility to impose more formal regulation to combat the spread of disinformation and ‘fake news’. For example, in my 2021 co-authored book ‘Digital Democracy, Social Media and Disinformation’, I provided a detailed account of the main areas surrounding digital democracy, disinformation and fake news, freedom of expression and post-truth politics, and addressesed the major theoretical and regulatory concepts of digital democracy and the ‘network society’ before offering potential socio-political and technological solutions to the fight against disinformation and fake news. These solutions include self-regulation, rebuttals and myth-busting, news literacy, policy recommendations, awareness and communication strategies and the potential of recent technologies such as the blockchain and public interest algorithms to counter disinformation. 

Another field of interest includes concentration of media ownership and possible ways of regulating it in order to promote political pluralism and cultural diversity. My key argument has been that the more the ownership of media outlets is in the hands of a few the less pluralism, diversity and freedom of expression, so stepts need to be taken to prevent monopolies or oligopolies in the media and communication industry.

What are some books that have inspired you personally that you recommend to our readers? 

I’m inspired by reading books that are strong in theoretical terms but meanwhile provide hard data, examples and cases to apply the theory to practice, particularly to today’s situation. Please allow me not to mention specific books as there are many theoretically strong volums published and will not do justice to those that I’ll not mention. 

How can people be more mindful when they are communicating at a personal level? 

Irrespective of whether people communicate at a personal or professional level they should ensure that they access and deliver accurate information in order to promote critical and rational debate. This can be achieved by checking and double-checking the sources of news so to access as reliable information as possible and avoid disinformation and/or fake news.

Vidhi Bubna
Vidhi Bubna
Vidhi Bubna is a freelance journalist from Mumbai who covers international relations, defence, diplomacy and social issues. Her current focus is on India-China relations.