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1. Introduction

1.1 What is media regulation?

The `media' whose regulation I am discussing are the public means of mass communication, especially the press, radio and television, but also including film and recorded music as well as a number of newer means of distribution by way of cable, satellite, discs, tapes, etc. Of increasing importance is the internet, which can now be regarded as a `mass medium' in its own right on the grounds of its gradual diffusion to majorities in many countries and its use for a number of public communication functions in the sphere of both entertainment and information. The boundary between public and private communication is an important one from the point of view of regulation, but it is much less easy to identify than in the past, especially in relation to the internet which serves as means of personal communication as well as a means of dissemination and form of publication. To some extent, the same applies to mobile phones.

Regulation refers to the whole process of control or guidance, by established rules and procedures, applied by governments and other political and administrative authorities to all kinds of media activities. Thus regulation is always a potential intervention in ongoing activities, usually for some stated "public interest" goal, but also to serve the needs of the market (for instance, by supporting competition) or for reasons of technical efficiency (for instance, setting technical standards). Regulation takes many forms, ranging from clauses in national constitutions and laws to administrative procedures and technical specifications. Regulation can be internal as well as external. In the former case, we are usually speaking of `self-regulation', where internal controls are applied, sometimes in response to public pressure or criticism from outside.