RIDING OR LASHING THE WAVES: Regulating Media for Diversity in a Time of Uncertainty


Join us in Washington, DC on May 24, 2019, at the National Press Club for the US-French joint International Communication Association pre-conference on the future of media regulation. The pre-conference is co-organized by the Brian Lamb School of Communication, the College of Liberal Arts of Purdue University and the Cultural Industries Laboratory of Excellence (Labex ICCA, University of Sorbonne Paris Cité), with support from C-SPAN and the C-SPAN archives. The keynote speakers are Nicolas Curien, Commissioner of the French High Council for Audiovisual Media, and Brian Lamb, founder of C-Span. The deadline for extended abstracts (up to 1500 words) and full papers (from 3,000 to 8,000 words) is January 16, 2018, with a decision date for March 1st, 2019. Papers should be submitted at the conference submission site: 

Conference Theme

A generation ago, the meaning of the term "mass media" was clear and direct: one-to-many means of communication. Over the past 20 years the term has been stretched to cover if not yet in name, a chaotic maze of broad and narrowcast media, local and global at the same time. Blogs can easily morph from a personal diary into a specialized magazine. Instant messaging tools like Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger can become instruments of mass mobilization.

Furthermore, as the means of communications changed, so did the genres they support. Blogging and vlogging, podcasting, screen capture videos, and game broadcasting, live broadcasting of events using mobile phones, or data visualizations and mapping are new types of journalism and para-journalism. Finally, the new mass media is nomadic. It refuses to be confined by national borders, laws, and regulations. While for many not desirable, for others not feasible, and for many others an unexpected gift, the difficulty of regulating and legislating for media in this day and age raises questions such as enforcement, relevance, co-regulation, controlling by standards and technologies, and so on. 

The "Riding or lashing the waves? Regulating Media in a time of Uncertainty" ICA pre-conference focuses on the regulatory and policy changes needed to stabilize the path from traditional to future forms of media. A core component of our conversation is an in-depth exploration of choices for regulating or deregulating media to ensure media pluralism and diversity. The umbrella question is “what are the regulatory, policy, and production rules that can make future media diverse, embracing pluralism of perspectives and ideas, user-focused and civically-responsible, while remaining profitable?”  

In other words, what legal frameworks, organizational innovations, self-regulation ideas or technologies can be or should not be used to maintain diversity and sustainability?

Assessing media diversity has always been a complex issue as this notion was commonly associated with quality or independence being defined by stakeholders as diverse as policymakers, news organizations, or scholars. The situation has become even more complex in the digital context where an apparent information abundance hides similarities in online news, as well as major changes in the way journalists, work (newsgathering, dissemination of information, times constraints, etc.), the way media, are organized (media ownership) and the way people access and consume online contents (social media, “networked journalism”, etc).. Among recent changes, the main one seems to be the growing place taken by platforms (or infomediaries) in this evolving media industry, to the extent of a ‘platformization’ of news.

Although the platforms tend to appear as neutral intermediaries in the digital game, they play an overwhelming role in online news which tends to assimilate them to media companies and raises the question of a traditional versus specific regulation. Moreover, they are now so integrated into the media industry that they sometimes replace public interventions in journalistic training or funding with the Facebook Journalism Project or the Google Digital News Initiative. 

At first glance, regulation approaches differ in the US and in Europe, for instance concerning public subsidies to media or digital tax. Recent debates also highlight these divergences:  a structural conflict exists about the ‘Net Neutrality, and the controversial article 11 of the copyright directive recently adopted by the European Parliament could make possible for news publishers to be paid by platforms for using parts of their articles. 

The purpose of the conference is to offer a perspective of existing initiatives or future plans and to provide a comparative analysis of European and American frameworks and to envision their respective short-term and long-term impacts.  


We are interested in high-quality quantitative, qualitative, or theoretical papers in the fields of legal studies, communication, political science, sociology, or economics. Here follow some of the issues that could be addressed:

  • Tools and means for fostering diversity in media in the digital context
  • May social media platforms or online content aggregators be categorized as news media?
  • Platforms regulation: GDPR and after
  • The future of regulatory regimes for social media
  • Freedom of expression on social media: for whom, how, in what way, and to what end?
  • Digital business models and their impact on the quality of online news
  • Weaponized social media between spycraft and international justice
  • The economics of privacy: can social media put user privacy first and make money at the same time?
  • Copyright and copyleft: under, over, or deregulating?

All questions about submissions should be emailed to cla-adr@purdue.edu

Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907 (765) 494-4600

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