The “Triadic Model” of Free Speech and the Diminishing Influences of the 4th Estate

Date: January 22, 2024 (Monday)

Time: 1:30pm to 2:30pm

Venue: Room 723, 7/F Cheng Yu Tung Tower, The University of Hong Kong

Speaker: Miki Tanikawa, Associate Professor & Head of Program, Global Communication, Practices, Akita International University

This study investigates the role of “the 4th estate” in the digital era on the background of the recently highlighted concerns over news media’s ability to play its watchdog role under the new technological environment in which the digital platform companies have come to play a domineering techno-financial role. Working off of the well-elaborated point of the economic decline of the press, precipitated by platform dominance (techno-financial explanation), this study introduces the techno-legal perspective to the threat posed to the institutional press in much of the developed world. I bring in legal scholar Jack Balkin’s “free speech triangle” model to explain how the function and influences of the press have been emasculated from a regulatory standpoint such that its ability to maintain its constitutionally perceived role in a democracy is difficult. Some of the specific concerns that work to weaken the power of the press will be addressed and highlighted which will go to show how the government, working with the technology infrastructure companies, has and (further) could increase governmental powers to the detriment of the autonomous strengths of the press.

Dr. Miki Tanikawa is a long-time journalist turned media scholar. For two decades, he was a journalist with the New York Times and International Herald Tribune, and served as contributing editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit in Tokyo. At the New York Times, he served as a Tokyo-based business news-reporter and later a freelance feature writer (including for International New York Times) and produced nearly 700 bylined articles. He has also contributed regularly to US news magazines such as US News & World Report, BusinessWeek and TIME. At Akita International University, he teaches journalism and international media, and heads the Global Communication Practices at the graduate school. One of his recent program initiatives at AIU include a graduate journalism class in which student-produced stories appear in professional news media such as the Japan Times and the Tokyo Weekender under a partnership arrangement. Nine such articles have been published in the Japan Times.

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