Social Responsibility Theory

in Mass Communication,Political Communication


In mid 20th century most of the developing countries and third world nations have used this social responsibility theory of press which is associated with “the Commission of the Freedom of Press” in United States at 1949. In the book “Four theories of Press” (Siebert, Peterson and Schramm) it’s been stated that “pure libertarianism is antiquated, out dated and obsolete.” That paved way for replacement of Libertarian theory with the Social responsibility theory.

Social Responsibility Theory:

Social responsibility theory allows free press without any censorship but at the same time the content of the press should be discussed in public panel and media should accept any obligation from public interference or professional self regulations or both. The theory lies between both authoritarian theory and libertarian theory because it gives total media freedom in one hand but the external controls in other hand. Here, the press ownership is private.  The social responsibility theory moves beyond the simple “Objective” reporting (facts reporting) to “Interpretative” reporting (investigative reporting).  The total news is complete facts and truthful but the commission of the freedom press stated that “No longer giving facts truthfully rather than give a necessary analysed or interpretative report on facts with clear explanations”.

The theory helped in creating professionalism in media by setting up a high level of accuracy, truth, and information. The commission of press council also included some tasks based on social responsibility of media, which are as follows:

  1. Formulate the code of conduct for the press.
  2. Improve the standards of journalism.
  3. Safeguarding the interests of journalism and journalist.
  4. Criticise and make some penalty for violating the code of conduct.

The theory allows

  1. Everyone to say something or express their opinion about the media.
  2. Community opinion, Consumer action and professional ethics.
  3. Serious invasion of recognized private rights and vital social interests.
  4. Private ownership in media may give better public service unless government has to take over to assure the public to provide better media service.
  5. Media must take care of social responsibility and if they do not, government or other organisation will do.

Critics of Social Responsibility Theory:

  1. Avoids the conflict situation during war or emergency by accepting the public opinion.
  2. Media will not play monopoly because the audience and media scholars will rise questions if media published or broadcast anything wrongly or manipulate any story.
  3. Media Standards will improve.
  4. Media will concern all class audience rather than focus on higher classes in the society.
  5. Media may work autonomously but certain thing is controlled by the government and other public organisation.

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Vincent kasakula April 7, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Guys help m.discuss if social responsbility theory is an alternative 4m of govt control of the media.

judithjayde April 12, 2012 at 4:28 pm

the mass media should abide by the ethics of journalism.

Dr. John Chidi Ugwu August 23, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Third world countires have used the theory of social resonbility as a pretext for muzzling the press. Social responsibility has never actually been practised in its real concrete terms in more than ninety per cent of the Third World countries. National leaders and politicians of these countries – Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia and even the much talked-of “free” USA. What social responsibility theory has earned most is lip service. The proponents of the theory must be very uneasy in their graves because, like the inventor or the nuclear bomb, they least expected the abuse to which their inventions would be put to.

farouq gilani September 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm

media must obey the society standards and this theory is useful and media should be responsible if media not obey the rules and ethics

wycliffe October 19, 2012 at 11:05 am

fantastic commentary.Quite helpful.

kudzayi shirichena October 22, 2012 at 5:45 pm

am doing a research project on voluntary media councils and the impact that they have on media practitioners

ummie ma'aji February 10, 2013 at 7:56 pm

plz someone should please help me and check for theories of social responsibilities in management

john March 29, 2013 at 8:12 pm

what theory of the press is Nigeria using since its not authoritarian

Jessica Atiah Awinzoya April 25, 2013 at 3:53 pm

How valid is the claim that in a democratic state such as Ghana it will be an affront on the right of Ghanaians to media freedom for any government to endorse overtly or covertly the authoritarian theory of the press?

Sujan April 29, 2013 at 8:41 am

In fact, nowadays all of tne media is going according to the responsibility but each every media r mis that mea ehics . but all tge democratic countris try to this formate,it is bast n familiar

Grace okorie June 28, 2013 at 10:09 am

I think social responsibility theory is the best media theory so far, because it is a two way communication. it gives right to the people desire to know and right to the nation’s security. third world countries can practice and maintain this pattern if they apply the right principles/codes or communication ethics as well. It doesn’t give room for deceptive or distorted information conducted by the public.

Jerry H. Ayilimba August 10, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Fantastic Theory. since the emphasis is on self-control and the media are accountable to society and controlled by community opinion.
with this theory also, i am afraid it can lead to an increase in transnational and multimedia operations, which could endanger cultural integrity and political sovereignty. (Roelofse 1996)

obert August 27, 2013 at 6:28 pm

help pliz/Discuss the editorial structure of a newspaper company

NEEMA October 23, 2013 at 2:32 am

It is the great theory hence give a chance for journalist to conduct an investigation about what they write to the publics rather than present un investigative information

Abdullahi Arikewuyo Hanafi November 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm

The theory seems 2/3 completely perfect if actually people will adequately make use of it , but each one of us in authority looks for his own interest and does what pays him to the detriment of others. The theory needs spiritual approach.

anaphew massaquoi December 7, 2013 at 6:58 am

tis is the best theory needed in Africa

israel bashire December 14, 2013 at 1:17 pm

how to analysis case study if the article summary is given?

ibrahim sulaiman Tumfafi January 22, 2014 at 1:25 am

thank you for that more explanation

Aweis Haji Nuur March 20, 2014 at 10:54 am

Social Responsibility requires a commitment not only from the journalist but also from the organization he or she works for.

Bright April 7, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Social responsibility theory is good because it promote high level of professionalism in media

dhanaswariya September 1, 2014 at 2:41 pm


nelsonmandindo September 17, 2014 at 1:48 pm

indeed the theory of social responsibility is null and void especially in my country zimbabwe

Roland Mbonteh September 29, 2014 at 7:33 pm

In Cameroon, there is a kind of melange between the libertarian and authoritarian theories. While the government claims that there is absolute press freedom, calling on the media to exercise social responsibility in their reports, yet the obnoxious media laws have not been revised. To worsen matters, the government set up the regulatory body (National Communication Council) that has not relented in closing down media organs and suspending journalists and radio/TV programmes “they” deem not good for the society.
On this score, i wish to undertake a study on the “Social Responsibility and Censorship in Cameroon Media”.
The project is to justify whether the theory of social responsibility holds in Cameroon. Your comments will be very helpful. Thanks

Naetwe Kimweri December 8, 2014 at 3:10 pm

The theory has a great promotion to media especially in provisional of information to audiences, as its aware of its responsibility in society

Vanessa January 11, 2015 at 7:53 pm

Can someone give me an example from history for this theory?

abrar hussain January 17, 2015 at 12:26 am

This theory is best for developing countries.

Nadine January 28, 2015 at 8:35 pm

Hi! Does anyone know if this has a conceptual model? Please email me at Thank you very much!

mohammed April 7, 2015 at 4:22 pm

plz who can tell me which among of the four theory of the press is practies in nigeria?

okonkwo linus azubike January 11, 2016 at 4:09 pm

the theory is is democratic and encourages freedom of speach. it is good for studying societies.

Imtiaz abbasi March 10, 2016 at 5:57 pm

Social responsibility theory hold that everyone…

Ilebiyi Kingsley April 5, 2016 at 4:22 am

this theory is d best cus it give room to public opinion and have moral obligation

Nandana April 17, 2016 at 1:06 pm


Andrew kaunda April 18, 2016 at 4:00 pm

This theory may lead into chaos in the countries may be good for capitalists.

charles laku April 23, 2016 at 2:03 pm

this is an optimal theories that guide our societies in terms of responsibility
and environmental sustainability

Liad Telle May 11, 2016 at 3:15 am

the theory is apt and necessary. the media as the fourth estate of the realm which must hold those who governs responsible to the people must also be helad responsible and accountable by regulation, enforceable regulation. it will also save journalism and journalists from impostors and tradusers.libertarian theory promotes impunity while authoritarianism promotes power draconism, repression and oppression of the media. for me, media responsibility theory is it.

pritie katness June 17, 2016 at 2:03 pm

this theory makes lots of sense today….especially in my own country, Uganda!

tatambuka samuel August 11, 2016 at 11:37 am

very nice

Hyacinth Akwu August 21, 2016 at 11:09 pm

please, urgent answer, which among of these theories dose Nigeria press or media operate?

Alex Ikambi October 20, 2016 at 12:19 pm

Social responsibility is a vital theory in Kenya especially now in media proliferation era.

Julius Caleone Mbewe January 23, 2017 at 3:05 pm

Social responsibility theory demands a sense of creativity in accordance with the situation in which it is intended to be applied

Ashenafi Ararsa March 15, 2017 at 8:08 pm

The press in a democratic system is expected to regulate and direct its practices voluntarily and without external coercion or censorship. While carrying out its tasks the press is expected to follow good business practices and management, without undermining its social obligations to the public. The press is to be objective and free from bias.
From a theoretical perspective investigative journalism is rooted in a long tradition of enlightenment ideals that gave rise to concepts of press freedom and liberty. In 16th, 17th and 18th centuries social changes had primarily been seen in Europe in relation the political system which had been practiced. The main idea of the period was social and political progress should not rest in absolute power of the authorities but on the absolutes of reason, rational debate and freedom of speech

blessed May 29, 2017 at 10:20 am

in social responsibility theory ,the media is obliged to support democratic political principles in order to fulfill their social function

arooj June 15, 2017 at 10:20 pm

the theory has a great freedom to ensure the rights of human . the media should play their proper role to safe the rights of human otherwise government should be do all these responsibilities.

Saaku October 14, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Woooow thanks

fridah kendi November 5, 2017 at 2:41 pm

Social responsibility theory give the journalists right to print but does not give the right to unjustly seek to damage someone’s reputation, or act of crime.

Samuel December 12, 2017 at 3:06 am

Please can someone explain the communist press please .

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