Federal Communications Law Journal

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Citation

51 Federal Communications Law Journal 711 (1999)


Self-regulation has been portrayed as superior to government regulation for addressing problems of new media such as digital television and the Internet. This Article reviews the literature on self-regulation to define what is meant by the term, to identify the purported advantages and disadvantages of self-regulation, and to identify the conditions needed for its success. It then analyzes the effectiveness of self-regulation by examining instances where self-regulation has been employed in connection with media. After describing and analyzing past uses of self-regulation in broadcasting, children’s advertising, news, alcohol advertising, comic books, movies, and video games, this Article concludes that self-regulation rarely lives up to the claims made for it, although in some cases, it has been useful as a supplement to government regulation. The Article identifies five factors that may account for the success or failure of self-regulation. These include industry incentives, the ability of government to regulate, the use of measurable standards, public participation, and industry structure. Applying these five factors to digital television public interest responsibilities and privacy on the Internet, this Article concludes that self-regulation is not likely to be successful in these contexts.