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Expanding Media Law and Policy Education: Confronting Power, Defining Freedom, Awakening Participation
Communication Law and Policy  (IF),  Pub Date : 2019-04-03, DOI: 10.1080/10811680.2019.1586407
Erik Ugland

The changes brought about by the Digital Age have not triggered significant increases in political participation or meaningful reductions in longstanding social power asymmetries, which are now increasingly negotiated in policy contexts that involve mass media (surveillance, big data, net neutrality). At the same time, new technology and communication patterns have opened fissures in public opinion about the limits of free expression while also creating new legal risks for citizen-communicators. This article suggests that universities need to recalibrate their curricula to meet the exigencies of this moment, which should include an increased emphasis on media law and policy courses and initiatives. The article outlines a rationale for action, and some strategies, based on the need to: (1) expand citizens’ expressive agency by equipping them with the knowledge to shield themselves from overt restraints and subtle forms of coercion; (2) deepen citizens’ civics knowledge, enhance their political efficacy and enable their political participation; (3) facilitate citizens’ engagement in reemerging debates about the meaning and scope of the First Amendment; and (4) spur citizen involvement in confronting pressing constitutional and media policy issues whose resolution will ultimately shape the broader balance of social power.