The Libertarian and the Social Responsibility theories of the press are part of the normative theories of the media brought about by; Wilbur Schramm, Siebert and Peterson in 1956. Like other theories, the Libertarian and Social Responsibility theories have differences and similarities. Below are some differences and similarities between the two theories:
To start with, the Libertarian theory values media freedom and sees the press as good, rational and able to judge good ideas from bad ones. That is, it is highly optimistic about the individuals’ ethics and rationality. On the other hand, the Social Responsibility theory emphasizes on the individuals’ responsibility to the society. This means that this theory talks not about rationality or being able to judge good from bad rather, it advocates for some form of interference or regulations in the activities of the press to attend to the major needs of society
Secondly, profit is a major motive in the Libertarian theory as against that of the Social Responsibility theory where profit is not the most important factor. Social Responsibility is uninterested and underestimates the power of profit motivation in order to serve the pressing needs of society. An example in Ghana is taking the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation against the private media houses in Ghana like TV3, Multimedia Broadcasting Limited among others.
Thirdly, the Libertarian theory talks about absolute and complete freedom whilst the Social Responsibility theory on the other hand talks of regulated or checked freedom. For example, the Libertarian theory arose in opposition to the Authoritarian theory—a theory which put all forms of communications under the control of the governing elites (authorities). However, the Social Responsibility theory was introduced to check or regulate absolute freedom of the libertarians in performing their media duties to benefit the society.
In addition, the Libertarian theory neglects the plight of the weak and small groups (the minority) in favour of the socially dominant groups. However, the Social Responsibility theory gives room for the voices of the minority groups to be heard and plights to be addressed by dedicating a portion of the media to the society’s divergent opinions.
Moreover, the Libertarian theory sets no standards for the media to meet. The Social Responsibility on the other hand sets targets for media practitioners to meet.
The Social Responsibility theory prevents tyranny and publications hate propaganda by the majority. The Libertarian theory contrasts by giving room for majority manipulation seek their selfish interests.
Lastly, the Social Responsibility theory represents a compromise between views favouring governmental control of media and those favouring total press freedoms. In contrast, the Libertarian theory advocates for an absolute press freedom without any interference by government.
Firstly, both the Libertarian and the Social Responsibility theories have elements of press freedoms in them. Although the Libertarian theory advocates for absolute freedom and the Social Responsibility theory for partial freedom, they all have freedom in common.
Also, both the Libertarian and the Social Responsibility theories are consistent with the media of the United States.
Lastly, both the Libertarian and the Social Responsibility theories are highly optimistic about media’s willingness and readiness to meet responsibilities