Media ethics is the subdivision of applied ethics dealing with the specific ethical principles and standards of media, including broadcast media.

Journalism ethics and standards comprise principles of ethics and of good practice as applicable to the specific challenges faced by professional journalists. Historically and currently, this subset of media ethics is widely known to journalists as their professional "code of ethics" or the "canons of journalism." The basic codes and canons commonly appear in statements drafted by professional journalism associations and individual print, broadcast, and online news organizations.

Journalistic ethics tends to dominate media ethics, sometimes almost to the exclusion of other areas. Topics covered by journalism ethics include:

•News manipulation. News can manipulate and be manipulated. Governments and corporations may attempt to manipulate news media; governments, for example, by censorship, and corporations by share ownership. The methods of manipulation are subtle and many. Manipulation may be voluntary or involuntary. Those being manipulated may not be aware of this.

•Truth. Truth may conflict with many other values.

•Public interest. Revelation of military secrets and other sensitive government information may be contrary to the public interest, even if it is true. The definition of public interest is hard.

•Privacy. Salacious details of the lives of public figures are a central content element in many media. Publication is not necessarily justified simply because the information is true. Privacy is also a right, and one which conflicts with free speech.

•Fantasy. Fantasy is an element of entertainment, which is a legitimate goal of media content. Journalism may mix fantasy and truth, with resulting ethical dilemmas.

•Conflict with the law. Journalistic ethics may conflict with the law over issues such as the protection of confidential news sources. There is also the question of the extent to which it is ethically acceptable to break the law in order to obtain news. For example, undercover reporters may be engaging in deception, trespass and similar torts and crimes.

As with other ethical codes, there is a perennial concern that the standards of journalism are being ignored. One of the most controversial issues in modern reporting is media bias, especially on political issues, but also with regard to cultural and other issues. Sensationalism is also a common complaint. Minor factual errors are also extremely common, as almost anyone who is familiar with the subject of a particular report will quickly realize.

There are also some wider concerns, as the media continue to change, for example that the brevity of news reports and use of sound bites has reduced fidelity to the truth, and may contribute to a lack of needed context for public understanding. From outside the profession, the rise of news management contributes to the real possibility that news media may be deliberately manipulated. Selective reporting (spiking, double standards) are very commonly alleged against newspapers, and by their nature are forms of bias not easy to establish, or guard against.

This section does not address specifics of such matters, but issues of practical compliance, as well as differences between professional journalists on principles.

Ethics of advertising and public relations

In order to ensure that their marketing practices are ethical, businesses engaging in behavioral targeting should first review research on consumers’ attitudes and beliefs about the issue and then develop online advertising policies that demonstrate their commitment to protecting the privacy of their customers.

Public Relations

Good examples of codes sensitive to public relations are the following:

For The News & Observer to be the area's primary source for news and information, we must have the trust and confidence of our readers. Readers must know that the newspaper that arrives on their doorstep every morning is there to serve them not politicians of a certain stripe, not special interest groups. That puts the burden on us editors, reporters, copy editors, news researchers, photographers, designers, graphic artists, and support personnel to avoid conflicts of interest or even the appearance of such conflicts.

In newspapers there is code of ethics that eloquently seeks to remind its staffers of ethical decision-making, with an eye on public image.

The ethics of persuasion, advertising and public relations is closely related to marketing ethics. In media ethics, interest extends beyond commercial protagonists to public figures, such as politicians and movie stars, and non-profit organizations. When public figures and non -commercial organizations engage in media-conveyed persuasion tactics, the methods are usually derived from the business field.

Ethics of entertainment media

Issues in the ethics of entertainment media include:

Use fair, responsible and honest means to obtain material. Identify yourself and your employer before obtaining any interview for publication or broadcast. Never exploit a person’s lnerability or ignorance of media practice.

Present pictures and sound which are true and accurate. Any manipulation likely to mislead should be disclosed.

Do not plagiarize.

•Product placement. An increasingly common marketing tactic is the placement of products in entertainment media. The producers of such media may be paid high sums to display branded products. The practice is controversial and largely unregulated. Detailed article: product placement.

•Taste and taboos. Art is about the questioning of our values. Normative ethics is often about the enforcement and protection of our values. In media ethics, these two sides come into conflict. In the name of art, media may deliberately attempt to break with existing norms and shock the audience. The extent to which this is acceptable is always a hotbed of ethical controversy.

Media democracy is a production and distribution model which promotes a mass media system that informs and empowers all members of society, and enhances democratic values. The term also refers to a modern social movement evident in countries all over the world which attempts to make mainstream media more accountable to the publics they serve and to create more democratic alternatives.

In democratic countries, a special relationship exists between media and government. Although the freedom of the media may be constitutionally enshrined and have precise legal definition and enforcement, the exercise of that freedom by individual journalists is a matter of personal choice and ethics.

Modern democratic government subsists in representation of millions by hundreds. For the representatives to be accountable and for the process of government to be transparent, effective communication paths must exist to their constituents. Today these paths consists primarily of the mass media, to the extent that if press freedom disappeared, so would most political accountability.

In this area, media ethics merges with issues of civil rights and politics. Issues include:

•Subversion of media independence by financial interests.

•Government monitoring of media for intelligence gathering against its own people.

Law and media ethics

Like ethics the law seeks to balance competing aims. In most countries there are laws preventing the media from doing or saying certain things when this would unduly breach another person's rights? For instance, slander and libel are forms of defamation, a tort. Slander occurs when a person's good name is unfairly slurred. Libel is concerned with attacks on reputation through writing. A major area of conflict is between the public's "right to know", or freedom of the press, and individual's right to privacy. This clash often occurs regarding reporting into the private lives of public figures.

Media ethics and media economics

The economic policies and practices of media companies and disciples including journalism and the news industry, film production, entertainment programs, print, broadcast, mobile communications, Internet, advertising and public relations. Deregulation of media, media ownership and concentration, market share, intellectual property rights, competitive economic strategies, company economics, "media tax" and other issues are considered parts of the field. Media economics has social, cultural, and economic implications.Media Economics provides a critical introduction to the economics of the media and content industries (including broadcasting, print media, film, recorded music and interactive media). It examines the revenue and cost structures of these industries and the economics of the key processes of production, distribution and consumption. Particularly attention is paid to the changing patterns of activity in these areas;

The impact that new technologies and consumer behaviors are having upon the media and content industries;

The way these changes are impacting and influencing the development of media business models.

Media ethics also deals with the relationship of media and media economics where things such as deregulation of media, concentration of media ownership, media trade unions and labor issues, and other such worldwide regulating bodies, citizen media (low power FM, community radio) have ethical implications.

Intercultural dimensions of media ethics

If values differ intercultural, the issue arises of the extent to which behavior should be modified in the light of the values of specific cultures.

Similarities between media ethics and other fields of applied ethics

In the context of a code that is adopted by a profession or by a governmental or quasi-governmental organ to regulate that profession, an ethical code may be styled as a code of professional responsibility, which may dispense with difficult issues of what behavior is "ethical".

Some codes of ethics are often social issues. Some set out general principles about an organization's beliefs on matters such as quality, employees or the environment. Others set out the procedures to be used in specific ethical situations - such as conflicts of interest or the acceptance of gifts, and delineate the procedures to determine whether a violation of the code of ethics occurred and, if so, what remedies should be imposed.

Privacy and honesty are issues extensively covered in medical ethical literature, as is the principle of harm-avoidance. The trade-offs between economic goals and social values have been covered extensively in business ethics.

Differences between media ethics and other fields of applied ethics:

A theoretical issue peculiar to media ethics is the identity of observer and observed. The press is one of the primary guardians in a democratic society of many of the freedoms, rights and duties discussed by other fields of applied ethics. In media ethics the ethical obligations of the guardians themselves comes more strongly into the foreground. Who guards the guardians? This question also arises in the field of legal ethics.

In the context of business ethics, the typical interest groups are contract partners and competitors(the morality of contractual relationships, fair and unfair competition, just prices, bribing and misleading in contract negotiations);producers and consumers (marketing ethics, advertising ethics, product liability, public relations); employers and employees (respective rights and duties of labors partners, conflicts of interest, property claims, loyalty, privacy, quality control);share-holders and management(respective rights and duties, shareholder activism or opportunism, social responsibility of ownership, mergers and acquisitions).

Another characteristic of media ethics is the disparate nature of its goals. Ethical dilemmas emerge when goals conflict. The goals of media usage diverge sharply. Expressed in a consequentiality manner, media usage may be subject to pressures to maximize: economic profits, entertainment value, information provision, the upholding of democratic freedoms, the development of art and culture, fame and vanity.