Among the four classic press theories, the Authoritarian Theory has been pervasive both historically and geographically. When the mass communication began in 16th and 17th centuries England, this theory developed quickly in Europe and widely adopted and still practiced in many places. According to Siebert, it is an idea that placed all forms of communication under the control of a governing elite or authorities or influential bureaucrats, but it’s not under the direct control of the State.
It had the tight to maintain peace and security and therefore make rules that ensured these by way of censorship. Commonly, this system is especially easy to recognize in pre-democratic societies, where the government consists of a very limited and small ruling-class. The media in an authoritarian system are not allowed to print or broadcast anything which could undermine the established authority, and any offense to the existing political values is avoided.
It is the theory which was almost automatically sufficiently developed to produce what today we call the “mass media” of communication and it furnishes the basis for the press systems in many modern societies, even where it has been abandoned, it has continued to influences the practices of a number of governments which theoretically adhere to libertarian principles. This gives the press the necessary freedom to print whatever they want.
Under the Authoritarian approach in Western Europe, freedom of thought was jealously guarded by a few people who are from ruling classes, who were concerned with the emergence of a new middle class and were worried about the effects of printed matter on their thought process. For example, this control rested in the hands of king who, in turn, granted royal charters or licenses of media practitioners. These practitioners could be jailed for violating charters and charters or licenses could be revoked. Censorship of all types, therefore, was easily possible.
Authoritarian control tended to be exercised in arbitrary, erratic ways. In the 21th century, Authoritarians are necessary to control the media to protect and prevent the people from the national threats through any form communication, such as information or news. The press is an instrument to enhance the ruler’s power in the country rather than any threats. The authorities have all rights to permit any media and control it by providing license to the media and make certain censorship.
Moreover, if the media violate the overnment policies against license, then the authority has all right to cancel the license and revoke it. In this theory, the government has all right to restrict any sensitive issues from press to maintain peace and security in the nation. This theory promoted the zealous obedience to a hierarchical superior and reliance on threat and punishment to those who did not follow the censorship rules or did not respect authority. The fundamental assumption of the authoritarian system is that the government is infallible. Media professionals are therefore not allowed to have any independence within the media organization.
Also foreign media are subordinate to the established authority, in that all imported media products controlled by the state. One might think that there is an inevitable parallel between the authoritarian media system and a totalitarian society. This is a true for the most part, but a government may enforce an authoritarian profile without being openly totalitarian. A state that comes close to this media system today is Albania. In conclusion, in this authoritarian system, the relationship between the state and the media in an authoritarian system is vertical, in that, the information is from the top (government) to down (media).