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 looking at the track record of self-regulation in other media. After describing and analyzing past uses of self-regulation in broadcasting, children’s advertising, news, alcohol advertising, comics books movies, and video games, it 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. It identifies five factors that may account for the success or failure of self-regulation. These include the 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, it concludes that self regulation is not likely to be successful in these contexts.