The definition of “international communication” is constantly in flux. Whether we have in view sociologist Émile Durkheim’s suggestion in his classic work Elementary forms of religious life (1917) that relations between different Aboriginal tribes constituted international communication, or historians’ and political scientists’ studies of diplomacy among modern nation-states, or the rush of contemporary theorizing on globalization processes and the roles of communication media within them, it is wise to be cautious before consecrating our assumptions as to how this field of study should be framed. In order to try to avoid that trap, this article begins with a brief history of this research area. It will mainly focus on more recent research, which arguably has been conducted within ten categories. At the end, brief pointers will be thrown up to suggest some ongoing problems.
The ten proposed categories are: (1) theories of international communication; (2) core international communication processes; (3) global media firms; (4) global media policies; (5) global news flows; (6) world cinema; (7) development communication; (8) the Internet; (9) intellectual property law; and (10) nonhegemonic communication flows. Items 6 – 9 in this list have been organized under separate editorial categories, so will receive only passing attention here. Analysis of intercultural interpersonal communication is also highly relevant, but to date mostly takes place under the heading of nonmediated communication, so is reserved for entries under that aegis.
These categories are of course permeable. For example, Arab satellite TV news, the emergence of China’s Central Television Channel 9 (CCTV-9) global English-language TV news services, and the attempt to create a regional Latin American satellite service have implications both for the study of global news flows and processes, and for analyses that argue American cultural influence is saturating the globe. The global advertising industry has profound implications for the future of most media, over and above its intrinsic cultural influences (themselves almost infinitely disputable).
A critical issue requires flagging immediately, namely the distinction between “international” in the comparative sense (e.g., different national media systems), and in the rigorously global sense (e.g., global media firms such as Disney, or diasporic media that serve migrant communities). The distinction is useful, but may dissolve somewhat in the process of analyzing actual cases (Downing 1996). Do the global music industry, global public relations firms, and global tourism firms operate homogeneously because they are global, or is it essential for their success to have their operations molded by specific regional and local cultural realities? Comparative research might productively be conducted not only between nation-states or among minority-ethnic media projects in different places, but also within a single global media corporation.
A Brief History of International Communication Research
In terms of a concerted wave of interest in international communication, it would be fair to say that the propaganda operations of the great powers in the twentieth century’s two world wars were mostly responsible for generating sustained interest in this field.
Earlier Research Decades in The USA
Some of the best-known US founding names in communication research, such as political scientist Harold Lasswell, first addressed the propaganda issue early in the 1920s. The rise of dictatorships after World War I, their successful deployment of thennew media, and the emergence of the long Cold War after World War II entrenched this issue in government-funded research priorities. At that juncture, the research term of choice was “psychological warfare” rather than “propaganda,” because of its seemingly scientific and less biased connotation. Wilbur Schramm, another major US figure in the earlier history of communication research, was one of a number of individuals, including Daniel Lerner and Lucian Pye, who contributed many studies to this area, most of them government-classified at the time (Simpson 199).
Comparative media systems analysis received its first major book-length study in the USA in the shape of Four theories of the press (Siebert et al. 1956). The theories in question were normative, representing the supposedly official views of what media should strive to achieve in four contrasting polities: authoritarian, libertarian, Soviet, and “social responsibility.” “Authoritarian” and “Soviet” were distinguished from each other in terms of the readiness of sovietized dictatorships to harness media for political goals, rather than simply keep them from disturbing the political order, alleged to be their typical role in nonSoviet dictatorships. “Libertarian” meant a parallel free market in goods and ideas (not the rigorously free market philosophy of contemporary Libertarians). “Social responsibility” signified media, rather than simply being commercial enterprises or a state monopoly, as a public trust. Much critiqued in later decades for its Cold War and other assumptions, the book nonetheless provided a beginning for further comparative media research.
Given the competitive dynamic of the Cold War for global leadership, and perhaps especially the long furor within the political class in the west following China’s 1949 adhesion to the Soviet bloc, a third major stimulus to international communication research was “third world” development, often framed at the time, as Escobar has vitally demonstrated, by the “modernization” schema (Escobar 1994). Unless the west could assure “modernization,” the presumption went, more and more nations might fall under the Soviet–Chinese spell and risk being lost to the west. The most influential international media study proceeding from this assumption was Daniel Lerner’s 1958 analysis of Turkey and five Arab states, The passing of traditional society (Lerner 1958). Lerner defined media as pivotal to successful “modernization.” In 1962 his book was followed by Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of innovations, currently in its 5th edition (Rogers 1962/ 2003), which became virtually the “bible” of American foreign aid projects involving development communication on how to propagate “modernization” in practice in so-called underdeveloped societies.
Established Paradigms Attacked
Challenges to these international communication paradigms began to emerge at the close of the 1960s. The first was Herbert Schiller’s Mass communications and American empire (1969/1992), the first in a series of publications presenting a radically different perspective that culminated in his much-cited essay “Not yet a post-imperialist order” (Schiller 1991). In the 1980s Schiller’s work turned to the newly developing international circuits enabled by information technologies, adding to his earlier mass-oriented research. As opposed to the authors already cited, who saw US global involvement as fundamentally benign, Schiller argued that mass-exported US culture and new information technologies were part and parcel of US – later, transnational – global corporate hegemony and military interventionism.
A second challenge to the then-dominant paradigm came from research by Belgian sociologist Armand Mattelart. Living in Chile since 1962 as representative of a Vatican project for development, he co-authored with his wife Michèle Mattelart an analysis of US-funded mainstream and local oppositional media during the 1970 – 1973 experiment in Marxist social democracy undertaken by Chile’s Popular Unity government. It was published first in Spanish (1973), then in French (1974), and finally in English (Mattelart & Mattelart 1980). It raised very basic issues, regarding the international politics of media communication in a situation of extreme crisis, which were far removed from the assumptions of political stability and economic affluence implicitly underpinning mainstream media research in the USA and western Europe.
Armand Mattelart’s and Chilean novelist Ariel Dorfman’s Como leer al Pato Donald (“How to read Donald Duck”; 1971), an analysis of underlying conservative ideologies in Disney comic books published in Latin America, was another notable intervention from outside the globally dominant US communication research establishment. This book, despite the difficulty of its conceptual language, aroused deep passions. While the Chilean dictator who overthrew the Popular Unity government had all Spanish-language copies burned, the Disney Corporation nearly succeeded in getting the US Customs to ban the import of the English-language version, arguing it infringed their copyright. It was, nonetheless, translated into a dozen languages.
Schiller’s work was frequently dismissed by leading US communication researchers as either conspiratorial or implicitly pro-Soviet or both, but his analyses penetrated far and wide internationally, even among those who disagreed with them. Mattelart’s work, either singly or in combination with Michèle Mattelart, and heir to a Catholic social justice tradition, took longer to penetrate the Anglophone research community because of translation issues, but much of it is now translated into English. It is substantial, including studies of international advertising, Nicaraguan media during the Sandinista period (1979 –1989), the history of international communication, and communication and multicultural policies. His work pays much more attention to cultural dimensions than Schiller’s, which restricted itself to political economy. In many countries outside the USA at present, Schiller and Mattelart are at least as well-known as, and often more highly regarded than, Lerner, Siebert et al., Schramm, or Rogers.
Results and Newer Trends
Whatever position may be taken on the respective merits of these competing paradigms, there can be little doubt that the clash opened up the field of international communication to a much wider set of perspectives and arguments. Since then, and as an additional result of scholarly reflection and research on the momentous international potential of satellite communications and computer networks, the field has continued to grow apace.
Global communication policy initiatives, often targeted in some fashion on the ongoing crises of development around the planet, have further underscored the importance of international communication to the contemporary world. The rise of the global Internet and the spectacular global explosion of intellectual property issues in the digital communication era have equally pushed international communication issues increasingly to the top of the research agenda.
A paradox remains: world cinema, although perhaps the aspect of international communication to be studied earliest along with foreign diplomacy, was analyzed within a very singular framework in the west, at least until quite recently – one dominated by specialists trained in literary method. Thus, textual analysis of national cinemas or of individual film directors’ works was the primary focus. The political economy of global distribution and empirical studies of reception have only recently come to get the attention they equally deserved.
Indeed, the field long followed a certain global pecking order, with Hollywood center frame, along with the art cinemas of Europe, the Soviet bloc in its heyday, and Japan, whereas Indian, Latin American, Chinese, Arab, and African cinemas were barely recognized (some Iranian cinema work has recently been admitted to the canon). Cinema was frequently studied out of relationship to television, befitting its western-university definition as an art, in contradistinction to television, which was defined as a mass commercial product. For all these reasons, it is only with the emergence of cultural studies approaches, and the more recent revival of interest in cultural economy and the political economy of culture, that global cinema is coming to be integrated within the general flow of international communication research (e.g., Miller et al. 2005; Badley et al. 2006).
Recent International Communication Scholarship
Theories of International Communication
The three major “lenses” through which recent scholarship has sought to analyze international communication processes are cultural imperialism, cultural hybridization, and globalization.
The first of these three was central to the rather binary debates between mainstream US communication researchers summarized above. It came in different forms, with “media imperialism” being a perhaps more cautious subset of the larger term “cultural imperialism.” The latter could cover education, religion, business practice, consumerism, law, governmentality, dress, marriage customs, and still other cultural dimensions as well as media. The fundamental argument was that cultural transmission was an integral component of colonialism along with military conquest and economic exploitation, so that even after the demise of formal colonial rule in the post-World War II decades, the cultural impact established during colonial days was both intact and continually refreshed. The argument also incorporated the rise of the US as a global superpower, and proposed that it had followed in the footsteps of Britain and France in pursuing cultural domination. The roles of media for the US imperial project were argued to be all the more paramount as the twentieth century proceeded, and a media-saturated environment began to emerge. Nonetheless, it was possible, by using the term “media imperialism” as a metaphor for US global media influence, to acknowledge that reality without necessarily linking it to the larger claim that the USA is an empire.
The approach began to come under serious fire with John Tomlinson’s Cultural imperialism (1991). Tomlinson argued that the concept of cultural imperialism required two assumptions, the first being a directing center, a cultural imperialism planning agency so to speak, and the second that “third world” audiences and readers were peculiarly malleable and gullible, incapable of interpreting western media fare in their own ways in the light of their own cultural formations. Since these two assumptions were very far from proven, he proposed instead that discourses of cultural imperialism were a form of expressing discontent at the juggernaut of modernity and the widespread sense of impotence in its path. A detailed case study of a two-decade-long US cultural propaganda endeavor in western Europe provides a nuanced and highly illuminating counterpoint to both cultural imperialism theories and to Tomlinson’s critique (Saunders 1999).
The hybridization metaphor represented a different approach to critiquing the notion that western or US cultural imperialism was busy flattening all in its path, homogenizing everything, so-called McDonaldization. Instead, it insisted on a degree of agency among global audiences, not simply in Tomlinson’s sense of disputing global passivity in principle, but much more in researching just how global audiences massaged foreign cultural products and perspectives and hybridized them (Kraidy 2005). Argentinean sociologist Néstor García Canclini (1989/1995) is only one of a number of Latin American scholars to emphasize the forms of hybridization and cultural challenge evident in everyday life, derived from Latin America’s own long cultural history of Aboriginal, European, and African exchange, as well as more recent US cultural penetration. This is one of many instances that could be cited of how immersion in a non-western culture helps to frame scholarly research on international communication in important ways.
At the same time, both Kraidy and García Canclini stress how cultural hybridization does not evacuate asymmetrical power in a happy balance. Straubhaar (1991), in a muchcited article, argued fairly similarly that “cultural proximity” often counterbalanced the weight of US cultural exports in determining audience TV rankings, and defined Latin American media culture as one of asymmetrical interdependence with the USA. Sinclair, likewise, has developed arguments based upon the success or failure of television exports in particular geolinguistic regions, which may or may not be contiguous, as in the case of the Anglophone countries (Sinclair 1999). Overall, analysis of global television flows tends strongly to confirm these perspectives.
“Globalization” became a tremendous “buzzword” in the later 1990s and into the next decade, a sure sign that it meant different things to different scholars. For some it was virtually a synonym for cultural imperialism, for others for the spread of modernity or “postmodernity,” and for others its primary referent was economic, the spread either of free markets, or of fundamentalist free-market economic doctrine. However the term was defined, the roles of computer networks, satellites, and global media firms were plainly central to the processes under review, as was the growth of major cities as global communication nodes, “technopoles” (Castells 1996 –1998). At this point, too, contemporary urban geography and international communication scholarship frequently found themselves face to face. At the same time, some critics continued vigorously to dispute the utility of the term, especially as applied to the media and information sectors (Sparks 2007).
Core International Communication Processes
The overall fabric that recent international communication research has focused upon involves its historical antecedents, the growth of communication satellite uses, the advertising industry, public relations, the music industry, the tourism industry, international radio and television, global surveillance, and the thesis of Americanization. War propaganda closes the list.
The first entry noted is significant in relation to “globalization” theories, in the sense that rather too many discussions of the term presume it is self-evidently a very recent phenomenon. Its analysis of the initial phase in the latter nineteenth century of laying submarine oceanic cables for telegraphy, and later for telephony, is an important corrective to ahistorical analyses. Optical fiber oceanic cables continue to serve crucial roles alongside satellites. The entry also references recent historical scholarship that calls into question the notion of competitive colonialism as the driving force in the ocean cable-laying process.
The next four entries listed above – advertising, public relations, music, and tourism – are important correctives to conventional discussions of international communication in a different way. While considerable attention is almost always paid to television, then radio, and then satellites and cable, and more recently to the Internet, it is curious that advertising, in particular, with its centrality to media finance in most countries, is so often omitted. Public relations firms, commercial and political, are also crucial sources of global news as well as of the technology of winning elections (or attempting to) that is spreading across the planet.
The global music industry is often marginalized by older scholars as a youth culture phenomenon, which in significant part it is, but the question of precisely who is marginalizing whom in this process is worth considering carefully. The global tourism industry is on one level the point at which individuals and groups from different nations meet physically and in certain senses communicate with each other, though generally the communication is narrowly structured in terms of specific services, and often the construction of tourist enclaves is sharply different from life in general for local inhabitants. In all four cases, however, the concepts of cultural imperialism, hybridization, and globalization raise interesting questions about the international communication processes involved.
International radio broadcasting may look to some eyes rather passé in the twenty-first century, but that would likely signify the usual geographical location of the reader. Radio continued to be, at the latter end of the 2000s, the communication medium par excellence in most parts of the world and for much of the world’s public. Its relative cheapness, portability, and lack of literacy requirement would continue to keep it a very live option for many. Only in commercially advanced nations is radio basically an adjunct of the recorded music industry. Furthermore, in order to understand the twentieth century, never mind the twenty-first, omitting the international radio broadcasters, whether the BBC World Service, Voice of America, Radio France Internationale. or still others, would seriously distort our grasp of global communication processes.
On a more somber note, international communication also involves mass surveillance, which digital technologies have made ever more sophisticated. Voice recognition and filtering software for telephony has progressed in leaps and bounds in recent decades, and email is very hard to protect against the really advanced decrypting devices available to security services (Bamford 2001). Closed circuit TV in public places has become routine in commercially advanced nations. The legitimation for this dramatic expansion has rested upon crime, undocumented immigration, and terrorism, all of them real, but policy debates continue to reverberate, with claims and counterclaims about the dividing line between protection and privacy (Lyon 2007).
War propaganda is hardly a new phenomenon (Knightley 2004), but most would concur that it developed newly exigent requirements during the two twentieth-century world wars and the Cold War. It took two forms, one the projection of external propaganda to the enemy nation, both to its general public and to its troops in combat, the other domestic propaganda, typically representing the enemy as subhuman and unnervingly aggressive. Dower’s remarkable study of the domestic propaganda processes in both the USA and Japan in the Pacific war confirms this (Dower 1986). The US propaganda apparatus represented the Japanese as rats, apes, and insects, and the Japanese apparatus portrayed the Americans as both vicious and effete.
Global Media Firms
The leading global players operate in multiple countries, even if they maintain head offices in one, and usually have a considerable variety of media interests (e.g., cinema, publishing, music, video games, theme parks), not only one. Contrasted with firms outside the media and information sector such as General Motors or ExxonMobil, these companies, though very large, are considerably smaller in financial terms. Nonetheless, although media products are tradable commodities, it would be conceptually sloppy even to try to establish a ratio of cultural impact to the quantity of money spent on producing, distributing, or using them.
These are not the only major global media firms, a number of which are discussed in other entries. Some Internet firms, notably Google at the time of writing, and computer firms (Microsoft, Intel, Oracle, Sun Microsystems) play huge and seemingly ever-growing roles as well. Taken together, these corporations represent the leading players in the cultural and information industries sector worldwide. This marks a sea change from some decades earlier, when in many nations cultural and media policies were the province of Ministries of Information, Culture, and/or Communication.
The crucial question, almost certainly due to be debated for a considerable time to come, is how far this shift of communication power toward very large corporate enterprises on the international as well as national scale represents an expansion of citizenship options, or their decline. An effective answer to this question will require a careful disaggregation of the issues involved. From arguments summarized already, it is clear that many would dispute the argument that planetary cultural homogenization, whether commercial, consumerist, or Americanized, is overwhelmingly in process. The Korean cultural wave phenomenon is testimony to this, as are the dynamics of cultural exchange among Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong (Iwabuchi 2002). That, however, is not likely to be the end of the debate, since there are multiple other dimensions to citizenship and media than cultural flattening. In the end, the debate is likely to revolve around some version of the “social responsibility” thesis, namely are media suitably defined purely as commercial entities, or does the “public goods” argument rightly complicate their standing for democratic polities?
Global Media Policies
In the years before and since World War II, the US government worked in a sustained manner to promote the “free flow of information” policy. This was an attempt to challenge British domination of ocean cable traffic in particular, but also the ascendancy of Britain’s Reuters news agency. Then, over the 1970s, and again over the early 2000s, attempts were made to forge partly noncommercial global communication policies in the form of the New World Information and Communication Order proposals, and the 2003 and 2005 World Summits on the Information Society (WSIS).
There are also now a number of trade regimes and international agencies that have some influence, or the potential for it, over international and national communication policies, such as the World Trade Organization, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the European Union, UNESCO, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Of these, a number have historically served as forums for negotiating national economic priorities, and thus have been substantially influenced by major corporate lobbies. Others, such as UNESCO, ITU, WIPO, and ICANN, have a more mixed history, representing to a certain degree the concerns of transnational publics and social movements.
Within this context, the European Union is a uniquely ambitious experiment in multinational integration. The question of media and collective identity, whether “European,” national, or sub-national (e.g., Scotland, Catalunya), has continued to exercise EU communication policy discourses. Within Europe, France has provided a militant lead in favor of exempting cultural products from routine trade criteria (the so-called “cultural exception”), while the UK has actively supported the contrary position, in line with the US government. The results to date have been mixed and mostly tentative, often confused through being based upon political shibboleths rather than clear-headed analysis, and inevitably complicated by the continuing expansion of membership (Schlesinger 1997, 1999). NAFTA represents a very different case.
Francophonie consists of a cluster of sustained attempts over nearly 50 years by France, as a former colonial power, to combine defense of the French language and culture against the dominance of US culture. At the same time, the project was energetically supported in its earlier years by certain postcolonial leaders of newly independent states, notably by Léopold Senghor, first President of Senegal in 1960. Some have argued Francophonie to be Janus-faced, insistently resisting the tidal wave of US cultural products while content to oil the wheels of France’s neo-colonialist African policy. However, the organization’s recent overtures to Arabophone, Hispanophone, and Lusophone nations to encourage their involvement in projects to defend their own linguistic and cultural heritages may yet prove to be a significant vector in the global politics of culture and communication.
Thus, global media and information policy, like public policies of all types, has been marked by clashing agendas (Raboy 2002). Up through the early 1970s, it would be fair to say that the clashes were primarily those of national economic interest among those states with financial muscle, or the Cold War, or sometimes a combination of the two. In that decade, however, prompted by calls for a New International Economic Order to address the vast disparities between commercially advanced nations and the rest, pressure began to be voiced in international assemblies for a comparable restructuring of global media communications of all kinds. The digital technology era was at the doors, and the potential of new information and communication technologies for the global south’s development was already being debated. The chasm between the profusion of all forms of communication technology in the global north and their feeble distribution in the global south was, and remains, a major development issue.
After some time, a package of proposed communication policy shifts in favor of the global south was assembled by an international task force convened by UNESCO. They were presented in the 1980 MacBride Report, Many voices, one world (MacBride Commission 1980). The policy proposals came to be entitled the New World Information and Communication Order. They fell hostage, however, to a concerted hostile press campaign in the USA and the UK, whose governments withdrew from UNESCO in the mid-1980s, publicly citing the Report as a primary reason for doing so. There were internal weaknesses in the Report, notably its assumption that communication policy was exclusively a matter for national governments. Paradoxically, however, there was no proposal whatsoever in it for government licensing of journalists (a serious risk for press freedom), even though the hostile news media campaign in the USA assiduously asserted this to be one of its main planks. Nonetheless, the UNESCO process was a first step toward global public discussion of citizens’ communication needs and entitlements.
In the World Summits on the Information Society in Geneva (2003) and Tunis (2005), initiated by the United Nations and convened this time by the ITU, issues of global communication inequities resurfaced in the first fully international forums addressing them since the UNESCO debacle. This time, there emerged a very slight change, albeit resisted by a number of governments and corporations. The ITU at that point had but recently opened its doors to communication corporations as official participants, rather than only to states, for the first time in its over 100-year history. But the UN charge to the ITU had also signaled that “civil society” organizations should also have a voice in the WSIS deliberations. In a very small and often grudging way, this was conceded at the Summits.
All this could, no doubt, be read as simply an obscure exercise in acronym juggling. Notwithstanding, however, the impracticalities of global representation of the public interest outside of the conventional system of states (a process itself marked by considerable deficiencies), this could also be read as a first tentative step toward inclusive global policymaking for international communication. It remained to be seen what might be the next moves.
Global News Flows
These were one of the many global communication disparities articulated in the MacBride Report. The pattern was rather clear: most international news coverage emanated within the global north and reported on its doings. International news about the global south, when available at all, strongly tended to focus on disasters, natural or political. This made for an under-informed citizenry across the planet, paradoxically at a point in history when the world was becoming ever more economically and politically interconnected (Boyd-Barrett & Rantanen 1998).
However, the turn of the millennium witnessed new international broadcasting interventions. Established stalwarts, such as the BBC World Service, Voice of America, CNN International, Deutsche Welle, Radio France Internationale, and Vatican Radio, were joined by Arab satellite news, China’s English-language global TV channel CCTV-9, and Latin America’s fledgling experiment, TeleSur.
These varied international projects raised challenging questions for conventional professional journalistic claims to objectivity, especially when the mission of a given broadcasting project was officially defined as “public diplomacy” on behalf of a nation-state. The differences in their news agendas were significant. Sometimes they were even visible within one and the same organization: following a basic editorial decision some months previously, CNN International broadcast pictures of wounded and dead Iraqi civilians following the US invasion in 2003, while CNN Domestic avoided doing so. On the face of it, however, the international sources of supply of broadcast news were expanding. It remained to be seen whether the public would take the trouble on a regular basis to compare more than one such source.
Nonhegemonic International Communication Flows
So far the focus has been on mainstream channels of international communication. The picture would be seriously incomplete without reviewing other media projects outside these conventional channels. In the twenty-first century mediascape, and given the increasing activity of global social movements of many kinds, it appeared likely that smaller media would not only continue to operate, but would become a growing force.
Already there was evidence of the intensification of women’s participation in these nonhegemonic projects, a vector that sharply distinguished this zone of the mediascape from mainstream media. The tremendous increase in global labor migration across borders over recent decades, and the widespread emergence of settled diasporic communities, had as one effect the creation of many media projects linking them with their countries of origin as well as engaging with their new locations. The Kurds, mostly settled in eastern Turkey, but with significant enclaves in Syria, Iraq, and Iran, had a conflicted history of trying to use satellite broadcasting to connect with their migrant communities in western Europe as well as to combat the Turkish state’s long ban on the use of Kurdish in broadcasting inside Turkey.
The emergence of the Qatar-based news broadcaster Al-Jazeera was a further example of nonhegemonic international communication, in two senses: it challenged the conventional and deferential state broadcast news services of the Arabic-speaking world, and it also challenged official US government definitions of Middle Eastern affairs. The TeleSur project, originating in Venezuela, sought to fulfill a somewhat analogous role in the Latin American region.
Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, the latter now defunct, served a distinct role during the postwar decades up to the end of the Cold War. In both cases, the commitment was absent to a neutral and bland style of news reporting that largely characterized the BBC World Service and Deutsche Welle. Both stations set themselves the particular task of functioning, not as the Voice of America – even though they were largely CIA-funded – but as though they were domestic news services inside the Soviet bloc nations, yet operating without Soviet censorship. They quite often broadcast underground texts from the clandestine opposition. Thus, their style often was highly confrontational, and sometimes appreciated more inside the Soviet bloc than the careful cadences of the BBC World Service.
Two more examples will suffice of the nonhegemonic international media sector. First, Le Monde Diplomatique is a French monthly world affairs magazine some 50 years old, which today appears in 26 languages, has a global readership of some 2 million, and appears in some countries on paper, in others digitally. Its contents are in-depth feature articles on countries and issues around the world, written partly by its very highly educated editorial staff, and partly by university specialists in a variety of countries. Over the past 30 years, “Diplo” has provided a consistent location in which the inequalities and inequities between global north and south are at center stage and exhaustively analyzed. It has served over the past decade and more as the global social justice movement’s foreign affairs or foreign policy magazine.
The second example is the Independent Media Centers movement. Emerging at the 1999 WTO confrontations in Seattle, by 2007 it had grown to number toward 200 hyperlinked nodes of social justice activists around the world, though mostly concentrated in North America and western Europe. Sites varied in productivity, but normally ran frequently updated and interlinked news stories on challenges to global and national capitalist institutions, and very often on the repression these met. Photo, audio, and video files were routinely used. English was the predominant language, but national and in some cases sub-national languages were also visible on a number of sites. Each site was independent, and only if taken over by a group radically hostile to its global social justice mission, or engaging in campaigning on behalf of a particular political organization, would the site be de-linked from the others.
International communication research continues to be hampered by the monolingualism of many researchers, especially in Anglophone universities. This means that research achievements and insights from many countries do not enrich multinational scholarly dialogue to the degree they should. It is also a field poorly represented or not at all, to the time of writing, in most standard undergraduate communication textbooks used in the USA, which discourages the flow of future US researchers to this area in a field the USA has not ceased to dominate. Its importance in our shrinking planet, for good or for ill, remains unabated.
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