The International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) is an international professional organization in the field of media and communication research. Its aims are to promote global inclusiveness and excellence in research, to stimulate interest in media and communication research, to disseminate information about research results, and to provide a forum where researchers can meet to exchange information about their work.
The history of the IAMCR is closely linked to the development of a proposal first initiated by the UNESCO Committee on Technical Needs in the Mass Media in 1946.
This committee drafted a constitution for an “International Institute of the Press and Information, designed to promote the training of journalists and the study of press problems throughout the world.” The United Nations Conference on Freedom of Information (held in 1948 at Geneva), in its resolution no. 34, took note of the proposal submitted by UNESCO to establish under the auspices of that agency an International Institute of Press and Information, and, considering that such an institute could be conducive to the improvement of the quality of information, requested “the Economic and Social Council to invite Governments and professional organizations, national and international, to examine together the possibility of implementing this proposal and, if it is found practicable, to co-operate in carrying it out” (United Nations 1948; Wells 1987, 59 – 80).
Actively involved in this 1948 conference were Fernand Terrou (who became the first president of the IAMCR, Jacques Kayser (the first vice president), and Jacques Bourquin (IAMCR president from 1964 to 1972). All three played an important role in the drafting of article 19 (on freedom of information) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Fernand Terrou, director of the Institut Français de Presse, was the leading advocate of the idea that an international association should be created, “responsible for promoting throughout the world the development of the scientific study of problems relating to the important sources of information (press, cinema, radio, TV, etc.)” (quoted in Santoro 1992). In the view of Terrou no scientific progress was possible without extensive international exchange and collaboration.
The 1952 UNESCO General Conference authorized the director general to proceed with the proposal, and two lines of action were developed as a result. One culminated in the establishment of training centers for journalists, the first being established in Strasbourg in 1956. The other development led to the establishment of a separate international organization for the promotion and exchange of scientific research. In 1953 a UNESCO expert meeting began the compilation of a list of projects in mass communication research around the world, and in 1955 a study entitled Current Mass Communication Research was published. In November 1956 the UNESCO General Conference authorized the director general “to promote coordination of activities of national research institutes in the field of mass communication in particular by encouraging the establishment of an international association of such institutes” (UNESCO 1956). In December of that year an international conference took place at Strasbourg where a committee (with Mieczyslaw Kafel from Poland, Marcel Stijns from Belgium, and David Manning White from the US) was formed that prepared the constituent assembly of what was to become the IAMCR. This constituent assembly took place on December 18 and 19, 1957, at UNESCO headquarters. Fernand Terrou of France was elected as the first president with Jacques Kayser (France), Jacques Bourquin (Switzerland), and Raymond Nixon (US) as vice presidents. It is remarkable that, at the height of the East–West ideological confrontation, colleagues from both western and eastern Europe were involved in the establishment of this international research organization, in which academics from developing countries also participated. The main aim of the association was to facilitate the exchange of methods and findings between research institutes, and to promote personal contacts among individual members. A related objective was to seek recognition for mass communication as a subject for independent scientific investigation.
The first general assembly was held in October 1959 in Milan, where Raymond Nixon (US) became president. The first leaders of the association came mainly from journalism, journalism training, and the print media, and particularly from European countries. The first priorities became the enrolment of researchers from various disciplines, the broadening of the geographical distribution of members to 60 countries, and the increase of numbers to 1000 members. In the course of the 1990s this expanded further to the representation of some 80 countries through some 2000 individual and institutional members.
Relationship with UNESCO and Other Associations
From its constituent assembly onwards the IAMCR has maintained a close consultative affiliation with UNESCO. This relationship includes active contributions to expert meetings, to the production of key documents such as the 1968 “Media and Society” study (Halloran 1970), providing consultative services for the MacBride Commission, among others, participation in meetings of the General Conference and in programs such as the International Program for the Development of Communication (IPDC).
At most IAMCR meetings representatives of UNESCO are present as observers. In the 1980s and 1990s the IAMCR also developed working relations with other UN bodies, such as the ECOSOC and WIPO. In the 1990s links were established with regional research and education associations such as the Asian Media and Information and Communication Centre (AMIC), the Latin American Association of Communication Researchers (ALAIC), the African Council for Communication Education (ACCE), the Caribbean Communication Association (CARICOM), and the European Communication Research and Education Research Association (ECREA). Associate memberships were established with, among others, the International Communication Association (ICA), the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC), the International Federation for Information and Documentation (FID), and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
In the early 1990s the name of the association was changed to the International Association for Media and Communication Research. This change of name reflected the widening scope of the association’s research interests.
Over the fifty years of its existence the aims and scope of the association have remained focused on the creation of a global forum where researchers and others involved in media and communication can meet and exchange information about their work. The association wants to stimulate interest in media and communication research, to disseminate information about research, and to create a broad constituency of researchers, practitioners, and policymakers.
The association has organized biannual scientific conferences and in the intermittent years smaller conferences. Due to its global commitment conferences were successively held in western Europe, the third world, and eastern Europe, e.g., in Leicester, Buenos Aires, and Prague. Among the key themes of the biannual conferences were: information and national development, mass media and the individual, information and social integration, communication and development, peace and communication, intercultural communication, communication and democracy, mass communication and cultural identity, communication technology, and mass media and international understanding.
The leading decision-making organ of the association is the representative body of the membership at large, the general assembly that meets biannually. Decisions for the general assembly are prepared and executed by an international council (that meets annually) under the leadership of the president and the vice presidents. From its beginning the IAMCR has been linked with the protection of freedom of expression and opinion. The first IAMCR president, Fernand Terrou (the French delegate to the UN conference on Freedom of Information in 1948), and the third president, Jacques Bourquin, made important contributions to the definition and later codification of the international right to freedom of information. During the first General Assembly at Milan in 1959 President Terrou addressed the need to review the basic right to freedom of information and put it in the context of real-life social conditions within which this right has to be realized.
Throughout its history the association has at different moments adopted public statements on such issues as the protection of journalists, the right to communicate, freedom of research, support for international communication policies in the service of democratic development, and the need to overcome underdevelopment of communication facilities in the third world. The concern about the public presence of communication research and its role in public life has been a leading motive throughout the years. This became very concrete in the contributions the IAMCR made to the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2003 (Geneva) and in 2005 (Tunis).
The public presence of the IAMCR has, over the years, given rise to controversial debates on the politicization of research. Two intellectual positions clashed. On the one hand there was the position that demanded explicit political choices, and on the other hand the position of those who feared that taking public political positions would threaten the independence of academic research.
The identifying characteristics of the association can be summed up as its ecumenical nature (in the sense of interdisciplinary and multi-method approaches to research topics), its global inclusiveness, which is reflected in its use of three official languages (English, French, and Spanish), and the active encouragement of the participation of young scholars, women, and researchers from economically disadvantaged regions of the world.
- Halloran, J. D. (1970). Mass media in society: The need of research. UNESCO reports and papers on mass communication, no. 59.
- Halloran, J. D. (ed.) (1979). International Association for Mass Communication Research: Past, present and future. Leicester: Centre for Mass Communication Research.
- International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR). At iamcr.org.
- Santoro, J. L. (1992). Une instance reflexive: L’AIERI. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Bordeaux.
- UNESCO (1956). Proceedings of the General Conference, Paris.
- UNESCO (1971). Proposals for an International Programme of Communication Research, Paris, COM/MD 20.
- United Nations (1948). Conférence des Nations Unies sur la Liberté de l’Information [United Nations Conference on Freedom of Information]. Historical note, no. 30, January 26, 1948. Information Department, New York.
- United Nations (1948). Proceedings of the Freedom of Information Conference, Geneva.
- Wells, C. (1987). The UN, UNESCO and the politics of knowledge. London: Macmillan.