Excerpts from essays writen for my Master of Arts Degree by the Centre for Mass Communications Research of Leicester University

Professional practices: development news

Media globalization, national identity and alternative media

Media in global context -
From communism to consumerism: China and the Eastern Europe

Media history and social regulation

National cinema in India and China

 

 

Professional practices: development news

Introduction

This essay aims to define development news and the questions this kind of journalism faces. I will begin by explain the origins of the concept that can be traced to issues around the New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO). After, I will define de concept by contrasting it with mainstream news. These are the product of private and public service media around the world that postulate a dominant culture perspective and are produced within western codes and standards of journalism. Perspectives, news values, agenda setting, journalistic practices and ethics will be compared.

In the end, I will consider some of the development news problems, like the risk of falling into propaganda and the difficulty of survival in a market led environment.

Origins of the concept

The concept of development communication first arose in the American academic circles between 1945 and 1965 and is closely related with the modernization theory.

William Shramm was one of the defenders of this theory. The definition was created after WWII due to the division of the World in three: West, Eastern Europe and the rest (more recently the division between North and South has been preferred by some researchers). Shramm postulated that the poorer countries could be modernized through a transfer of knowledge from the West. This involved the transfer of Western created models and their adaptation to those countries, be it in social-economical areas or in the media, mainly through training, education and technology.

This model was later criticized for measuring modernization in terms of the GNP and over-looking cultural, political and social dimensions of communication, like the connection between media and elite, and so considering the media as neutral forces of development (Servaes, 1996)
This model would be considered responsible for the creation of dependency of the Third World from the First and it's detractors would give rise to the concepts of cultural and media imperialism. Central to these two concepts is the idea that there is a one way flow of information from some Northern countries to the rest of the world defended under the free flow ideology. A flow that these countries have difficulty in reversing, first, due to lack of resources for production or marketing; second, due to the tradition of doing it the western way thanks to the transfer of technology and training from the west; third, due to invading international market measures that defend the media of the powerful in opposition to protective media measures of the powerless (e.g. like the GATT accords, where the USA tried to "invade" the European markets). (Sreberny-Mohammadi, 1996)

These questions were discussed in the UNESCO in what became known as the plea for a NWICO by the Southern countries first led by the Eastern block and later by the non-aligned countries. The debate was raised with a main concern: change the imbalances in the global news flow and bring Third World perspectives to world news.

With the withdrawal of the USA in 1984, and later of the UK, from the UNESCO motivated by the disagreement about NWICO (the two countries have the biggest shares of the global media market) the debate faded. However, the questions it gave rise to are still pertinent (more than ever, I would say). One of the legacies of NWICO was precisely the notion of development communication. (Nordenstreng, 1996 and Winseck, 1996)

Definition: a question of perspective

Development communication aims, if not to change, at least to make a dent in the reigning 'one-way flow information order' specially through altering one of it's basic characteristics: the creation of news with a single Western perspective.

Although the free flow of information is said by it's defenders to increase diversity, actually, through competition for audiences that are saleable to advertising agencies (the bread and butter of private media) the media end up singing in unison. The largest audience is the one that belongs to the dominant culture and that most media cultivate (except niche market media or alternative media) since it is the one that will bring them the highest rates and the biggest advertising profits.

This is specially true about the private media that will only survive by satisfying the preferences of they consumers. So, far from encouraging diversity of opinion, they present news within the pre existing frame of their audiences values and beliefs (O'Neill, 199? p.342)
When covering Iraq, international news agencies will be concerned with whether Sadam Hussein (the bad guy, to most Western peoples judgement) is complying to US demands in arms inspection. They are not concerned about what the people of Iraq think of the issue and these are seldom asked for an opinion.

Mainstream media, specially the so called "international" news agencies, cover events with a consumer type in mind: usually a Northern inhabitant. As Aggarwala exemplifies, when there was a coup in Afghanistan in 1978 Western correspondents asked if the new government was pro-Soviet or pro-West not what was the impact of the change to the people of the country.
Development news aims to give the other perspective or perspectives that can be found in any event or issue. A development journalist would have said precisely the opposite of what an executive of Associated Press once said: "We are not going to get into covering Africa for Africans". Development news aims to cover the news through the perspective of the people involved in them, the people of the Third World.
(Aggarwala quoted by Thussu, 1996, p.78)

 

The mainstream perspective is often more than just that: it is a distortion of the truth. Reality is tamed to meet the needs of the organization, be it the referred audience rates/advertisement requirements or the routines of news production. (Helland, 1996, p.53 to 54).

A good illustration of that comes again from Helland: a news correspond in the Middle East signed a piece on the demonstrations on Iraqi without ever leaving Israel. The piece was constructed in between him and the London office within the usual perspective. (p.53 to 56)
By omitting or distorting information mainstream journalists frame events within a standard perspective or an underlying frame of mind resulting from accepted occupational and institutional arrangements (Helland, p.54 to 55)

Development organizations have a different objective from mainstream news: not profit but development. Thus, their values and routines, like agenda setting, should not take them in the path of distortion. But the danger of distortion may come to this media in another form: government intervention and propaganda, as we will see later.

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Spot news versus development news:

1) Agenda setting

Development journalism is more than just creating 'different perspective' news. It should deepen the news by finding their causes and underlying motives, which may require a thorough investigation. While main stream media seem to have an obsession with spot news, action news or hard news with a "coups and earthquakes syndrome" the development journalist should look behind the obvious, using an investigative explanation. (Thussu, 1996, p.78,81)

The development journalist is not merely interested in the event itself, but in the social-economic and political environment lying behind a situation or event.

During the out-brake of plague in India in 1994, international media filled the air, the screens and their pages with images of dying people and their murderers, the rats. The anachronism fitted one of their news values: it was unusual. But few news organizations went further than the show of a few dozen people (in a country of one billion) dying or the easy explanation of rats and lack of sanitation. Most failed to report that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund had dictated in the previous years' structural adjustments that impoverished the India health system.(Thussu, p.80,81)

Therefore, development news has a different agenda from mainstream news: not short term fast happening events but trends and processes, social and economic changes that happen through years or decades not in a one hour infotainment show. That is why the out-put of development news agencies is so often investigative pieces or features, not hard news (e.g. Gemini news agency in Unit 38b)

The development journalist "should critically examine evaluate and report the relevance of a development project to national and local needs, the difference between the planned scheme and it's actual implementation, and the difference between it's impact on people as claimed by government officials and as it actually is." (Agarwalla quoted by Thussu, p.78)

In this perspective, the journalist should assume a pro-active role as an agent of social change in contrast with the mainstream journalist that usually only reacts to happenings: an accident, an election, a murder fast forgotten. (Dickinson, 1996)

2) News values

The agenda setting of the development journalist takes us directly to the question of news values. The Northern media are concerned with elite nations. Elections or major political changes in Southern countries will only be briefly covered. Ethnic or civil wars in Africa, like the recent case of Guinea-Bissau, the 17 year civil war in Mozambique and the still on going war in Angola, are only covered by international agencies if there is a group of Westerners living there or it affects some major Western corporation interests.

A natural disaster in the Third World as to be of big dimensions to get covered by Northern media, while these cover even traffic accidents in the North.

Elite persons also get coverage by Western media. Northern elite people, of course. Thus, personalization is another news value: actions are seen as resulting from individual people not from structures, processes and institutions, which are more difficult to investigate. 'Bad news is good news' is also a common belief of mainstream media. (Thussu, p.80)

These values, resulting from the above referred comodification of news tend to create simplified versions of complex realities that create stereotypes of the Third World and their people. But this clichés are even more detrimental for developing countries when their mainstream media, Westernized by media training and copying of the North media processes and standards, also copy the referred values. Through their mainstream national media or through international media Third World audiences get a 'clichetic' image of themselves instead of getting news about their social-economic interests and their culture and traditions.

Because of the one way flow and the lack of media products exchange between Southern countries, they also get a Northern image of them selves.

Even in countries where independent journalism has a tradition, developing issues may not get covered. Not because of western value importation, but because of the journalists lack of interest or lack of professional gratification in covering those issues.

In India, a country with the largest number of poor people in the world, issues of social-economic development may be ignored by the journalist that asks "what do I get from covering the poor?". The proximity to power and prominent people may seem much more attractive to journalists then the proximity to poor farmers (Thussu, p.81-82).

This question takes us directly into the topic of journalism practices and ethics.

Agarwalla says: "development news is not different from regular news or investigative reporting". He also stresses that development journalism is the use of journalistic skills to report the developing process in an interesting fashion" (Aggarwalla quoted by Thussu, p.78). Hence, the difference between developing journalists and mainstream ones resides in the news agenda not in the professional practices.

Which means the development journalist may be affected by the same factors as the mainstream journalist.

3) Professional practices

The mainstream journalists' power or control over their occupations (as, thus, their autonomy) is limited by external constraints as well as by internal ones (Dickinson, 1996, p.22).

Political and social lobbies may influence the journalist in such a way the final product may turn out to be propaganda. Commodification, resulting from the profitable nature of media (even public service tends to compete more and more for audiences and advertising), as well as the media owners interests, create internal constraints for the journalist. So do work routines, by taming the world of events and shaping reality according to pre-established rules. News follow "a day time cycle which relays heavily on a planning structure that creates routine agenda of predictable stories which provide the back bone of each day's production requirements" (Dickinson, p.30, 31).

Those routinized predictable news are important in the creation of a mainstream perspective, as referred before. Because of their different organizational objective - development, not commerce - development media operational procedures should not take them in the path of routinized predictable frames of production, or their goal of investigating alternative perspectives will be gone.

Thus, the development journalist must be a participant one. By conforming to routines the neutral reporter conforms to officially produced information, while the participant journalist uses is gathering skills to provide context and background and brings in is interpretation of the facts. The development journalist is of the second kind.

Being asked to conform to routine practices and to report according to the organization's perspective may create in the mainstream journalist an occupational conflict. His creativity, autonomy and his ethic values may be subjugated to a consumer product and to management goals. (Dickinson, p.31,32,33).

The development journalist may have similar dilemmas. Nevertheless, his problems will tend to result not so much from the consumer nature of the medium, but from the proximity of state officials or politicians to developing media.

Problems: propaganda and funding

The development medium has the same goals has the developing country government, even if of a private nature. If it is a public medium, the chances of state pressures will be even greater. The journalist will face the danger of transforming into a propaganda agent. A bigger danger in developing countries than in the West. Here, public service media have bye-laws that protect them (better or worst) from government intervention. In developing countries a series of conditions make the public media more vulnerable to state interference.

Most African countries are an example of this. There, political interference is common. The media, regardless of whether they are state owned, pro or anti government or independent, attract the attention of governments. In the book I Accuse the Press the Kenyan journalist Philip Ochieng tells how staff changes and agenda setting decisions in the independent media where made by the Kenyan government (Okigbo, 1996, p.186).

Many anti-colonial nationalist movements used the media as an instrument for de-colonization. Newspapers in Africa and radio in Algeria are good examples (Lewis, 1996, p.581, Unit 24).

This close relationship between political power and the media continued after independence. In many such countries the press was nationalized and journalists transformed into civil servants. However, even the private media are not immune to political interference that, in certain cases, is accepted by the managers, editors and journalists in exchange for social gratification. Being close to power gives you power.

In other cases political ideology is imposed through government blackmailing: funding, subsidies, training offered by the state to media that can barely survive without these.

A third case is that in which threats, violence and abuse of power are used, if not to convince independent media to be official institutions of power, at least to silence them. In many of the South American and Asian pseudo democracies newspapers still get closed by the police, journalists assassinated, editors threatened.

This thin line between propaganda and development journalism in the Third World was the main argument used by the USA and other Western powers against NWICO. The same countries that through defending freedom of the press based on the 'sacred' value of the free market allow for a global 'one way flow of information', against those that defend the role of the media in improving peoples lives and helping the development of countries.

What is the future of development news? With the NWICO debate dying, global liberalization of the media sector and tougher competition to survive, the panorama does not look brilliant. Several regional news agencies established in the 1970's with guidance of the UNESCO failed in developing a different news agenda or in affecting the news flow. Even the success cases face serious financial problems and need to be subsidized by non-governmental organizations (e.g. Interpress Service). This difficulties deviate this agencies to a mainstream agenda, a move that is not always the solution since that means competition with commercial international agencies like Reuters or AP.

Some small-scale media where more successful, like the Filipino Depth News, the Malaysian Third World Network or Gemini News Service, a London-based service with 100 correspondents around the world and 100 subscribers in 80 countries. These services usually have a small output and most of it is constituted by features, specially opinion articles. Access to the mainstream media in terms of selling their copy is a problem these organizations face because of lack of competitiveness in spot news and lack of credibility (Thussu, p.83 to 96).

Are development news media a remain from NWICO that is in extinction? Or are these, as the 'alternative media' they are destined to a brighter future with the help of new electronic media like the Internet? This could be the topic for a future essay.

 

Note: the author of this essay question should have considered the lack of reference materials in this module and in the set and reference books. Following the option's advice, I tried to compensate using module 4 information. In the library of my university and in the Internet I did not find any theoretical works on development journalism.

 

 

Media globalization, national identity and alternative media

Introduction

This essay will begin by defining nation state, nation and national identity. After, we will examine what is the role of the media in the formation and maintenance of the nation state and national identity and whether that role is preponderant.
Introducing the question of media globalization we will analyze whether it erodes national identity (media imperialism) or strengthens it (concept of 'otherness' - defense of national/local values).
Finally, we will examine reactions to intranational hegemony or global (inter-national) hegemony through alternative media.

Media Imperialism and globalization/localization

Media Imperialism, as Boyd Barret put it, is "the process whereby the ownership, structure, distribution or content of the media in any one country are singly or together subject to substantial external pressures from the media interests of any other country, without proportionate reciprocation of influence by the country so affected" (Sreberny-Mohammadi, 1996, p. 376).
This imbalance in the flow of cultural/media products motivated the proposition for a New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) by the Southern countries supported by the Eastern block in the 1970's. As we can see through Nordensteng unit, this states feared the impact of the massive consumption of western media (produced either by the ex-colonizer country or the neo-colonizers like the USA) in their national identities. After the West tried to "buy" the South with offerings of technology and western media education, the retreat of the USA and the UK from UNESCO and the end of the Eastern Block subsided the debate (although some of it's main concerns stills persist today in the debate about globalization).
Although we can recognize the impacts of imperialism in national identities, through language, educational systems and the media (e.g.the doubling of Filipino movies in American-English instead of Tagalog) we also have to recognize that many southern countries, mainly through new popular texts, have created forms that reinforce their cultural identity and that even reverse the processes of cultural imperialism (e.g. the massive export of telenovelas from Brazil to Portugal). Nevertheless, some pessimists fail to see the national traits of these new southern genres (film in India, telenovela in Brazil) and prefer to call them just a 'mimicry' of Anglo-Saxon /western forms (Sreberny-Mohammadi, 1996, p.385).
Therefore, we have to analyze the impact of media globalization in national identities in two directions: one that comes along the media imperialism theory and other that affirms a resistance in terms of audience readings or through the creation of a sense of 'otherness'. This sense of the dichotomy We/They is in the origin of media policies and alternative media that defend local and national identities.
Media globalization can refer to the media as an economic activity or as a channel of content. In the first dimension we can find the transnational media corporations advancing into more and more national markets and taking with them the second dimension: a common content that is flowing to local audiences. Here we may find concerns over cultural homogenization, cultural synchronization (Hamelink,1996, Unit13) or global ecumene (Hannerz,1997, p.11-18), negative inferred concepts related with the theory of media imperialism and the NWICO debate referred before.
But the idea of national identities being overwhelmed by international common media content is contradicted by audience research that shows how audiences "actively and creatively make their own meaning and create their own culture, rather then passively absorb pre-given meanings imposed on them (Das et al,1996, p.520).
Audiences resist through readings. Their socio-cultural identities interfere in the interpretation of the message, so we cannot say that there is a straight cause-effect between the producers intentions and the audiences reaction. The audience contests the text when it does not read what was intended but something else(Ang cited by Das et al, 1996, p.520) Cross cultural studies like the one Katz and Leibes did on 'Dallas' or the one on how Arab women read telenovelas, by Sreberny-Mohammadi , reveal that audiences decode media texts according to their cultural experiences. Therefore we can say that cultural/national identity is not passively influenced by global media.
Media globalization may also reinforce national identity by creating a sense of otherness: the idea that our nation is different from other nations is increased by the knowledge people get of the existence of the 'other' through the media. The perception of such international penetration may take some groups to explore their own sense of national identity by creating protective regulation (quotas for national music in radio stations in Portugal) competing media ( telenovelas in Brazil) or alternative media. We can see the trend for national/local ethnic preservation as another response to globalization.
It is here that the global meets the local. In today's world there are two concomitant processes going on: localization and globalization. Robertson calls this inter-penetration of the global and the local glocalization. (Sreberny-Mohammadi, 1996, p.373). In the core of this process we find the coexistence of international media, national main-steam media and alternative media.

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Alternative media eroding/building nations

Alternative media can be a reaction to globalization, in the sense of international homogenization, or a reaction to intranational homogenization. Voice of Free Algeria illustrates the second process: it contributed to the formation of Algeria as a free nation and it had an important role in the process of independence from France (Lewis, 1996, p.583-84)
Revolutionary radios in Nicaragua, Radio Venceremos and Radio Farabundi Marti, were also examples of how media can be used to fight against a government and for the nation. On the other side, during the Sandinista period the 75 radios funded by CIA to broadcast from neighboring states into that country, can be said to have used globalization to undermine national identity. The same happened with other foreigner media like Radio Free Europe and Voice of America which contributed to the political changes in the Eastern block. In this cases there is no doubt that media globalization helped undermine the nation-states (Lewis, 1996, p.591)
Local alternative media may also have a role in eroding old nationwoods. They encourage neglected voices to speak up, helping differences to surface and so contradicting the mainstream media's function of building national identity. They may promote new methods of interaction based on participation and democracy (e.g. newspapers delivered by fax in Mozambique) or the use of different languages and customs (e.g.ethnic radios).
Alternative doesn't necessarily mean access to them is restricted. Faxes, computer systems and even video distribution can make them available throughout countries. Even high technology can be utilized to reach wider audiences.
American Deep Dish was a collectively run project which used a video, made by people around the country, to show American resistance to the Gulf War. The group leased time on satellite networks to broadcast the program through satellite in America. The video was also shown on television in several countries and used in workshops and seminars. (Lucas and Wallner, 1995, p.176-194).
In this way we have the alternative media transforming the local and giving it as global , in a process of glocalization. They can be used against those in power in the nation-state, and so against intranational homogenization, helping to form and transform cultures [since culture as Lewis states, is a dynamic process (1996,p.600)].
However, alternative media tend to have some difficulties. In terms of management, democratic decision making may take to long (Lewis p.593-96).
They also tend to have difficulty resisting the mainstream media, that end up buying them out. That's why so many alternative media are temporal. There was a period when pirate radio flourished in Portugal (a process similar to the 'radios libres' in France). Locally produced programs gave voice to people without any other direct access to media. With the argument of the limited radio spectrum, the state regulated the radios. Many where incorporated into mainstream stations, others where subverted by Anglo-Saxon music in an attempt to survive commercially in an era of intensified liberalization-privatization, the 1980's.
Diversity and access fell to business interests or to state interests. That's why so many alternative media have a short period of life in their contribution to the dynamic process of national identity formation.
But let us finish with a positive note: the Internet as an alternative media is constantly creating 'imagined" communities (Anderson) based in affiliation, ethnicity or nation that completely distance themselves from the nation/state or even subvert national identity. According to Poster, the Internet allows the "shift to a decentralized network of communications which makes senders receivers, producers consumers, ruler ruled upsetting the logic of the first media age" in a "second media age" (Lewis, 1996, p.605). The Internet is the total access medium transforming the local/national into global and vice-versa and eroding or defending nationwoods. This is the opposite of the absence of national media.

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Media in global context
From communism to consumerism: China and the Eastern Europe

Introduction

Most countries that were subjected to major political changes, be it the end of colonialism or the reform of the communist regimes, have changed their policy towards the media during and after those periods. In most cases, the media themselves contributed, to a certain extent, to those changes.
We will analyze two cases. The first is the change of China from radical maoism to the 'market socialism' it aims to be today and the role of the media, especially television, in those changes. The second is the transition of communism to capitalism in eastern Europe with the subsequent westernization of the media.
(There will not be exhaustive statistics about the countries or regions. Numbers will only be used to support some of the arguments in the text.)

"Modern broadcasting devices once the perfect instrument for capturing loyalties and maintaining the state, are becoming consummate devices for undermining the established order" (Price, quoted by Lull, 1997, p.260).

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Conclusion

Although both the eastern European countries and China have been subject to some of the major trends of today's media, the results of those global influences are quite different. While Eastern Europe was subjected to revolutions, and so to changes in political regime, China went mainly through a process of economical reform. Of course, the political and the economical go hand in hand, but while in eastern Europe there was a change in the mode of domination of the elite (from state to private) and so, a political change, in China the changes were basically economic with the introduction of the socialist market economy and it's contradictions.
Yet, in both we find similarities.
Due to certain continuities in the ex-socialist countries it's not so difficult to find some similarities with a present socialist country, China, that aims to be capitalist. An example of this is the Chinese party elite (that is transforming into a economical elite) that rules de media in China and the ex-nomenklatura that kept the same control over the media. In both examples the formation of an elite in and outside the media is creating class differentiation of proportions that is difficult to find in the western world today
In terms of media content, the effects of the total liberalization and wild capitalism in the east European countries and the controlled localizing an openness to private investment in China, seem to go in the same direction: more entertainment and soft news and the decline of the serious press while news, broadcast in particular, remain under the control of governments.
As for internationalization, while, in the press joint-ventures with the west were rapidly made in the eastern Europe, in terms of broadcast, governments keep a concern for national identity (laws against foreigner ownership of television, commission of national programs) as it happens with China when it issues laws against satellite dishies or when it broadcasts mainly national programs. Of course, permeability to foreigner culture is greater in Eastern Europe, but satellites (especially Star TV) are doing their share in China. Both end up being permeable to globalization. Or to McDonaldization?
Globalization is taking place both in Easter Europe and China. But while the latter and most Southeast Asia resist Americanization by adapting western media products to Asian values and exporting Chinese-mandarin programs, Eastern Europe is succumbing at all levels, fast and easy, to the west.
In conclusion, nor Eastern Europe, nor China can escape a global tendency: economicism rules the media world and the interests of governments and of the business elite that back them up find expression in regulation that favors concentration, annihilates civil society and translates in the futility of media content (through increasingly more entertainment and infortainment).

Note: Some of the data in the first part of this essay comes from my own observations and disperse data collected through talks, seminars and the media since I live in Macau, a Chinese territory under Portuguese administration close to Hong Kong.

 

 

Media history and social regulation

Introduction

This essay aims to explain how new technologies influenced communication industries focusing on the challenge they brought in terms of organization and regulation of the media.
After a brief introduction to the conventional organization of the print, broadcasting and telecommunication we will elaborate on a period of political change, the late 1970's and 1980's, that deeply influenced the media. Through examples from Britain and the United States we will illustrate how liberal right-wing governments created the trend for concentration and deregulation of the media that is observed today. Using Habermas concept of the public sphere we will analyze this tendencies drawing on concepts like public service and media convergence.
Some more recent trends like the transnationalization of the media and a prospective re-regulation will be considered in the end.
In line with Paddy Scannell this essay does not aim to be an enumeration of events and facts but to point out some of the most important social concepts that derive from media history (1995, p.301). The technological changes were paralleled by political and economical ones. Both Margaret Thatcher's and Ronald Reagan's governments promoted liberalization, de-regulation and, as a consequence, concentration and cross-media ownership.
Thatcher had a certain intimacy with the press that supported her economic measures as well as her political ones, like the Malvinas (Falklands) war. By the time, men like Eddie Shah and Rupert Murdoch, profiting from Conservative legislation that controlled the unions and from computing technology created press empires. These subverted news values to commercial needs by using ever-greater doses of sex and sensationalism (Ward, 1995,p.277). The Prime-Minister policies helped the press barons interests and these, in exchange, supported her through three elections.
Thatcher had the opposite relationship with the BBC. During her term of office the corporation provoked the Conservatives by broadcasting one documentary on the IRA, giving publicity to what some would consider an enemy of the nation, and by making a factual coverage of the Malvinas war, instead of playing the traditional nationalistic role. Thames Television also incurred in Thatcher's fury with a documentary on the deaths of three IRA soldiers.
There was revenge: the 1990 Broadcasting Act for independent television, which insisted on profitability not on quality, was used to withdraw the franchise from Thames Television. (Ward, 1995,p.279)
More recently the trend reverted: British governments are concerned with the influences de-regulated media have on the individuals and created regulatory bodies like the Broadcasting Standards Council or the Press Complaints Commission. We will consider this tendency for a form of re-regulation later.
In the United States the empire of the free market, de-regulation was not so much felt. Even though, the FCC weakened some of its rules by relaxing measures on mixed programming obligations and abolishing the fairness doctrine. Meanwhile there were mergers in the press, market that remained as free as it had ever been and convergence in the broadcast and cinema industry with deals like Sony buying Columbia or General Electric acquiring NBC.

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Challenges: the public sphere and public service; convergence and re-regulation.

In the 1980's two main dilemmas arose: the argument between the public service media defenders and the free marketers (the first pending to the social responsibility theory the second to the libertarian theory) and the question of how to regulate media that tend to converge both technologically and in terms of ownership.
Habermas concept of the public sphere added some fuel to these discussions by providing an ideal against which to judge existing social arrangements (McKenna, 1995, p.342). His works, although previously studied in several European countries, where only translated to English in 1989. That allowed British and American scholars to use history to stimulate the debate on the role of their countries media in democratic public communication.
For Habermas the media, by creating public opinion, were a crucial player in the rise of the modern democracies in Europe. In the 18th century public opinion became a force as people met freely without regard of status in table houses, coffee-houses and salons to discuss social and political issues affecting the public at large (McKenna, 1995, p.337-338).
In this forum of public interest and common concerns, debate was independent from the state and the market. As Habermas wrote, in the public sphere "laws of the market were suspended as were laws of the state" (1995, p.238). The media of the time, the periodical press, played an important role in spreading the ideas hatched in the salons. But the arrival of the commercial press in the 19th century created the conditions for the decline of the public sphere. The newspapers became more and more depoliticized and hostage to the need of commercialism and advertisement (McKenna, 1995, p.341). The expansion of state and economic interests put an end to the public sphere (Curran, 1997, p.82).
Habermas concept has it's drawbacks like an excessive idealization of this historical period (Curran, 1997, p.82) or idealizing what was an exclusive white, male, middle class public opinion. (Scannell, 1995, p. 314).
But thinking of it's contribution as more conceptual than historical we can use it to analyze the debate between defenders of the public service and defenders of the free-market, a debate that became more and more important with the 1980's technological and liberal changes.
The public sphere allowed a reassessment of the value of both private and public media theories and thus contributed to the understanding of the role of the media in contemporary democracies. ( McKenna, 1995, p.364).
In the public sphere the private media where at the service of the public being independent from both state and market. Today the two ideas became mutually exclusive. Defenders of the public service media criticize the concentration of ownership, the lack of diversity and the functioning as a business instead of a social enterprise that the free-market brings. Defenders of the free-market argue that public service broadcast was never really independent from the state and so could never perform a watchdog role, supposedly the most important function in maintaining democracy (Curran, 1997, p.84, 85).
The public sphere concept was used to show the serious political consequences of the media regulation by the free-market. It illustrates how commercialization led to the public being treated as consumers instead of citizens, to the content being dominated by entertainment, not politics, and to the restriction of ideas that contribute to democracy.
When in the 1980's right-wing governments lifted many rules in the USA and attacked public service in Britain, the public sphere concept was there to show the contradiction between media as economic organizations and social institutions and gave critics an argument for regulation.

But if de-regulation is still the order of the day, not only in the USA or Britain but at least in most eastern and western Europe, re-regulation may be the next trend.
With telecommunications and satellite being able to distribute broadcasting, print, voice and data, technological convergence became a reality. And with it the difficulty to keep the regulatory separation between the different modes of communication, print, broadcast and telecommunications.
Cross border satellite transmission or the fact one medium can do the same thing as the other (telephone used to transmit video on demand) are realities that call for a different type of regulation from that of the past.
Hybrid systems of regulation (e.g. between the common carrier and broadcasting models in the case of the cable systems) are said to be already in existence. So, although there as been a tendency for deregulation in the last two decades, the new media technologies and forms have been creating new regulatory frameworks. (McQuail, 1995, p.373) Or, at least, making claims for new regulatory measures to be taken. Like the claims of the new right for regulation of the Internet (the contemporary medium closer to the ideal public sphere).
Convergence in ownership may also be calling for regulation. It brings lack of diversity in content and censorship, not from the state, but from the corporation it self. Alliances between media conglomerates and parties or governments are well known cases. Often those same multinational corporations interfere in the agenda of the media they own in ways that try to favor their economical interests. Nowadays there are maybe more chances of the private watchdog to be undermined by the market than of the public one by the state. (Curran, 1997, 85-87).
The trend for media convergence, with it's lack of diversity, tendency for entertainment instead of politics, defense of 'the master's voice' and of it's alliances with politicians or states, took the media as far away from the democratic ideal of the public sphere as ever.

While it may be easier to regulate the media in terms of ownership, use of frequencies, copyright rules, trade restrictions or standards, the fact they tend to be international operations creates difficulties in terms of regulation of access, conduct and content. Regulations tend to have a national span while most media nowadays are multinational in reach. Thus UN failures in controlling internationally undesirable media practices (e.g. cross-boarder radio transmissions inciting ethnic violence between hutus and tootsies in Rwanda) (McQuail, 1995,p.406).
But in contemporary 'information societies', societies dependent on information and communication activities, the media may request regulation in their own defense, since freedom may only be achieved by regulation. (McQuail, 1995, p.374) European Union supranational regulations for television content are an example of that.
Multiplication of distribution of communication channels, technological convergence, transnationalization (cross border communication and it's consequences) and the advent of multi media lead us to think that the question of regulation can only be seen in an international framework.
These phenomena may also take us to the idea that the development of an international public sphere may be the only way to defend democracy against the threats of 'politization' by controllers of international capital supported by the USA, UNESCO or UK (Garnham, 1995, p.251)
At a national level, those actors - the multinational corporations and the liberal governments - are the ones that fight public service media and defend private media forms that select access in their own profit. What will happen at an international level? Is a global public sphere possible? The future will tell.

 

 

National cinema in India and China

Introduction

This essay will look at the relationship between the state and the film industry in China and India. These represent two of the oldest cultures in the world and are the two biggest nations. Cinema was an important instrument to create and maintain national identity in such vast and heterogeneous countries.
Through the countries film history - with a focus on 'Masala Film' in India and 'communist cinema' and the 'fifth generation' in China -I will explain how cinema reflected and projected government objectives as well as helped maintain (enforce in some cases) cultural identity. I will compare some aspects of these two quite different but sometimes similar cinematographies: their relation with the West, the role of tradition and self-censorship.
I will use two approaches to study national cinema in China and India: one institutional - how was the industry organised in different fazes of the country's history - and another cultural - how did the country defined and projected its image as a nation through cinema (Cooke, p.150).

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Tradition, the West and self-censorship

These two countries with such different political and economical histories developed two cinema industries, one communist, another capitalistic, with very specific, strong, non-westernised characteristics that share more than just that. The way national tradition and western imagery and arts were used to create national identity is common to both. The practice of self-censorship under authoritarian regimes (Indian 'socialistic' regime is not far from that), also.
In the birth of both cinemas there were nationalistic feelings as reactions against the outside: in India because of colonisation, in China because of the European settlements and Japanese invasion. In the fight between indigenous culture and the new ideas from outside (McLoone p.202), India and China developed a cinema with very particular characteristics and as defined as each nation's tradition and culture. Although nowadays none is free from being permeated by the west through globalisation, until recently their national cinemas had almost no influence from the West. We can even say that there was a reaction against the West. In China the Left Wing Movement was anti-western values as where communist films. Model Opera Films took Western music and ballet only to "use the foreign to serve things Chinese". Later, the Fifth generation visual abstract cinema, far away from Hollywood conventions, preferred to draw on Chinese aesthetics.
In Hindi Film, the British where criticised until the colonialists, through censorship, stopped it. So, western icons and values were adapted to criticise Western dissolute ways: the overwesternised sexually uncontrolled villain that drinks whisky is an example.
Tradition is another interesting feature in both national cinematographies. Masala film aims for modernisation as did the nation's leaders, but it was tradition that served this purpose: the genre is itself inherited from Sanskrit theatre and the all-Indian hero that fights for technological modernity ends up affirming a age old tradition: patriarchy and the superiority of men over women. The virgin heroine is but a version of the same: 'modernity yes, but let's keep out costumes' exactly what the people and the rulers of India say in unison.
In China traditional melodramatic stories with a political twist where the content of movies until Maoist times and even from then on the genre wasn't much altered although the content became obviously propagandistic. But tradition was again serving nationalistic interests in the Model Opera Films adapted from Peking Opera. And the way the Fifth Generation uses Chinese aesthetics and folklore once again shows that tradition is a vehicle for the creation of national identity and nationalism in Chinese cinema.
Finally, self-censorship is another interesting characteristic of both cinema histories. In China, more effective than censorship - whether mild in the from of instructions or harsh in the form of intellectual purges - was self-censorship. In a regime where all knowledge as no other purpose but to serve the state ideology, producers and directors knew quite well what to show.
In Hindi film, self-censorship comes from the fact that displeasing the state may bring bureaucratic problems (the worst kind in India) to the producers, error in which they don't want to incur. But it also comes from the fact that in a capitalistic industry the consumer is sovereign and Indian audiences don't accept the subversion of institutionalised codes.
Two such different political systems and film industries with such similar ways...
If national cinema moulds national identity according to the state mould, it is also true that in most countries and times it is nothing but the reflection of that mould.