International and Development Communication: A 21st-Century Perspective


Edited by: Bella Mody

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    Foreword: Global and Local Influences on the Shape of Media Institutions

    This book is intended to provide a historical perspective and a contemporary analysis of the field of international communication and its application to development communication. It revolves around media institutions and the conditions under which they have been used by the state and private capital. Part One on international communication presents the thinking of seven well-known authors spanning South Asia, East Asia, Europe, and North America. Part Two focuses in on development communication applications by seven active researchers and professors, drawn from Latin America, South Asia, and North America.

    This foreword addresses the present-day context of globalization in comparison to its earlier eras. Communication media and telecommunication are considered central to globalization and to national development. Hence, before looking at applications of the media to international communication and development communication, I start out by looking at biases in the organization of media institutions. I then analyze causes of the change in media ownership and financing from public to private and illustrate implications of the change with two examples, one from international communication and another from development communication applications.

    Taking over from modernization, globalization has become the primary intellectual theme in the social sciences and a buzzword in trade and industry in the past two decades. The term is used to describe a range of processes and outcomes. To illustrate:

    • increases in international trade and foreign investment
    • increases in information flows
    • increased promotion of Western values such as markets and democracy
    • increased attention to intellectual property regimes
    • increases in the number of international nongovernmental organizations
    • increases in the number of international governmental organizations
    • increased number of international laws applicable to national policies, e.g., the UN Convention on Human Rights, the Millennium Round of the World Trade Organization, the Kyoto convention on greenhouse gas emissions
    • increased migration
    Globalization in History

    The modern capitalist world system began in the 16th century when surplus accumulation in Western Europe, new shipping technology, and cannons enabled European traders to launch voyages for gold, spices, silks, and such. Globalization may be considered a new phase in capitalist development beginning in the 1980s, initiated by the needs of financial capital, energized by neoliberal policies such as deregulation and privatization, and facilitated by digitized information flows. Some structural power has now devolved from the state to global markets and firms. An argument rages on about whether the current process of global capitalist market expansion is stronger than in previous eras. Suffice it to say that this stage is different from the global intrusions/expansions of imperialism, colonialism, and even the high levels of international trade and investment in the 1890–1914's free trade capitalism. It may be distinguished by, first, the intensity of capital and information flows, and second, by the particular pattern of implicated locations. Some countries are more integrated into interactions with the rest of the world than others; the names change from year to year. Foreign Policy magazine's annual Globalization Index (created in 2001 with several indicators spanning information technology, finance, trade, personal communication, politics, and travel) showed Singapore and Ireland at the top of the ranks of political, economic, and technological integration from among 62 countries in 2001 and 2002. The United States, the world's dominant market power, ranked 11th in globalization in 2003.

    The Role of Media

    Castells (1989) places communication media at the center of changes that are driving globalization, as service delivery platforms for business transactions, and as carriers of information content and images central to the global push. While pace, scale, and pervasiveness of the Internet are unique, communication media have played central roles throughout history. Postal communication helped the Roman Empire to manage its far-flung properties. The telegraph helped Europe and Britain to manage their colonies. The telephone, the wireless, the television, coaxial cable, and the digital computer were all major influences in early periods of global expansion, as were popular print media and international news agencies. The geostationary satellite made electromagnetic transmissions global.

    Considerable research on the influence of global forces focuses on the content and consequences of entertainment programming for cultural homogeneity and diversity (Kraidy, 1999, also Chapter 6 in Part I) and the impact of telecommunication services on global market integration. Media institutions and telecommunication institutions that provide entertainment programming and telecommunication services are considered major social forces that enable a range of changes—be they marketing and sales promotion, war, peace, or national development. In this chapter, I focus on media institutions and telecommunication organizations in the current era of global capitalist expansion. I analyze the causes of change in the ownership (private, foreign) and financing (private foreign and domestic investment, advertising). My purpose is to identify the bias inherent in the institutional organization (Innis, 1951) of media as infrastructure for further globalization, to be able to identify its influence on the content and form of information flows in international and development communication. I draw loosely from the literature on the social construction of technology (Williams & Edge, 1996) and on structuration (Giddens, 1979).

    Print media organizations in most countries were organized as private initiatives in the 1800s and 1900s and remained so, except for those newspapers and magazines started after the 1940s by the governments of newly independent nations in Asia and Africa. Except for the United States and postcolonial Latin American countries in the U.S. hinterland, radio and TV stations were initiated by the state in European nations and in countries they colonized. Until the mid-1980s, the state owned and controlled the telecommunication system in most European and developing countries (except the Philippines). In the past two decades, a new global-local oligopoly has emerged. Whether it continues to exclude the majority is the primary question for policy.

    Changes in the Structural Biases of Media and Telecommunication Institutions

    An investigation into organizational design requires an analytical framework that links political and economic forces, including markets, firms, and regulatory organizations. I use an institutionalist perspective to understand the dynamics of entertainment programming and telecommunication services under conditions where there are substantial variations in market power.

    My account of the privatization of public media organizations (primarily telecommunications and broadcasting) is a structuration argument. Following the agent-structure debate, the structure of organizations might be driven by the accumulation of initiatives taken by persons, individuals institutions, or civic organizations (methodological individualism), by deeply embedded social structures (e.g., capitalism as a production structure, patriarchy as a gender structure) with no individual influence, or by individual actor and structural forces that mutually influence the other. Structural forces establish the range of options that are available to actors in a given historical context.

    The growth of privately owned media organizations is neither random (by individual whims) nor predetermined (by structural formulas). Structural forces connected to capitalism at the national and global levels set the stage for the change. To illustrate from the case of telecommunication, these global forces of capitalism in the 1980s included

    • Large users like transnational corporations for whom telecommunication services are central to their business transactions. These include financial firms like J P Morgan, Chase Manhattan, and G.E. Capital; software developers like IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Microsoft; manufacturing firms like GM and Ford; oil companies like Shell and Aramco (the Arab American Oil Company); and insurance, medical, and airline firms that send their back-office business processes (e.g., data entry, transcription, call centers) offshore to low-wage countries, to name a few
    • Telecommunication providers in near-saturated plain old telephone service markets in the United States, Western Europe, and Japan searching for new markets
    • The International Monetary Fund, The World Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the World Trade Organization founded after the Great Depression of the 1930s to prevent such recurrences

    National forces of capitalism that set the stage for the privatization of their public telecommunication entity included

    • Domestic firms that needed seamless voice and data communication to coordinate national business and to access global market opportunities for exports of goods and services (e.g., software development, data entry);
    • International and global firms that needed voice, video, and data to keep in touch with their command and control centers in headquarters
    • Middle-class residential users who wanted reliable local and long-distance telephone service like their counterparts in other countries

    Crucial among individual initiatives were a number of technological innovations and de-regulatory initiatives. Technological changes, that is, digitization, opened the door to flexible and multipurpose applications. Firms selected a particular organization of technology from the range of alternatives possible under digitization to maximize their own profit-making goals. Thus, the biases and imperfections of market conditions are embedded in the design of the organization. The type of deregulatory initiatives (namely, neo-liberal) taken by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan enabled the change toward present-day global-local private oligopolies that have the power to select the content and form of their services.

    Biases in International and Development Communication Messages

    Chua (2003) points out that the United States is promoting “bare-knuckled capitalism” without social security provisions or antitrust laws around the globe. She shows how the unqualified simultaneous promotion of markets and this particular form of democracy have had disastrous consequences in countries where minority ethnic groups control markets: With no viable recourse through a workable ballot box, the majority ethnic group have seen no recourse to their margin-alization but murderous direct action against the market-dominant Chinese minority in Indonesia and the Philippines.

    Rodrik (2001) points out that governments in developing countries who receive information promoting global integration and act accordingly are diverting their scarce resources away from education, public health, industrial capacity, and social cohesion. Development strategy is thus selected by global prescription rather than by national public debate.

    In the frenzy of strategic alliance formation between Internet service providers, traditional broadcasters, and the press jostling for profit from common digital platforms, the fundamental question of information asymmetry (e.g., between the global North and South, between media owners and users within a country) is often forgotten. An increase in the number of information technologies (e.g., wireless, satellites, cable) will need to be accompanied by customized content selection and access strategies in development communication to solve the basic problem of structured inequalities of wealth and status across the globe.

    This volume is divided into two parts: I. International Communication, and II. Development Communication. Young scholars of development communication might wonder why this literature is housed in a book with international communication research. This is because applications of media technology for agriculture, health, education, democracy, social change, and poverty eradication were initially foreign aid initiatives. These were promoted, to a great extent, by practitioners, scholars (e.g., Schramm) and organizations (United Nations, foreign aid donors) interested in international communication. The use of communication to support development in the 21st century presently consists of national projects and researchers with strong domestic roots in many countries, industrially advanced and industrially less advanced. Each of the two parts begins with my introduction, followed by chapters authored by leading scholars. The book ends fittingly with Everett M. Rogers's analysis of how these fields are faring as areas of scholarship.

    All of us would like to thank the invisible people who make books possible: In this instance, Sanford Robinson, Senior Production Editor at Sage, and Rachel Rivard, our careful proofreader. Without them, we could not communicate.

    BellaModyMichigan State University
    Castells, M. (1989). The information city: Information technology, economic restructuring and the urban-regional process. Oxford: Blackwell.
    Chua, A. (2002). World on fire: How exporting free market democracy builds ethnic hatred and global instagbility. New Yok: Doubleday.
    Giddens, A. (1979). Central problems in social theory: Action, structure and contradiction in social analysis. Berkeley: University of California Press.
    Innis, H. A. (1951). The bias of communication. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
    Kraidy, M. (1999). The global, the local and the hybrid: A native ethnography of globalization. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 16 (4), 454–476.
    Measuring globalization: Who's up, who's down?Foreign Policy (Jan.-Feb. 2003). Retrieved Feb. 1, 2003 from
    Rodrik, D. (2001). Trading in Illusions. Foreign Policy, 123, Mar.-Apr. 2002, pp. 54–62.
  • Author Index

    About the Editor

    Bella Mody is Professor in the Department of Telecommunications at Michigan State University. She was Chair of the Intercultural and Development Communication Division of the International Communication Association from 1999 to 2001. Her research interests include international media, communication technology application in developing countries, formative research for media campaign design, and gender, ethnicity, and class. She is coeditor of Telecommunication Politics and author of Designing Messages for Development Communication and several journal articles. She has edited special issues of the Journal of International Communication, Gazette, and Communication Theory. She is a consultant to international and nongovernmental organizations and has been an advertising copywriter and a civil servant in the government of India. An updated vitae may be found at

    About the Contributors

    Oliver Boyd-Barrett is Professor in the Department of Communication at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. His research interests have focused mainly on international communication, with special reference to global news media and news agencies. He has authored or edited 14 books and approximately 100 articles. Books include The Media Communication Book (with Chris Newbold et al., in press), The Globalization of News (with Terhi Rantanen), and Media in a Global Context (with A. Sreberny-Mohammadi, et al.), among others.

    Sandra Braman is Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism and Communication at the University of Wiconsin, Milwaukee. She has published widely on the macro-level effects of the use of new information technologies and their policy implications in journals such as the Journal of Communication, Telecommunication Policy, Gazette, and Media, Culture & Society. She coedited Globalization, Communication, and Transnational Civil Society and served as book review editor of the Journal of Communication. Currently, she is Chair of the Communication Law and Policy Division of the International Communication Association.

    Edward Comor is a faculty member of the School for International Service, American University, in Washington, D.C. Among other publications, he is author of Communication, Commerce, and Power (1998) and an editor of and contributor to The Global Political Economy of Communication (1994). His research focuses on the political economy of communication and culture. He is a cofounder and former Chair of the International Communication Section of the International Studies Association.

    William B. Hart is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Theatre Arts at Old Dominion University. His dissertation at the University of New Mexico, The Historical Contributions of Boasian Anthropology to the Interdiscipline of Inter-cultural Relations, deals with the early history of intercultural relations (an interdiscipline including intercultural communication, cultural anthropology, cross-cultural psychology, etc.). He was the founding editor of the electronic journal The Edge: The E-Journal of Intercultural Relations (

    Robert Huesca is Associate Professor of Communication at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. His research interests include alternative media and participatory communication for social change. His research on international and development communication issues has been published in Communication Studies, Gazette, Journal of Communication, Media Development, and Media, Culture & Society, among others.

    Thomas L. Jacobson is Associate Professor and Director of the Informatics Research Center at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. He has been secretary of the Intercultural and Development Division of the International Communication Association and President of the Participatory Communication Research Section of the International Association of Media and Communication Research. His research interests focus on national development, participation, and new technologies. His most recent book, Theoretical Approaches to Participatory Communication (1999), was co-authored with Jan Servaes.

    Won Yong Jang is an ABD in the Department of Communication, State University of New York at Buffalo. His principal areas of research address political communication, global communication, public journalism, and new information and communication technologies. Recent publications include (with T.L. Jacobson) “Rights, Culture, and Global Democracy,” in Communication Theory (2001).

    Anselm Lee is a doctoral student in the Mass Media Program at Michigan State University. He completed his master's degree at Emerson College in integrated marketing communication and his bachelor's degree in advertising and public relations at Boston University. He is interested in the impact of media on individual identity and self concept, and in international media and program flows.

    Stephen D. McDowell teaches in the Department of Communication at Florida State University in Tallahassee. His research interests include new communication technology and society, telecommunications policies, and communication policies in North America and India. He has held fellowships with the Strategic Policy Planning Division of the Canadian Federal Department of Communications in Ottawa and the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute in New Delhi, and held a Congressional Fellowship in Washington, D.C. His book Globalization, Liberalization, and Policy Change: A Political Economy of India's Communications Sector appeared in 1997.

    Srinivas R. Melkote is Professor in the Department of Telecommunications at Bowling Green State University. He has published on topics such as satellite broadcasting in South Asia, communication for development and empowerment, mass media effects, and HIV/ AIDS. His latest books include Critical Issues in Communication (coeditor) and Communication for Development in the Third World (2nd ed., coauthor).

    Everett M. Rogers is Regents' Professor, Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of New Mexico. The chapter for this volume was written while he was on sabbatical leave as Visiting Professor in the Center for Communication Programs, Johns Hopkins University. He is author of Diffusion of Innovations (4th ed., 1995), A History of Communication Study (1994), and Intercul-tural Communication (with Thomas Steinfatt, 1999). While Chair of the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of New Mexico, he helped establish a Ph.D. program in intercultural communication.

    J. P. Singh is Associate Professor in the Communication, Culture, and Technology Program at Georgetown University. He is author of Leapfrogging Development? The Political Economy of Telecommunications Restructuring (1999) and coeditor (with James Rosenau) of Information Technologies and Global Politics: The Changing Scope of Power and Governance (in press). He currently is working on another book titled Communication and Diplomacy: Negotiating the Global Information Economy.

    Leslie B. Snyder is Associate Professor of Communication Sciences at the University of Connecticut. She has published articles in Communication Research, Journal of Communication, Mass Communication and Journalism Quarterly, AIDS Education and Prevention, and Health Communication, among other journals. She is principal investigator on a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to study the effects of alcohol advertising on youth.

    H. Leslie Steeves is Professor at the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon. Her research focuses on two areas and their intersection: women's roles and representations in the mass media, and communication in developing countries, especially sub-Saharan Africa. She has published a number of articles in these areas, as well as a book, Gender Violence and the Press: The St. Kizito Story (1997). She also is coauthor (with S. Melkote) of Communication for Development in the Third World: Theory and Practice for Empowerment (2nd ed., 2001). She has had Fulbright grants for teaching and research in Kenya and Ghana.

    K. Viswanath is Acting Associate Director of the Behavioral Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Populations Sciences, National Cancer Institute. His research interest is in using a macro-social approach to the study of communication, with his most recent work focusing on mass communication and social change and health communication in both national and international contexts with particular focus on communication inequities and disparities. He has been involved with guided social change projects in India and the United States. He has published in such journals as Gazette, Media Culture and Society, Health Communication, Journalism Quarterly, Communication Research, American Behavioral Scientist, and Health Education Research. He has also co-edited Mass Media, Social Control and Social Change (with D. Demers).

    Silvio Waisbord is Associate Professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University. His research interests include culture and media globalization, media and development, and political communication. His most recent books are Watchdog Journalism in South America (2000) and Latin Politics, Global Media (co-edited with Elizabeth Fox, 2002). His work has been published in the Journal of Communication, Critical Studies in Mass Communication, Political Communication, Communication Research, Canadian Journal of Communication, Gazette, and other publications.

    Karin Gwinn Wilkins is Associate Professor and Graduate Advisor in the Department of Radio-TV-Film at the University of Texas, Austin. Some of her research on development and international communication can be found in ReDeveloping Communication for Social Change (2000), Media, Culture & Society, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Journal of Communication, International Journal of Public Opinion Quarterly, Media Development, Media Asia, Journal of International Communication, and the Asian Journal of Communication. She is Chair of the Intercultural and Development Division of the International Communication Association.

    Liren Benjamin Zeng is a faculty member at the Centre for Communication Studies, Mount Royal College in Alberta, Canada. Prior to this he served as a copy editor for the Pacific Daily News.

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