PREMIUM ACCESS | Be the First to Comment Save Print
Welcome to MyWire, the place for high quality publisher content.
A select number of Oxford Companion to World Politics entries have been made available for your enjoyment. The complete publication (838 entries) is available through MyWire's Premium Access subscription ($4.95 per month, free for 30 days).
By Ben H. Bagdikian | Jan 1, 2008
As the world prepared for the twenty-first century, electronic media—particularly computers and satellites in space—altered the nature of mass media organizations, world news, and traditional government internal information controls. Because one satellite can cover a third of the globe, its messages and images ignore national boundaries and thus radically alter the historic balance of power between nation–states and media corporations. Media entrepreneurs, like individuals, can operate outside of their national home bases in relative independence of governmental control.
Two additional developments have altered government-versus-corporation relations. Increasingly, a single, large multinational media corporation can control the entire communications system from creation of content to distribution and delivery to home or office. It does this by ownership of newspapers, magazines, radio, television, books, motion pictures, videocassettes, production facilities for all these media, as well as national and international distribution networks and control of the telephone or satellite dish that brings media material into individual homes. The other change is digital techniques that permit conversion of material from one form into a different one, like a motion picture into a videocassette playable into individual homes or over a television station.
Media power and profit have encouraged large firms to acquire as many different media as possible under each major firm's control. Thus, for example, at the turn of the century, a German firm, Bertelsmann, controlled 10 percent of all world publishing in the English language. Similarly, News Corporation, an Australian firm owned by an American, Rupert Murdoch, became a major media producer worldwide, including in the United States. Major American firms like Disney, AOL Time Warner, Viacom, and General Electric, Britain's BBC, and Japan's Sony became worldwide creators and distributors of a wide spectrum of media products from daily news to computerized games, receivable from Siberia to South Africa.
As a result, societies under authoritarian rule have become less able to control corporate and private information transmissions. In 1989, for example, despite strict internal controls by the People's Republic of China, students with fax machines spread instant news of slaughter in Beijing's Tiananmen Square of hundreds of citizens demanding more democratic freedoms. Nevertheless, the utility for economic growth of such new media has been so indispensable to China's commerce and industry that devices for the distribution of information like taxes have been permitted to increase almost 100 times since the Tiananmen Square Suppression.
International regulation of global communications has consisted largely of adoption of desired general principles and purely technical standards. The United Nations Declaration of Freedom of Information calls for “free flow of information within countries and across frontiers.” Attempts to achieve technical compatibility of the world's communication systems are made by the International Telecommunications Union, which meets every four or five years. Within most countries governmental communications and utilities commissions create and monitor the rules for each country's domestic broadcasting and popular media. In the United States the Constitution forbids official control over printed matter, but permits broadcast regulation.
Numerous non-governmental organizations operate on national and world scales to lobby for legislation that would promote their ends. In the United States, for example, a Center for Media Education monitors national legislation to press for what it sees as more salutary public needs in television. A Cultural Environment Movement, started in the United States, presses globally against gratuitous violence and inadequate presentation of education in commercial television. Similar citizen efforts appear periodically in other nations as well.(See also Censorship; Information Society; Media and Politics; Public Opinion.)
Copyright © 2001 by Oxford University Press, Inc.