Media Power in Central America (The History of Communication)

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The political struggles against slavery in the 19th century and for the civil rights of all ethnic groups in the late 20th century were also cultural struggles that drew on the media resources of the day. But because media impact is always contestable, the consequences of media practice and media innovations for social progress cannot be determined at a general level. For example, globalization has engendered indifference and disparity of attention while at the same time promoting dialogue and solidarity. Communication, depending on its contents and directedness, can do either good or harm; we will explore these paradoxes later in the chapter.

The contributions of media and communications to social progress must always be considered at more specific levels and contexts; through an analysis of the contrasting stakes that different populations — and different groups, classes and ethnicities within specific populations — have in the possibilities for connection, meaning and action that media provide. Media as infrastructures of connection are not therefore an automatic good. This dimension of social justice has two fundamental aspects.

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Second, because media have the symbolic power to construct general realities, media institutions in themselves are a resource whose long-term distribution can be unjust. In still other cases, media provide a forum for challenging injustices unconnected with media. The relations between media , communications and social progress are therefore inherently complex. Even so, media and communications have important potential to contribute to particular struggles for social justice. Now is not the first time that the implications of media flows and infrastructures for social progress have been considered on a global scale.

Throughout history, human communications through media have produced a tremendous diversity of meaning around the globe. But as the world entered the modern era, and as print, telegraph and electronic systems emerged and spread within the expansion of global capitalism, countless distinct languages and identities have disappeared. As scholars pointed out consistently from the late s, these highly concentrated flows gave rise to relationships of cultural domination and dependency Schiller ; Smythe There were however counter-movements.

Anti-capitalistic, nationalistic and anti-fascist struggles led to the establishment of communist media systems in Russia, Eastern and Central Europe, and China.

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The rise of the nonaligned movements among the newly independent nations, originally in a Cold War context, engendered a global struggle toward a New World Information and Communication Order NWICO in the s MacBride and Roach , which we discuss more fully in section 6. Meanwhile communication inequality between the Global North and the Global South identified by the NWICO movement has become more complex and multifaceted in the midst of broader global power shifts. The rise of the Internet and the expansion of Silicon Valley-dominated social media platforms, data processing operations, and intellectual property regimes have threatened to further homogenize media communications and knowledge systems within and between nations in the Global North and Global South, while engendering new forms of communication inequality and new forms of media-based censorship and threats to public knowledge see sections 3 and 4.

While scholarship on the complex regional flows of media has challenged the dominance of Western history Schiller ; Boyd-Barrett ; Iwabuchi ; Sinclair and Jacka , the same geographical skewing has been repeated in recent accounts of the rise of the Internet as Chan notes. We will argue against this simplified view. No universal history of media is possible on a global scale.

We note at the outset that European and North American media systems are characterized by a plurality of print news outlets, but with varied levels of readership high in Northern Europe, low in Southern Europe, with North America taking a middle position Hallin and Mancini European and North American broadcasting media have been organized differently: whether as a public service model largely modelled on British BBC, addressing audiences as citizens or following the US commercial model based on advertising, addressing audiences as consumers.

In the late s, the European broadcasting media landscape was re-regulated, and public service broadcasters met competition from commercial broadcasters. The last couple of decades have seen the collapse of older print business models, with advertising spending increasingly allocated to the Internet, even as Internet penetration remains uneven, for example among post-communist countries.

Other regions have had very different trajectories. Here, there is a mixed picture with intense forms of domestic media concentration Australia and New Zealand and also much investment, especially in digital media, by international investors, from global social media platforms, to sovereign wealth funds and technology and mobile corporations. The number of mobile phone users grew rapidly from 27 million in to 36 million in out of a population of about 50 million KCC and KISA , and today high-speed mobile services provide seamless multimedia services throughout the country NIA The concentrated ownership of the Chaebols — Korean-style family-owned multinationals such as Samsung and LG — characterized the equipment market for Internet connection, with ADSL hardware and modem production also dominated by LG Electronics and Samsung.

Along a very different path, media systems in African countries have been shaped by a common history of colonialism, struggles for independence and postcolonial conflict. At independence, the newspaper industry in Africa was controlled largely by foreign capital, but rapidly became nationalized and state-controlled. Recently wireless broadband and mobile Internet have driven the rapid growth of the Internet across Africa, although with major disparities between different countries. South Africa and Nigeria lead the way in terms of number of Internet subscriptions, while countries such as Kenya, Sudan and Zimbabwe have seen strong increases in penetration rates in recent years Niyerenda-Jere and Biru By contrast, Latin America tried to block privatization and externally-driven media concentration during the s and s, but rates of media privatization and concentration caught up with the rest of the world in the s, with much de-regulation in the past two decades.

The consequences have been varied: in the regional television network TeleSUR see section 4 was established, sponsored by left-leaning administrations in Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Uruguay. Mobile phone industries and the Internet have rapidly penetrated the Latin American landscape since but with great diversity. Brazil has been the site of great media concentration with decades-long dominance of TV Globo , but also of a major challenge to Western dominance of Internet architecture and governance the Marco Civil initiative: see section 6.

In the Arab region, media production, infrastructure development, and influence over content are concentrated in the Gulf petro-monarchies. The Arab Satellite Organization has, since the late s, been dominated by Saudi Arabia Egypt is the only other country in the region that developed a satellite infrastructure. This imbalance has recently been exacerbated by a deep financial crisis hitting the media sector throughout the region.

From the mids to the onset of the Arab uprisings, Saudi-Qatari rivalry generated competition between Qatari owned Al-Jazeera and Saudi owned Al-Arabiya, which differed sharply in their editorial and ideological orientations. Although Al-Jazeera is widely seen as challenging Western dominance of news agendas, since the Arab uprisings, it has seen major editorial conflicts and the emergence of a rival, Al-Mayadeen, based in Beirut on Al-Jazeera, see Section 4. Media in Russia and China today trace their respective historical origins to 20th century Soviet Union and China state-controlled non-commercial media systems, whose organization had intellectual roots in Marxist-Leninist critiques of capitalist and imperialist control of the printing press in the West.

Both systems share the legacy of what today would be understood as social movement media, but they were also internally complex, contradictory, and laden with nationalistic and sectorial struggles. In fact, the Chinese system had distinctive elements from the Soviet model and by the early s, the Soviet and Chinese media systems were in serious ideological conflict. By the late s, the Chinese media system was destabilized in the onset of the Cultural Revolution. Nevertheless, these historical systems pursued communist visions of modernity and social progress through ideological mobilization and cultural enfranchisement, and, as such, provided many Third World post-colonial states with alternative models for media organization from those in the West while also providing inspiration for social struggles in the West, including US civil rights struggles Dubziak ; Frazier The collapse of the Soviet Union left Russia with a television-centered non-commercial media system.

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Liberalization, fractionalization of the post-communist political elite, and economic difficulties led to privatization of state TV channels in the mids. Newly founded private television channels emerged as the economic situation improved, bringing more diversity into the media landscape. However, the early years of the 21st century have seen a gradual re-nationalization of most leading TV channels, outside the entertainment sector. The Russian government inherited from its Soviet predecessor direct control over transmission networks and appointment of the top television management.

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While the s saw media wars between different television channels on behalf of various political groups, the s were marked by emergence of an identical pro-Kremlin picture on most TV channels. Social and media development is, however, very uneven in different Russian provinces, varying from near subsistence farmers with access to just analogue TV channels and no Internet to highly networked and cosmopolitan major cities.

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On a global scale, given the denial for two decades to Russian television of broadcasting frequencies in most post-Soviet countries, the government launched Russia Today as a news provider which is rapidly emerging as a major transnational satellite channel. Meanwhile, and against the trend of most other Russian industries, the Russian Internet industry has been very successful.

Only China has rivaled Russia in building its own prominent Internet industry, but it has done so through the defensive Chinese firewall. Russia is the only country where local Internet businesses have beaten global giants without any protective barriers, with Yandex search engine more popular in Russia than Google, while Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki social networking sites are attracting much larger local audiences than Facebook.