Tag Archives: 09/07/2015

New World Information and Communication Order – for then and now

What was the driving argument for the NWICO? Who were the major stakeholders to the NWICO debate?

The demand for global connectivity through various forms of communication was a direct product of imperialism. As empires expanded outward from the seat of power, control through channels of communication was essential for retaining dominance and structure. Empires shifted as modes of communication developed, but there remained a strong correlation between the dominant states and the producers of new communications technology. Throughout the end of the 19th century and into the dawn of the 20th, the British Empire and its European counterparts, but also the New World power, the United States, had predominant control over emerging communications, from the telegraph, to the telephone, to the advent of radio and film. These powers expanded these communication systems rapidly as they developed across their spheres of influence. This created a dynamic where modes of communication were present across the globe, but a small minority was creating and sharing content for the majority. After WWII and with the rise of the Cold War, this minority was divided between the East and West, with both the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and its allies projecting their values and ideology onto the Third World.

This is where the need for a NWICO, or New World Information and Communication Order, came into play. At the height of the Cold War, the Third World did not see itself as part of the East or West in the context of communications, but rather as the South relative to the dominant North. The American and Soviet spheres, as the North, controlled the influx of media into the Third World South. These countries, many newly emancipated, sought economic independence and thus the United Nations established a New International Economic Order (NIEO) in 1974 to aid their cause (Thussu, pgs. 26-27). The NWICO was adopted in 1978 by the United Nations as a related initiative to further the South’s progress (Thussu, pg. 32). It helped ensure that the countries of the South would no longer be dependent on the North for both how media is transmitted in their countries (control of information technologies) and what kind of media is dominant (from a Northern perspective). This lack of agency bore negative economic and social effects upon the people of the South.

The MacBride Commission’s 1980 report furthered the advancement of the goals set into motion by the NWICO. The Commission, which involved parties from both the North and South, examined “four main aspects of global communication: the current state of world communication; the problems surrounding a free and balanced flow of information and how the needs of the developing countries link with the flow; how, in light of the NIEO, an NWICO could be created; and how the media could become the vehicle for educating public opinion about world problems.” (Thussu, pg. 33). The collective research included in the MacBride Report highlighted the communications disadvantage the South faced and put their needs at the forefront of the NWICO debate. Conservatives in the North opposed the advancement of the NWICO, decrying it as supporting “a ‘Soviet-inspired’ Third World design to control the mass media through state regulation.” (Thussu, pg. 35). Despite this, there was still strong support for the order under President Jimmy Carter (Thussu, pg 36) who saw it as a means of dialogue between the North and South. The South rebutted conservative claims that the order was a way to encourage state control and censorship of media, but rather a way to ensure the free flow of communications across sectors.

While the NWICO’s momentum was halted by Reagan, it did set a precedent for how communications and media across borders should be dictated by all involved states. As global communication systems become increasingly privatized, the NWICO’s fundamentals are still a strong basis for how we approach and discuss communications and media today.

Thussu, D. (2006). The Historical Context of International Communication. In International Communication: Continuity and Change. Bloomsbury Academic.

Think about what you don’t know … if you can.

For Powers and Jablonksi, what are the key tensions underscoring U.S. information policy?

It is imperative to take a moment and fathom the immense impact information has on your life… (No, stop reading. Take a reflect sec.)

And, despite your smirk and, “uh, no shit” reaction, did you also think about all the information being withheld from you that is reciprocally affecting every single decision you make? The last conversation you had; affected. The last purchase you made; affected. The last meal you ate, as well, affected. Reflecting on this, are you still comfortable with your “cultural” or “internal” perspective?

I’m a bit disgruntled.

But the information filter lies at the top of our hierarchical pyramid and wavers on the policy pendulum between the good of the people and the good of business. Here, however, we do need to note that the good of business does impact the good of the people; although, in a more roundabout fashion.

This “duality” of U.S. information policy, promoting “democracy and global peace” on the open hand and “copyright and patent restrictions” on the closed one, is the persistent tension detailed by Powers and Jablonksi (p. 7).

However, on top of this restricted/unrestricted conundrum, is the more dangerous risk of the dissemination of unregulated information. With such a malleable and precious thing, information can be twisted, tweaked and used as propaganda to manipulate to minds of millions. And we, you and me, have been consciously or unconsciously, yet undeniably, affected > which swayed a decision > influenced an economic transaction > and put money in the pockets of the media outlet’s investors, for example.

As Powers and Jablonksi mention, information has been both utilized and exploited as a commodity throughout the industrial revolution and the development of international trade regulations (p. 3). But we saw this, and still, decades and decades later, Clinton deregulates media ownership in the 1996 Telecommunications Act and hands it over to conglomerates, and U.S. information policy does nothing but allow “Idiocracy” to come to life.

Can’t we just reregulate and spare society ratings-driven dribble?

Powers, S., & Jablonski, M. (2015). Information Freedom and U.S. Foreign Policy: A History. In The real cyber war: The political economy of internet freedom. University of Illinois Press.

Communication, the basis of global relations

By: Carlos Diaz Barriga (cd0253a@american.edu)

Information is power. This much is clear when studying the impact international communication has in the current development of international relations. From the British domination of electric telegraphy thanks to their control of submarine cables (Hanson, pg. 19) back in the 19th century, to the United States’ rise as a marketplace model because of its advancements on commercial television (Hanson, pg. 38) in the early 20th century, communication instruments play a key role in a country’s global influence.

The ability to move and influence people, whether for commercial or political reasons, is the basis of the way nations interact with each other today. An example of this is the current situation of the refugees from Syria. Four years ago, when Syria’s climate conflict was just beginning, the coverage of it was relegated to the International News section in the newspapers; today, you will find it in the front cover of the major national outlets. The media has played a huge role in influencing citizens to urge their country leaders to cooperate with taking refugees.

One country that has been keenly aware of this, and using it to their advantage, is Germany.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is currently one of the more outspoken world leaders on helping Syrian refugees, stating, according to Reuters, that efforts of German citizens to support the arriving refugees had “painted a picture of Germany which can make us proud of our country”.

Germany’s efforts on accepting Syrian refugees are now being covered daily by outlets all over the world, effectively improving their image as a welcoming nation.



Hanson, E. (2008). The Origins of the Information Revolution. In The information revolution and world politics. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

Underlying Tensions of U.S. Information Policy

One of the most glaring underscoring tensions of U.S. information policy is the apparent contradiction between the altruistic terms by which it is defined in popular discourse and the self-interest that marks its practice and implementation around the world. U.S. information policy can arguably be considered to be very one-sided, despite “persistent discourse suggesting unfettered access to information promotes democracy and global peace” (Power and Jablonski 32). For example, most regulatory communication agencies, organizations, and committees are based in the U.S., endeavor primarily to serve this country’s economic interests, and disregard input from the nations that they operate in and claim to serve (Powers and Jablonski 40,45). Another tension arises from the privatization of control within the global communication structure (Powers and Jablonski 41). To outsource such power to the private sector arguably absolves the government of a certain amount of responsibility while simultaneously depriving developing nations of any means of recourse in the event of mishaps.

To operate under the guise of policies existing for the common good of all, as Secretary of State Hamilton Fish insisted was the case, while establishing international industries whose profits were siphoned directly into U.S. coffers is sure to cause (and has, in fact) much discord between nations (Powers and Jablonski 39). Ongoing efforts to reestablish existing regulatory structures in the world of information dissemination is indicative of the ongoing issues brought on by this incongruence of ideology and practice. At least one U.S. president involved in the formation of information policy supported the inclusion of altruism as a core value; President Woodrow Wilson was ultimately unsuccessful in his efforts to create globally diplomatic communication regulations.

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