Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pipe dreams and the future of global journalism

Whether nation-states ought to consider revising the global governance of media systems could fill an entire thesis at least, but I'll try to condense my opinions into a few pithy paragraphs. There are three essential factors to consider here:
1) Economic pressures are rapidly changing the face of domestic and global journalism, and it seems likely that following a twentieth century model will lead to the demise of journalism as we know it.
2) Global media and journalism are increasingly dominated by a handful of transnational conglomerates.
3) Media have been documented to influence culture and conflict within and between nation-states.

Economically, it seems clear that media must change. Print journalism is an economically unsustainable model, and in the West at least, media giants seem to prioritize commercial appeal above civic and educational value. If we accept that communication and power are closely connected, we must be wary of any policies that empower an already influential corporate oligarchy. But is it possible, or even desirable, to break up the existing media powerhouses? Perhaps the solution lies in the creation of a publicly funded international competitor, a sort of global public broadcasting hydra to battle the existing media behemoths.

The corporation would produce news and cultural materials with a cosmopolitan flavor. Each nation on Earth would contribute to the funding by paying dues proportional to its GDP, and it would be staffed by a cosmopolitan collection of journalists and entertainers and governed by an omnilateral board in which every nation would have one representative and equal voting power. No doubt such a corporation would struggle to compete with the existing media giants, and it would feel the same pressure to privatize that many public news sources have felt in recent years and it would certainly be subject to all the problems that plague international bureaucracies. But perhaps its governance structure and mandate on promoting transnational issues would enable it to avoid some of the disadvantages of the existing system, in which Rupert Murdoch and his counterparts have such a disturbing degree of power in the global public sphere.

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