Kamalipour,Yahya R. ed. Global Communication. Wadsworth Thomson Learning: Belmont, CA. 2002. Paperback. 288 pages. ISBN 0-534-56127-6.
Reviewed by Ralph Berenger, American University in Cairo
Scholars and teachers in the dynamic field of international communications will find much to recommend in this collection of 13 chapters by academicians from around the world edited by Yahya Kamalipour.
What distinguishes this collection of writings from a growing number on the market about transnational communication is not only the readability of the chapters that address important developments in thinking in the discipline, but the lack of Western media bashing that seems the current flavor of the month in the field.
Global Communication side-steps the conveniently normative trap that snares many writers in a zero-sum game: when global (read Western, particularly American) media come into contact with local media cultures, the local cultures lose every time. This book develops a different, refreshing and perhaps more realistic theme: local media not only can complete and co-exist, it can dominate their local markets to the benefit of their local audiences. Not that there are no pleas for a more level media landscape. There are sufficient numbers of chapters that lean in that direction. The difference is the addition of a realistic voice that does not pine for the good old days of public-that is governmental-control of international broadcasting. This book, on the main, handles the subject more objectively than many of the polemics now causing our bookshelves to sag.
The savvy reader of international communications tomes will recognize the names of many of the authors, but the infusion of ideas from new-or at least unfamiliar-voices gives this collection its freshness.
What readers should find particularly interesting is the book's merging of traditional textbook fare with several contextual chapters not normally found in college texts.
For example, John D.H. Downing provides a perfunctory though concise review of the normative theories of the press and other theoretical constructs concerning global media. But then the author slips into the role of a political economist to argue, commendably, that political and economic power must be considered parts of the global media equation.
Kuldip R. Rampal reviews global news and information flows in a succinct review of international news services and organizations on these, an important and often short-shrifted area in most international communications books. Rampal gives a good overview of the major news agencies well known to Western readers, but suggests, cautiously, that the Internet might mitigate against authoritarian governmental control of news organizations in 54 percent of the world's 191 countries.
While many texts gloss over the increasingly complex area of global communications law, John L. Huffman and Denise M. Trauth's chapter tackles the prickly issues head on, including those countries-mainly authoritarian--where international media codes and standards rub up against contrary, deeply held, cultural, moral, ideological, and religious beliefs. The authors, writing in a language most college students will be able to absorb with ease, tackle a variety of issues affecting global media and review those international organizations that are having an impact on how the global media map is drawn, such as the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, and the International Telecommunication Union.
In a similar vein, readers will find Richard Gershon's chapter on transnational media corporation and the economics of global competition salient to what is occurring in boardrooms across the planet, and the decisions that ultimately affect what you and I read, view, and listen to. Unlike most hand-wringers who would wish corporatism to some mythical dustbin of history, Gershon takes a more realistic view, and his section on "The Rules of Free Market Trade" is an all-too-short primer for students from countries emerging from command economic systems and opaque markets. He spends an adequate amount of space describing the current transnational landscape--and he paints a far less dreary picture than those usual suspects at the McBride Roundtable whose New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) actually might be developing in a free market environment, not by supra-government fiat.
Adding a contextual layer to the tome, if not to Gershon's chapter that follows, is Harmeet Sawhney's examination of how the world went from eight hegemonic "circuits" in the pre-Renaissance epoch of the 13th century to a single, world system centered on the economic-political-military hegemony of the United States.
Not only Sawhney's chapter is concerned with historical developments of media systems. The opening chapter by Allen Palmer takes the reader on a trip through nearly four millennia of communication development with interesting albeit short side trips though the minds of map makers, inventors, holy men, printers, and scientists.
Cees Hamelink eruditely reviews the politics of global communication by focusing on the interrelationship of the "domains" of telecommunications, intellectual property rights, and mass media. In a series of thumbnails, Hamelink carefully lays out the case for international monitoring of global news and entertainment, favoring a humanitarian agenda-not unlike NWICO-to protect the "commons" from exploitation by the "neo-liberals."
Other contributors include Joseph Straubhaar and Douglas Boyd, who examines international broadcasting and the resultant concerns of propaganda and public diplomacy, taken from the listeners' and viewers' points of view; Vibert Cambridge who looks at broadcasting and national development; Dean Kruckeberg, who breaks new ground dispelling the Western-domination myth of global advertising and public relations, both historically and in modern practice; Christine Ogden writes about the "glocalization" of mass media products and challenges the cultural imperialism myth; M. Medhi Semati ponders the pedagogical uses of international media in the classroom, and finally, Leo Gher, who concludes this book with a challenge to readers to think critically about media and their effects.
This book, which is being translated into the world's most spoken language, Mandarin Chinese, is intended for upper-level undergraduate and beginning level graduate students. However, each chapter stands alone and could make a supplemental reading text for seminars on global communication.
Each chapter has five discussion questions at the end, and each text comes with a subscription to InfoTrac, which students can access by computer for four months to download or read online updated material.
Some critical readers might note that the book was in publication before 9/11 when the international media scene changed-some say forever. Yet that omission should not bother students, since the InfoTrac capabilities freshens up even the stalest information.