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.
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
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
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
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
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. TBS