Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Discussion Question 2

Given what we know about the role of media in culture and conflict, it is most certainly time to revisit older concerns about media ownership and rights of information, and it is also time to reframe them in a cosmopolitan way.

For example, 2 key things Waisbord writes in "Media and the Reinvention of the Nation" are:

1. "cosmopolitanism lacks allied media orgs willing to become vehicles for transnational or post-national cultures" and

2. "cosmopolitanism does not offer social and political entitlements" (385)

In other words, you could say that:

1. 'cosmopolitanism' lacks an International Public Broadcasting Corporation and

2. 'cosmopolitanism' (at least as Waisbord uses it) is not so unlike "the U.N." or "global civil society." So far, neither offers enough enforceable social and political entitlements (or limitations) to its members to be effective in achieving its goals.

Eventually, a global media governance solution might have to be similar to or a part of the U.N. -- some sort of international body that represents "the global public interest" and holds the global public media corporation accountable. Ideally this branch would be part of a U.N. that has improved on the inherent power imbalances in its own governance structure, such as the current Security Council set up.

A great model for public media is the BBC, and I think they are the closest the world has to a public news organization that endeavors to 'serve the public' if only bc the BBC has, for the most part, avoided the problem of having to worry about clashing with corporate sponsors, owners, and even their own government (I think) at least in part because of the way its governance is structured. Recently, the BBC has had to go more and more towards a commercially-funded model, so it's possible this is changing or has already changed, but if their worldwide credibility is any indicator, the change has not been significant.

So short answer: I propose a near impossibility that is probably naive. While some writers like Raboy have focused on WSIS as a space for the voice of civil society to come through, or more regulation enabling 'local/smaller competitors', I'm not convinced that any local or smaller provider-- no matter how empowered by global/national regulations--will be able to compete without dropping their 'public interest' model (if they even start out with one). To compete with what is popular and be accountable to their bottom line, as any business is at the end of the day, they will likely have to adopt the successful formula of conflict-based, dramatic, sensational infotainment supported by corporate sponsors. I guess I am saying that while the role of civil society in WSIS was encouraging, business interests and the public interest just don't naturally go together.

And since I am imagining pie-in-the-sky media governance solutions, I would add that this international public media corporation would present a new formula for presentation of information and news that is of global public interest. Instead of simply reporting on a situation, reporters would give context and background, and make an attempt to answer questions like "how does this affect me/my family/my country?" and if it is a catastrophic situation, questions like "what can be done to improve this situation/what can I do about this" I suppose it would be a sort of social justice-oriented public media...?

What keeps coming up on our group blog is trust and I would say that if we (the 'global public') want a global media corporation to produce news and information we feel we can trust, it has to be 100% a global public media corporation, if that makes sense, governed by a global committee whose governance structure is transparent, democratic, inclusive, and egalitarian.

This begs an unfortunate question, though-- who would watch? If the world is conditioned to enjoy news as "light entertainment" as McChesney puts it, why bother watching something so distressing?

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