See our list of international communication research paper topics. The propaganda operations of the great powers in the 20th century – today often reframed as ‘soft power’ – mostly initiated interest in the field of international communication. Lasswell first addressed the propaganda issue early in the 1920s. The long Cold War entrenched this issue in government-funded research priorities. Then the preferred term was ‘psychological warfare,’ not ‘propaganda.’
International Communication Research Paper Topics
- Americanization of the Media
- Arab Satellite TV News
- BBC World Service
- Bertelsmann Corporation
- China Central Television Channel 9 (CCTV-9)
- Cultural Imperialism Theories
- Cultural Products as Tradable Services
- Deutsche Welle
- Free Flow of Information
- Global Advertising Industry
- Global Satellite Communication
- Globalization Theories
- History of Global Media
- Hybridity Theories
- Independent Media Centers Network
- International Communication Agencies
- International News Reporting
- International Radio
- International Regulation of Internet
- International Television
- Korean Cultural Influence
- Kurdish International Broadcasting
- Le Monde Diplomatique
- Migrant Community Media
- Music Industry
- NAFTA and International Communication
- New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO)
- News Corporation
- Public Relations in Global Firms
- Radio France Internationale
- Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
- Samsung Corporation
- Security and Surveillance Agencies
- Sony Corporation
- Time Warner Inc.
- Tourism Industry
- Transnational Social Movement Media
- Vatican Radio
- Voice of America
- War Propaganda
Four Theories of the Press, by Siebert, Petersen and Schramm (1956), was the first major comparative media study. The theories in question were normative, the official views of media goals in four contrasting polities: authoritarian, libertarian, Soviet, and “social responsibility.” Comparative news studies have substantially revived recently.
Another major stimulus to research was ‘third world’ development, often framed at the time by the modernization’ schema which held that unless the west’s modernity spread, global raw materials and markets risked Soviet/Chinese takeover. Lerner’s book, The Passing of Traditional Society (1958) and Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations (1962) were key texts.
Schiller’s series of studies of global media from 1969 onwards (e.g. Schiller 1991) challenged this schema. From the 1980s onwards, he argued emerging ICTs were being used to intensify transnational corporate hegemony. A second challenge came from Armand Mattelart (2000), who wrote on international advertising, international communication history, and multicultural policies, but paid more attention to cultural dynamics than Schiller.
Three Theories of International Communication
‘Cultural imperialism’ (Schiller, Mattelart) covered education, religion, business practice, consumerism, law, governmentality, dress, as well as media. The term framed the US as a global superpower pursuing cultural domination overseas. Tomlinson (1991) argued that cultural imperialism presumed that third world media users could not interpret western media fare in their own ways, and that the term’s popularity canalized discontent at modernity’s juggernaut. China’s and India’s global media industries, and Nigeria’s video-movie industry (Nollywood), considerably complicated these issues.
The ‘hybridization’ metaphor focused on how global audiences refract cultural imports (Kraidy 2005). Some Latin American scholars argued that Latin America’s history of Indigenous, European, and African exchange, and Mexican–US cultural exchanges, made the metaphor more compelling. The notion of ‘cultural proximity’, although critiqued for cultural essentialism, claimed that regional or linguistic resonances often rivaled foreign cultural imports’ attractiveness. The emergence of ‘Hallyu’, the ‘Korean Wave’ of media exports, complicated the picture further.
‘Globalization’ could mean cultural imperialism, modernity, postmodernity, or even the ascendancy of free-market dogma. The roles of computer networks, satellites, and global media firms were plainly central, as were key world cities. Some found the term over-stated for the media and information sectors.
Global Media Firms
Global media players such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Bertelsmann, News Corp., Samsung, Sony and Time Warner Inc. (Fitzgerald 2012) usually have varied media interests (e.g., cinema, publishing, music, video games, theme parks). Advertising, public relations and marketing firms also play significant roles internationally (Sinclair 2012). The recorded music industry has three key global players (Warner Music, Universal Music and Sony Music).
This scenario marks a sea change from some decades earlier, when cultural policies were often run by government ministries. All these companies are considerably smaller in financial terms than General Motors or ExxonMobil. Nonetheless, although media products are tradable commodities, their cultural impact cannot be assessed simply by the money spent on them.
Global Media Policies
In the years before and since World War II, the US government worked in a sustained manner to promote the ‘free flow of information policy’. This challenged British domination of ocean cable traffic and its Reuters news agency. Attempts to forge partly noncommercial global policies emerged in the 1970s NWICO debates (Many Voices, One World, 1980/2004, the MacBride Report), and the 2003 and 2005 World Summits on the Information Society (WSIS). The international Internet Governance Forum has emphasized ‘multi-stakeholderism’, i.e. the public, not just states and corporations, has a compelling interest in framing Internet policies.
Certain trade regimes and international agencies influence transnational communication policies: the World Trade Organization, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NA FTA), the European Union, UNESCO, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
Within the EU, France has actively supported exempting cultural products trade from WTO rules (the so-called ‘cultural exception’), while the UK has militantly supported the US. Canada and South Korea, amongst others, have supported France’s stance. Global media and information policy has been marked by clashing agendas.
Global News Flows
The 1980 MacBride Report noted how most western news coverage (as now) emanated within the global north and reported on its doings. International news about the global south, when available at all, focused on disasters, natural or political. This made for a gravely under-informed planetary citizenry.
However, the turn of the millennium witnessed new international news interventions. Established stalwarts, such as the BBC World Service, Voice of America, CNN International, Deutsche Welle, Radio France Internationale, and Vatican Radio, were joined by Arab satellite TV news and entertainment channels, and China’s English-language global TV channel CCTV-9. Britain’s The Guardian newspaper could claim 16 million Internet readers worldwide.
Nonhegemonic International Communication Flows
Given the increasing activity of global social movements of many kinds, it appears likely that nonhegemonic transnational media may become a growing force. The emergence of the Qatar-based news broadcaster Al-Jazeera is an example. It has challenged the deferential state broadcast news of the Arabic-speaking world, and influential US government definitions of Middle Eastern affairs.
Perhaps the successful anti-apartheid movement (1948–94), challenging the white-minority regime which ran South Africa during those decades, could be defined as the first major transnational media campaign. In a series of countries, independent media, campaigning mainstream journalists, ongoing demonstrations, university teach-ins, media smuggled into and out of South Africa, the African National Congress’s Zambia radio station, very effectively combined together over time.
- Curtin, M. & Shah, H. (eds.) (2010). Reorienting global communication: Indian and Chinese media beyond borders. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
- Fitzgerald, S. (2012) Corporations and cultural industries. New York: Lexington.
- Kraidy, M. (2005). Hybridity, or the cultural logic of globalization. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
- Lerner, D. (1958). The passing of traditional society. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
- Mattelart, A. (2000). Networking the world: 1794–2000. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
- Rogers, E. (2003). Diffusion of innovations, 5th edn. Glencoe, NY: Free Press. (Original work published 1962).
- Schiller, H. (1991). Not yet a post-imperialist order. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 8(1), 13–28.
- Siebert, F., Peterson, T., & Schramm, W. (1956). Four theories of the press. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
- Sinclair, J. (2012). Advertising, the media and globalization. London: Routledge.
- Tomlinson, J. (1991). Cultural imperialism. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
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