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Communicating in the Information Society

Abstract of the Chapter - Media and Democratization in the Information Society, by Marc Raboy

Globalization and the technological and economic advances that have accompanied it have been marked by a number of tendencies with mixed implications for the media. This chapter examines the impact of these changes on the role played by the media in the democratization of societies.

Privatization and liberalization carried the promise of more channels, but this has not resulted in a broader and more pluralistic media. The breakdown of state monopolies on broadcasting has had a positive impact in many developing countries, but in many others the state monopolies have merely been replaced by private ones with equally suspect aims. The decline of public broadcasting is a major concern even in the developed countries of Europe. Alternative or community media hold out great promise but are chronically under-resourced and otherwise marginalized. Consolidation of ownership and control, and the rise of massive global multimedia conglomerates with influence over practically all aspects of cultural and political life is another area of concern for its restrictive influence on pluralism and local content.

Given these characteristics of the global media environment in the information society, the paper focuses on issues of media governance and regulation, including:
  • the effects of growing concentration of commercial media ownership;
  • the place of mainstream public media;
  • how to foster and promote independent, alternative media initiatives;
  • how to promote freedom of expression and communication through the media; and
  • the plethora of issues surrounding new technologies and new communication platforms such as the Internet.
Particular attention will be paid to newly emerging transnational sites of media governance and regulation and their role in the broader project of democratization of global governance. Access to global media policy making through civil society participation in processes such as the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) is crucial to this project, insofar as the fostering of a plurality and diversity of media can be seen as facilitating widespread participation in every aspect of public life.

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