What has the un’s role been in shaping – framing – global media policy agendas?



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What has the UN’s role been in shaping – framing – global media policy agendas?

  • What has the UN’s role been in shaping – framing – global media policy agendas?

  • Should the UN continue to play a formative role in this domain given the convergences between (global) media, internet design, access, use, and content management?

  • 3) If internet-dependent media and communications operate at a “supraterritorial” (Scholte 2000) rather than a national level then:

    • Who decides on how it is run; on whose terms, and for whom
    • Where do these decisions take place?
    • Who pays, and for which aspects of internet design, access, use, and content management?
  • 4) Are the issues technical (problem solving), sociocultural (about individuals/society and cultures), political (power relations) or economic (ownership and control)?



The intergovernmental institutions comprising the international state – or “multilateral” - system “are particular amalgams of ideas, interests and material power which in turn influence the development of ideas, interests and material conditions” (Bøås & McNeill 2004: 4, 6)

  • The intergovernmental institutions comprising the international state – or “multilateral” - system “are particular amalgams of ideas, interests and material power which in turn influence the development of ideas, interests and material conditions” (Bøås & McNeill 2004: 4, 6)





Media/cultural imperialism literature/decolonization (1960’s onwards)

  • Media/cultural imperialism literature/decolonization (1960’s onwards)

  • Globalization theories/neoliberal economic orthodoxies (1980’s onwards)

  • Information society theories/rise of internet - world wide web (1990’s) and Web 2.0/social media (2000’s): “a new definition of media” (Council of Europe 2011)?

  • Critiques of International Development agendas: tackling global socioeconomic divides (Millennium Development Goals/Sustainable Development Goals)

  • Theory and research into online vs. offline domains, old vs. new media/old vs. new social movements, existing vs. emerging human rights for the online environment



  • “Every question concerned with development is a question concerned with planned social change and thereby also necessarily a political question” (Bøås & McNeill 2004: 4).

  • Categories of ‘Development’ since WWII

  • developed countries

  • developing countries

  • Un/under/least-developed countries

  • Changing Indicators for ‘Development’

  • Economic Development (GDP/GNP, income)

  • Sustainable Development (environmental variables)

  • Human Development (UNDP Human Development Reports)

  • UN General Assembly Undertakings since turn of this century

  • Millennium Development Goals (2000)

  • Sustainable Development Goals (2015)

  • To put it another way, policymaking is a form of politics/policy outcomes are political outcomes





NWICO (1970’s-80’s) UNESCO hosted

  • NWICO (1970’s-80’s) UNESCO hosted

  • World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) 2003 – 2005 Action lines (WSIS+10 - 10 year Review in 2015)

    • ITU (WSIS host/WSIS+10 Partner)
    • UNESCO (NWICO host/WSIS+10 partner)
    • UNCTAD - United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
    • DESA - Department of Economic and Social Affairs (IGF Oversight)
    • UNDP
  • Internet Governance Forum (independent agency set up by UN Resolution) 2006 – 2010/2010-2015 (3rd Renewal in 2015 in New York, December 2015) – 2016 (onwards) ???











Three (perhaps four) phases at UN level since mid-20th century & release of 1948 UN Conference on Freedom of Information

  • Three (perhaps four) phases at UN level since mid-20th century & release of 1948 UN Conference on Freedom of Information

    • New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) 1970’s-1980’s: media divide/imperialism issues between developed and developing UN member-states + public (state) vs. private (commercial) ownership and control of news and entertainment media
      • 1978 UNESCO Mass Media Declaration
      • 1980 MacBride Report
    • 1980’s -1990’s “Global Glasnost” period with demise of Soviet/Chinese Communist Bloc: Neoliberal economic orthodoxies, rise of electronic/satellite communications and internet
    • 2000-2005: “Information Society” and ICT for Development Priorities during the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)
    • 2006 onwards: “Internet Freedom” vs. “Regulation” or “internet sovereignty” vs. “internet jurisdiction”


2000 Millennium Development Goals focus on ICTs (viz. the Internet): Target 8f – ‘In cooperation with the private sector, make available benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications..’

  • 2000 Millennium Development Goals focus on ICTs (viz. the Internet): Target 8f – ‘In cooperation with the private sector, make available benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications..’

  • Multilateral institutions court ‘public-private partnerships’ for implementing policies whilst adopting “multistakeholder participatory models” for agenda-setting based at the IGF and elsewhere in the UN system alongside incumbent internet governance bodies (ICANN, IETF, W3C inter alia)

  • 2015 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda framing is to “address Internet governance to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

  • Shifting context over the last 10-15 years as media/internet governance becomes explicitly politicized :

    • UN member-states re-claiming sovereignty over their media/Internet; transnational corporations (IT, media, web) claiming they speak for internet ‘freedom’
    • technical, academic, activist & advocacy communities mobilizing on numerous platforms (e.g. human rights, privacy, freedom of expression, gender equality, net neutrality)
    • Arab Uprisings, Wikileaks, Snowden revelations of state sponsored mass online surveillance signal shifts in how “civil society actors” regard the legitimacy of UN member-states and intergovernmental - multilateral - organizations
    • Consolidation of the global market share of US-based internet service providers facing off contenders at national level (e.g. China, Russia, Brazil)






The media/internet as a public good/service?

  • The media/internet as a public good/service?

  • Ownership & Control: Who regulates - governments or private actors, states or markets?

  • Terms of Access and Use along socioeconomic, political & cultural divides within and across national borders

  • Legal accountability for any decision-making: nation-states/governments, global institutions, media organizations and/or internet service providers (“intermediaries”)?

  • After Snowden – Human Rights agendas offline go online





In terms of state actors and IGO’s

  • In terms of state actors and IGO’s

  • From a Westphalian to Post-Westphalian Framework (Fraser 2004, 2007)

  • … or a “post-national constellation” (Habermas 1998)

  • In terms of corporate (non-state) actors

  • Public-private partnerships to multistakeholder internet governance

  • In terms of civil society (other non-state actors) organizations

  • Transnational networks – “rhizomatic” forces against “empire” (Deleuze & Guatarri, Hardt & Negri).

  • Co-optation into a global “internet governmentality matrix” (Lipschutz 2005, Franklin 2010, 2013)



Despite the changes in the ecosystem, the role of the media in a democratic society, albeit with additional tools (namely interaction and engagement), has not changed. Media-related policy must therefore take full account of these and future developments, embracing a notion of media which is appropriate for such a fluid and multidimensional reality …[relevant to all] actors whether new or traditional who operate within the media ecosystem… Media policy makers are invited to take account of the following criteria when considering if particular activities, services or actors ought to be considered as media…

  • Despite the changes in the ecosystem, the role of the media in a democratic society, albeit with additional tools (namely interaction and engagement), has not changed. Media-related policy must therefore take full account of these and future developments, embracing a notion of media which is appropriate for such a fluid and multidimensional reality …[relevant to all] actors whether new or traditional who operate within the media ecosystem… Media policy makers are invited to take account of the following criteria when considering if particular activities, services or actors ought to be considered as media…

  • ..1) Intent to act as media

  • …2) Purpose and underlying objectives..

  • …3) Editorial control…

  • …4) Professional Standards..

  • …5) Outreach and Dissemination

  • ..6) Public expectation..

  • (Council of Europe, 2011, Recommendation CM/Rec(2011)7 on a new notion of media)





“Distance has ceased to be an obstacle, and the possibility exists - if there were a collective will - of a universal communication system linking any point on the planet with any other. The equipment, cumbersome and costly in its early days, has become rapidly cheaper and is by its nature extremely flexible. Electronic communications, for a long time restricted to communication between individuals, are increasingly available for use in collective communication. Conversely, it is feasible to envisage, instead of global systems, a web of communication networks, integrating autonomous or semi-autonomous, decentralized units. (MacBride 1980: I-9)”

  • “Distance has ceased to be an obstacle, and the possibility exists - if there were a collective will - of a universal communication system linking any point on the planet with any other. The equipment, cumbersome and costly in its early days, has become rapidly cheaper and is by its nature extremely flexible. Electronic communications, for a long time restricted to communication between individuals, are increasingly available for use in collective communication. Conversely, it is feasible to envisage, instead of global systems, a web of communication networks, integrating autonomous or semi-autonomous, decentralized units. (MacBride 1980: I-9)”




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