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Shehab Zahda Essay

International institutions play a role in the formulation of communication policy at the national level International Institutions were initially founded for the purposes of, inter alia, managing and regulating activities at the international level; flow of goods, services, images, ideas, and people. A world without international institutions is not universally effective in securing the exchange of goods (Aggarwal & Dupont, 2008: 81). This is due to the phase of immense change of international politics and commerce. They have played the role of fulfilling governments requirements in a globalizing world during an era where problems have arisen. A form of interdependence between governments emerged, which stimulated the creation of many institutions to regulate the relations; as a result, governments International Relations were shaped by the number of treaties, regimes and other joint arrangements between different nationstates (Woods, 2000: 202-204). International institutions shaped the new vision of global governance by policies aiming at international regulation and enforcement (Woods, 2000: 218), Institutions are key instruments for resolving enforcement, distribution, and assurance problems (Aggarwal & Dupont, 2008: 83). Global governance faced a momentous change in the wake of the Second World War (WWII), especially marked by the Bretton Woods Conference that led to the creation of two new public intergovernmental institutions tasked with promoting international financial cooperation, upholding rules and responsibilities of membership, and providing short-term balance of payments finance and long-term development lending (Helleiner, 2010: 620-621). Namely; the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development which became part of the World Bank (WB) aftermath. Their creation was for purposes such as; inter alia, keeping stable exchange rates and adjustment by countries with liquidity problems, regulating and ensuring stable and equitable growth in the world economy (Mobekk, Spyrou, 2002: 530). The WB was the channel of private funds into investment projects that stimulate growth and development (Woods, 2000: 205). The Bretton Woods was inspired from its inception by an embedded liberal ideology and it was backed by the United States (US) leadership (Helleiner, 2008: 221). Such institutions act as watchdogs for the treaties and agreements between member governments. Institutions codify rights and obligations of countries, they exert their power through enforcement to ensure a prompt and undistorted dissemination of information, or through disciplinary actions, as an example, when the World Trade Organization (WTO) endorsed the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), it used to rule against certain states policies. Enforcement can be achieved
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Shehab Zahda Essay

through positive incentives, as when the IMF provides funds to countries that are following its policy recommendation (Aggarwal & Dupont, 2008: 82-83). In the 1960s, poor nations previously being the colonies mainly in Asia and Africa, their communication systems were sub-systems of the colonial masters. During that period, these new independent nations the Third World Nations established the New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) (Mosco, 2009: 178). Their demands were that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other international institutions provide the funds to enable poor nations establish viable communication systems of their own at national level, in the view of having more genuine independence from the master colonizers. NWICO campaign faced a harsh response when the USA and UK withdrew from UNESCO as a result of that under the Reagan and Thatcher administration respectively. This has shaped a new phase of global political economy which encompassed mainly communication sector, especially when the ITU opened the participation of the private sector on communication policy matters at both national and international level (McChesney & Schiller, 2003: 5; Palmer & Tunstall, 1990: 4). Communications have always been politically significant to governments, but never more economically significant than in the 1980s (Dyson & Humphreys, 1999: 1). Since then, many developing countries moved in the same direction as international institutions in the form of market-oriented reforms. The collapse of Berlin Wall in 1991 led many governments to rush into being included in the global markets. Another aspect of this change of the victory of neoliberalism over the Eastern bloc took place when the IMFs management decided to launch an initiative in 1995 to topple the Bretton Woods commitment of capital controls by amending their institutions articles of agreement in order to gain a stronger liberalization mandate with respect to capital movements (Helleiner, 2010: 627). On the communication and information level, the creation of these international institutions, more importantly at that time WB and IMF, they enjoyed the power of putting all government policies under scrutiny including communication and information policies. On the other hand, institutions have helped make the international scene an information-rich environment (Aggarwal & Dupont, 2008: 83). Initially, for instance, the IMF argues that governments need to develop and adopt internationally accepted standards or codes of good practice for economic,
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Shehab Zahda Essay

financial and business activities (Woods, 2000: 212). As a result, the IMF created a Special Data Dissemination Standard in 1996; which comprises guidelines on the dissemination transparency of economic and financial data to the public of the countries who are willing to have access to international capital markets. This has influenced many member countries to adopt and develop communication policies that go along with the guidelines set out by IMF. An additional aspect is what IMF produced as Code for Good practices on Fiscal Transparency and a code of good practices on Transparency in Monetary and Financial Policies. (Woods, 2000: 212). International institutions are thought of being servants and agents who set up the suitable environment for the businesses of advanced western financial and knowledge conglomerates, this is achieved through assistance budgets and by paving the way for access to free markets as a carrot for the developing countries (Woods, 2000: 202-204). Institutions play the role of channels of the third-party enforcement of agreements. Member nations are assigned specific binding obligations, which institutions make sure the prevalence of an undistorted dissemination of information. Institutions are key instruments for resolving enforcement, distribution, and assurance problems. This type of enforcement is guaranteed through positive incentives, similarly to what IMF does when providing fund to governments which follow IMFs policy recommendations. On the other hand, enforcement can be ensured though punitive actions as when, for example, the WTO goes against a particular state policy (Aggarwal & Dupont, 2008: 82-83). Globalization has made international institutions even require more enforcement, that led to a deeper level of policy integration or convergence, which made the international institutions in some cases interfere in national governments policy making, formulating polices for di stant communities, and incursion into domestic policies in countries to protect the stability of global governance. However, opponents hold the view that: The legitimate political institutions of the country should determine the nations economic structure and the nature of its institutions. A nations desperate need for shortterm financial help does not give the IMF the moral right to substitute its technical judgements for the outcomes of the nations political process (Marty Feldstein in Woods, 2000: 216).
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Shehab Zahda Essay

Neo-liberalism is an economic and political project with a particular set of policies and approaches to governmentality. It is based on an ideological understanding of the role of states and markets, as well as the relationship between the individual and the society (Hopper, 2012: 39). Meanwhile, it remains crucial to manage problems emerging at the regional or international level due to flows of goods, people, crime, and violence, without addressing domestic social, economic, and security policies. (Woods, 2000: 216). With the rise of neoliberalism, the US government advocated for a free society in a way that profit-driven media system and similar US-style professional journalism. The US government worked tirelessly to eliminate the barriers where people could have more exposure to at least a US-style commercial media (McChesney & Schiller, 2003: 6-7). A significant momentum took place when major countries like the US and UK deregulated national media, remarkable transnational measures followed, such as, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and WTO, for the purposes of establishing regional and global marketplaces. In terms of media markets, US opened its domestic market mainly in film, recording and publishing, besides broadcasting and telecommunications to foreign corporate investment (McChesney & Schiller, 2003: 6-7). The neoliberal development of global media system invited opposing stands, due to the policies that media conglomerates advanced in order to ease for their domination of markets across the globe; a stream of opposition from those who advocate for traditions of protection and for domestic media and cultural industries stood in the face of that development in many countries ranging from Norway, Denmark and Spain to Mexico, South Africa and the Republic of Korea. In the late 1990s, 20 ministers representing their countries met to discuss the way in which they could protect cultural value from Hollywood juggernaut, the main recommendation of this meeting was to keep culture out of the control of WTO. A similar type of meeting took place in Stockholm that granted culture a special exemption from the global trade deals (McChesney & Schiller, 2003: 7). The creation of regional and global institutions helps integrate in the internationalization process, this has been important in the communication arena, as the transnational communication networks require coordination between states. This issue has been under the supervision of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), formerly International Telegraph Union, which is the oldest international institution which initiated the coordination between governments initially
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Shehab Zahda Essay

for the telegraph policy in the 1860s, and later for communications policies till this day (Mosco, 2009: 178). The US model of communication has been exported across the globe. Policy debates have been spread in many countries, the global communication policy, telegraph and telephone spectrum allocation and other related matters were divided between the elite of nation-states, where public have had the least say on such matters. These states have adopted novel actions that enable the richest nations to exercise tighter control over global communications policy. The negotiations were dominated by the powerful nations; the United kingdom before WWI and the US after WWII (McChesney & Schiller, 2003: 4-5; Mosco, 2009: 178). Governments have had to struggle with international institutions, and the powerful nations backing them, to raise their national and local needs in the formulation and implementation of certain national policies. The process gets very complicated when making policies and adapting them at both national and international level, nationalists argued that national policies should be endogenous and are not to be dictated or ruled out internationally. National policy space is above all a political vision of national development and welfare that countries have to fight for (Iorio, 2007: 14). Adding to that, the wave of growth of international corporations formed a new terrain of capitalist globalization, where the market-led agencies; Multinational Corporations (MNCs), seized the opportunity to develop a suitable environment for their businesses by reconstruction and re-making the national integrated market production systems. The transformation has relied on a process of corporate-led transformation around communications (McChesney & Schiller, 2003: 6). Governments have been wary about the new input of the industrial policies in communication sector, mainly stemming from ideological roots, strengthened by the resistance of external pressure notably from the international institutions. Consequently, new paradigms arose in terms of policy formation and the internalization processes of policies within national policies. The nature of communications policy making has changed with the interference of new foreign actors coming centre stage. In adopting new policies, governments have had to take into consideration their liaison with ITU and European Community (EC) in most cases. They facilitated change on domestic level by using external constraints and necessities, adding to that lobbying with international institutions and forging cross-national strategies to be compatible with the aimed policies to be changed at national level (Dyson & Humphreys, 1999: 1-2). The
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Shehab Zahda Essay

interdependence of countries and economies in the global economy poses the question of the space for national policy-making and development strategies, particularly in developing countries (Iorio, 2007: 14). The interdependence of nation-states and their aimed economic growth rendered

communications policies to be made at different levels, which sheds the light of the phenomenon of the networks of organizations, particularly international institutions, emerging to penetrate political structure at national level over the past century. Penetration influences international rules on developing countries which do not have solid regulatory and political frameworks, and whose capacity to meet national needs is limited, that resulted in an overwhelming demand of commitments from international institutions (Iorio, 2007: 14). International institutions have a great impact over many countries across the globe, that is, national governments have less power than international institutions in many instances in shaping their media and communications policies, that has been the case remarkable in the sector of information infrastructure applied by the EC as a law to member states and developing nations. This has been described both as a need and a policy trap. Some of these efforts come effortless as this law surpasses the borders of the US and EU through the harmonization process of legal systems, and by the dynamism of decision-making. Besides, this infrastructure has an economic drive behind its policies as it forms a potential market in the developing countries, which supports directly and indirectly the economies of developed countries (Braman, 2004: 166). The role of International institutions have changed over the course of time in the last few decades and certain organizations power has declined, that has been marked by, inter alia, the advent of internet and new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). On the same time, other institutions have gained greater power shaping policies and practices of communication at international level as well as at national level in different continents. Formerly, the official regulatory body of the internet has been Internet Corporation for Assigned Names (ICANN), in charge of global domain system, which is a US governments authority. Yet, an attempt to form a better democratic process in shaping communication policies in different nations took place entitled World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), aiming to create a fair, just and equal global governance in the communications and information arena. Results of this initiative are to

Shehab Zahda Essay

be evaluated over time whether it be fruitful of not in terms of policy and decision making (Mosco, 2009: 178). Policies at the national level are shaped in a binding manner to the demands and requirements of foreign developed countries and their international institutions, besides the influence imposed by MNCs. That brings the case to difficult cross-roads where national governments face paradoxical complex situations when they need to make choices about maximizing national advantage, governments tend to resist such change by backing local players to invest in national communications sector and its infrastructure (Dyson & Humphreys, 1999: 241). This process faces a counter wave of difficulties as the decentralization of decision-making. Communication policies for certain nation states get troubled as a result of the international political economic scene when both supra- and infra-national law and regulations have to be taken into account (Braman, 2004: 167). ITU might be said to have transcended or undermined the primacy of national interests (Dyson & Humphreys, 1999: 234). Since Reagan epoch and his shift for deregulation and privatization, up to this day, many countries have become supporters and allies of the US government in the ITU conferences and GATT/ WTO trade negotiations. In that framework, media ownership and privatization of state telecommunications agencies became a feature of the sector; these have changed many communication policies in different nations that reinforced neoliberal agendas. Afterwards, these telecommunications conglomerates have become very important in the communication sector around the world; internet, wireless broadband, and other ICTs (Downing, 2011: 143). In this regards, there has been considerable movements, like WSIS, opposing such developments taking place at meetings of international agencies such as WTO, ITU, WB and other international bodies. From a political economic perspective, economists have examined the praxis of communication sector changes at political and policy level in different countries. They found out that it is of great importance to transnationalize the political economy of communication, and, through communication policy changed, they also recognize the need to create transnational democracy and a genuine cosmopolitan citizenship (Mosco, 2009: 108-109). At national level, the trend in formulating communication policies was on the shoulders of the state; a process where the state intervenes to set up a public broadcaster or a telephone company. Privatization has changed this model where foreign ownership is allowed, restricted the form of
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Shehab Zahda Essay

states involvement, usually through a regulatory body. This has even accelerated due to several reasons; inter alia, the pressures of transnational businesses and governmental organizations, such as IMF, WB and WTO. For these institutions, commercialization is a first step toward market control which takes place through privatization. In this intervention and interference of such international institutions of the privatization, critics shed the light on the loss of sovereignty of nations that open up for foreign enterprises, and the following loss of local control over national policy (Mosco, 2009: 177). In conclusion, international institutions paired with their major power governments from the developed countries mainly western have played various roles in different ways shaping and making communication policies throughout the world for different political, ideological and economic purposes. A counter-flow current of opposition of neoliberal agenda of global media system has also played as a counterpart in many countries at local, national, regional and international level. International institutions have been and are still on having a huge eminence in the arena of communication and its policies at national and international levels.

Shehab Zahda Essay

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