The Rise of the Rest for Global Communication: Possibly, or Potentially?

//CGCS visiting scholar Jingjing Qian, a research associate at Israel Epstein Center for Global Media and Communication, Tsinghua University, examines the “rise of the Rest” by reviewing non-United States and United Kingdom media outlets and their success in reaching global markets.//

Global communications has long been associated with international politics. The United States and the United Kingdom have traditionally held the leading roles through their enterprises, networks, and academic research. Five decades later, the tides are turning. Some developing countries’ unprecedented growth in political influence and economic progress has begun to attract attention. With the rise of countries such as China, India, Russia, as well as countries within Africa and South America, it is important to realize the significant impact developing countries will have on global communication and media structures. This phenomenon is termed “the Rise of the Rest.”

With this rise of the Rest, “Pax-Americana”[1] ideology would render itself obsolete if still carried on in both media research and practice (Thussu, 2013). So how do the media from the Rest survive and thrive? More importantly, how does the Rest impact all the long-standing key assumptions of the US-dominated global communication discourse in academia? Examining media sources from the Rest gives some insight on how these countries are trying to break the US and UK media hegemony.

The Pioneering Seeds: NHK and Al-Jazeera

There are two imperative examples when it comes to breaking from the Western-centric media: the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation NHK from Japan and Al-Jazeera from the Middle East.

Like the BBC, NHK is an independent publicly owned broadcasting corporation, which is funded by the license fee charged from the audience. NHK is famous for its non-biased news coverage, Taiga Dramas and annual Kōhaku Music Show. NHK earned its global reputation through its English channel NHK World because of its rich Japanese cultural programs and a series of internationally cooperated media events such as co-producing NHK Asian Film Festival (Li, 2011).

Al-Jazeera has certainly taken the battle against Western media domination to another level. Establishing itself as one of the only trustworthy news sources in the Arab world, Al-Jazeera has succeeded in becoming one of the most reliable journalism broadcasters in the western world (Miles, 2005). When discussing the US’s lack of dominance in the information war, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “Al-Jazeera has been the leader…they are changing people’s minds and attitudes. And like it or hate it, it is really effective” (Radia, 2011). This August, Al-Jazeera launched its new branchAl-Jazeera America in the US as an explicit effort to compete with CNN and other major networks.

Same but Different Followers: TeleSur and RT

Inspired by Al-Jazeera’s success, TeleSur in Latin America and Russia Today  (RT) in Russia seek to satisfy South American and Russian leaders’ longing for an effective national media outlet to disseminate their voices.

Proposed by Hugo Chavez, TeleSur was a part of his strong-voiced anti-imperialism campaign. His ultimate goal was to construct a TV network across Latin America for independent news reporting that was free from American journalism’s influence (Hayden, 2012). The network, however, has been criticized for its reporting quality and financing system, and has not achieved a widespread world reputation yet (Li, 2011, Hayden, 2012). Nonetheless, due to the geographic significance, this kind of strong voice from the region cannot be neglected.

RT, while having a similar independent news reporting agenda, has done a better job at covering news for a global audience (Bullough, 2013; Fisher, 2013; Panov, 2013). Its harsh tone towards the US has gained surprisingly high popularity in major US cities (CRI Online, 2013). The station meanwhile has achieved remarkable online success by being one of the most watched video news sources on YouTube in June, 2013 (Martinez, 2012; Xinhua International, 2013; CRI Online).

CCTV’s Overseas Ambition: On Behalf of China

China goes all out when disseminating national soft power and deconstructing US domination in global discourse. This is especially true as nation-wide collective action is among China’s many strong suits because of its authoritarian political system. Moreover, China’s goal to disrupt US media preeminence has enjoyed support from the people due to the project’s nationalistic nature. .

Supervised and partially sponsored by the Chinese Government’s Central Publicity Department[2], six major media outlets, including China Central Television (CCTV), People’s Daily, Xinhua News Agency, China Radio International, China Daily, andChina News Service, cover news and carry a wide range of programs on different media platforms.

As the primary national broadcaster, CCTV spares no cost in its global expansion endeavors. It has developed five channels in five different foreign languages (English, Spanish, French, Arabic and Russian), broadcasting to the entire world. With CCTV-4 in Chinese, CCTV-NEWS and CCTV-9 Documentary in English, currently the station has seven channels televising content about China around the globe.

Additionally, CCTV has two major overseas branches in America and Africa. These two branches both have highly prestigious local anchors and reporters, including Mike Walter and Beatrice Marshall, who cover news from a native perspective to improve the local audiences’ perception of the programming.

The Coping Mechanism or a Whole New Era

It is clear that the US-UK domination of global communication and media has been challenged by the trend of the Rise of the Rest. Now the real question is to what extent can the two sides reconcile?

The changing tide would not seem as intimidating if it did not entail the changing inner power from the ocean itself. The backbone of the old regime in global communication depends on the well-established institutionalization in terms of media industries and academic research traditions (Thussu, 2013). However, with the Rest’s economic strengths and time-honored diligence backing up the new power shifting trends, it will not take too long before the Rest makes an impact which will fundamentally change the old institutionalized infrastructures.

Presently, there should be a call for an in-depth examination of this new trend and its relevance to the media policy process. Additionally, this examination should parallel the ground rule of all the other big policy decision-making: Coming to terms with a new reality and dealing with it strategically.

 //Jingjing Qian


[1] The term indicates the preponderance of power enjoyed by the US in relation to other nations. It derives from the Pax Romana of the Roman Empire, the Pax Britannica of the British Empire. See more references below:

  • Nye, Jr. J. (1990). The changing nature of world power. Political Science Quarterly, 105(2): 177-192.
  •  Parchami, Ali. (2009). Hegemonic Peace and Empire: The Pax Romana, Britannica and Americana. Routledge: London.
  •  Al-Jazeera. (2011), Pax Americana

[2] Also see the definition from Wikipedia, though the official term should remain the Publicity Department:

References:

Bullough, O. (2013). Inside Russia Today: Counterweight to the Mainstream Media, or Putin’s Mouthpiece? NewStatesman, Retrieved from: http://www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/world-affairs/2013/05/inside-russia-today-counterweight-mainstream-media-or-putins-mou

CRI Online. (2013). Russia Today by Putin Gain Popularity from American Audience, China Radio International Online, Retrieved from (in Chinese): http://gb.cri.cn/42071/2013/08/14/5411s4217748.htm

Fisher, M. (2013). In Case You Weren’t Clear on Russia Today’s Relationship to Moscow, Putin Clears it Up. The Washington Post, Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/06/13/in-case-you-werent-clear-on-russia-todays-relationship-to-moscow-putin-clears-it-up/

Hayden, C. (2012). The Rhetoric of Soft Power: Public Diplomacy in Global Contexts. Lexington Books: MD, Lanham.

Li, H. (2011). The Alternative Media in Latin Media: A study on TeleSur. Latin America Studies, 3.

Li, Y. (2011). NHK and its Cultural Strategy. Global Communication, 2: 56-57.

Martinez, J. (2012). Pew: Russia Today, Fox News Lead the Pack on YouTube. The Hill, Retrieved from: http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/238157-pew-rt-fox-news-are-top-sources-of-popular-news-videos

Miles. H. (2005). Al-Jazeera: the Inside Story of the Arab News Channel that is Challenging the West. Grove Press: New York.

Panov, A. (2013). RT Launches an Agency to Rival CNN and Reuters. Russia Behind the Headlines, Retrieved from: http://rbth.ru/international/2013/04/19/russia_today_launches_an_agency_to_rival_cnn_and_reuters_25225.html

Radia, K. (2011). Sec. of State Hillary Clinton: Al Jazeera is ‘Real News’, U.S. Losing ‘Information War’. ABC News, Retrieved from: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/03/sec-of-state-hillary-clinton-al-jazeera-is-real-news-us-losing-information-war/

Thussu, D. (2013). Reformulating Global Communication and the Rise of “Chindia”, to be published in Global Communication.

Xinhua International. (2013). Challenging the West Domination, RT does a Great Job. Xinhua News Online, Retrieved from (in Chinese): http://news.xinhuanet.com/world/2013-03/19/c_124475943.htm

 

Featured Photo Credit:Felipe Menegaz

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