The Battle of the Airwaves – Mass Media Communication

The Battle of the Airwaves

The battle of the airwaves The strategic significance of international communication grew with the expansion of the new medium. Ever since the advent of radio, its use for propaganda was an integral part of its development, with its power to influence values, beliefs and attitudes (Taylor, 1995). During the First World War, the power of radio was quickly recognized as vital both to the management of public opinion at home and propaganda abroad, directed at allies and enemies alike. As noted by a distinguished scholar of propaganda: ‘During the war period it came to be recognised that the mobilisation of men and means was not sufficient; there must be mobilisation of opinion. Power over opinion, as over life and property, passed into official hands’ (Lasswell, 1927: 14). The Russian communists were one of the earliest political groups to realize the ideological and strategic importance of broadcasting, and the first public […]

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Radio and International Communication

As with other new technologies, Western countries were the first to grasp the strategic implications of radio communication after the first radio transmissions of the human voice in 1902. Unlike cable, radio equipment was comparatively cheap and could be sold on a mass scale. There was also a growing awareness among American businesses that radio, if properly developed and controlled, might be used to undercut the huge advantages of British-dominated international cable links (Luther, 1988). They realized that, while undersea cables and their landing terminals could be vulnerable, and their location required bilateral negotiations between nations, radio waves could travel anywhere, unrestrained by politics or geography. At the 1906 international radiotelegraph conference in Berlin, 28 states debated radio equipment standards and procedures to minimize interference. The great naval powers, who were also the major users of radio (Britain, Germany, France, the USA and Russia), had imposed a regime of radio […]

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The Advent of Popular Media

The expansion of printing presses and the internationalization of news agencies were contributing factors in the growth of a worldwide newspaper industry. The Times of India was founded in 1838 while Southeast Asia’s premier newspaper The Straits Times was started as a daily newspaper from Singapore in 1858. Advances in printing technology meant that newspapers in non-European languages could also be printed and distributed. By 1870 more than 140 newspapers were being printed in Indian languages; in Cairo Al-Ahram, the newspaper which has defined Arab journalism for more than a century, was established in 1875, while in 1890, Japan’s most respected newspaper Asahi Shimbun (Morning Sun) was founded. In Europe, the growth of popular press was unprecedented in the 1890s – France’s Le Petit Parisien had a circulation of 1 million in 1890, while in Britain, the Daily Mail, launched in 1896, which redefined boundaries of journalism, was doing roaring […]

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The Rise of Reuters – The Era of News Agencies

Communication was central to the expansion and consolidation of modern European empires, the largest and the most powerful being the British Empire, which at its height, 1880-1914, dominated a quarter of humanity. The fortunes of Reuters, the most famous international news agency, can be seen to run in parallel with the growth of the British Empire. The Era of News Agencies The expansion of trade and investment during the nineteenth century had led to a huge growth in the demand for news and contributed to the commercialization of news and information services. Reuters astutely exploited this demand, helped by the new communication technologies, especially the telegraph. For British and other European investors Reuters telegrams were essential reading for the latest news from various corners of the British Empire. By 1861 these were being published from more than a hundred datelines, including from the major colonies – India, Australia, New Zealand, […]

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The Era of News Agencies

The newspaper industry played a significant role in the development of international telegraph networks, to be able to exploit the rapid increase in demand for news, especially the financial information required to conduct international commerce. The establishment of the news agency was the most important development in the newspaper industry of the nineteenth century, altering the process of news dissemination, nationally and internationally. The increasing demand among business clients for commercial information – on businesses, stocks, currencies, commodities, harvests – ensured that news agencies grew in power and reach. The French Havas Agency (ancestor of AFP) was founded in 1835, the German agency Wolff in 1849 and the British Reuters in 1851. The US agency, Associated Press (AP) was established in 1848, but only the three European agencies began as international ones; not until the turn of the century did an American agency move in this direction. From the start, […]

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The Growth of the Telegraph

The second half of the nineteenth century saw an expanding system of imperial communications made possible by the electric telegraph. Invented by Samuel Morse in 1837, the telegraph enabled the rapid transmission of information, as well as ensuring secrecy and code protection. The business community was first to make use of this new technology. The speed and reliability of telegraphy were seen to offer opportunities for profit and international expansion (Headrick, 1991). The rapid development of the telegraph was a crucial feature in the unification of the British Empire. With the first commercial telegraph link set up in Britain in 1838, by 1851 a public telegraph service, including a telegraphic money order system, had been introduced. By the end of the century, as a result of the cable connections, the telegraph allowed the Colonial Office and the India Office to communicate directly with the Empire within minutes when, previously, it […]

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The historical context of international communication

The study of contemporary international communication can be illuminated
by an understanding of the elements of continuity and change in its development.
The nexus of economic, military and political power has always
depended on efficient systems of communication, from flags, beacon fires
and runners, to ships and telegraph wires, and now satellites. The evolution
of telegraphic communication and empire in the nineteenth century exemplifies
these interrelationships, which continued throughout the twentieth
century, even after the end of empire. During the two World Wars and the
Cold War, the power and significance of the new media – radio and then television
– for international communication were demonstrated by their use
for international propaganda as well as recognizing their potential for socioeconomic
development.

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