Many Voices, One World is the title of what is called as the McBride report, a 1980’s publication by UNSECO based on the International Commission for the Study of Mass Media Communication Problems across the world. The study was chaired by Nobel Laureate Sean MacBride, which suggested a new communication order for the world called the New World Information and Communication Order or NWICO.
The study found that there were several issues in the manner in which communication travelled across continents, especially between the First and the Third World countries. Most messages or stories from the First World found their place in the Third World Mass media, whereas only scandals and sensational news, draught and famine caught the attention of the Western Mass media and Commumnication. There was a clear imbalance in the way news was reported between the two worlds.
Because developing countries had only rudimentary mass media production facilities, and viewers were demanding content, our television was flooded with programmes from the Western world. We were happily watching I Love Lucy, Laurel and Hardy, and so many other programmes. Well, so what? With Western programming, we were also introduced to the culture of the West. True, we were introduced to it for more than 100 years of colonial rule. But this was something much more profound and pervasive. This was cultural imperialism through dominating media presence. Though media does not have a direct effect on how we think, there are proven hidden and indirect effects. The Mass media in education, we call it the indirect effects paradigm, under which we study theories like Uses and Gratifications approach, the Sleeper Effect, Subliminal Advertising, the Cultivation Theory, and many more. The Mass media Communication works on us at a subconscious level, ultimately affecting us, making us believe in what the mass media wants us to. Besides, what is considered taboo, is always more attractive. This is why we see so much violence in the Indian television, and now on the OTT platforms. Violent visuals set your heart racing, increases body temperature, heart rate, and arousal levels. So do images with suspense, porn, and sex. Such media is addictive and narcotic, and people are more prone to get affected by it than a quiet, gentle story.
The cultural imperialism has had its effects – the import of several cultural rituals and habits into the Indian society. For example, the ‘Friendship Day’ is a cultural import, promoted heavily by full page ads by Hallmark. As late as 1985, when this author was in college, there was nothing called Valentine’s Day, another cultural import, again promoted by commercial interests. Live-in relationships, extra-marital affairs, are all cultural imports. The way we dress, the way we behave have all been affected by television, even if not directly. One of the biggest is the porn industry, which contributes more than 30% of revenues to the Internet commerce. Do visit the following link for more stats: https://fightthenewdrug.org/10-porn-stats-that-will-blow-your-mind/
So has the West done this deliberately? Not really, the West has its own culture, we have (had?) ours. The problem is because it seems more attractive, we tend to adopt it faster. So when people from Pakistan watch our TV serials and films despite them being banned, is it cultural imperialism? No. We make our films and television serials, which reflect our likes and dislikes, but that is for our consumption.
Going back to the original topic of this blog, while the NWICO collapsed, India was going through some significant political changes. In 1980, Indira Gandhi was back in power. She invited Sam Pitroda, a US based technocrat as a consultant to help us improve our telecommunications. It is because of him that our country has a fully developed telecommunication infrastructure which has led to revolutionize everything we do. Due to his contribution in making us self reliant in telecommunications, Sam Pitroda is hailed as the Father of Indian Telecommunication.
There were some other factors too. As a fallout of India’s first nuclear test in 1974, Canada refused to share nuclear technology with India unless certain conditions were met. This was not acceptable to the Indira Gandhi government, and the breakdown in negotiations pushed India towards self reliance. With developed nations refusing to honour their commitment to supply a super computer to India, Indian scientists developed their first super computer named ‘Param’ in 1998 at one-third the cost of what would have been supplied by the US.
The failure of NWICO was probably a boon for India, as it pushed our politicians and scientists into making us self-reliant in technology. Today, India is a giant in the software of mass media, mass media in education & mass media and communication.