Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Is This Thing On?

Last week's Economist reports that international broadcasters are losing purchase on the developing world newscape, creating a need for more targeted broadcasts:

Now technology is cutting costs and stoking competition, eroding the Westerners’ advantages (see article).... As the old signals fade, rival outfits are crowding the airwaves. Iran and Russia have both launched 24-hour English television-news channels. China added a second one last month.... The right response to such challenges is not for Western countries to bin their broadcasts, but to target them better.

It's no secret that international broadcasters like the BBC and VOA are operating in an increasingly competitive environment. And the Economist notes wryly that the situation is an unavoidable consequence of succeeding in another goal--namely the spread of free expression around the world.

But as more voices join the fray, the need for good reporting becomes increasingly important, even as the job becomes exponentially harder. If only there were a correlation between need and funding for international broadcasters. But funding's not the only possible response, of course. Restructuring, outsourcing to/collaborating with local news sources, developing more reciprocal programs and targeting specific audiences have all been proposed as potential solutions to the challenges PD broadcasters face abroad.

The article raises important issues, but -- and as an international communication student, I hesitate to admit this -- the message and the media are only part of the equation. Beyond the basic acts of sending and receiving messages, there's a world of factors influencing how ideas form, gain momentum and are converted into action. Which is fortunate for me, or I'd run out of blog subjects pretty quickly.

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