Relaciones Internacionales – Comunicación Internacional

Globalization and power: The consolidation of international communication as a discipline (Juan-Luis Manfredi-Sánchez)

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This study presents an overview of the theoretical development and main lines of research regarding international communication. To this end, the emergence of communication in the structuring of power has been analysed with regard to four areas (hard, soft, sharp power, and the strategic narrative). The critical perspective has been reviewed as well as Anglo-Saxon dominance of the subject using evidence from France, Germany, and Latin America.

Five main lines of future research have been forecast, the first of which involves strengthening the theoretical and methodological bases with interdisciplinary methods; the nature and characteristics of the international journalist (journalist versus fake news); the handling of populist communication when confronting political globalisation with leaders who challenge the conventional journalistic ethos; the analysis of structures and global information systems in the face of a multifaceted scenario with less “CNN effect” than expected, along with a dynamic situation of constant propagandistic innovation.

Keywords International communication; Power; Hard power; Soft power; Sharp power; Strategic narrative; Public diplomacy;
Propaganda; Leadership; Social movements; Activism; Mediated diplomacy; The CNN effect; Review article.

1. Introduction
Writing a review article on international communication on behalf of the journal’s board of directors has been an intellectual challenge. I wanted to address the academic literature and its referring authors, analyse the research agenda, and review the successive organisations and multitudinous congresses that have dotted the landscape in order to understand the dynamics
and scope of international communication.

Before starting, I reviewed the writings that had appeared in the sources of interest in order to undertake a systemised review of the state of the art (Vanc; Fitzpatrick, 2016), examine the methodologies in use, and propose new paths of research for the discipline. The aim of this paper is to identify the sources and main authors involved in the issue in order to gain knowledge regarding the epistemological and theoretical approaches that exist for the purpose of reaching a reasonable level of agreement regarding definitions and concepts; to organise the theories and interrelationships between the doctrine and disciplines that are part of international communication; to point out how knowledge based on cumulative science is structured and organised; and finally, to identify unresolved problems (Codina, 2018).

As such, the present work fulfils the task entrusted therein, although it poses certain limitations due to the very nature of the research subject. This is not a standard discipline, but rather a multidisciplinary object of study, which derives theory from practice. International communication draws on diverse sources. The discipline includes several factors,
among which are the following: the structure and policy of communication (the role played by the State in the information system involved, the law or professional culture, and European information policies); history (relationships with events and important milestones in the shaping of a global society); sociology (cultural consumption, audiences, professional routines, environmental values and culture, as well as social behaviour when faced with news, muckraking, and disinformation); economics (business models, market globalization, press subsidies, global media moguls); international relations (borders, nation states, nationalism, idealism or realism); finally, the hybridisation of the media and political systems (the role of the professional journalist, the rise and fall of correspondents, treatment of sources, and institutional publicity).

All of these aspects are part of the review, although each of them could be the subject of an independent monograph. Furthermore, this research trend is continuing to grow. For these reasons, there is no short answer to the question of what international communication is, or how it is defined in an environment of globalisation that has multiplied the sources and promoters of information, as well as transversal agendas of international political action.

During the last decade, the number of actors and issues has multiplied, and the consequence has been an expansion in the use of communication as a tool to influence the agenda, evaluate causes (Pamment, 2016b), attract the interest of the public, and exercise power. At the normative level, this manifests itself in the tension between secrecy (diplomatic, military) and information (journalistic, public) as well as between freedom of expression (censorship, humour, satire) and hate speech (harassment, denialism). Sociological analysis investigates the way in which journalistic and audio-visual products are produced and consumed. Moreover, the audiences of these products share the instruments of distribution and acquisition, but not the same cultural or informational patterns.

Thus, we are witnessing either the structuring of a global audience or the sum of local audiences who consume global products with more content that is similar, but with less distribution channels, as well as the perception of global problems and foreign culture (Noya, 2012). This issue of the sociological aspect of information and audio-visual consumption could lead either to standardised messages or to new national information structures that are isolated from the globalisation process (Cheng; Golan; Kiousis, 2016). From a comparative perspective, international communication facilitates a myriad of theoretical approaches that combine local as well global features, whether in the study of gaps between North and South, informational and audio-visual plurality (Valcke; Sukosd; Picard, 2015), the rise of digital diasporas, or the redefinition of the journalistic profession
(Hanitzsch et al., 2019).

Analysis of the divisions of the International Communication Association (ICA) confirms the difficulty in approaching thi object of study:

Following the tenets of the ICA, study of the production, distribution and reception of content with an agenda to transform reality are grouped under the heading of social and global change. Intercultural communication is the field that offers an intuitive approach to internationalisation. Political economy studies power relations, business ownership, the impact of corporations, the working conditions of journalists, and other common aspects of the information structure. The environmental section addresses issues of health, risk and science, which are global and
transversal matters.

It should be noted that a specialised interest group appears, focusing on public diplomacy, which is an emerging discipline halfway between international relations and strategic communication. The semantic umbrella never ends, as each of the sections offers possibilities for comparative study. Given this inter-disciplinary and increasingly complex panorama, international communication in this paper refers to the process of creating, producing, distributing and receiving messages in the international arena. Interest in this area has grown exponentially in importance during the process of globalisation, which has imposed social values, a political system, and a dominant economic order on the communication industry. Thussu (2000) analysed the great changes in the information and entertainment model with relevant case studies, such as those of MTV, Rupert Murdoch’s empire, TV Globo, and ESPN. The “CNN effect” has also been addressed. This is defined as the impact of global television on international policy decisions, which have effects that are uneven and dependent on the national political context, public opinion, and the causes of military or humanitarian intervention. The researcher Gilboa (2005) concludes that there is no unanimous agreement.


How to cite this article:
Manfredi-Sánchez, Juan-Luis (2020). “Globalization and power: the consolidation of international communication as a discipline. Review article”. El profesional de la información, v. 29, n. 1, e290111.


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