Media Broadcasts Global Inequality
By admin December 12, 2016

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Every day, much of humanity now has the possibility to gather information from all around the world, relating to anyone and sharing opinions and thoughts with a plethora of other individuals. Our connected world is filled with expressions of freedom and equality. The Internet and social networks gives voice to every individual that has one, and the freedom of expression has shifted on a whole new level, where local news and events shared on Twitter or Facebook can have a global impact.

Modern communication tools have major implications for social progress and global justice, but so do the information and communication infrastructures which supports those platforms. The project of ‘networking the world’ is more than two centuries old, but what has changed is that while in the past it has always been a project of the States, today it has increasingly become the preserve of some of the world’s largest corporations including Facebook, Google and China’s Tencent and Baidu.

Corporate logics are in fact colonizing media and digital platforms, intruding into more domains of everyday life and taking over what States were supposed to do. An example is represented by education, where commercial media companies such as Google and Apple are providing learning materials, and a firm such as Facebook faced civil opposition in India as it sought to introduce its Free Basics platform as a default means of internet access for less affluent populations.

Market forces have appropriated the design, regulation and pricing of the platforms we use to connect and express our political allegiances and even forge our visions for the future, and they are raising concern over digital equality and divisions. In fact, there are profound inequalities in basic media access within nations and among continents. While global elites may be better connected everywhere, the same is not true of those who work for them. Media systems offer tremendous communication resources to people who can function in Western languages, are able-bodied and have the necessary buying power.

As media is governed by big corporations, the rules of the capitalist markets enter into play, and thus the inequality that is attached with them. Global platform companies such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple are in fact dominating the global markets and practically enjoying stronger and more pervasive regulatory power.

For example, in Colombia, a home Internet connection costs 20 percent (US$48) of the minimum wage (US$217/month), putting it out of reach for a domestic worker. And the inequalities are even greater in media production; even if a migrant might have the possibility to get an image of the country they hope to reach, he/she will probably lack the ability to influence how their arrival will be represented, as our media systems showcase certain voices while marginalizing others, especially people of color, differently abled people, migrants, women and girls.

To solve this more subtle but equally powerful form of inequality, the key will be to concentrate on the regulation of the media landscape and try to avoid the dominance of corporations. As media delivery increasingly shifts to mobile devices, a stronger capacity for surveillance  – also in ordinary social interactions –  is needed.

Both a universal access to information and media and a transparent and democratic governance of its main regulation principles will be fundamental to strengthen the world’s vision of social progress that can go along and sustain a more sustainable and fairer economic development.

For More Information:

Why the media is a key dimension of global inequality

Study: media dehumanizes immigrants, creates false crises

TED Conversation: Why privacy matters

World Summit on the Information Society

ICT Facts and Figures 2016

India puts brakes on Facebook’s Free Basics scheme

Networking the World, 1794 – 2000

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