The End of the New Order: Global Policies on Media and Means of Communication at UNESCO 1960s to 1980s

The 1970s, a UNESCO report claimed, will be the “communication decade”. In the 1960s, UNESCO had started research on new means of mass communication for development purposes. The issues evolved into a debate on the so-called “New World Information and Communication Order” (NWICO) and the democratization of media markets in the 1970s. It led UNESCO itself finally into a major crisis in the 1980s.

My project traces a dual trajectory that shaped this global debate on transnational media. The first follows communication from being promoted by international civil servants and US academics as development goal to communication seen by political actors from the Global South as a catalyst of recalibrated international economic, social and cultural relations. The second illustrates the exhaustion of the dream of installing universal orders through international cooperation that lived through an epoch of enthusiasm from the 1940s till the 1960s but came apart by the late 1970s. UNESCO thus serves as an observation post to detect the evolving practices of an international organization, competing visions of world order and changing discourses of development. With mass media and communications at the heart of those discourses this study also contributes to a global history of the media in the second half of the twentieth century.
Located in the field of a new international history, the project relates to the recent rediscovery of the “new order”-discourses of the 1970s. With its emphasis on the role of international organizations as well as on the voice of political actors of the Global South, it enriches our historic understanding of the processes of decolonization or globalization and complicates our notion of the Cold War and the post-Cold War order.

Förderung: Das Projekt war am Europäischen Hochschulinstitut in Florenzangesiedelt, Förderung durch den DAAD (2012–2016)

Bearbeiter: Jonas Brendebach, M. A.

Bild: The UNESCO headquarters "World Heritage Centre" at Place de Fontenoy (Paris) © Matthias Ripp.