MacBride Commission

March 13, 2018

 

"Many Voices One World: Towards a new more just and more efficient world information and communication order ", was a report commonly known as MacBride Report, named after the chairperson Seán MacBride, released by UNESCO in 1980.

 

Significance of communication:

Communication integrates knowledge, organization and power and runs as a thread linking the earliest memory of man to his noblest aspirations through constant striving for a better life. As the world has advanced, the task of communication has become ever more complex and subtle - to contribute to the liberation of mankind from want, oppression and fear and to unite it in community and communion, solidarity and understanding. 

The modern age has seen an accelerating development of new resources, techniques and technological devices in communication, particularly for transmitting and receiving signals and messages. One discovery followed another with increasing speed.

 

What was MacBride Commission: 

The International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems was set up in 1977 by the director of UNESCO Ahmadou-Mahtar M’Bow, under suggestion by the USA delegation.

It was agreed that the commission would be chaired by Seán MacBride from Ireland and representatives from 15 other countries, invited due to their roles in national and international communication activities and picked among media activists, journalists, scholars, and media executives.

 

Context:

The MacBride Report was written in a much different global context than we witness today. The Cold War had immense impact on the geopolitics and the choice of some countries to be non-aligned was in context of this turbulence in geopolitical scenario.

Even to think about the demand for New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) was a major development in the 1980s.

 

Purpose:

Its aim was to analyze communication problems in modern societies, particularly relating to mass media and news, consider the emergence of new technologies, and to suggest a kind of communication order (New World Information and Communication Order) to diminish these problems to further peace and human development.

 

 

Observations:

Among the problems the report identified were concentration of the media, commercialization of the media, and unequal access to information and communication.

 

Suggestions:

The commission called for democratization of communication and strengthening of national media to avoid dependence on external sources, among others. Subsequently, Internet-based technologies considered in the work of the Commission, served as a means for furthering MacBride's visions.

 

I. Strengthening independence and self reliance:

1. Communication policies:

All individuals and people collectively have an inalienable right to a better life which, howsoever conceived, must ensure a social minimum, nationally and globally. This calls for the strengthening of capacities and the elimination of gross inequalities; such defects may threaten social harmony and even international peace.  

 

All languages should be adequately developed to serve the complex and diverse requirements of modern communication. 

 

To make elementary education available to all and to wipe out illiteracy, supplementing formal schooling systems with non-formal education and enrichment within appropriate structures of continuing and distance learning (through radio, television and correspondence). 

 

2. Strengthening capacities:

Communication policies should offer a guide to the determination of information and media priorities and to the selection of appropriate technologies. This is required to plan the installation and development of adequate infrastructures to provide self-reliant communications capacity. 

 

Developing countries take specific measures to establish or develop essential elements of their communication systems: print media, broadcasting and telecommunications along with the related training and production facilities. 

 

Strong national news agencies are vital for improving each country's national and international reporting. Where viable, regional networks should be set up to increase news flows and serve all the major language groups in the area. 

 

National book production should be encouraged and accompanied by the establishment of a distribution network for books, newspapers and periodicals. 

 

3. Basic needs:

In choosing between possible alternatives and often conflicting interests, developing countries, in particular, must give priority to satisfying their people's essential needs. Communication is not only a system of public information, but also an integral part of education and development. 

 

Essential communication needs to be met include the extension of basic postal services and telecommunication networks through small rural electronic exchanges. 

 

The development of a community press in rural areas and small towns would not only provide print support for economic and social extension activities. This would also facilitate the production of functional literature for neo-literates as well. 

 

The educational and informational use of communication should be given equal priority with entertainment. 

 

4 Particular challenges:

 

There is an emerging need to increase the supply of paper. The worldwide shortage of paper, including newsprint, and its escalating cost impose crushing burdens upon struggling newspapers, periodicals and the publication industry, above all in the developing countries. Certain ecological constraints have also emerged.

 

Unesco, in collaboration with FAO, should take urgent measures to identify and encourage production of paper and newsprint either by recycling paper or from new sources of feedstock in addition to the wood pulp presently produced largely by certain northern countries. Kenaf, bagasse, tropical woods and grasses could possibly provide alternative sources.  

 

Tariffs for news transmission, telecommunications rates and air mail charges for the dissemination of news, transport of newspapers, periodicals, books and audiovisual materials are one of the main obstacles to a free and balanced flow of information. This situation must be corrected.

 

II. Social consequences and new tasks:

 

5 Integrating communication into development:

 

Development strategies should incorporate communication policies as an integral part in the diagnosis of needs and in the design and implementation of selected priorities. 

 

Promotion of dialogue was recommended for development as a central component of both communication and development policies. 

 

6. Facing the technological challenge:

Devising policy instruments at the national level in order to evaluate the positive and negative social implications of the introduction of powerful new communication technologies. 

 

7. Strengthening cultural identity:

Establishment of national cultural policies, which should foster cultural identity and creativity, and involve the media in these tasks. 

 

8. Reducing commercialisation of education:

In expanding communication systems, preference should be given to noncommercial forms of mass communication.  

 

III. Professional Integrity and standards:

 

Responsibility of journalists:

 

The concept of freedom with responsibility necessarily includes a concern for professional ethics, demanding an equitable approach to events, situations or processes with due attention to their diverse aspects. This is not always the case today. 

 

IV. Democratisation of communication

A respect for human rights and dignity of individuals.

V. An improved international ranking, fostering international cooperation and increased interdependence

 

Criticism:

While the report had strong international support, it was condemned by the United States and the United Kingdom as an attack on the freedom of the press, and both countries withdrew from UNESCO in protest in 1984 and 1985, respectively (and later rejoined in 2003 and 1997, respectively).

 

 

Conclusion:

Much has changed since the MacBride Report was published, not only in global politics, but also in global communication. But the recommendations hold true even today.

 

 

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