Social Scientist. v 17, no. 198-99 (Nov-Dec 1989) p. 99.


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NOTE

Political and Economic Dimensions of the Global Information Imbalance

The emergence of a new information and communication order in the context of existing information imbalances between developed and developing countries has been on the international agenda ever since the newly liberated third world countries entered the world political arena, asserting their right to sovereignty and national independence. The developing countries view the New International Information and Communication Order (N10) a necessary precondition for the equal flow of information. Just as vigorously, many elements of the existing systems contend that the proposed N10 is a threat to the freedom of the press and electronic media.

The debate on the N10 can be better understood and the problem better analysed only when we probe the basic factors behind the problem and study the political-economic dimensions of information imbalance.

INFORMATION IMBALANCE

The countries of the North and the South are separated by an enormous gap in communication capacities. After attaining political independence, developing countries have been struggling for self-reliance in all fields and communication has been no exception. Even today the disparities and imbalances between the developed and developing countries are alarming. Developed countries continue to exercise considerable political, economic and technological control on information flows, which we may term as information imperialism.1

Let us first examine the quantitative dimension of this phenomenon. Around 4.5 billion people on this planet own over 1 billion radio receivers and 500 million television sets. The world receives information from 150 major news agencies, 30,000 radio and television stations and 8,200 daily newspapers with a total run of 440 million copies a day. This global picture however hides blatant regional imbalances.

For instance, there are only 4.5 newspapers per 100 and one television set per 3,000 Africans. This is several times less than the corresponding figures for Europeans or North Americans. What is worse, 8 African



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