Magazine article UNESCO Courier

The Global Media Boom

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

The Global Media Boom

Article excerpt

The so-called information age, marked by the triumph of the Internet, started in the early 1980s and really took off in the latter half of the 1 990s. In 1981, only some 200 people were connected to the Internet. The turning point came in 1986, when the number of users quintupled. By the middle of 1999, 56 million computers were Internet-connected, an increase of almost 20 million over the previous 12 months. As the chart at right shows, the Internet phenomenon is still largely confined to the rich countries, which have 95 per cent of the world's Internet-connected computers. The North-South gap is wider than for any of the other media

Television has probably had the greatest social limp act over the past century. Its predominance will likely continue for a long time to come as a result of the development of cable and satellite distribution and local channels and the move towards digital instead of analogue transmission. Over the past three decades, the total number of television receivers has grown by 55 times in the developing world and their density (number in relation to population size) by around 1 6.The North-South divide is smaller for television than for the other media.

It was once predicted that the coming of television would wipe out radio. However, radio continues to spread. The coming of the transistor in the 1960s made possible the manufacture of lightweight, low-cost, energy-efficient receivers and helps to explain why radio continues to be the mass medium best suited to poor and isolated regions. But the growth in the density of receivers is more moderate than that of television (a fourfold increase in 30 years in the developing world). The North-South gap in radio, which was narrower than for TV in 1970, had become wider by 1997.

The printed press is the only one of the mass media whose situation (in terms of circulation per thousand inhabitants) is declining on the global scale. The decline is very marked in the U.S. and the European Union, but less steep in Japan. In the developing countries, the extension of schooling and democratization in the 1980s heralded an explosion in the number of titles. The increase of newspaper circulation has been very modest, however, doubling in just under 30 years, including in the least developed countries. …

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