International Association of Media and Communication Researchers Conference Opens in Istanbul

From a history of the organization by Kaarle Nordenstreng and Cees Hamelink:

The history of the IAMCR goes back to the first years of Unesco. Its Committee on Technical Needs in the Mass Media drafted in 1946 a constitution for an “International Institute of the Press and information, designed to promote the training of journalists and the study of press problems throughout the world............

Prague 1984

IAMCR reception in Prague 1984.
From left to right: Robin Cheesman (Section Head, Denmark), Kaarle Nordenstreng (Vice President, Finland), Cees Hamelink (Vice President, The Netherlands) and Peggy Gray (President Halloran's executive assistant, UK).

 Over the five decades the aims and scope of the Association remained focused on the creation of a global forum where researchers and others involved in media and communication can meet and exchange information about their work. The Association wants to stimulate interest in media and communication research, to disseminate information about research and to create a broad constituency of researchers, practitioners and policymakers.

Throughout its history the Association has adopted public statements on such issues as the protection of journalists, the right to communicate, the freedom of research, the support for international communication policies in the service of democratic development, and the need to contribute to the improvement of communication facilities in the Third World. The concern about public presence of communication research and its role in public life has been a leading motive throughout the years. This became very concrete in the contributions of the IAMCR made to the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2003 (Geneva) and in 2005 (Tunis).



Over the years, IAMCR was unusual in the fact that several of their meetings took place in Eastern Europe (Prague, Bled, Leipzig), during intense cold war years.  In addition there was an implicit support for the principles of the MacBride Report, which was viciously fought by the US, to the extent that US funding for UNESCO and the UN itself was dropped because of the commission's report.  

In what seems like a reversal of previous IAMCR policy, this year's meeting saw the organization's annual award presented to Eliu Katz, who made concerted efforts to undermine the NWICO (New World Information and Communication Order) principles in discussions at the time.  Katz promulgated a theory of "active audience" which undercut the position of cultural imperialism and the need for democratic access to information technology and equitable means of expression. Is this due to this year's "collaboration" with the "new UNESCO" and OSI?

In addition to the Eliu presentation, another award was given to a local scholar who had been the official Turkish UNESCO rep during the harsh 1950s . In the ceremony he was cited for his stance on "free flow of information" paralleled that of the US State Department. I guess that was also the position of Turkey at the time. Cold War architect, John Foster Dulles once stated that "Free flow of information" was the post important policy of the United States.  This policy has currently been replaced by "free trade" where 21st century asymetrical culture battles are played out.  

Two of the usual IAMCR annual awards (the Herb Schiller Award and the Dallas Smythe Award-- two researchers who were adamantly critical of the corporate and imperial stance against NWICO by US policy makers and dictatorial regimes such as Turkey at the time) seem to be conveniently forgotten in the current revisions of IAMCR's position. Those awards were not included in the ceremony. What was included was a long cello and piano recital of Bach and Italian medleys -- finishing with several compositions by the Turkish pianist in what has to be called easy listening style. 

With all the amazing history, intelligence and culture in this city, this classic music presentation seemed strange. 

Back to Bach?  Perhaps a bid to have Turkey join the European Union? 

The "theme" of the conference is "Cities, Creativity, Connectivity".  Let's hope that the remaining "Social Events" are more "creative" and that IAMCR "connects" to its historic grounding.

-- DeeDee Halleck, Istanbul, July 13, 2011.