Does media get the message?

May 12, 2005, vol. 33, no. 2
By Christopher Guly

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Four decades after Marshall McLuhan introduced the idea that the medium is the message, a new book edited by SFU communication professors Robert Hackett and Yuezhi Zhao explores whether the media is sending the right message, or should in fact be receiving one.

Even the title of the book, Democratizing Global Media: One World, Many Struggles, bears a double meaning, explains Hackett.

“The first word can be an adjective as it alludes to ways in which the global media contribute to democratizing processes in various countries. Or it can be a verb: Do the global media themselves need to be reformed and democratized?”

Co-published by the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research and featuring 15 essays by international scholars, the 320-page book provides an often “critical view” of media globalization, says Hackett.

German communication scholar Kai Hafez argues that the global media don't have enough of a reach to provide a democratizing influence in regions such as the Middle East. University of Illinois communication professor Robert McChesney believes that print and electronic media conglomerates and the governance issues involving them have made the global media problematic tools for democracy.

But Hackett says that Democratizing Global Media also looks at how the internet has become a vehicle for the development of grassroots movements. The book's main message, Hackett explains, lies in its subtitle, which builds on the theme of the United Nations' One World, Many Voices report 30 years ago that addressed the communication imbalance between the north and the south. The SFU bookstore has named Hackett and Zhao authors of the month for May.

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