Monday, August 20, 2012

International Mass Media: August 1

By Lindsay Boyle

On Wednesday, August 1, the ninth and final International Mass Media summer course was held in Copeland Hall at the Ohio University campus. During each class, two SUSI scholars give a lecture about their own country’s media systems, journalism practices and political cultures. All of the lectures are streamed live through Ohio University distance learning and are available online to 35 students who are taking a summer class instructed by Dr. Brook Beshah.

The SUSI summer institute — in which scholars from all over the world come to the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at OU to study journalism and media — is funded by an annual renewable grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Study of the U.S. Branch in the Office of Academic Exchange Programs.

Dr. Ibaa Awad

To kick off her presentation, scholar Dr. Ibaa Awad gave some facts about Sudan, the third largest country in Africa. Sudan has a population of 33 million, with about 50 percent residing in urban areas. The country’s economy is largely agricultural.

The primary religions are Islam, Christianity and indigenous beliefs, and the primary languages are Arabic, English and indigenous languages. Awad also discussed some of the national dress, foods and traditions of Sudan, including the fact that wedding celebrations in the country can last three days.

Sudan gained independence in 1956, underwent a second civil war from 1983 to 2005, and then adopted an interim constitution in 2005 after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed.

The government now operates as a representative democratic republic that has national and state levels with about 72 registered political parties. However, questions have been raised about the fairness of the 2010 presidential election.

In Sudan, Awad said that journalists are considered to be responsible, first and foremost, for providing at least somewhat free information to their audience. She explained that the government used to interfere more in regard to what could be reported, but now does not do so as often.

However, Awad also said that the media are sometimes hindered by the fact that some governmental workers simply do not understand the role that media should play.

SUSI scholar Dr. Ibaa Awad presents a lecture that is streamed live through OU distance learning, and is available online.

There is a long history of print newspapers in Sudan, according to Awad. Although there are more the 45 papers that are not politically affiliated, she said there are no local papers at all.

Several magazines exist that cover many different topics for multiple audiences, she said. Radio and TV have a mixture of governmentally, privately and locally owned stations.

The online world is still developing in Sudan. Awad said that many websites target Sudanese diasporas. However, she explained that social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook are usually reserved for educated people, journalists, and the like.

One of main agencies in Sudan, Awad explained, is the Sudan News Agency, which is owned by the government. It not only is the main source of local and international news in the country, but it also works as an information center for students, researchers and otherwise. Additionally, Awad said there are several other related councils ands unions that also work to promote journalistic activities.

Challenges faced by media workers in Sudan include poor pay and a lack of qualification and tools, as well as the general risk of performing the job.

Despite those, Awad said that most media workers genuinely exert efforts to provide honest information. She added that she believes media can affect society, but that such change occurs gradually through generations.

Prof. Guoping He

Professor Guoping He first introduced China, which is the largest — both in size and in population — developing nation. The country, he explained, operates under socialism, which takes its beliefs and principles from Marxism.

In the socialism system, society posses and controls the means of production, while the government manages and allocates tools, goods and materials based on public interest.

Although He acknowledged that there are many problems with socialism, he said that the idea is good overall. He pointed out that the Chinese have enjoyed about 30 years of sustainable economics with no war, and that China has become the manufacturing heart of the world.

He explained that, although China is and has been led by the Communist Party of China since gaining independence in 1949, there are about eight additional democratic parties that also participate in state affairs. However, those parties are not considered oppositional parties.

In China, the National People’s Congress is the highest authority, and the president is the head of state. According to He, the Chinese media, in addition to having “soft power,” have four primary functions: political, social, economical and entertainment.

Politically, He said the media serve as the mouthpiece for the state in what is essentially propaganda. Socially, the media produce, communicate and provide a public forum for information. Economically, advertisements in the media act as their own industry. Finally, for entertainment purposes, several different kinds of TV shows, such as reality TV, are available in China.

He explained that the media in China are not parallel with the government, but rather contained by it. The media follow a hierarchical model with four primary levels: central (national), provincial, city and county.

SUSI scholars and staff listen as scholar Guoping He presents a lecture that is streamed live through OU distance learning, and is available online.

There are two primary news agencies in China. One, which is the official governmental news organization of China, is the fourth largest news agency in the world. He said that it has many branches both domestically and internationally, and broadcasts in several different languages.

Although there are many print publications in China, He said that two of the frontrunners are People’s Daily and China Daily. People’s Daily is a state-run paper that has a circulation of about 2.35 million and publishes in multiple languages. China Daily was established in 1981 with the sole purpose of allowing foreigners to get information from China.

There are also many radio and TV channels available in China, including foreign channels that cover a variety of countries. The largest TV station is China Central Television, according to He.

Two of the biggest radio stations are China National Radio and China Radio International. The former, with a domestic audience of more than 700 million, has the largest audience in the world. The latter is the only national radio to broadcast to the world. It broadcasts in 43 languages.

In China, there are about 538 million Internet users. The State Council Information Office of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is responsible for regulating China’s Internet.

Additionally, He explained that many different organizations act as managers for every form of media, in both the physical and the online worlds. For example, the General Administration of Press and Publication manages all things related to print publications, and the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television manages all things related to broadcast media.

He said that there is no official press law in China, and that the openness and freedom of the media depends largely on the party leader. Regardless, he said that there is basically no chance for citizens to express their opinions on traditional media. Additionally, news from foreign agencies is usually censored and edited to some extent.

Recently, He explained that some media reforms have been taking place, though he pointed out that those reforms will not create instant change.

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