The New World Information and Communication Order

An Idea That Refuses to Die

Kaarle Nordenstreng


This essay recounts the history of the movement for a new world information and communication order (NWICO) as it emerged in international arenas and particularly in UNESCO. An expression of the global movement for decolonization spearheaded by the Non-Aligned Movement, NWICO encountered strong opposition from Reagan's United States and Thatcher's Great Britain, and failed to achieve its immediate goals. It had a formative impact on the field of international communication research, and, although it has yielded to topics such as media globalization, its concerns continue to echo in the field.

This topic leads us to a particular chapter in media history, dealing with international politics as much as media studies. The concept of a “new world information and communication order,” known as NWICO, became a leading theme in global media policy debates from the 1970s until the 1990s, covering the period from heights of decolonization to the collapse of communism. The debates started in diplomatic forums of the developing countries, particularly the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM),1 and extended to professional and academic circles so that in the 1980s NWICO was part and parcel of the discourse on the media's role in society and the world at large. By the new millennium, however, it disappeared from the agenda, to be replaced by concepts such as media globalization. In the 2010s, ...

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