communications are organized efforts to use communications processes
and media to bring social and economic improvements, generally in
developing countries. The field emerged in the late 1950's amid
high hopes that radio and television could be put to use in the
world's most disadvantaged countries to bring about dramatic progress.
Early communications theorists like Wilbur Schramm and Daniel Lerner
based their high expectations upon the apparent success of World
War II propaganda, to which academia and Hollywood had contributed.
with World War II came dozens of new, very poor, countries, left
by their former colonial overseers with little infrastructure, education,
or political stability. It was widely accepted that mass media could
bring education, essential skills, social unity, and a desire to
"modernize." Walt Rostow theorized that societies progress through
specific stages of development on their way to modernity, what he
termed "the age of high mass consumption." Lerner suggested that
exposure to Western media would create "empathy" for modern culture,
and a desire to move from traditional to modern ways. Early development
communications, especially that sponsored by the U.S. government,
was also seen as a means of "winning hearts and minds" over to a
capitalist way of life.
early approaches made a number of erroneous assumptions, and have
been largely forsaken in contemporary approaches to development.
Obstacles to development were naively seen as rooted in developing
countries, not as products of international relationships. Modernization
was presumed to equate to Westernization, and to be a necessary
prerequisite to meeting human needs. Development was seen as a top-down
process, whereby centralized mass media could bring about widespread
change. Producers of development media often failed to ask if the
audience can receive the message (television penetration in developing
countries is minimal and radio penetration in the early days of
development communication was light), understand the message (a
problem in countries with dozens of languages and dialects), act
upon the message (with the necessary tools or other forms of structural
support), and want to act upon the message. And because it was based
upon a propaganda model, development communications efforts were
often seen as propaganda and distrusted.
embodying these philosophies have enjoyed little success. In the
1970s and 1980s, a new paradigm of development communication emerged
which better recognized the process of deliberate underdevelopment
as a function of colonialism, the great diversity of the cultures
involved, the differences between elite versus popular goals for
social change, the considerable political and ideological constraints
to change, and the endless varieties of ways different cultures
But in some instances mass media technologies, including television,
have been "magic multipliers" of development benefits. Educational
television has been used effectively to supplement the work of teachers
in classrooms in the teaching of literacy and other skills, but
only in well designed programs which are integrated with other educational
efforts. Consumer video equipment and VCRs have been used to supplement
communications efforts in some small projects.
developing countries have demonstrated success in using satellite
television to provide useful information to portions of their populations
out of reach of terrestrial broadcasting. In 1975 and 1976, an experimental
satellite communications project called SITE (Satellite Instructional
Television Experiment) was used to bring informational television
programs to rural India. Some changes in beliefs and behaviors did
occur, but there is little indication that satellite television
was the best means to that end. The project did lead to Indian development
of its own satellite network. China has also embarked on a ambitious
program of satellite use for development, claiming substantial success
in rural education. When television has succeeded as an educational
tool in developing countries, it is only when very specific viewing
conditions are met. For example, programs are best viewed in small
groups with a teacher to introduce them and to lead a discussion
variety of types of organizations work with local governments to
develop communications projects. The United Nations provides multi-lateral
aid to governments. Non-profit non-governmental organizations (NGO)
conduct development projects worldwide using U.N., government, or
private funding. And government agencies, such as the U.S. Agency
for International Development (USAID) provide assistance to developing
countries, but with political strings attached. There are three
common types of development campaigns: Persuasion, changing what
people do; Education, changing social values; and Informing, empowering
people to change by increasing knowledge. This third approach is
now perceived as the most useful. Instead of attempting to modernize
people, contemporary efforts attempt to reduce inequality by targeting
the poorest segments of society, involving people in their own development,
giving them independence from central authority, and employing "small"
and "appropriate" technologies. The emphasis has shifted from economic
growth to meeting basic needs.
this new view of development, communication becomes an important
catalyst for change, but not its cause. Local folk media, for example,
is employed to reduces media's bias toward literacy and provide
information in a traditional, familiar form. Development journalism
provides people with information on change in their society, and
works at the local level to advocate change. Where mass media is
now employed in developing societies, community newspapers and radio
prove far more accessible and useful than television. The rapid
spread of entertainment television in the developing world is proving
to be more a disruption to traditional social structures than an
agent of progress. One emerging genre of television does show promise
for contributing to development. The telenovela, pioneered in Brazil,
has demonstrated some success in disseminating "pro-social" messages.
Such programs are now being evaluated in many countries for their
effectiveness in contributing to population control, health education,
and other development goals.
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