New Internationalist

The Facts

Issue 100

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THE NEW INFORMATION ORDER[image, unknown] The Facts

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The FACTS

Eyes and Ears

Which is more effective the Radio or the Press?

The radio has a better chance than the newspaper of reaching people in the Third World. Unlike the printed word, it does not rely on widespread literacy.

But in most developing countries radio broadcasting is subsidised and controlled by the government, which reduces its credibility as a source of faithful reporting of events.

India has one of the largest national broadcasting networks in the world with 84 stations broadcasting nearly 700 hours of programmes every day in 25 languages and 136 tribal and other dialects. The opposition parties in India and elsewhere accuse the government of devoting too much time to the ruling party's ministers and their activities. This could be the reason why so many prefer the entertainments programmes to more serious broadcasts. Because of such government control the radio's ability to motivate people to learn new skills or understand the wider world is often lost.

Compared to the radio, the press plays a more important role in influencing public opinion; although its public is primarily the town based middle and upper classes. Owned by private individuals, business houses or political parties, the press in those developing countries where censorship has not yet become the vogue, can still disseminate a variety of news and reflect different points of views.

While newspapers in the Third World influence the urban literate who are involved in decision making, the radio reaches the vast masses in the countryside - the rural poor - and has far greater potential for communication.


READING - The Press

Newspaper circulation in the Third World is minute. It averages about two copies per 100 people in Africa, and seven in both Asia and Latin America. In 34 of the smallest countries there are no daily newspapers.

Low circulation is due not only to poor literacy, but the high cost of production. Newsprint is manufactured in small quantities in the developing countries and the price of imported newsprint has escalated recently. The cost of distributing newspapers has also rocketed since the oil crisis of the early 1970s, because of their dependence on road transport.

[image, unknown] So even the literate of the Third World find it difficult to regularly buy newspapers. The average Asian must work for three weeks to earn enough to buy a newspaper regularly for the year, while their counterparts in the west would earn enough in two and a half days.

Photo: UNESCO/Eric Schwab
Photo: UNESCO/Eric Schwab

 


LISTENING - The Radio

The world's entire population lives within transmitting distance of a radio signal. And the transistor revolution has greatly reduced the price of a set. No wonder the radio is becoming popular. In Africa the number of radio receivers has more than doubled in the 1970s to around 31 million. In Asia it shot up to 141 million and in Latin America to 87 million. In many regions community listenings are arranged with groups of villagers, students in schools or workers in factories, so they can discuss and act on the basis of broadcasts about farming, education or industrial safety.

[image, unknown] But radio listening still lags far behind the industrialised countries. There are nine sets for every 100 people of the Third World as against 70 per 100 in the developed. The only area of the developing world where radios are reasonably plentiful is Latin America where there are 24 sets per 100 people.

Many developing countries also have insufficient transmission points. Compared to 13,400 broadcasting transmitters in the USA, Africa has only 790. As a result, an average African transmitter sends its signals over 100,000 square miles in comparison with 1,600 square miles for an average American transmitter. This means weak signals and lots of static for African listeners.

Source: UNESCO Statistical Year Book 1980


INTERNATIONAL GUIDE TO NEWSPAPER CIRCULATION

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Source: World Development Report 1980 and UNESCO Statistical Yearbook 1980.

Believed no daily general interest newspapers produced in following 34 countries: AFRICA - Cape Verde, Comoro, Djibouti, Gambia, St. Helena, Sao Tome and Principe, Western Sahara. NORTH AMERICA - British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Greenland, Montserrat, Panama (former Canal Zone), St. Pierre and Miquelon, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Turks and Caicos Islands; SOUTH AMERICA - Falkland Islands (Malvinas). ASIA - Bahrain, Bhutan, Brunei, East Timor, Oman, Qatar. OCEANIA - Kiribati, Nauru, New Hebrides, Niue, Norfolk Island, Pacific Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau Islands, Tonga. Several countries left out as latest figures not available.



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