Globalisation and Diasporic Communication, Vol. 6 - 1999, No. 1
Different socio-historical conceptualisations of the emergence of public opinion in the eighteenth century, which have given rise to the works of Habermas about the public sphere, in particular, allow us to think about the actual social referent of the public opinion phenomenon. The classical focus on prerevolutionary, enlightened public opinion and the hypothetical causal effect of the Enlightenment conceal the anthropological invariants of opining as a procedure of sharing differences and individual interests. This “intello-centric” approach reproduces the elites ideology in this analysis that limits the procedural universality to the pseudo-public sphere of the “true” citizens, although it declares, as a matter of principle that all citizens ought to participate in government. After having proven the segregating stakes in these processes, the article shows that the concept of public opinion is not reduced to a normative definition - either in the cultivated sense of a rational discussion or in the psycho-sociological sense of an aggregation of individual states of mind - by the community of Scholars and politicians. It also refers to the common opinion and the popular form of speech which characterise the “doxatic” community of mutual knowledge that ordinary actors hold, or think they hold, about each other.
New communications technologies are a key element of the increased capacity of diasporic and transnational communities to develop effective networks. Little comparative work has been carried out or published on the use of such communications technologies as part of emerging transnationalism and virtually no work has been done on comparing patterns of policy, law and regulation as .enablers. or .disablers. of these new networks or reactions on the part of nation-states to these patterns. In this issue, we seek to use an interdisciplinary approach a prerequisite for research into the dynamics of diasporic communities . to assess the role of communications flow and regulation as, on the one hand, a catalyst for contemporary globalisation processes, and, on the other, as a response to perceived threats to the existing order from bottom-up challenges posed by global community networks.
The article proposes to explore extrapolations of ideas previously applied to ethnic groups in light of advancements in telecommunication technologies. It briefly examines several related topics including the transformation of identities in diasporas, the shifting boundaries between public and private realms, how certain kinds of diversity may be sustained in the face of cultural imperialism, and some issues in policing the Internet of WWW. It explores the idea that the introduction of new technologies may enable the creation and maintenance of “virtual neighbourhoods,” which retain the sense of affinity among neighbours found in traditional small-scale, focused geographical neighbourhoods. This point emphasises the fact that affinity is based on focused interest rather than proximity. Telecommunication technologies used in the ways hypothesised here have effectively redefined the word “local” so that it now encompasses two senses; geographically focused (proximate) and focused (shared) interest. The resulting conclusion asserts that variations in exposure to media, entertainment, foreign languages, and cultural forces generally will occur within territorial states as much as between them, thereby to a certain extent supplanting proximate, geographical neighbourhoods with remarkably different virtual neighbourhoods. The voluntaristic nature of virtual neighbourhoods based on shared interests means that they will likely not become “virtual ghettos”.
This article focuses on minority community media (ethnic minority radio, cable, satellite and terrestrial television) in the UK and their position within global diasporic media landscapes as well as in the media landscape of contemporary Britain. These media, partly products of the end of frequency scarcity which has led to media market fragmentation and encouraged/enabled the creation of new, specialised media, are distinct from other local, regional or community media as they identify their audience in minority communities whose identities are not rooted in well bounded localities. Drawing upon research on Asian and Greek-Cypriot community media in the UK, the article attempts to chart and discuss critically the development of ethnic community media in the UK over the past two decades. It examines the provision of programming for ethnic communities within the framework of Public Service Broadcasting and assesses the record of the main terrestrial channels in this area. It then assesses the community politics and the political, legal and regulatory framework which have led to the emergence of ethnic community-specific electronic media (cable and satellite television, radio and, more recently, terrestrial television).
The concept of 'diaspora' can be usefully applied to understanding many of the major population movements this century and to the accompanying complex processes of the maintenance and negotiation of cultural identity. The Vietnamese diaspora is arguably unique because of its historical roots in refugee-exile circumstances. Originally refugees and only lately immigrants, the Vietnamese peoples in the Western world are acutely aware of the conflicting loyalties to their original cultures and the demands of adapting to their new host cultures. In analysing the cultural and media environment in the Vietnamese diaspora, the article identifies three cultural positions within these communities: the felt need to maintain pre- revolutionary Vietnamese heritage and traditions, to find a negotiated place within a more mainstreamed culture, or to engage in the formation of distinct hybrid identities centering around dominant Western popular cultural forms. Although the Vietnamese audio-visual media industry is very small and of negligible export dynamic, most overseas Vietnamese ultimately reject the output of the 'homeland' as fatally compromised through production under a Communist regime. The article concludes that the media consumed by overseas Vietnamese, rather than resolving these conflicts, tend rather to 'stage' them, give them voice and manage them in a productive tension.
Satellite channels have proliferated in the Middle East and North Africa, responding to the prevalence of a shared language (Arabic), the wide extent of labour migration and the diasporisation of the Palestinian and Kurdish communities. By definition these channels are “de-terrestrialised,” but in many senses they also appear to be de-territorialised. They may be based abroad, target foreign audiences, hire foreign nationals etc. The process of receiving them enables viewers to escape from the territorial and jurisdictional confines of the countries where they live. While acknowledging that the phenomenon of deterritorialisation exists, this paper sets out to trace and locate the real power relations behind satellite broadcasting in this context. The evidence presented is divided into two parts, the first focusing on policy responses to the advent of satellite technology and the second on ways in which these responses have reconfigured the region's communicative space. The paper concludes that satellite broadcasting in the Middle East and North Africa may be deterritorialised in some aspects but is essentially driven by the exercise of political power and access to capital on the part of individuals and groups inside specific states. Thus satellite television may cross frontiers, but does not thereby bring freedom of expression.