Does the globalisation of Communications undermine State autonomy or more importantly...state control?



We will go about this by exploring some historical and current case studies:


a) BBC founding in the 1920s


b) emergence of'neo-liberal' economic provision of satellites in Europe


c) following on from last week, we will look at the IR approaches to internet governance and its singificance especially with the work of Joseph Nye in mind.



We saw last week that the founders of the net had a decentralised if not outright lieratarian view of the net that began to be compromsed by the beginning of state imposed regulation in 1996 in the US. The first assmption had been tha tthe net was outside of state control but clearly this was not the case. However, just as there has been increased multi-stakeholder regulation and control of the net as a technical structure (ICANN/IANA) after the US DoC left it to a 'not for profit'  system of regulation to emerge in 1997/8 (White paper), there has been a decrease in states ability to control the perceived and real threats that both content as well as open network structures pose.


These threats are either absolute - all states take them seriously e.g. cyber-espionage; or relative - the socio-political and moral values of individual nations are threatened by net content  or its  'liberal' operational regime.


What we want to do today is to evaluate the senses in which comunications systems have provided a challenge or otherwise to 'state autonomy' - inasmuch as states have tended to presume that communications are primarily a province of state determination.





By this I want to use these cases to test out the applicability of our old IR theory friends:


Realism & Liberalism


and a theory common to both of these: regime theory


because this is the preferred theory of Nye (whose ideas of soft power of which the net is a form are so influential) which he uses recently to evaluate the global politics of the net.



It seems to me that the validity of regime theory as a theoretical generalisation about the behaviour of states, sub-state, or non-state actors turns on the degree to which the emrgence of stabilised cooperation based on the gradual acceptance of rules systems fits the development (for our purposes) of media-communications systems.


As such I will take 1) the BBC as a case of a comms regime within one state; 2) Euro-satellite as a case of regional multi-national media provision; 3) International and highly political global comms of the net.


One of my key crits of this shared theory is that it does not account for the relationship between accumulating degrees of knowledge (or ignorance) and relevant or judicious behaviour. (We ve seen that over the SOPA/PIPA issues in Congress where ignorance of how the net worked led to congressman trying to push through bills that would have destabilised the fndamental structure of the address structure of the net)


Equally when you either have igorance or 'left-field' initiatives - the unexpected + ignorance, the market invents  unilateral systems and imposes them and then, the political regime plays catch-up but has to give way to changes in the established regime structure even if those changes have a single outside source (rise of cross border satellite prvision in the 80s and 90s in Europe)



Let us rehearse the ideas of Regime Theory:

....a regime is defined by Stephen D. Krasner as a set of explicit or implicit "principles, norms, rules, and decision making procedures around which actor expectations converge in a given issue-area." This definition is intentionally broad, and covers human interaction ranging from formal organizations (i.e., OPEC) to informal groups (i.e., major banks during the debt crisis). A regime need not be composed of states.

Main approaches to regime theory: the dominant, liberal-derived interest-based approach, the realist critique of interest-based approaches. Within regime theory, because regime theory is by definition a theory that explains international cooperation (i.e., it's a traditionally liberal concept) liberal approaches prevail within the literature.


Realist regime theory argues that regimes merely reflect the distribution of power in the international system, and that any cooperation that occurs under a regime would have occurred anyway. (Powerful states create regimes to serve their security and economic interests; regimes have no independent power over states, especially over great powers; as such, regimes are simply intervening variables between power, the real independent variable, and cooperation, the dependent variable). For example, realist Susan Strange argues that institutions such as the World Bank, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, International Monetary Fund, and other organizations established after World War II are only tools of American grand strategy.


Liberal interest-based approaches to regime theory state that cooperation in anarchy is possible without a hegemon because there exists a "convergence of expectations." Regimes facilitate cooperation by establishing standards of behaviour which signal to all other members that individual states are in fact cooperating. When all states expect the other participants to cooperate, the probability of sustaining cooperation increases dramatically.


Keohane (a neo-liberal theorist of IR) argues that international regimes can increase probability of cooperation by:

A. Providing information about the behaviour of others by monitoring the behaviour of members and reporting on compliance.

Regimes clearly define what constitutes a defection and often clearly prescribe punishments for defection.

This reduces the fear that the state is being exploited by other members of the regime and minimizes the chance for misunderstanding. Prescribing sanctions reduces the incentive to covertly defect.


B. Reducing transaction costs.

By institutionalizing cooperation, regimes can reduce the cost of future agreements. By reducing the cost of reaching an agreement, regimes increase the likelihood of future cooperation. For example, each round of GATT resolved many procedural problems that did not have to be revisited in subsequent rounds, making cooperation easier and more likely.


C. Generating the expectation of cooperation among members.

By creating iteration and the belief that interaction will continue for the foreseeable future, regimes increase the importance of reputation and allow for the employment of complex strategies.


Either the liberal or the realist version of regime theory entails that cooperation is about convergence upon the cooperative system even if it is primarily swayed by a hegemon - a powerful player. But this assumes that all players have a grasp of the rules of the game and can anticipate where things are going (though no need to have perfect knowledge) - that is they have a generalised map of the space and time of an emergent or set up regime and their key form of knowledge is foresight/predictability of the system.


But where you get rapidly developing technology that most politicians do not understand, challenges to the control of the flow of information and thereby its fall-out in terms of the distribution of  knowledge which often politicians would rather not have the public know become difficult.

Regime by Cooperation is slow - externalities problem

Techno stuff is complex and thus difficult to grasp and its consequences not immediately obvious thus, gaining control is often too late

Regime response is related to politico-cultural frameworks in place - belief in freedom of speech inhibits the imposition of control systems

Regime response is related to economico-cultural frameworks in place - belief in freedom of markets inhibits the imposition of control systems


The BBC - a tabula rasa - nothing else in place and politicians had little idea what radio was, except that after WW1, and knowing that the US had let it turn from military to public sphere applications, thought it was  'good thing'

Market imperatives of the radio manufacturing industry

Control system objections of Military and of Press obviated by legal work-arounds

In ignorance, Govt leave it up to the industry who do know stuff, to design a broadcasting service though overseen by the Post Office (a government  department in charge of communications)

Appointment of powerful leader - John Reith who has a vision of a PSB

By acting responsibly, the BBC gains operational and institutional autonomy - loss of control.

Abandonment of control make it difficult to regain control (even in war - WW2/Suez)



European satellite..albeit reluctantly:










 PSB was the dominant model for all the EU states right through the 1970s and into the 1980s. This also protected national political ambitions and constitutional arrangements over broadcasting.


 Cable and Satellite – prospect of multi-channel commercial broadcasting opened up questions about whither European broadcasting?


  It also raised matters of LIBERALISATION - link to Thatcher reforms of nationalised industry and privatisation in UK in 1980s as an classic e.g. of this


  EU now beginning to discuss a ‘cultural and Audio-Visual common market’

1984 – GREEN PAPER FROM EU: “A Common market in Broadcasting”

 the dominant PSB model made liberalisation very difficult in EU as a whole to adopt as policy. But massive imports of US material offended EU countries sense of identity.

 1986 Council of Europe gave a directive recommending that Member States should standardise satellite tech specs and a European TV stations should be established.


As to the setting up of satellite cross-border services....

As far back as 1978 Brian Haynes who had made a documentary for Thames TV on Turner decided to have a go himself at launching a European service. He gained space on the European Space Agency’s transponder but he struggled to gain the agreement of the necessary one signature of a member of Eutelsat – the regulatory body overseeing telecomms in Europe.

Haynes needed a downlink point and since all Eutelsat signatories had refused to permit a downlink point in their countries from which a linkage to cable could be made, Haynes eventually persuade Malta to take the signal in 1981. Then Haynes sought and got reluctant agreement from the PO and the Home Office for an uplink to Eutelsat because Malta a member of the EBU was backing the idea. About 4mln was raised from various sources and on 26th April 1982, the service was launched. Cable operators were keen and by the first night, Finland and Norway’s cable providers wee bale to accept a downlink.


 This was gains the backdrop of no pan-Euro legislation and no permission to take advertising. Indeed at that time there was no commercial TV in most European countries.


 Jean Chalaby notes: Satellite TV plc (Haynes’s company) was in English and it was a diet of pop music, soaps, cheap TV series and sport. But nonetheless advertising inasmuch as it was allowed in some countries, came from Unilever, Coca Cola and Philips – and these were huge Corps.


 Meanwhile in a general round up of development in media, Murdoch had called a conference of his people and was advised to get a foot in the European door of the new media initiatives. Pulling a team together to do precisely that , Murdoch stumbled across the financially ailing Satellite TV plc of  Haynes. It needed £6mln to keep going and by the Summer of 1983 Murdoch had bought the company for £1 plus the debts.


 It transpired that Murdoch had attempted to get into satellite in the US but had been blocked by HBO and the Discovery channel who had bought up all the spare transponder capacity. That faied project had been called Skyband. It was suggested that he call his new London based European service Sky.


 What he wanted was a UK service primarily but he needed to go into Europe because of the far more extensive cable network to which to downlink the satellite signal. Years later the head of Sky  news John Ryley was to remark that Sky thinks with a ‘British mentality’..but he failed to note in this remark of 2008 that Sky had 50mln connections in Europe.


 Slowly then, the beginnings of trans-national TV service in Europe was emerging. To whit, France joined in after ORTF ad been devolved into 7 TV companies but still wanted to increase the reach of French culture and ideas. However, no one company saw it as its responsibility to take French culture to other nations until a former French diplomat, Patrick Inmos stated putting together a plan where by French public TV and the French speaking services of Belgium and Switzerland would  cooperate  in creating a satellite/cable service. Using a Eutelsat from Feb 1984 the service broadcast 3hrs a night into cables services in Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, and then Scandinavia. And because it was PSB created, it di not use ads so no challenge to its cable hosts. By 1986, CBC and Quebec TV took a feed from the service, thereby opening a North American market.


The immediate success of what was called the TV5 service led to a new  German based service in late ’84 called 3Sat. that was backed by ZDF (FDR) ORF (Austria) and SRG (German speaking Switz)


It was clear that Sat TV and moreover trans-nat Tv in Europe was a coming thing and to this end by march 1985 a Dutch co FilmNet had been formed with backing from some of the Hollywood major cos. This spread across Northern Europe. Significantly this was a pay TV service. Pay TV expanded to 2.5mln subscribers across 13 countries in the early 90s when FilmNet was bought up by a South African co Multichoice. Anew holding co was formed to take care of Film Net called Nethold. By 1997 it was bought out again by Canal+ - the major French TC co by then under a much more neo-libralised regime in France.


TVWF: the original draft of it by the Council of Europe (inter-country meetings of Ministers) in 1987 sought to control the new boys. It wanted restrictions of all aspects of transfrontier broadcasting e.g. no sponsorship of progs by demanding that ad ere only within ad breaks; no targeting of specific markets and that the satellite channels comply with each and every countries national media policies. Britain objected to these restrictions as it was very much in the vanguard of neo-lib policies under Thatcher, but more trad contries, Belgium, france, germany wanted these restrictions..

 Fro the proposals that were set out in the 1984 Gren paper through to the European Commissions directive of October 1989 there were battles. But the final version that had been re-written by the Commission was more liberal than the CoE’s initial version. This was because the Commission looked back to the 1957 Treaty of Rome – one of the EU founding documents as well as the Single European Act of 1986 that made it clear that chief aim of the EU was a single market – a trans-frontier economic system. And thus the Commissions aim was to encourage free flow of all kinds of goods including TV.

 Thus there was an easing off of the advertising restrictions as proposed and more importantly a pull back from the quota rule that  60% of broadcasters material had to be of European origin – it went down to a simple majority of 50%.

 And it got round the proposed requirement to have sat brdcs accommodating all individual nations brdc rules and policies by making legal transfrontier retransmissions across EU states. All that satellite broadcaster had to apply was the laws and rules on media that were applicable in the country in which they were primarily registered and from which they operated.

 Thus by the terms of TVWF, pan-European Satellite TV  came of age in that it was put in afar more sound footing legally.


Control of the Net - Regime theory and multi-stakeholders.


In its earliest days, the Internet was like a small village

of known users — an authentication layer of code was

not necessary and development of norms was simple in

a climate of trust. All of that changed with burgeoning

growth and commercial use. While the openness and

accessibility of cyberspace as a medium of communication

provide valuable benefits to all, free-riding behaviour in

the form of crime, attacks and threats creates insecurity.

The result is a demand for protection that can lead to

fragmentation, “walled gardens,” private networks and

cyber equivalents to the seventeenth century enclosures

that were used to solve that era’s “tragedy of the commons”

(Ostrom 2009, 421; Hurwitz 2009). Internet experts worry

about “balkanization” or fragmentation. To some extent

that has already occurred, yet most states do not want

fragmentation into a “splinter-net” that would curtail

economic benefits.


Providing security is a classic function of government, and

some observers believe that growing insecurity will lead

to an increased role for governments in cyberspace. Many

states desire to extend their sovereignty in cyberspace,

seeking the technological means to do so. As Diebert

and Rohozinski (2010) put it, “securing cyberspace has

definitely entailed a ‘return of the state’ but not in ways

that suggest a return to the traditional Westphalian

paradigm of state sovereignty.” Moreover, while accounts

of cyberwar have been exaggerated, cyber espionage is

rampant and more than 30 governments are reputed to

have developed offensive capabilities and doctrines for the

use of cyber weapons (Rid 2013). US Cyber Command has

announced plans to employ 6,000 professionals by 2016

(Garamone 2014). Ever since the Stuxnet virus was used

to disrupt Iran’s nuclear centrifuge program in 2009 and

2010, the hypothetical use of cyber weapons has become

very real to governments.


....These differences were dramatized at the December 2012

World Conference on International Telecommunications

(WCIT) convened by the ITU in Dubai. Although the

meeting was ostensibly about updating telephony

regulations, the underlying issue was the extent to which

the ITU would play a role in the governance of the Internet.

Authoritarian countries, and many developing countries,

feel that their approach to security and development

would benefit from the UN bloc politics that characterize

the ITU. Moreover, they dislike the fact that ICANN is a

non-profit incorporated in the United States and at least

partially accountable to the US Commerce Department.

Western governments, on the other hand, fear that the

cumbersome features of the ITU would undercut the

flexibility of the “multi-stakeholder” process that stresses

the role of the private and non-profit sectors as well as




Interference with the central regime of domain names and standards could fragment

the functioning of the Internet, and it might make sense to consider a special treaty limited to that area

However, trying to develop a treaty for the broad range of cyberspace as a whole could

be counterproductive.


The loose coupling among issuesthat now exists permits cooperation among actors in some

areas at the same time that they have disagreements inothers. For example, China and the United States can use

the Internet for economic cooperation even as they differ on human rights and content control. Countries could

cooperate on cybercrime, even while they differ on laws ofwar or espionage.


What regime complexes lack in coherence, they make upin flexibility and adaptability. Particularly in a domain

with extremely volatile technological change, these characteristics help both states and non-state actors to

adjust to uncertainty.


How widespread is the behavioural adherence to a set of norms? For instance, on the sub-issue of domain names

and standards, compliance is high; on issues of privacy itis mixed; and on human rights it is low.



Human rights is a cyber sub-issue that has many of the

same problems of conflicting values that plague content

control, but there is an overriding legal structure in the form

of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Moreover,

in June 2012, the UN Human Rights Council affirmed

that the same rights that people have off-line must also be

protected online. Within the declaration, however, there is

a potential tension between Article 19 (freedom of opinion

and expression) and Article 29 (public order and general

welfare). On the other hand, different states interpret the

declaration in different ways, and authoritarian states

that feel threatened by freedom of speech or assembly

make no exceptions for the Internet. The US government

has proclaimed an Internet freedom agenda, but has not

explained whether this includes a right of privacy for

foreigners. This agenda has also been complicated in the

wake of the Snowden revelations. In 2011, the Netherlands

held a conference that launched a Freedom Online

Coalition, which now includes 22 states committed to

human rights online, but the disparities in behaviour led

to the conclusion that the normative structure in this subissue

lacks depth, breadth or compliance. Nonetheless,

the loose fabric of the issue allows ample opportunity for

non-state actors to press for human rights in cyberspace.

For instance, the civil society organization Global Network

Initiative has been pressing private companies to sign

up to principles that advance transparency and respect

human rights (