Friday, 16 February 2018

State-backed Media, World Politics & India

The Soft Power of State-backed Media and Why India Needs to be Active in Global Media Space

Manan Rathore
JSIA ID No 20120493
May, 2014

Numerous global indicators point towards a transition in the international system which is acquiring multi-polar attributes as the American-led order experiences a decline. This study reflects the same while examining and analysing the origins and political value of globally active state-backed media actors. It employs Joseph Nye’s notion of ‘soft power’ to understand the latent power of state-media in world politics and enumerates the direct and indirect functions globally active state-media performs in world politics while informing global/regional public opinion and reducing information asymmetries. I attempt to view this rise in globally active state-backed media actors not just as a ‘clash of media voice’ but also as a reflection of the multi-polar world in a constructive environment. While contextualising the origins of certain state-backed media actors, it attempts to question the political-economic environment that existed when these actors were established. Thereon, I also argue for the establishment or increased global activeness of an Indian state-backed media house while enlisting the incentives this holds for the Indian state.

I wish to thank Professor Rajdeep Pakanati, the academic advisor for my study, for the guidance he provided that has helped me from the time of assessing the possible research questions to the final submission of my report. I also wish to express my most sincere gratitude to Professor Sreeram Chaulia, Dean, Jindal School of International Affairs and all faculty members for being the inspiration that they are and for their guidance over the course of the entire MA (DLB) programme, for it is the knowledge acquired through other courses as well that has culminated into this dissertation. Lastly, I also wish to thank my family and friends for their support that ensured that I remained constantly motivated to sincerely and honestly complete my study.

Table of Contents
Chapter One: Introduction......................................................................................................2 
Chapter Two: Decoding State Media: Is there a Right Approach?........................................4 
Information, Public Opinion and World Politics................................................................4 
Media as ‘Soft Power’........................................................................................................6 
Clash of Media Voices?......................................................................................................8 
Decoding State-backed Media............................................................................................9 
Versatility of State-backed Media ....................................................................................14 
Chapter Three: Power and Impact of State-backed Media ..................................................16 
State-backed Media and the New Power Equation ..........................................................16 Contextualising the Origins of Certain State-backed Media............................................19 
Appraising their Political Value .......................................................................................23 
Chapter Four: Bringing the World to India or Taking India to the World?.........................28 
India’s Voice, Globally.....................................................................................................29 
Still the ‘Dark Continent’ – Pseudo Perceptions of/on Africa .........................................30 
Supplementary Impetus....................................................................................................33 
Is There a Right Time? .....................................................................................................37 
India and Global Media....................................................................................................42 
Chapter Five: Conclusion.....................................................................................................43 
Bibliography ............................................................................................................................45

List of tables:
Table 4.1 Economic indicators for the years when the media houses were established........38 
Table 4.2 Political-economic environment when the media houses were established..........40

By every indication, the world, and human society that inhabits it, has been going through numerous different-paced transitions with the advent of what is sometimes called the communications or information age or the post-industrial age or the post-modern era in what is often called the new world (economic or otherwise) order. In this intrinsically interdependent world, which is in the “process of becoming a single great mass” (Hatchen, 1996) there are still strong national, religious or cultural identities or groupings that resist homogenisation and reshape global systems and are also reshaped themselves, as global cosmopolitan spirits appear to gain momentum.

Among the numerous global entities that are influencing human society – by shaping or informing public discourse – is state-backed media. In the following chapters, I present my understanding and analysis as I attempt to decrypt the role and functions of globally active state-backed media – as a ‘soft power’ resource – in world politics. 

In this era of multi- layered and multi-faceted globalisation, my arguments are based around an understanding that the rise of globally active state-backed media must not be seen as a counter measure to oppose globalisation; rather it must be profoundly examined as a voice in world politics that may or may not disseminate biased information and a certain set of norms that, collectively, influence global or regional public opinion for “media can be tools of conflict and instruments of peace” (Seib, 2008). It is this understanding that, I believe, warrants my investigation and subsequent arguments into the interplay of globally active state-backed media and world politics.

I invoke notions about ‘imagined communities’, to present my tentative thesis, while stating that to use states as a unit of analysis while appraising the political value of state-backed media may only yield superficial observations, just as the examination of the subject through a realist lens would. Further, while enlisting the functions of a globally active state-backed media, I trace the origins of certain internationally active state-backed media and proceed to assess their political value, especially in terms of informing public opinion and leveraging the soft power it incorporates. 

The study looks at four specific globally active state-backed media agencies that operate in various languages. By underscoring their relevance, the study aims to highlight (and elevate the understanding about) the political value and importance of state- backed media in contemporary world politics because it is understood that soft power resources and global/regional public opinion are two growing parameters to adjudge the power, clout and influence of a state, and that these hold grave value in world politics.

The research, however, primarily revolves around state-backed media agencies and does not cover the spread or international activeness of private networks globally or the domestic role of state-media. While it does cover the targeted global or regional audiences of these networks, the study does not comment in detail about the quality of content that these actors project.

While reiterating the importance of a globally active state-backed media in the contemporary scenario, I argue that India must actively participate in this global media space as, “in immediate terms, the media flow of information may have a greater impact than education” (Hatchen, 1996) on the direction(s) the world takes. I enumerate the various incentives for India to take such state actions and further question if there may be a ‘right time’ for India to do so and conclude by noting that, given the contemporary political-economic environment, the state must urgently be represented in the global media space.

Chapter Two

Decoding State Media: Is there a Right Approach?

As some regions across the globe grow closer and stronger through increased dependencies as well as freedom of movement and free-flow of information, others appear to be distancing and isolating themselves by restricting and reshaping information flows. States are also increasingly employing media actors to achieve numerous objectives such as to influence global and regional public opinion and to spread a respective set of norms. This chapter attempts to probe the global role and functions of state-backed media while projecting it as a versatile instrument of ‘soft power’. 

Thereon, I discuss the alternate understandings with which one can approach the task of decoding state-backed media’s role globally and assert that while it is imperative to note an apparent fracas between global state-backed media actors, these developments must not be just viewed as a mere race or competition in this age of information.

Information, Public Opinion and World Politics
In the contemporary times, when globalisation is more than an increasingly recognised and expected adage, the structure of the international system is acquiring far more dynamic attributes than ever before. While most states seek to build upon and subsequently take the treaty of Westphalia forward, some, and at many times conflicting, transnational actors ferment together a force that resists and often influences state action. Just as the “lure of global markets” (Seib, Media and Conflict in the Twenty-first Century, 2005) attempts to homogenise the world in some ways and the global recognition of human rights promises peace and prosperity, nationalist or regional philosophies strive to maintain and spread the clout of the nation-state.

It is amidst such various evolving processes that public opinion is also shaped, especially through increased exposure to media, both, domestic and foreign, as well as public and private. Traditionally, in the study of international relations the emphasis on military or hard power would overshadow any other factors, but in a precariously interdependent and interconnected world, the ascertained value of “soft power” (Nye, 1990) has also risen. And public opinion falls under that umbrella of soft power. As Joseph Nye elucidated, the changing nature of world politics has and is making the “intangible forms of power more important” (Nye, 1990).

Among those various intangible forms of power, one of them is information and subsequently a public opinion that the access of information shapes. Information, therefore, becomes unarguably extremely critical to “the premise of the discourse” (Herman & Chomsky, 1988). Consequently, it is because of the increasing power of information and public opinion that media, while subject to certain biases, becomes a significant player in global political economies. In recent years, the international system has been increasingly acquiring multi- polar attributes. As another manifestation of such multi-polarisation, even state-backed media have begun echoing diverse and at times opposing voices or perspectives.

“Competing for control of internationally available information and idea pools is a proven expansionist tendency of world powers” (Chaulia, 2010). To a realist this would be a race, a competition of some sort, one which has clearly been subject to the “oligopoly of western media” (Chaulia, 2010) for far too long. Since the early 2000s, however, the world has seen the emergence of Qatar-backed Al Jazeera, the rejuvenation of Russia Today and the creation of China’s CCTV and Global Times among other state-funded media giants that are constantly striving to echo Arab, Russia or Chinese perspectives respectively and infuse their respective regional values to the world through reportage on the global events with their corresponding tilts while observing journalistic virtues.
To a liberal, this must mean more than just a race. 

To view the emergence of these aforementioned actors as merely a different manifestation of the “clash of civilisations” (Seib, Media and Conflict in the Twenty-first Century, 2005) would undermine the potential impact the existence of all these voices can have together. By providing alternative perspectives and narratives, which certainly acts as disseminators of the respective state’s soft power, these voices are only adding to the information that is out in the open, thereby reducing information asymmetries that threaten sustainable and peaceful progress in world societies by providing level playing fields. In that respect, these alternative voices must also be seen as elements that can, at varied levels, feed into a model for global governance.

Media as ‘Soft Power’
The public space that media occupies and the functions it performs make it an invaluable resource for the state. As Walter Lippmann annotated in the chapter ‘The world outside and pictures in our heads’ that since the world is a large place where information is growing exponentially every second, a lot of the information remains “out of reach, out of sight and out of mind,” (Lippmann, 1922) for a large volume of people. It is this attribute of the media from where it derives the power to influence or rather set agendas by influencing or even limiting the avenues for public discourse. And when that media marries nationalist sentiments through financial infusions from the state and develops political affiliations due to overpowering ideologies of nationalism, it assumes the role of the voice of a state. When that happens, the media becomes closer to being an agenda setter on the global stage as well, for the state. It must again be noted that here, it is the international presence of the state sponsored media that is being studied and not the role state media plays domestically.

Joseph Nye had quite critically articulated about two decades ago, that, “power is a relationship” (Nye, 1990) in the international system and that the “fungibility” (Nye, 1990) between the different associations between the resources of power has diminished in the increasingly connected and interdependent world. Nye went onto question the need for this power. The purpose this power, quite simplistically, serves is that it allows the powerful states to influence the actions of others (Nye, 1990).

In consistency with the above definition of power one must implicitly note that, since even as the realisations or forms of values and norms and even power evolve over time, certain fundamental or traditional structures that define the international system remain intact and resist absolute change. Therefore, while the need and power of military resources or ‘hard power’ continues to be stressed and is arguably significant, the real mix of power resources changes with the addition of ‘soft power’ resources that thrive on reduction in information asymmetries and the increase in international interdependencies. And increasingly, state media is fitting into that mix as a soft power resource along with growing economic interdependencies and a spurt in the rise of global institutions. Together, these not only provide the state (or regionalisms which in instances assume supranational identities in today’s world) with the option to get other “states to want what that state (or regionalism) wants” (Nye, 1990) rather than to ‘order’ them into doing what the state (or regionalism) wants.

How states or increasingly regionalisms acquire that power to influence state action then also depends on the other state’s or region’s perception about the former. Such influence may be desired to strengthen hegemonies or to attract economic engagements in forms of aid or investment. Just as Philip Seib notes, when the emir of Qatar touts “Qatar as a progressive Islamic state that welcomes Western investment, he can showcase Al Jazeera as evidence of his commitment to reform” (Seib, Media and Conflict in the Twenty-first Century, 2005). But such a function of the media, as in the case of Al Jazeera, is not the only one it was envisioned to perform when established, as the network also serves as a strong purveyor of the Arab perspective while adding polarity to once uni-polar or Western hegemony in the global media space.

Clash of Media Voices?
“Clashes between civilisations can occur in ways other than armed conflict. There can be clashes of perspective, the beginning and outcomes of which are affected by information flows” (Seib, Media and Conflict in the Twenty-first Century, 2005). This aforementioned observation by Philip Seib is critical to understanding the rise in the presence and activeness of different media voices in the world, but the statement must not be taken as an engraved and accurate description of the dynamic global media landscape. This must, however, serve as a point of discussion to analyse the actual extent to which national media are confronting one-another and the level to which they are enriching and informing global public opinion and perhaps state action.

The debate around Samuel Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilisations’ theory continues to engage researchers, policy makers and analysts the world over. As Seib noted, this debate holds great “value for policy makers and journalists” (Seib, Media and Conflict in the Twenty-first Century, 2005), for the manner in which the media house understands its own presence among other global media influences the way in which it portrays itself, expresses information and spreads norms. There certainly appears to be a clash of media voices – for instance the American stories and the Russian headlines on the developments in Crimea displayed absolutely contradicting facts and stances while presenting their own definitions and understandings of international law and norms – but these must not be looked at as attempts to monopolise information only. While a constructive approach to understanding the relevance and impact of state-backed media is understood to be paramount, the existence and need for such voices and what they stand for cannot be overlooked.

In continuity, it must be noted that, just as there are alternative narratives about similar events, there are and can be alternative approaches to understanding the role and impact of state media in contemporary world politics. Therefore, while acknowledging the influence of ontological origins on such approaches, it is imperative to convey that this tentative thesis too may appear to be subject to certain biases. The proposal to work towards a constructive approach to decode the role and impact of state-backed media in contemporary world politics may appear naïve, but that is this thesis’ aims: to provide another alternative to analysing these developments while arguing for the need for an Indian voice in the global media landscape. An Indian voice which is ‘home grown’ in realpolitik and is not borrowed of academic ideologies, but that which is authentic. Questioning this ‘authenticity’ may of course subsequently generate many debates, but that is yet another scenario.

Decoding State-backed Media
This manifestation of perceivably approaching muli-polarisation in the global media space which is already established in certain forms demands greater attention and deeper interrogations, for the traditional theories of realism and liberalism have disparate ontological tracts and may not be able to read through such developments in isolation. While Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat and Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations are great examples to observe how the same global system can be understood to be shaped in distinct ways, these theories tend to portray specific developments and assume some attributes of the world will overshadow the other. Though such deductions seem plausible, to abnegate others and to isolate numerous global dynamics only provides limited understanding.

Perhaps, global politics, in general, and the global media space, in particular, require the scope of the weltanschauung to be broadened to accommodate the evolving relationship between the realist and liberal world views. Such an understanding is consistent with Imre Lakatos’ development of the research programme where he moderates down the revolutionary sentiments of Karl Popper’s “falsification” and mixes it with Thomas Kuhn’s ideas of “paradigm shift”. Lakatos observed that all theories are subject to “oceans of anomalies” but they cannot not be “governed by rules of reason” (Lazarus, 2009). 

Contemporarily, the United States of America or the West have seen a fraction of their power to influence the world erode and this has simultaneously been accompanied with the economic and political rise of other states like China and Russia among others in the international system that are closing in on filling that power vacuum – even in the global media space. This progressively multi-polar world is very different from the one where unipolarity seemed an accepted system after the break-up of the Soviet Union. But while examining such transformations and not merely a falsification, one must resist the urge to term them as an absolute paradigm shift and must not look at them as breaks or ruptures in history, for history is closer to being a linear space where all stories, at least in modern times and if sufficient patience is observed, can be traced and be brought under the ambit where they are “governed by rules of reason” while being subject to “oceans of anomalies” (Lazarus, 2009). The application of such an understanding to interrogate the contemporary global media space may, however, appear guileless. But as the contemporary world system appears to be experiencing a thrust towards a liberal-pluralistic ambivalence, it is understood that while studying this system traditional lenses may provide an understanding that may not account for all the actors and forces at work in the real world.

When sifting this apparent outward burst of state-supported media, careful attention needs to be paid to the varied direct and indirect functions these media perform. The primary objective they are established with remains to be to compete in the global media space to control the “internationally available information and idea pools” (Chaulia, 2010), to propagate the national perspective on issues and events and to spread its inherent values and norms across the world, for instance as the official website of French media house explains the purpose of the channel is to “cover international current events from a French perspective and to convey French values throughout the world” (France 24, 2006). But these state-backed media houses perform other functions as well as discussed below.
Firstly, and importantly, providing a mix and therefore alternatives (also read as challenges) to the Western hegemony in the media space. The emergence of regional voices in this manner is not only important to disallow the particular powers to dominate or direct the flow of information and ideas, but also to, in a positive tone, let regional or national perspectives be broadcasted and their stories narrated by themselves. This is also essential because, while some states have shared histories and experiences, others subscribe to disparate cultural or ontological understandings. This only illustrates that the same issue may be differently observed or understood or reacted at by different actors, given their distinct political, historical, cultural or societal affiliations that also shape public discourse within the state. 

In certain ways, such state behaviour is comparable to the notions of individuation (McNeely, 2010) developed by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. It may be naive and incorrect to directly extrapolate the ideas of psychiatry with that of state behaviour in terms of the state media’s stance, but there have to be definitive links between individuation and how it translates through societies and states into imagined communities that then constitute nations that voice out opinion through media.
In that context, there is also a need to employ nations – that are large ‘individuated’ bodies of people united by common history or culture inhabiting particular territories – as units of analysis when studying the impact and role of media in international relations and not just states.
In context to that, secondly, for these nations (or individuated identities) therefore, state- sponsored media also performs another significant function. This is to allow the nation-state’s story to be narrated by the state itself, especially for the diaspora that is spread across the globe. While, states compete for soft-power, it are these media voices that pull people together and “create a certain affection for that society” (Mustafi, 2013) while reflecting the country’s values. In consonant with Benedict Anderson’s ‘Imagined Communities’ state- sponsored media through its portrayal then, also broadcasts “national imagination... through a sociological landscape of a fixity that fuses” (Anderson, 1982) the nation and the world. In that respect, such media acts as a catalyst that binds the ‘national imagination’ and socially strengthens and constructs a community. The extent of this national affiliation and the ardour of nationalism that it ignites, subsequently, also contribute to the fabric of soft power.

Thirdly, another function these state-backed media voices perform is to act as a specimen of the state’s commitment to democratic values of freedom of speech and of support to a liberal society. As in the case of the emir of Qatar who “can showcase Al Jazeera as evidence of his commitment to reform” when he touts “Qatar as a progressive Islamic state that welcomes Western investment” (Seib, Media and Conflict in the Twenty-first Century, 2005).

Fourthly, and arguably an under-stated purpose for such media, is how it can and does indirectly feed into the architecture of global governance by broadcasting alternative views and perspectives and by divulging information that another state-backed media house may withhold. Where such a function gives rise to certain complexities is when the information it gathers and broadcasts appear to be meddling with (or as alleged by certain actors undermining) the sovereignty of the other states. Such complexities may/shall not arise, for journalists must not act as spies, but the divulging of information can increase tensions between states as was observed after Julian Assange through Wikileaks shared certain Afghanistan war-logs with certain media houses. Though all the media-houses that uploaded the information gathered from Assange were not state-backed actors, such instances only illustrate how the politics of what (and when) media chooses to (especially state-sponsored media) broadcast can impact world affairs.

A scholar described that “Assange had taken the view that re-formation of global power and politics is vested primarily in a pure fourth estate model” (Lewis, 2013). As the level of absolute openness of state-backed media is assumed to be not high, this puts limits on the impact it can have through such ‘re-formation’, but the possibility of a state’s employing these resources in the new-age information war cannot be ruled out. In consistency with that understanding, it is believed that, while assessing the political value of information in the contemporary world, state-backed media could perhaps purvey refuge to certain whistleblowers while acting as conduits to share information. While, in isolation, such incidents may affect certain relations in world politics; in totality, these instances will only put a greater share of the information out in public domain.

Versatility of State-backed Media
In his recently released book Maxwell’s Demon and the Golden Apple, Randall L Schweller theorises about the breaking down of the international system, which then moves from “an American-led era of order to chaotic disorder” (Ikenberry, 2014). My view of the future of the international system is not very different from Schweller’s. However, where I differ is on the direction that Schweller thinks the international system will take – becoming “a decentralised and disorganised affair in which there are no leaders, no followers, and no states capable of generating cooperation” (Ikenberry, 2014) in the absence of a preponderant power. I view this gradual dissolution or the shift from unipolarity to be accompanied by a certain rise in multi-polarity – which given its pristine form, may appear to be chaotic in the initial stages – that will provide for substantial and warranted representation of stakeholders in the international system. I believe that is one area where these new state-backed media voices fit in as well, for they not only echo a states’ norms and opinions while delivering news, but they also feed into a global public opinion that is seeing a drift towards strengthening the institutions of; global governance.

In this chapter, I attempted to introduce that state-backed media as an entity with high latent power that influences public discourse and can feed into the global architecture of global governance. While using Nye’s ‘soft power’ hypothesis to discuss the role that state-backed media plays and to illustrate how it acquires power in world politics, I enumerated the various direct and indirect functions that a globally active state-media performs. Additionally, I have argued that in order to constructively decode the significance of state-media in a global scenario, there is need to go beyond the realist argument that would view the global media space merely as a ‘clash of media voices’, however, I have reiterated that while doing so, the global tussle to control and shape the information out in the public domain cannot be overlooked. While invoking Anderson’s notions about ‘imagined communities’ and asserting that state-media feeds into a global public opinion I have attempted to enlist how state-backed media, collectively, shapes the boundaries of public discourse while strengthening the cohesion among the diaspora.

Chapter Three

Power and Impact of State-backed Media

State-backed Media and the New Power Equation

The ultimate yardstick of national power is military capability (McPherson, Layne, Bially, & Tellis, 2000). That is what the authors of a report titled Measuring National Power in the Post-industrial Age observed while adding that the “post-industrial world requires new ways to assess national power” (Cohen, 2001). As stated earlier, there are now a greater number of constituents that make up national power – military to economic and other forms of soft power. Since the premise of this research is centred on the impact of state-backed media – a soft power – in world politics, this chapter aims to establish the impact or influence of these organisations that are intangible sources of power while tracing their origins and objectives.

To assess the military power of states may appear to be a straight forward task which may be completed by accounting for the size of the military and its capabilities – soldiers in the infantry, war ships in seas, fighter jets, submarines and even nuclear warheads. But an assessment of hard power based on such a comparison would be insufficient, for it ignores the varying human capabilities and trainings of the military officers and omits the different response times states would require to legislate to take military action and to mobilise troops among other factors. It also assumes that the battlefield would not favour or disfavour any side in anyway, in terms of geography or demographics.

Clearly, an assessment of military power is not that simple to make. And in today’s power mix where other forms of power are a crucial part of a state’s influence, such assessment of power becomes even more complex and illusively perplexing. Further, “power is so contextual that all-encompassing indices and the hubris they may breed can mislead as much as they inform” (Cohen, 2001).
There can be no denying, however, that soft power now accounts for a significant portion of the power equation. Assessments of and about soft power, therefore, become progressively difficult to complete given the intangible nature of soft power and the social fabric it operates in. How can the impact and value of such intangibles be ascertained objectively? Media and more importantly state-backed media function in the same manner. Therefore even though there is little debate on the potential impact of media, there are limited indicators and numerous uncertainties, a combination of which complicates the methodology to assess the impact of state-backed media.

Before delving into the impact or influence of state-backed media, it is equally imperative to enlist the primary function of media as an entity. The agenda-setting theory encapsulates that function best. While first-level agenda setting “focuses on the amount of coverage of an issue,” (Coleman & Wu, 2009) second-level agenda-setting theory “examines the influence of attribute salience, characteristics and tone of that coverage” (Coleman & Wu, 2009). The media effects or influence theory, then, which talks about the sociological and psychological impacts of media, serves as a pertinent tool to attempt to study any such influences.

Since this research aims to study the impact of state-backed in world politics, from here on it focuses on some specific state-backed media organisations, namely, Qatar-funded Al Jazeera, UK-backed BBC, CCTV/Global Times which are made in China and Russia’s response to Western dominance in the global media space – Russia Today. I shall, however, enumerate and briefly discuss certain other channels of news as well. The common reasons for choosing these media houses is the global reach they have and the large audiences they serve while adhering to their respective national slants. CCTV, Global Times, Russia Today and Al Jazeera have also been chosen because they share relatively close birth-years and partially similar origins – that they were all conceived as disseminators of news, views and norms of the nation-state while showcasing the state’s evolving culture through journalistic ventures. Alternatively, BBC has been chosen because it remains the earliest such international voice of a nation-state in the world. No major US media houses have been included because they are mostly private-held organisations barring media-agencies like the Voice of America which have seen a decline in state-funding over the last few decades in the post-Cold War era and due to budgetary cuts. However, the influence of a channel such as CNN can serve as a starting point for discussion. Also, though most major media in the US is privately held, I believe that this also only projects the values and norms in American society that favour private enterprise.

If academic discussions around the ‘CNN effectand subsequently the ‘Al Jazeera effect’ are any indicators, then the significance and impact of these actors is beyond debate. When former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali noted, “CNN is the sixteenth member of the Security Council” (Gilboa, 2005, p. 28), he was not referring to CNN as a member that votes in the Security Council, but one which actively participates in setting the agenda for discussion. The Secretary General’s observation could have been a complaint against or an optimistic acceptance of the significance and activeness of media houses, but either way, it only underlines the impact news providers have around the world. Statements such as these would outweigh empirical evidence for or against the global impact of media. Therefore, taking note of the relevance of such above mentioned qualitative evidence when judging the impact of state-backed media, similar oblique evidences have been further sought whilst assessing the impact of the state-backed media.

Contextualising the Origins of Certain State-backed Media
United Kingdom’s British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has grown into a major media house that airs all sorts of programmes – from news to drama and sports. What this dissertation is concerned about is just its news services, which may not have gotten the publicised appreciation that CNN boasts off, but it has remained a benchmark setter for media agencies, especially state-backed media the world over. Off all the already established state- backed media agencies, BBC was also the first to acknowledge the rise of Al Jazeera and Russia Today among others. In 2013, accepting that it is also facing “competition for international audiences in a battle for soft power,” (Tryhorn, 2013) the director general of the corporation Tony Hall said he wants the corporation to double its reach by 2022.

Having commenced operations in 1922 on the order of the government, BBC has only grown exponentially, attracting global audiences through journalistic ventures such as the precariously honest and poking interviews on ‘Hard Talk’ or the succinct yet wholesome news bulletins. Simultaneously, there have been numerous allegations of the bias some news stories are presented with, as is the case with most such media. The spending of over $200,000 in a “legal battle to block the publication of a report into an alleged bias in its reporting of Middle East affairs” (Mail, 2012) or the questions raised about its apparent Left- wing bias (West, 2012) illustrate the same. Commenting on any particular bias of state- backed media or its slant is not the objective of this paper. What, however, is its aim is to trace the purpose and external impact of state-backed media.

In that respect, the public purposes of the BBC, as set out by the Royal Charter and Agreement, the constitutional basis for the BBC as presented to Parliament, which have remained the same, are revealing. These include to “bring UK to the world and the world to UK” (BBC, 2011) and “to represent the UK, its nations, regions and communities” (BBC, 2011). The significance BBC has for the UK may be hard to illustrate empirically, but what the service and its news broadcasts do for the state cannot be overlooked. As Peter Horrocks, the media house’s director of global news noted, BBC “creates influence for the UK through taking a long-term approach to representing the best of British values around the world, but what it does not do is represent short-term UK government interests” (Tryhorn, 2013).

Qatar-funded Al Jazeera serves a similar purpose. Established in November 1996, this news revered provider has been admired by viewers and has even been approbated by other media houses across the world. It has echoed an Arab voice on lots of issues, has caused disagreements among members of the Gulf Co-operation Council and has also been voted among the top five most influential global brands (Brook, 2005) while attempting to provide all sides of a news story. Its, is a story that has been written about by scholars and journalists alike, some of who have extrapolated the suffix ‘effect’ from CNN and have crowned Al Jazeera with it. As a New York Times piece noted in 2011, “it is Al Jazeera’s moment, not only because of the role it has played, but also because the channel has helped to shape a narrative of popular rage against oppressive American-backed Arab governments (and against Israel)” (Kirkpatrick & Worth, 2011).

While it remains a highly credible and followed broadcaster across the world, especially in the Gulf region, it is only prudent to read through Al Jazeera while accepting it’s certain biases or tilts. Where these become apparent is when news representation from different sources is compared. For instance, when Al Arabiya (Saudi Arabia-backed broadcaster) and Al Jazeera comment on Syrian affairs, they tend to reflect the political positions of their backers. While a few are able to recognise any such bias, others abide by the broadcaster’s position and echo a similar voice.

Another state-supported broadcaster that has enjoyed similar popularity and faced directed criticism as that of Al Jazeera is Russia’s state broadcaster RT or Russia Today. This media house is in its first decade, but it has rapidly established itself as a serious presenter of “an alternative perspective on major global events” (Russia Today, 2005) and as conduit that “acquaints international audience with the Russian viewpoint” (Russia Today, 2005). It has since its inception in 2005 served as another voice in the global media space that has provoked rights criticism because of certain orthodox stances of the Russian government but has also at the same time journalistically covered some important world events.

In all fairness, it appears to be a direct reaction to the Western dominance in the media space with most of its stories directed against the West’s actions and its resources aimed at showing the West in a sombre shade. On occasions, it appears as if it "has made itself a strident critic of US policy” (Walker, 2012). Simultaneously, it has grown into a voice that cannot be ignored, especially with interviews hosted by Julian Assange. Therefore, despite this Russian broadcaster’s alleged usage of “a chaotic mixture of conspiracy theories and crude propaganda" (Bidder, 2013) on occasions, it has become one of the most successful foreign broadcaster in many states and appears to be “outperforming its peers worldwide” (Bidder, 2013). Russia Today is perhaps one of those state-broadcasters where a strong national sentiment forms the base for any approach, which is why it remains one of the few media channels that are closely tied to the state. From, Russian President Putin’s visit to its
headquarters in 2013 (RT, History, 2013) to Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov’s
described as the biggest non-violent instigator
against the Syrian regime’ (Qassemi, 2012).
vehement support for it, the organisation reeks of Russian sentiment and does not even attempt to masquerade itself as an absolutely objective disseminator of information.

Perceivably, state-broadcasters that appear to have a relatively similar strong voice as that of Russia Today, that on occasions seems to overshadow journalistic neutrality are the ones from China. The external presence of Chinese state-funded media – Global Times (the newspaper and news website) and CCTV (the television channel) among others – may be the youngest with the Global Times’ English version being launched in 2009 and CCTV adapting to delivering news internationally 2007 onwards, but with huge monetary infusions they are “extending Chinese media's global reach” which is partially aimed at reducing the “big gap between China's image among foreign people and its idea of itself" (MacMurchy, 2009). Global Times has become an “essential read for every China-watcher” (Times, 2009). As Mexico’s ambassador to China, Jorge Guajardo, noted Global Times is “a must read for anyone wanting to understand China” (Times, 2009).

While these outlets present a Chinese perspective on certain issues, the manner in which they run only reflects the strong state-control in China with “Chinese intellectuals calling for a boycott of such media” (Chen, 2009) because of their openly biased stances. Editorial independence remains precarious territory for a Chinese broadcaster, but while being critical of the editorial positions of CCTV and the Global Times, it needs to be widely acknowledged that these channels of information are now serving millions of people around the world. CCTV has since 2009 been operating channels in Arabic and Russian to serve a wider net of international audiences and Global Times prints an English edition in the US as well. Further, China has taken the lead with the establishment of CCTV Africa which is beginning to serve a big African audience especially in the absence of most other state-media actors on a continent that promises to be writing the next big story. However, there may be “little impartial evidence that this is attracting significant audiences” but what must be noted is that “China is playing a long game” (Tryhorn, 2013) and is promoting its soft power in this way. These measures, while projecting the Chinese perspective on issues also serve as culverts to transfer political knowledge.

Appraising their Political Value
The origins of the respective state-backed media have evident influence on the perspective they choose to view a development from and that perspective morphs itself into a bias that informs the agenda setting function of the actor. In the state-backed media agencies discussed above, it is clear that the first and second degrees of agenda setting are active in terms of the amount of space given to and the portrayal of issues by the agency. But these organisations are just another set of influencers in the public space/domain and the impact they have depends on other factors as well like the degree of exposure to media, the local socio-political and economic scenarios among other things.
Just as there will always be apprehensions about any quantitative method that attempts to appraise the eminence of national imagination when it comes to its contribution to the power of a state, there may perhaps, not be a fixed criteria or set of parameters that could be applied to evaluate the value and political contributions of the aforementioned state-backed media to world politics. Since these media organisations are individuated actors that operate under different conditions, it may also not be pertinent to use common criteria to evaluate their global impact. Application of quantitative criteria increases the risks of only reflecting a superficial assessment, especially in the contemporary socio-political environment where people in different regions/states are subject to disparate cultural understandings, state laws, religious and market influences. Before arguing for or against any statement, it is also imperative to note that “people who are exposed to media already possess a fund of knowledge and attitudes which they bring to bear on new information. Since we do not know precisely what this information is, nor the rules by which it is combined with incoming information, we cannot pinpoint the exact contribution which that media make to the individual's cognitions, feelings, and actions” (Bartels, 1993).

Though, it is prudent to question the significance of numbers when foraging for empirical evidence to suggest the public impact of state-backed media, yet these figures must not be dismissed. In this age of the Internet and information, facts that BBC is the most re-tweeted source, that Russia Today became the first news provider to reach a billion views on YouTube and that Al Jazeera’s English website has over 20 million hits every month resonate the impacts these broadcasters have (Jazeera, 2013) (RT, History, 2013). These big digit numbers symbolise not just the reach of these media but also capture the global thirst for information. By extension of that argument, therefore, this multiplies the value of the media organisation, for it holds the power to influence, direct and even curtail some avenues of public discourse and opinion by virtue of the capacity to quench or not quench that thirst for information.

But what quite spectacularly illustrates the political leverage of these state-backed media operators is the acknowledgement by the masses and leaders across the world that these organisations are fuelling or subduing political frustrations in their pursuit of journalism.

In 2011, the then Secretary of State of the United States of America Hillary Clinton noted that the US was losing the “information war”. Such statements coming from world leaders only elevate the significance of these actors and illustrate their impact. Clinton added that Al Jazeera was “literally changing people’s minds and attitudes. And like it or hate it, it is really effective” (Radia, 2011). The impact Al Jazeera had earlier that year in 2011 in Egypt requires no exclusively quantitative evidence, for the vociferous chants of “Long live Al Jazeera” by thousands of protesters at Tehrir Square in Cairo speak for themselves (Miles, 2011). Following that phase of the Arab Spring, the Egyptian state incarcerated three journalists of Al Jazeera who continue to remain on trial in Egypt (Kingsley, 2014). Until a few years back, the US had also detained and allegedly tortured Al Jazeera journalists under counterterrorism policies (Ali, 2014). To add to the animosity the American government appeared to develop towards Al Jazeera’s, especially after its broadcasts of tapes from/of Osama bin Laden, there were reports of President Bush telling UK’s Prime Minister Tony Blair that he wanted to bomb Al Jazeera’s headquarters in Doha (Huffington Post, 2011). Such actions by states on foreign journalists and media only illustrate the importance attached with global media and the political and social impact it has and is capable of.

Rozina Ali at the Cairo Review of Global Affairs has attempted to link the two aforementioned incidents of detainments of journalists while noting that “as the War on Terror diffuses into support for an increasing number of local – and secret – wars on terrorism, the tactic of imprisoning journalists seems to be catching on” (Ali, 2014). She notes that Egypt is only doing what the US had been doing for over a decade. Such observations and deductions in consonance with the facts may seem pre-mature, but at the risk of sounding that it is important to acknowledge, through these possible linkages and understandings, the political weight that these media agencies carry, which other actors strive to gain the control of or manipulate or derail.

Russia Today is another giant in this global media space which disseminates information that comes with a Russian identity and holds great value in terms of the number of people it reaches and informs. On many occasions, it even takes the form of a “propaganda machine that is no less destructive than military marching in Crimea” (Linkevicius, 2014) as
Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Linus Linkevicius tweeted in March, 2014. Such statements demonstrate that these state-backed media actors can at times, be to soft power what ammunition is to the military. In the increasingly interconnected world, while some of these media agencies take offensive routes to restrict or re-inform the premise of public discourse, others appear to be more defensive and reformative in their approach. Comparing Russia Today’s truculent approach to the aggressive intent of China’s CCTV, there have been suggestions that call CCTV’s explosive expansion an attempt to “buy world opinion” (Ken’ichi, 2010). What this acutely again underlines is the impact of active state-backed media on public opinion and the corresponding power of ‘informed’ public opinion.

These speculations about “buying world opinion” may or may not be true, but they are flawed at a technical level, for they assume that the public or all the targeted subscribers across the world would respond in the same manner to the broadcasts. The argument erringly presupposes and pictures homogenised world populations, undermining disparate cultural and social understandings spread across different regions in varying time zones. Therefore, while it is understood that state-backed media is reaching out to the world, it must also be noted that it is doing so at varied levels in different regions, quite like separate yet over-lapping spheres of influence. While Russia Today and CCTV are available 24X7 in different languages across the globe, there are still some particular regions that these actors work to tighten their grip on and spread through to influence opinion. While for Russia Today, the immediate neighbours – the masses in states that once formed the Soviet Union – remain a primary audience, CCTV is more active in countries in Southeast Asia and Africa where it complements the aid and investment flowing in from China. Similarly, for Al Jazeera, which has recently expanded across the Atlantic, the Arab audience remains the most sought target. Just as the density of these spheres of influence becomes thinner beyond certain points, even the impact these actors have reduces in farfetched regions where another state-backed media may have a stronger hold.

There are numerous other examples as well, like Saudi Arabia funded Al Arabiya that competes with Al Jazeera for media space in the Arab region; TeleSUR, the network jointly established and promoted by some Latin American states that is aimed to accelerate and catalyse the integration of Latin America; Iran’s Press TV which aims to serve as a distributor of “the often neglected voices and perspectives of a great portion of the world” (Press TV, 2009), especially in the Gulf region among others.

This urge of some states to influence global public opinion; and of others to constructively build on their soft power through state-media indicates towards the ebbing of the traditional system of realpolitik. That system is morphing itself into a new one which increasingly acknowledges the political value of public opinion and subsequently of state-backed media. In this constantly refashioning global system, state-backed media is not only functioning as the purveyor of a particular national or regional voice that attempts to integrate the region further and counter other global voices, but is also adding complexity to the system itself. By virtue of what journalism explicates, these developments also raise questions about the evolving definitions of sovereignty, power and units of analysis in world politics. Nonetheless, they contribute towards diversity of views and provide multiple sources of information that feed a growing cosmopolitan spirit.

Chapter Four

Bringing the World to India or Taking India to the World?

During the last quarter of 2013 large blue hoardings suddenly came up across various parts of New Delhi, especially at metro stations, with a visible symbol of France 24, the French government owned news channel, and a catchphrase that read, “World news, Made in France”. The hoarding appeared to justify every bit of the intention that the media agency France 24 was established with a few years back – “to cover international current events from a French perspective and to convey French values throughout the world” (France 24, 2006). Now why would a foreign media feel the intense need to advertise in India’s capital city?

This is not just another manifestation of globalisation but is also an instance that shows how states are vying to add to the media narratives around the world and also trying to accumulate soft power through those perspectives and values. While the French perspective through active media is now reaching India and the world and is adding to the other voices from British, Arab or Russian media houses, the Indian voice has remained lethargically placid. Not only has the India story been told to the world by foreign journalists and broadcasters (Mustafi, 2013) but audiences, globally, have also been devoid of an Indian perspective on issues of global significance. In this section I argue for active participation of India in the global media space while questioning whether/if there is a need of so many disparate voices in global media and subsequently if there should be an Indian voice as well.

India’s Voice, Globally
Ever since its launch in March, 1995, DD (Doordarshan) India has been the sole public broadcaster of India that is available internationally. At first, it would appear that with the establishment of a separate channel to “build bridges of communication with Indians living abroad and to showcase the real India, its culture, its modernity to the entire world” (Prasar Bharti, 2002), India had taken the lead among other state-backed broadcasters (Al Jazeera was launched in 1996). But with the uninteresting/unwholesome content that it provided – as news bulletins, films, music and dance, children’s programmes, events and tourism – the channel remained just another apathetic state entity rather than an instrument of soft power. In the context of the media space as being discussed in this dissertation, DD India does not fall in to that definition given its diverse and scattered television content and the dwindling space of news content on it.

Therefore, the establishment of an active media service by India that journalistically competes with the best media houses globally is looked at as an optimistic and promising venture for the nation-state. Such an establishment would disseminate news, views and values through an Indian lens and would contribute towards the countries power equation. However, at this juncture, it is also imperative to question if there is need for an Indian voice, or more media voices from other states.
Until the late 1990s or early 2000s, Western media outlets and their hegemony defined the global media space but with the establishment of other state-backed media organisations, as discussed, that hegemony has not only been challenged but is has now been distributed across channels. 

These channels of news offer multiple perspectives thereby enriching global media and reducing global information asymmetries. Irrespective of the national tilt these media houses may carry, the presence of such multiple voices also works towards fulfilling one of the fundamental functions of media – providing all sides of a story. However, it is the extent of exposure to particular outlets that may ultimately affect public discourse over time. Thus, the establishment of an Indian channel, by the state, to constructively compete with growing behemoths in the media space from different regions so as to reflect the country’s values and create certain affection for the society while presenting global news (Mustafi, 2013) is an idea that must be implemented. The encouragement of the establishment of such media houses must be seen as a development that complements globalisation and not just as a mere reaction to it.

Still the ‘Dark Continent’ – Pseudo Perceptions of/on Africa
The creation of an active media outlet backed by the Indian state would be sagacious not only because that would contribute to the soft power of the growing country but also as it would assist in making the environment more conducive and constructive towards internal development and external dialogues about India. An illustration that quite fundamentally rationalises the need for a globally active Indian media voice is the infelicitous evidence about the majority global public opinion about the continent of Africa – considered incorrigibly poor, aid dependent and a perpetually famine affected conflict-zone with an occasional glimmer of hope and a lot of noise about some of its natural resources.

The primary explanation for this is the absence of globally active African media outlets which means that the African stories are always narrated by foreign, especially Western media which projects the continent in a relatively negative light. With the stroke of a journalist's pen, the African continent and its descendants are pejoratively reduced to a bastion of disease, war, famine, primitivism, and ubiquitous images of children, flies in their food and faces, their stomachs distended (Chavis, 1998). “These powerfully subliminal message units, beamed at global television audiences” (Chavis, 1998), connote something deplorable and shape global public opinion or at least limit the discourse around Africa. These pseudo-perceptions that are created around African nations, which have become deeply entrenched within society, feed into racist sentiments, hinder the flow of equal opportunities for all and perpetually keep the African nations caught in web where they are subject to the world’s opinion of them rather than being able to demystify these anomalies. Africa, here is the "other" and the “other designation works always to the advantage of its creator” (Chavis, 1998). 

Tracing the contours of this media discrimination to further understand in detail the reasons for such portrayal of the ‘Dark Continent’ are beyond the scope of this dissertation but it must be noted that there are shades of external imperialist, political, and economic dynamics at play behind these portrayals. Inherently, another significant reason is that “bad news sells well” as people feel better about their lives when they hear others have bigger problems (Adekoya, 2013). Of late, the discourse around Africa has seen a positive shift with global media being more responsive and responsible in its portrayal of the continent and with there being a rise in media outlets based in Africa that are furnished by African states or people and also by media organisations from other states. These propitious developments have, however, been paralleled with the world’s eyes being set on Africa for political and economic gains as states around the world realise the power of Africa’s young population and the magnitude of its natural resources just as they exhaust their own. Surely, a connection between these must exist.

My argument here is that, had there been an active bearer of the African voice (at the risk of homogenising the continent) or of any African state’s perspective, then those foreign portrayals of Africa would have not had the impact they have had. Also, the efficacy in that respect of an African state-media actor would appear to be higher than that of a private

African media enterprise since the state-backed outlet would be a voice of the state and would appear to have a clear and defined agenda to tackle such partial portrayal of the state while the private media enterprise may focus more on society than on the states’ representation. The argument by no means undervalues private media, but only points to the advantage state-backed media have in terms of a set long-term agenda and assurance of funding to achieve that. This example, however, must serve as an illustration to understand the importance of an active global peripheral voice of the state that echoes and binds national sentiments in an increasingly post-national, globalised yet traditional world. This, therefore, also validates the thrust for establishment of an Indian state-backed media outlet that will be active globally as was also discussed in the Report of the Committee on Prasar Bharti (India’s state broadcaster) that was released in late January, 2014.

Another illustration for the argument could be the untoward verity that in the last few months, especially “since the gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a moving bus in New Delhi, India has become the world’s rape capital” (Bhowmick, 2013). Despite evidence that the number of reported rapes in other parts of the world outnumbers the number of reported rapes in India – Sweden reported 63.5 rapes per 100,000 population while India reported 1.8 per 100,000 population or reports saying that one in five women in the US is raped at least once in her lifetime – there have been jokes about rape festivals in India, floating on news websites (UNODC, 2011) (The Times of India, 2014) (Report, 2013). 

Before further presenting my argument, it is imperative to note that I, by no means, attempt or wish to understate the seriousness of the matter, and that these figures, though official, may only present a partial picture. It may also be noted that there may be differences in number of actual rapes and reported rapes and that data collection about sexual violence by itself is a complex task. Further elucidation, however, on that will be beyond the scope of this dissertation. My argument here briefly revolves around the impact such international reportage has had not only on international tourism in India but also on the adverse ‘imaging’ of the nation. For instance, following reports titled as ‘A Rape Map of India’ (Malhotra & Dutta, 2013) on reputed news websites like the Wall Street Journal, not discounting the actual impact of the occurrences, “visits to India by female tourists dropped 35 percent in the first three months of” 2014 compared with the same period in 2013 (Bagri & Timmons, 2013). It is unfeasible to appropriately and empirically attribute that fall in incoming female tourists to the impact of the actual incident(s) or to the psychological impact of media (domestic and international) coverage about the issue on individuals and societies. To do so could also lead to misconstrued understandings, but yet the presence of a link between these is undeniable.

While lasting solutions to such social evils lie in mass social awakenings, efforts to provide better security in the interregnum are essential. As for the decline in foreign tourists, as the tourism industry officials say, “India also needs to carefully rebuild its image” (Bagri & Timmons, 2013). An India state-backed media house, in such a scenario, could tell true stories to the world about the safety levels in its cities while not being overly critical and alarming, unless required, or being too subtle – something that Africa was unable to achieve in the past, over different subjects and was therefore, unfortunately poorly presented in the media globally.

Supplementary Impetus
Soft Power Politics in Africa: As discussed above, contemporarily, the media discourse around Africa has seen a positive shift with less focus on negative portrayal of the continent and with there being a rise in media outlets based in Africa that are furnished by African states or non-African states. One significant example here is that of CCTV from China which has strongly established itself as a media organisation that cannot be ignored. It has not only been a source of information while showing the world, and particularly African people a positive side of Africa and China but has also been attempting to induce a particular affinity towards China. This goes hand-in-hand with China’s growing presence in the region in terms of aid and investment in various forms. In this strategically important continent for the world in the future, through CCTV China is “taking space that might belong to another rising Asian superpower in the future” (Tryhorn, 2013). 

India’s indolent and scruple approach to actively participate in the global media space, especially in Africa is not only giving China a head- start towards acquiring the soft-power that is arguably China’s weak links but is also robbing the African people of a choice for partners for its economic growth. A study visit to Ethiopia in January 2014, allowed me to observe at first hand this spectacular reach/spread of Chinese media in Africa as well. CCTV Africa already seemed to become a major media player in Ethiopia and copies of the state run China Daily could be seen in hotel lobbies. China has been and is perhaps “laying down the ground space that will be useful not right now but in five or ten years" (Tryhorn, 2013). Therefore, even if world politics is seen to have entirely and inherently realist characteristics, it is in India’s self-interest to establish such a media outlet. 

Those traditional dimensions of realpolitik do not apply in the same way today. In such an intertwined international system, there is desideratum for India to build on its power through its own media or else growing powers may leverage that contact through media and the softness of the norms they spread to their advantage while India may be not have such an option. These advantages could be in terms of business contracts, investments, resources or simple support at the international level among others.

The Permanent UNSC Seat: What further adds to the legitimisation of this need of an Indian state-backed media are the other long-term ambitions of India, especially about securing a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). India, as an economy and a regional power and potentially a global one, has been registering significant growth and has shown visible desire for inclusion as a permanent member of the council, but neither this growth or this desire has been reflected in the global media space by Indian actors. Nor has any Indian state media channel informed the world or even its neighbours about its opinion on major world issues, let alone spreading Indian norms and values through delivery of world news. 

I must here, underline that to adjudge the sanctity and the pertinence of this ambition of acquiring a permanent UNSC seat is not aim of this argument and falls beyond scope. My argument is premised around the factors that influence such an argument, especially the global activeness of Indian state-backed media. “If any country has a right to be on the Security Council, India does,'' AP Venkateswaran, a former foreign secretary of the country had noted once (Monitor, 2007). The former foreign secretary, along with others who make the case for India permanently being on the UNSC, has lots of parameters to base their argument on – from India being the largest democracy in the world to being among the top ten states with the highest spending on defence. The only element that seems evasive in that equation is India’s representation in the global media space and the absence of an Indian perspective on global issues. How then, does India, without expressing opinion on major international or regional issues, hope to assimilate support to push for reforms at the UNSC?

What further makes this question demand an urgent answer and subsequent action is the certitude that all of the five permanent members of the UNSC, contemporarily, have strong presence in the global media space. This may not have been a necessary condition for such an inclusion in the council or reformation in its structure when China became a part of the permanent set up in 1971 or France in 1958, as these states were not represented as actively in the global media space then, as they are now. But in the contemporary scenario of world politics, a lot has changed and the soft power that state media may internationally accumulate may well be the missing ingredient to seal the argument for a permanent seat for India at the council. 

China’s CCTV and France’s France 24 have been vehemently active globally over the past few years; so has Russia’s RT; UK’s BBC has always been a sort of benchmark for global media actors and US’ Voice of America and CNN among other actors have never allowed America to be under represented in global media. With so many disparate voices in the global media, an Indian state-backed voice may face competition, but it will also only furnish the ground-work in terms of global and regional public opinion that needs to be urgently addressed in order for India to strongly pitch for a UNSC seat, if it is really desired/ aimed to be sought.

Diaspora and Beyond: As mentioned in chapter one while defining the core functions of these media platforms, a channel such as the one this will only increase any affinity towards Indian culture and society (Mustafi, 2013). This function, perhaps, assumes a more significant role when the state’s diaspora is part of the target audience as it strengthens national imaginations and binds imagined communities (Anderson, 1982). In India’s case, the revered engineers, doctors and businessmen around the world of Indian origin not only form a component of India’s soft power, but it is then the adhesive of affinity and affiliation that is delivered through media (especially state-backed media) that may further strengthen that bond thereby enhancing India’s soft power while delivering soft power.

But the soft power of state-backed media does not limit itself to just knitting together the Indian diaspora, as it extends far beyond in terms the number of lives it touches and viewers, readers or listeners it informs. With an understanding that such an Indian state-backed media outlet will disseminate balanced information and news and will not be employed as tool for propaganda, it is arguably fair to consider that that media will be diffusing Indian norms and values of plurality in society that have over time enhanced India’s soft power (Tharoor, 2009). That fabric of soft power, as former UN diplomat and now an active Indian politician Shashi Tharoor notes, is what attracts and will attract the world to India since India may well be chronicled as the “nationalism of an idea that is sustained by pluralist democracy” (Tharoor, 2009) that accommodates all diverse opinions. 

If India revolves around such an idea, it becomes imperative to feed into the binding forces to strengthen the idea through soft power that may be spread using the pluralist values the country echoes, to the diaspora and to the ‘other’. Perhaps, India’s presence in the global media space can be shaped in such a way that it taps into “India's multi-cultural and multi-religious society and the long history of peaceful coexistence of religions that make India automatically best positioned to throw up solutions that will help the West and Islamic world understand each other better” (Sen, 2014). 

This is of course notwithstanding India's internal contradictions that on occasions threaten to shake its very foundations. It has been argued multiple times that India derives soft power from Buddhism to Bollywood, but India must build on that basis of soft power and add to these variables to bolster its soft power and to hasten its spread and increase its reach – functions that an Indian state-backed media shall perform. Correspondingly, the constructive concomitant of playing the role of a balanced news provider and a possible bridging catalyst between contradicting sub-sections of identities and cultures around the world should be another incentive for the sub-continent state to actively participate in the global media space.

Is There a Right Time?
Given this increasing multipolar media landscape and considering that India is to become a part of it, the immediate question that arises is when Indian state-backed media should take the plunge. Are there specific conditions that guide such state actions or are these actions not subject to any political or economic factors? In other words, is there a right time for India, or any other state, to establish globally active state-backed media?

To examine the economic and political environment prevalent in the aforementioned states, I looked at economic parameters such as the Real Gross Domestic Product ( GDP per capita at 1990 international base value) and their respective military spending as a percentage of GDP in the years that their respective media outlets were established (Bolt & van Zanden, 2013) (SIPRI, 2013). Though the GDP per capita is compared with 1990 as the reference year, these figures can still not be directly used to assess the existence, if any, of economic conditions that are necessary when a state sets-up or funds a globally active media house because the political and economic environment when BBC was established in 1922 was very different from the one in the 1990s or 2000s when other state-backed channels were created. However, these figures must not be overlooked for these indicators could provide a tentative understanding about a certain level of economic advancement that may be a required to allow such state action.
As the table above shows, there are big differences in the GDP per capita of the four states in the years when each of them respectively established their media houses. This may imply that there are no specific economic windows that may be drawn to project when the time is apt, in terms of economic health, to set up such media houses. However, the need for a certain level of economic growth cannot be mitigated. Further, India with a GDP per capita of $3,372 (1990 as the reference year) appears to qualify for any such economic conditions given its positive growth trend over the last few years. 

Additionally, the cost of establishing an Indian state-backed media house must not be major issue for the state given that the allocated budget for the financial year 2014-15 for India’s state broadcaster Prasar Bharti was Rs 2,180 crore (over $350 million), which to put into perspective is more than double the financial infusion ($137 million) with which Al Jazeera was established by the Emir of Qatar in 1996 (Mustafi, 2013). Even after the adjusting these figures for inflation and using the same reference year would imply that the cost of establishing a global media actor should not be a major worry for the Indian state.

Further, in coherence with the argument that state-backed media contributes significantly to soft power, I looked at a measure of hard power – military spending as a percentage of GDP to examine how similar or dissimilar these indicators are for the respective states in the corresponding years. The figures for the United Kingdom have be omitted for the establishment of the BBC came in 1922, a few years after the Great War which had seen UK’s military expenditure increase manifold. That was clearly a special condition and a variable that did not exist when the other states initiated their media houses. These indicators too, like GDP per capita, do not appear to have a lot in similar and would falsify the claim that there are set economic pre-requisites for establishing state-backed media houses. However, it must be noted here that, India’s military spending in 2013 was 2.5% of its GDP and that figure would fall within the range of the military spending of the states in the relevant years discussed above.

When discussing the political environments prevailing in the years when the aforementioned
state-backed media houses were established it is imperative to note the political environments that existed globally or regionally and also to point out the domestic structure of the political systems in the respective states. The observations are presented in a simplified manner in the following table.

There are two primary observations that this table suggests. Firstly, the internal political structure or the governance system of the state does not have any significant impact on the establishment of state-backed media, as is evident – UK established BBC while being a constitutional monarchy (democracy) while China initiated the expansion of CCTV being an authoritative state. However, the internal political structure may have an impact on the method of operation, agenda setting and functioning of the media house, further elucidation on which is be beyond the scope of this study.

Secondly, an overview of the global/regional political environment that existed during the time propounds that while there are no stark similarities in the political conditions that existed when the respective state-backed media were formed, there are still certain political- economic currents that are at play that appear to provide thrust/incentives to/for these actions. These incentives are perceived to be the power to influence public opinion, especially during the time of conflict and at regional levels – scilicet, the political value of state-backed media. A very recent example for this would be the getting together of the Baltic States to “mull joint channel to counter Kremlin’s line” (Collier, 2014). Economic growth appears to be a necessary condition for such developments – UK (despite the increased debt due to the Great War) Russia, Qatar and China were all registering economic growth in the respective years they established their media in – but it is still not a sufficient condition. There may perhaps, be no sufficient conditions since the aforementioned states had been registering stable economic growth even during the preceding years, but did not choose to initiate any media operations.

My argument here is that, states are drawn to encourage the establishment or increased global activeness of state-backed media only after the significance and power of such a conduit of information is understood in totality. However, the acknowledgement of that understanding must also be accompanied by continued stable economic growth and may also be catalysed by regional or global power politics. This implies that there may not be a ‘right time’ for the establishment of such a state-backed media or rather that there may be no ‘wrong time’ to do so. The subsequent argument is that India must actively participate and be represented in the global media space for the aforementioned reasons and that, now would be a good time to do so.

India and Global Media
This section propounded that with negligible presence in the global media space India has been and is losing out in terms of soft power in the information age where “the personal is the political” (Hanisch, 1970) and global or regional public opinion embodies great political value. Further I enlisted the incentives for India to actively participate in the global media while stating that this will feed into the country’s long term visions of having strategic presence in Africa, strengthening its credentials for a permanent UNSC seat and will also help keep the diaspora engaged and informed while spreading the state’s norms and mitigating global information asymmetries. Additionally, I also argued that there may be no ‘right time’ for states, barring perhaps the need to be registering stable economic growth, to take such action and therefore India must not delay its entry and increased activeness in global media.

While we participate and witness what Schweller calls the breaking down of the international system into a decentralised affair, the increasingly globalising world is acquiring multi-polar characteristics which manifest themselves in various ways. In my study, I have argued that one of those manifestations is the increased global activeness of state-backed media. Arguing that these state-backed media – such as BBC, CCTV, Al Jazeera and Russia Today – are instruments of soft power I have attempted to illustrate the manner in which they inform and at times limit global/regional public opinion. I have further enlisted the numerous direct and indirect functions that these actors perform in world politics by spreading a nation’s norms and by collectively reducing information asymmetries.
Subsequently, while tracing the origins of certain globally active state-backed media I have argued that the rise of numerous state media outlets in the global media space must not be just looked as a ‘clash of media voices’. Further, I have attempted to assess the political value these instruments of soft power hold in this age where information is a key resource and ‘the personal is political’.

Thereon, while arguing that India must take measures to actively participate in this global media space, I have enlisted the incentives for the state to establish a globally active media entity – which include building thrust towards fulfilling the apparent desire of getting a permanent UNSC seat and knitting together the diaspora among others. In the end, I have argued that, barring the need for stable economic growth, there may not be a specific set of factors that indicate if there is a ‘right time’ to take such state action and establish a media entity. That is, while certain economic parameters point towards a necessary condition that must be sufficed for such state measures, there are no sufficient conditions, upon fulfilling of which states take such action – apart from the moment when the long-term significance of globally active state-media is realised by states in terms of their value as instruments of soft- power and tools for constructive dialogues. Arriving at that moment, however, may depend on how national identities or psyches are shaped over time and on the regional/global political and economic environment.

The subject of the thesis further merits profound examination, especially since the scope of this study was limited to the global activeness and impact of state-backed media. Elements that may further be studied include the interplay between private media houses and other state and non-state actors in world politics as well as the quality of journalism or presentation of opinion on these private or state-backed conduits of information.

  • Adekoya, R. (2013, November 28). Why Africans worry about how Africa is portrayed in western media. Retrieved April 6, 2014, from The Guardian: portrayed-western-media
  • Ali, R. (2014, March 31). Egypt's al-Jazeera trial was inspired by America's global war on journalism. Retrieved April 4, 2014, from The Guardian: inspired-by-americas-global-war-on-journalism
  • Anderson, B. (1982). Imagines Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso Books.
  • Bagri, N., & Timmons, H. (2013, June 10). India Scrambles to Reassure Tourists Shaken by Recent Attacks on Women. Retrieved April 14, 2014, from International New York Times: making-tourists-wary-of-visiting-india.html?_r=0
  • Bartels, L. (1993). The Political Impact of Media Exposure. The American Political Science Review, Volume 87, No 2 , 267-285.
  • BBC. (2011, January). Public Purposes. Retrieved March 25, 2014, from BBC:
  • Bhowmick, N. (2013, November 8). Why Rape Seems Worse in India Than Everywhere Else (but Actually Isn’t). Retrieved April 12, 2014, from Time Magazine: else-but-actually-isnt/
  • Bidder, B. (2013, August 13). Russia Today: Putin's Weapon in the War of Images. Retrieved March 30, 2014, from Spiegel : propaganda-with-russia-today-channel-a-916162.html
  • Bolt, J., & van Zanden, J. (2013). New Maddison Project Database. Groningen, Netherlands: University of Groningen.
  • Brook, S. (2005, February 1). Al-Jazeera is world's fifth top brand. Retrieved March 27, 2014, from The Guardian:
  • Chaulia, S. (2010, July 16). Siren song from China. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from The Financial Express: china/647076/1
  • Chavis, R. (1998, October 2). Africa in the Western Media. Sixth Annual African Studies Consortium Workshop . Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania - African Studies Center.
  • Chen, S. (2009, January). China TV faces propaganda charge. Retrieved March 2014, from BBC:
  • Cohen, E. A. (2001, September). Measuring National Power in the Postindustrial Age. Retrieved March 26, 2014, from Foreign Affairs: power-in-the-postindustrial-age
  • Coleman, R., & Wu, H. D. (2009). Advancing Agenda Setting-theory. Jounalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Volume 86, Number 4 , 775-789.
  • Collier, M. (2014, April 20). Baltics mull joint TV channel to counter Kremlin’s line. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from The Dawn (AFP): kremlins-line
  • Economist, T. (2007). Index of Democracy. The Economist Intelligence Unit.
  • Hanisch, C. (1970). The Personal is Political . Retrieved April 2014, from Notes from the Second Year: Women's Liberation: Major Writings of the Radical Feminists:
  • Hatchen, W. (1996). The World News Prism. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State Universtiy Press.
  • Herman, E. S., & Chomsky, N. (1988). Manufacturing Consent. New York City: Pantheon Books.
  • Ikenberry, J. (2014, April). Maxwell’s Demon and the Golden Apple. Retrieved April 2014, from Foreign Affairs : schweller/maxwells-demon-and-the-golden-apple-global-discord-in-the-new-mi
  • Jazeera, A. (2013). Al Jazeera English in Numbers . Retrieved March 25, 2014, from Al Jazeera: diaBrochure_2012_007.pdf
  • Ken’ichi, Y. (2010). China’s Focus on External Publicity. Tokyo: NHK Broadcasting Research Institure.
  • Kingsley, P. (2014, March 31). Three al-Jazeera journalists denied bail in Egyptian court once more. Retrieved April 2, 2014, from The Guardian: bail-egyptian-court
  • Kirkpatrick, D., & Worth, D. (2011, January 27). Seizing a Moment, Al Jazeera Galvanizes Arab Frustration. Retrieved March 26, 2014, from International New York Times:
  • Lazarus, L. (2009). Lakatos’ notion of a “Research Programme.” Does itsucceed in saving the notion of scientific progress? Retrieved March 15, 2014, from _it_succeed_in_saving_the_notion_of_scientific_progress
  • Lewis, J. (2013). Global Media Apocalypse: Pleasure, Violence and the Cultural Imaginings of Doom. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Link, P. (2009, May). China's Modern Authoritarianism. Retrieved April 2014, from Wall Street Journal:
  • Linkevicius, L. (2014, March 9). Official Tweet. Linus Linkevicius' Twitter account . Lithuania:
  • Lippmann, W. (1922). Public opinion. New York: Macmillan. 
  • MacMurchy, C. (2009, January 4). China spends 45 billion to extend media's global reach. Retrieved March 21, 2014, from eChinacities: global-reach
  • Mail, D. (2012, March). Report on BBC's anti-Israel bias will stay secret. Retrieved March 27, 2014, from Daily Mail: 451138/Report-BBCs-anti-Israel-bias-stay-secret.html
  • Malhotra, A., & Dutta, S. (2013, January 3). A ‘Rape Map’ of India. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from The Wall Street Journal:
  • McNeely, D. A. (2010). Becoming: An Introduction to Jung's Concept of Individuation. Fisher King Press.
  • McPherson, M., Layne, C., Bially, J., & Tellis, A. (2000). Measuring National Power in the Postindustrial Age. Santa Monica: Rand Corporation.
  • Miles, H. (2011, February 8). The Al Jazeera Effect. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from Foreign Policy:
  • Monitor, C. (2007). India Lobbies for Permanent Seat In United Nations Security Council. Retrieved April 7, 2014, from The CS Monitor:
  • Mustafi, S. M. (2013, August 1). In Other News. The Caravan . New Delhi, India.
  • Nye, J. (1990). Soft Power. Foreign Affairs , 153-171.
  • Qassemi, S. a. (2012, August 2). Breaking the Arab News. Retrieved March 24, 2014, from Foreign Policy:
  • Radia, K. (2011, May). Sec. of State Hillary Clinton: Al Jazeera is ‘Real News’, US Losing ‘Information War’. Retrieved March 16, 2014, from ABC News: is-real-news-us-losing-information-war/
  • Report, N. (2013, November). The Assam Rape Festival In India Begins This Week. Retrieved April 2014, from National Report: festival-india-begins-week/
  • RT. (2013). History. Retrieved March 2014, from Russia Today: us/history/
  • RT. (2005, December). RT - About Us. Retrieved March 22, 2014, from Russia Today:
  • Seib, P. (2005). Media and conflit in the twenty-first century. New York City: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Seib, P. (2008). The Al Jazeera Effect : How the New Global Media are Reshaping the World. Washington: Potomac Books.
  • Sen, S. (2014, January 22). Professor Daya Thussu, University of Westminster and author of ‘Communicating India's Soft Power: Buddha to Bollywood’. Retrieved April 10, 2014, from Reuters Institute: indias-soft-power-b.html
  • SIPRI. (2013). SIPRI Military Expenditure Database 2012. Stockholm : Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
  • Tharoor, S. (2009, November ). Why nations should pursue soft power. Ted Talk . Mysore, India:
  • Times, G. (2009). About the Global Times. Retrieved March 2014, from Global Times:
  • TOI. (2014, January 24). One in five women raped in US, says White House report . Retrieved April 14, 2014, from The Times of India: White-House-report/articleshow/29274360.cms
  • Tryhorn, C. (2013, November 13). BBC is in a 'soft power' battle with international broadcasters. Retrieved March 27, 2014, from The Guardian: hall-worldwide-audience-cctv-al-jazeera
  • UNODC. (2011). Rape at national level, number of police recorded offences. Vienna: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime .
  • Walker, S. (2012, January 26). Assange takes chat-show job with state-funded Russian TV. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from The Independent: statefunded-russian-tv-6294553.html
  • West, E. (2012, June 13). The BBC's Left-wing bias isn't in its news coverage; it's in everything else that it does. Retrieved March 28, 2014, from The Telegraph: its-news-coverage-its-in-everything-else-that-it-does/