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Introduction: Third World,

Communication and Development

Source: Srinivas R. Melkote and H. Leslies

Steeves (2001). Communication for
Development in the Third World. New Delhi:
Sage (p. 19-45).

Development Communication:
A Background
The second half of the 20th century brought a tradition of
communication research and practice geared toward
Third World development needs, an area that has come
to be known as development communication.
At the First Development decade, the works include by
Daniel Lerner (1958), Wilbur Schramm (1964), Everett
Rogers (1962, 1969), and many others such as Frederick
Frey, Lucien Pye and Lakxhmana Rao.
Since 1970s, Western development aid and all facets of
the process including communication, have been
Many large and expensive projects promoting social
change have failed to help their intended recipients, or
have resulted in even worsen conditions for them.

Developments primary focus economic growth has

ignored other crucial, yet non-material aspects of human
Charges of gender bias, ethnocentrism and even racism
around in the literature of develpment studies and
development communication.
Development communication relates some other areas
including development education, development
journalism, international communication, transnational
communication, international journalism, cross-cultural
and intercultural communication.
The definition and boundaries of all overlapping
interdisciplinary areas have become fluid.

Third World

French demographer Alfred Sauvy first used the term

Third World.
The term was used in 1950s as a political category
implying neutralism in the context of the Cold War.
The idea was also taken by non-alligned movement. This
group included many ex-colonies that gained political
independence in the 1950s and 1960s.
Today the major connotation of Third World is
underdevelopment or simply poor. After the end of cold
war, the world is now divided into modern (developed
Western nations) and poor (Third World).
The picture is somewhat complicated by the emergence of
newly industrialized countries (Taiwan, South Korea,
Mexico, Brazil, China, India, Singapore and Hong Kong).

Third World countries have economic commonalities:

lower level of industrialization, greater poverty, less
access to lifes necessities and comforts.
The ideas of developing countries, LDCs and Fourth
World (sub-Saharan Africa). Also Global North and

Third World exists within the so-called First World and

vice versa. Tehranian (1994) categorized India as a
combination of First and Third Worlds.
To address all of these problems, some prefer to define
Third World in terms of oppression by some combination
of race, class, gender and nation, which then becomes
inclusive of groups living within industrialized countries.
But it is recognized that most extreme and widerspread
situations of poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, hunger,
disease, sanitation, and refugee displacement are
located in geography areas conventionally labeled the
Third World.

The earliest models of communication describes or
assumes a relatively linear process whereby someone
sends a message to someone else via a channel and gets
a response, called feedback.
Early theories assumed that mass media had
considerable power to inform and influence.
Meanwhile enormous advances have been made in
communication technologies. Communication
environment has become increasingly complex.
The role and power of mass media continues to influence
audience: sets an agenda for public discourse, influences
public opinion, persuades or educates in the context of
planned campaigns, provides role models to imitate,
cultivates audiences perceptions of society.

Critical scholars have challenged the relatively linear

nature of the models and isolation from economic and
political processes in society. Communication reinforces
hegemonic values and priorities in the society.
Most audience members do not resist the values
embedded in messages and in most cases they active
accept them.
Media makes light of non-maisntream views,
oversmphasizes support for mainstream views and over
reliance on government and corporate sources.
Media focuses on events rather on context, on conflict
rather on consensus and on indivdiuals rather on groups.
A few media giants own the majority of global media.

The hegemony is never complete and that resistance is

possibble. Internet has become the platform of
resistance yet the key players successfully have been
grabbing the new media.
Illiteracy and other barriers keep internet access far
away from the majority popuation of the globe.

Many agreed on the proposition: development means
improving the living conditions of the society.
But much debates went on how they should be achieved.
Modernization Perspectives: based on neo-classical
economic theory it promotes capitalist economic
This perspective assumes that the Western model of
economic growth is applicable elsewhere, and that the
introduction of modern technologies is important in
Critical Perspectives: Challenges the economic and
cultural expansionism and imperialism of modernization.

They argue for political and economic restructuring to

produce a more even distribution of rewards in society.
These perspectives do a good job of critiquing the flaws of
modernization, yet less successful in proposing concrete
Liberation Perspectives: The Brazilian educator Paolo
Freire (1973) is the well-known proponent.
These perspectives prioratize personal and communal
liberation from oppression, as the key to empowerment
and self-reliance, which is the goal of development.
All people want to become free and self-reliant and they
have the internal capacity to develop themselves on their
own terms. Internal and external forms of oppression
restrict their ability to do so.

Development Communication
Development communication scholarships and
practitioners still tend to be split between those who
view communication as an organizational delivery
system versus those who view communication more
broadly, as inseparable from culture and from all facets
of social change.
For those who view communication as a proces of
message delivery, it is easy to view development as a
process of modernization via the delivery and insertion
of technologies and/or promoting certain values,
attitudes, and behaviors in the population.
Communication and information are persuasive tools
that can assist in the modernization process.

Devcom under the modernization framework is often

viewed as a process of persuasive marketing.
Critical model rejects marketing models that aim to
spread and support Western technologies and economic
and political values.
They view persuasive campaigns as manipulative and
potentially harmful, with inadequate attention to the
larger cultural context in which people live.
They think devcom is not a linear process, but must be
historically grounded, culturally sensitive, and multifacted with attention to all the political, economic and
ideological structures and processes that comprise

According to liberation perspectives, devcom is not

message exchange rather emancipatory communication
that will free people to determine their own futures.
Thaht should include everyone participating in the
process, not just the so-called target groups.
Many projects grounded in liberation perspectives
include spiritual practice, consistent with the religion of
the group involved.
Paolo Freire and others advocate particular forms of
dialogue (interpersonal and groups strategies) that will
lead to expanded consciousness and power and therefore
These dialogic process enable participants to identify and
explore issues that have meaning for them.

Devcom involves issues at all level of consideration that

might include micro (individual and grassroots), macro
(global or national) and meso (large community or
regional) levels.
Yet at the same time action at the grassroots may
influence higher-level policy and practice.