Reflections on IAMCR's 50th Anniversary - by Robin Mansell

Robin MansellWe had a very delightful and big 50th Anniversary celebration in Paris
in July 2007 thanks to the hard work of the Local Conference Organising
Committee.  We marked IAMCR’s history and we paid tribute to former
IAMCR President, Professor James Halloran, who died on 16 July shortly
before the conference.  There will be a lecture in his honour during
the 2008 conference.

In dozens of ways during the 50th Anniversary plenary sessions and in
paper and panel sessions we heard about the challenges we face as the
field of media and communication studies grows and our members tackle
new research questions.  The need to put questions of ethics centrally
on our agenda was noted by many presenters as was the need to revisit
the histories of media and communication as well as to develop new
theoretical frameworks and conceptual models, acknowledging and giving
space to distinctive approaches that embrace local as well as global

Questions of gender, human rights, and cultural diversity were very
much in evidence, reflecting IAMCR members’ strong interest in these
areas alongside issues of oligopolisation/globalisation and the need to
study the policies of governments, the changing roles of
non-governmental organisations, and the ways that transformations in
the older and newer media are working themselves out within different
regions.  In many sessions, including a joint ICA-IAMCR session, there
was a strong call for more attention to regional issues.

In particular, and very clearly in the Plenary focusing on the
contribution to our field by French scholars, the continuing need to
develop socio-political approaches to information, politics and power
was stressed especially with respect to different modalities for the
production of information, changes in journalism, and different
perspectives on media culture and media practice.  Especially important
was the emphasis on the need to understand editorial freedom and the
autonomy of journalists as a relative concept and to develop stronger
links between studies of the ‘micro-practices’ of media production and
consumption and studies of the nature of unequal power relations as
they are played out internationally.

During the conference we held a special session for the presentation of
four reports commissioned by Mr. Abdul Waheed Kahn, Unesco Assistant
Director General for Communication and Information. These focused on
Communication Strategies for HIV/AIDS (Natasha Bolognesi and Leslie
Swartz, South Africa), Communication for Development (Linje Manyozo
South Africa), Media, Communication and Literacy (Sheena Johnson Brown
and Hopeton Dunn Jamaica), and the Information Society and Ethics
(Africanus Diedong, Ghana). The reports will be finalised in December
2007.  I have been invited by Mr. Kahn to convene a special workshop
with between 7 and 10 IAMCR members in December 2007 at Unesco to
brainstorm a future and critical research agenda with his staff.  Our
conference also benefited substantially from Unesco’s generosity in
making its conference facilities available to us without charge for the

Our next conference – or Congress – as we now call the General Assembly
year, is hosted by the University of Stockholm in July 2008.  In the
run up to this Congress, we are reviewing the remits of sections,
working groups and our new category of emerging themes.  I hope this
discussion will generate enthusiasm and lots of creative thinking about
how we move through the first decade of our next 50 years!

On the operational side a few highlights that I can report are:

  • Thanks to Bruce Girard and Alvaro Mailhos and their team based in
    Uruguay, we launched the new online membership database and membership
    directory in early July 2007.  The new membership directory
    automatically updates itself every time a member alters the database –
    magical software!

  • With the help of Bruce and Alvaro, we collected membership dues
    for the 2006 and 2007 more successfully than in the recent past and
    reported a healthy increase in revenues for 2006 and the first half of
    2007.  The International Council voted for a modest increase in our
    budget, but we have a surplus of funds over and above ‘normal’ running
    costs.  It was agreed that when good ideas emerge that have the support
    of members and the Council, we may decide to invest in them.

  • The International Council agreed to create a new ad hoc group on
    Cultural Diversity led by Vice-President, Divina Frau-Meigs which will
    focus particularly on media, ethics and elearning.

  • We made new reciprocal agreements between ALAIC and AMIC in Latin
    America and initiated further discussions with ECREA and ICA with
    respect to collaboration. 

  • We agreed that the IAMCR newsletter will be distributed only online, except for those who explicitly opt for a hardcopy.
  • Vice-President Annabelle Sreberny reached agreement with Blackwell-Wiley for a new Handbook series.
  • We are continuing with the Hampton book series under the leadership of Marjan De Bruin and Claudia Padovani.
  • Our Task Force on Media and Communication Policy is continuing,
    led by Andrew Calabrese with a particular focus on bilateral
    agreements, government/industry partnerships and media institutions in
    the coming months.

  • We decided that IAMCR General Assembly year conferences will be 5
    days and be called Congresses and that years without a General Assembly
    will be 4 days and called conferences.

  • We renamed the Membership and Participation Committee as the
    Regionalisation and Membership Committee with a view to emphasising a
    regionalisation strategy (chaired jointly by Cesar Bolano and Daya
    Thussu).We disbanded the Health, Technology and Communication Working
    Group at the request of its Chair Milton Campos and created a Visual
    Culture Emerging Theme led by Sunny Yoon.
  • Journalism Research and Education Section is the new name for the
    former Media and Professional Education Section, giving journalism a
    stronger profile in IAMCR.

  • The former Junior Scholars Network is now called the Emerging Scholars Network Section.
  • The International Council agreed to have a past-president in a
    non-voting capacity for two years from 2008. 2008 is an election year
    and I am grateful to Depak De, Cees Hamelink, and Janet Wasko for the
    work they will do as members of our Election Committee to ensure that
    all runs smoothly.

  • We made some changes in the statutes all of which will be reported
    in the International Council minutes, but special thanks to Philippe
    Maarek for preparing an up to date French translation and harmonising
    the versions.

Finally, I announced during the International Council that I will not
stand for re-election in 2008 despite the 49% of my brain which tells
me that I enjoy serving the IAMCR membership and should seek to carry
on!  The other 51%, however, tells me that from 2008 it will be time
for a new President to lead IAMCR into the future. I will be honoured
to serve as Past-President and thank all members of the Council for
their support and for their rapid move to make this institutional
innovation as we have not had this position previously.

Robin Mansell
Professor Robin Mansell

President IAMCR
30 September 2007