A historical perspective

By Hamid Mowlana

Speech at IAMCR 1997 Oaxaca Conference

I am greatly honored to be part of this panel to mark the 40th anniversary of IAMCR and reconstruct the history of our association.

In a fairly limited time and space, such as this, it is difficult to speak in great detail about the history of any association, especially for one that has the international scope and intercultural diversity as evidenced by IAMCR, and a detailed historical account should-be left to the historians and future generations to research. However, I will attempt to give a brief glimpse of the short life of IAMCR thus far, a period which has witnessed a number of historical developments, both internationally and institutionally. What follows is a personal reflection on IAMCR's history; reflection and perception gathered through my membership in and association with IAMCR for over thirty years, especially over the last two decades when I served on its international Council and the Executive Board as Vice President and President respectively.

In developing the historical perspective of an institution, one could look at the chronological series of events since the inception of the entity, while an alternative approach is to pick up the strands of underlying themes which have influenced the growth and shape of the institution. In providing a historical perspective on the creation and growth of IAMCR, I have chosen to follow the latter approach. Looking at our Association's history we can identity a number of areas which have had an impact on shaping growth. In addition to the agenda, events and functional areas of a professional association, the history of any association depicts not only the sociology of its members, but also the environment in which it operates - in particular for an association in the international arena, since its members bring political, ideological and cultural diversity in their world views. The underlying themes which have contributed to the growth and shape of IAMCR in its present form reflect this diversity of viewpoints brought to bear on the Association by its members and leaders.

The Birth of IAMCR in a Critical Period of World History

To look at the history of IAMCR we need to trace the development of the field of social sciences after the Second World War. In this period certain international organizations had a great impact on the development of several academic disciplines and their related professional associations. In this context, IAMCR's inception and history as a scientific association is intimately related to UNESCO. UNESCO, itself an international organization of the post World War II period, and the "social science arm" of the UN system, was a logical forum in which initial thinking about professional associations, such as IAMCR was discussed. When we look at the other professional associations in the field of social sciences, we find that many of them were developed with the initial intellectual and organizational, even financial, assistance of UNESCO in the decades soon after the second world war, such as International Political Science Association; International Society for Peace Studies; and International Sociology Association. IAMCR was no exception and was initially created, and established, with the help of UNESCO.

The intellectual and academic resources of a number of leading scholars in the field of communication studies, from both the Eastern and Western block of countries, along with the organizational role of UNESCO, led to the creation of IAMCR in 1957. At this juncture of world history, UNESCO particularly focused upon lessening East-West tensions, and worked towards helping professional associations in order to improve dialogue and understanding between the two blocks. The fact that the first article of UNESCO's charter emphasizes that ...it is in the minds of men and women that peace is created... clearly indicated its approbation of the role of mass communications in international relations, and a recognition of its utility in preventing war, and building bridges, between nations.

Thus IAMCR was born in an era when there was the beginning of a thaw in the relations between the Eastern and Western blocks, with the hope that it would have a normative agenda and be the forum for bridging the gap between the two blocks. Against this background, IAMCR got involved since its very inception with questions of East-West relations, with a thrust on bringing diverse ideological groups together, and providing a forum for the interaction of professionals.

With its origins influenced by the UNESCO, it is no surprise that the organization and constitution of IAMCR, too, as a professional association, very much reflected the structuring of UN systems (a general assembly, the executive board, etc.). Additionally IAMCR also got involved, over the last 40 years, with many of those NGOs which generally associate with the UN system.

The above factor while responsible for the birth of IAMCR, and an optimistic outlook, nevertheless catapulted IAMCR into the reality of the Cold War with its agenda and actions in the coming years deeply influenced by the Cold War. East-West relations had entered a new era after Stalin s death and the so-called period of thaw gave an opportunity to certain international organizations and great powers to establish links between the two blocks. This dialogue had to start from areas of culture, communication, and information as much as from areas of politics, military and strategy. Within the UN system, UNESCO, especially in the 1950s, was the only organization that did major work in the area of cultural industries, mass media and journalism. The creation of IAMCR was a result of UNESCO s efforts to bring the scientific and cultural community of the East and West closer to each other. This was happening at the same time as mass media of communication were entering the new era of electronic media. With electronic media becoming more prevalent and many newly independent nations attempting to build the first infrastructure of communication, there was a period of growth of news agencies, broadcasting systems, and private and governmental telecommunication structures. The period of 1950s is also very important since a fundamental change was taking place in international affairs. The rise of the so-called third world was leading to the strengthening of alliances within less industrialized countries, as exhibited by the non-aligned movement under the leadership of India, Indonesia and other countries following the Bandung Conference (1954). While in Europe, Tito had broken from Moscow and identified himself mostly with the third world, in the process creating an opportunity for alternative models of socialism within Europe. Thus IAMCR was born in an era where it had to contend with the ideological pulls and pressures of the times with the hope that it would rally scholars from East and West, and recruit participants from the third world.

IAMCR's Composition and Leadership

The composition of IAMCR's early membership influenced the debate and agenda of the association since the participants came mainly from four different backgrounds. Firstly, participation from the United States came from a main core of scholars, who represented the mainstream of media and journalism education, and were primarily from the faculties of Mid-Western universities. Secondly, participation of European scholars represented a unique case since there was no organized European professional association in the field of media and communication. Indeed, many European universities and research institutions had just begun building their capabilities in media education and research and represented a fairly diverse group of professionals and scholars. Early communication research institutions were beginning to take shape in the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands. Thus IAMCR presented an opportunity for European scholars to mobilize themselves under a single umbrella.

The fact that IAMCR was incorporated in Paris, where UNESCO was also headquartered, gave a psychological lift and confidence building measure to the Europeans to look upon IAMCR as an international, and at times continental, association rather than as an American made, and dominated, post war organization. In my opinion this set the tone for the next several decades since many European members of IAMCR considered the association as a kind of ICA (International Communication Association) or AEJMC (Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication) of Europe. As Americans continued to exert their dominance in mass communication research, IAMCR tended to reflect the so-called Eurocentric point of view. No doubt in later decades, as IAMCR developed, many European members made certain that American cultural dominance would not penetrate into IAMCR, albeit this ensured a high level of European cultural influence and grip over IAMCR. The third set of participants came from the socialist world. Having a historical basis of journalism and communication studies, but lacking any regional or internationally oriented institution in their own country, a good number of East European countries welcomed the opportunity to join IAMCR. The state supported institutions of East Europe and the former USSR made sure that they had influence in IAMCR, and succeeded in doing so, as many early members from these countries climbed to leadership positions in IAMCR s various section groups, international council, and the executive board. The fourth group of participants, and the smallest, represented the third world which often played a marginal role in the leadership of IAMCR, and due to a variety of economic and political reasons their membership remained low.

It was precisely in this early period of IAMCR s history that the association was heavily influenced by the cold war model. Indeed, by now the association had accepted the status quo of the cold war, and the division of the world in three camps. The leadership of IAMCR from this period till the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1989, and the demise of the cold war between the superpowers, remained faithful to the superficial division of the world as the association rotated its bi-annual conferences between the three political camps on a regular basis.

The reality of the division of world into three camps not only shaped IAMCR structurally and institutionally but its intellectual agenda, research, and debate were also directed towards that. Although in its workshops and conferences IAMCR remained open to its membership in order to activate their interests, yet in reality the dominant paradigms, and its research and scientific activities, centered around two opposite poles - functional sociology and critical sociology, albeit both of them were western in perspective.

Here, we see one of the interesting developments of IAMCR, where the association became, initially, the first institution to develop methodological and epistemological basis of critical research, particularly that of the Frankfurt school of sociology. This was especially the case in the beginning of the 1970s, when in the biannual conference in Buenos Aires a group of critical European and American researchers succeeded in taking over the leadership of IAMCR under the presidency of James D Halloran, who at Leicester University had just begun to build one of the early centers of mass communication research in the continent. For the next two decades IAMCR s conferences, seminars, and workshops were the centers and foci of debate between positivist, empirical, behavioral science oriented schools of communications, often dominated by American scholars, and the critical and interpretive sociological perspectives of communications which had its roots traditionally in Europe. The intensity of this debate precluded the entry of any other schools of thought, especially from the third world and non-western perspectives. The fact that many of the works done in the third world had their roots in philosophy, history, education, and religion, such as the works of Franz Fanon from Algeria, and Paulo Freire of Brazil, did not allow them to be completely in tandem with those of sociological and economic schools of Europe and America. This was a period when American and European scholars spoke of the third world, rather than the third world being allowed to speak directly for itself.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the membership of IAMCR consisted of no more than a few dozen of mainly American and European scholars. It was inevitable that with the strong presence of US in Europe soon after the second world war, and especially with the American influence in such international organizations as UNESCO, at some point the Europeans could have disagreements with the US.

The first sign of disagreements, at the leadership level, on the style and content of IAMCR's work came during the presidency of Prof. Raymond Nixon from the United States, in the early 1960s, who succeeded the first IAMCR president, Fernand Terrou of France. However by the mid-1960s, the presidency of IAMCR had once again moved back to Europe with headquarters in Switzerland,' England, and the Netherlands. This fact of IAMCR leadership being with Europeans most of the time shows the challenge coming from Europe to US dominance in the international scene, as well as depicts the European quest to regain legitimacy and intellectual primacy.

IAMCR's establishment with a European base had a number of important impacts on the development of communication education and research and the mobilization of scholarly community in Europe. Among these specifically two aspects stand out. Firstly, in the absence of any professional association which could bring European scholars under a single umbrella in the area of media communication and research, IAMCR provided the right opportunity for such an endeavor. This was clearly evident by a large number of West European members of IAMCR, which were dominant within the association, but who at the same time had the opportunity to organize their sub-regional organizations, such as the one among the Scandinavian countries.

Secondly, the establishment of IAMCR in its early decades, helped to legitimize the ongoing research and education in mass communication in Europe and elevated the faculty of various institutions in England, Germany, France, the Netherlands to an international level.

In short, IAMCR was used as a vehicle to further the professional development of individuals who had now taken leadership positions in the association, but were otherwise less well known to the international community. Indeed, if it were not for IAMCR as an international organization benefited from UNESCO's support, both financially and otherwise, it would have been difficult for early communication researchers in Europe to achieve the prominence that they were able to obtain. The same can be said about members from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, although in the case of the socialist countries individual representations were not as high as from Western Europe.

IAMCR's Intellectual Expanse

IAMCR s achievement was not only to mobilize and bring together scholars of various geographical areas on a single platform, but its most important impact was to identify different areas of inquiries and methodologies that were missing in the internationally influential American scholarship. The fact that fewer American scholars participated in IAMCR in the early decades is not surprising since the US was dominant in both media education and communication research and its academia were heavily incorporated within the major American communication associations such as AEJ (later to be named AEJMC). Also the promotions and evaluations of American professors in these decades were not based so much on their international participation as on their input into such established periodicals as Journalism Quarterly (later to become Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly), Public Opinion Quarterly and scores of other US based professional journals. IAMCR, by tending to be both international and critical, broke this monopoly. A comparison of the intellectual sections active within IAMCR in the last several decades, and the divisions of scholarship in similar organizations such as AEJMC and ICA, shows the role played by IAMCR in the development and expansion of such fields as international communication, political economy, history, and bibliography. For example, whereas organizational communication, public relations, and political communication were some of the major divisions within ICA, these were incorporated in IAMCR within much broader areas of general scholarship. The emphasis of IAMCR on the analysis of the cultural industries, and its corresponding neglect of the broader philosophical and epistemological questions is a good illustration of IAMCR's early emphasis on traditional realm of mass communications.

Although IAMCR showed a good deal of interest in such fields as communication and development, yet during the cold war it shied away in integrating both the socialist and capitalist world, within this area of scholarship. The division of the world into three camps, and the existing economic situation of the cold war era, helped to shape IAMCR s intellectual growth as well as its Euro-centric perspective for over three decades. It became politically correct and customary to rotate the biannual conference between the West, East and the Third World. With the heavy concentration of socialist countries in Europe it meant that more conferences were held in Europe than in any other continent - especially when both the USSR and US were never willing to host IAMCR conferences (and never did up to now) since neither of them was willing to give a guarantee that they would issue visas, and other facilities, for all IAMCR members. The Soviets, Americans, and even the Scandinavians were willing to go to IAMCR conferences anywhere in the world, but declined ever to host a conference.

The organization of IAMCR conferences entailed obvious expenditure and hence the need for financial support for the conferences was a notable dimension. The socialist countries, who according to the convention had one-third of the conferences to themselves, enjoyed considerable amount of state support for the conferences, while Western Europe, until a decade ago, was financially a reasonable place to hold conferences. The rich third world countries were also ready to pick up the costs through their connections with various international organizations, if not directly from state revenues. However, with the collapse of socialist states of East Europe, high inflation in Western Europe, and the economic insecurities in the third world due to largely cost-cutting exercises, IAMCR had indeed difficulty in finding sponsors who could offer subsidies. Added to this was the fact that no more funds were forthcoming from UNESCO - the major financial supporter of IAMCR hence far.

When I look back at the growth of IAMCR thus far, the representation of its ranks prompts me to separate the strands of quantitative and qualitative aspects of its membership. First, picking the strand of the quantitative nature of IAMCR s membership, the modest beginnings of its early years with only a few dozen members, were transformed into a manifold increase in membership over the years. However, for many years, especially during the 1970-90s, IAMCR’s directory listings presented a picture which was colored by the enthusiasm of some of our institutional members; particularly from Europe. At times over 30 to 40 individuals were listed from a single institution without giving due considerations to the nature of the category, especially institutional membership, which they came from. This practice caused much distortion in providing a realistic picture of the constituency of IAMCR. In 1994 we took a decision to limit it to ten members from each institution unless they paid additional fees, and hence the inflation in membership figures was brought down to be a correct reflector of IAMCR constituency.

The other aspect of IAMCR’s membership, which I term as qualitative in nature, incorporates the representational nature of our members - the diversity of geography, culture and gender. Participation from various regions, especially from Africa, Latin America, Asia, Middle East, Australia and the Pacific Ocean rim, was very low until the early 1990s. It was only after some conferences were held in the Asia Pacific region (Seoul, Sydney), and Latin America, that IAMCR evoked some response from amongst scholars in these regions, and we were able to recruit some members. The question of participation of women in the organizational affairs of IAMCR, and their input to the decision making process within IAMCR, too, was not addressed adequately until 1994. The Seoul conference marked a watershed in this area by calling for the participation of women in all our plenaries as a matter of policy, and saw more women than ever before joining the Executive Committee and the International Council.

In another geographic region, central and eastern Europe, the demise of the cold war, ironically, did not help the expansion of our membership - though one would have expected that the opening of these societies to the rest of the world, accompanied by the processes of democratization and development of civil society, will generate more interest in the activities of IAMCR. In seeking some answers to this, we may not have to go far: The sudden collapse of the regimes, and many social support systems, in these countries, combined with the hardships and transitional uncertainties, made it difficult for institutions and scholars to join IAMCR immediately, or even in some instances to renew their membership. Although we were able to recruit a number of new members from the former Soviet republics, including Central Asia, yet we are far behind obtaining the potentiality of these countries.

The strands and aspects of our composition lend a distinct focus when we view them in the perspective of IAMCR s international role and recognition as an NGO. IAMCR, as an international organization, can only hope to expand the scope and nature of its activities as a community if it exhibits dynamism in recruiting members from diverse cultural and geographic areas, particularly among young scholars and women. In studying IAMCR s history over the years, we realize the need to improve and bring about intellectual inputs from such diverse cultural and geographic inputs as Islamic, Chinese, Japanese, Latin American, and African. We, of course, note that membership implies active participation on the intellectual and discursive levels.

In my judgment, thus, above are the areas where we have to invest additional efforts regarding IAMCR s constituency, and we should tailor our agenda towards achieving these goals. It is my belief that when we discuss the sociology of our membership, we need to ponder upon not only the quantity, but also the demographic, geographic, and cultural diversity of our members. The importance for such a sociology of membership in communication and media research is underscored by the experiences of last several decades. The world of communications thought is populated by intellectual constructs rooted in our cultural and experiential grooming. The contributions to the solutions of our present and future challenges, rather the very defining of future paths, is contingent upon the biases we bring to bear upon the issue at hand. One example of this phenomenon is to be found in the manner in which the NWICO debate played its course during the 1970s. In that global debate, I must say, at least one geographic and cultural area was not concerned specifically in terms of the questions asked - and here I point to the Islamic world. I have no doubt that many of the questions at the forefront today would have emerged during the 1970s itself if we had more members from the Islamic countries then, and also if Islamic countries and their NGOs had taken a more active role in those fora. The Latin American, African, and other perspectives, too, could not find their intellectual voice in the NWICO debate because of similar constraints.

Winds of change within IAMCR

In tracing the history of IAMCR, we have to also allow for a glimpse into the evolution of IAMCR s administrative and intellectual structures. The groundwork for some of the major changes within IAMCR began to appear, in my opinion, with the Warsaw conference in 1978. The Warsaw conference saw, for the first time, the question of national and cultural identity becoming the major focus as the conference, the plenaries, and the papers presented, revolved around the themes of media and culture. The conference itself was taking place in a very interesting and changing atmosphere in international relations. The Islamic Revolution in Iran had reached its zenith in the summer of 1978, when IAMCR was meeting in Warsaw, without our members realizing the consequences and potential of this movement. I remember reaching Warsaw, via Teheran, to deliver the opening keynote address at the IAMCR conference. My brief report and references to the ongoing Islamic revolution, and my critique on capitalism and socialism, and their commodity cultures, did definitely generate reactions from both camps. Very few of IAMCR members, including its leadership, were aware, that as they were meeting in Warsaw, the first seeds of another revolution were being sown in Poland itself - the Solidarity movement was to soon manifest its agenda and set into motion a domino effect that would change the world forever. Then there was, of course, the proposal submitted by myself and a number of my colleagues, before the general assembly in Warsaw, to create a section for International Communication in IAMCR. This was followed in later years by a number of new and highly active sections, including Political Economy , Communications Technology Policy , and Gender. It is interesting to note that these new sections, as well as the International Communication section, became the most active, and formed the largest number of panels, in the decades to follow. Indeed it was through the activities of these sections that IAMCR distinguished itself from other national and regional organizations, including the American ICA, where till today there are no specific divisions of International Communication, Political Economy, and other interest groups - all of which are by now well rooted in IAMCR.

The Warsaw conference also marked a shift in the composition of IAMCR s intellectual tool-kit in addressing and setting its agenda. It was not until Warsaw, followed by the general assembly, and then the biannual meeting of Paris in the 1980s, that gradually the topics of democracy, ethics, and human rights became topics of conference agenda and greater emphasis was put on these issues. Definitely, such topics as civil society, women s rights, and related issues were very marginal in the IAMCR s agenda until the early 1990s. Almost until the collapse of the USSR and former East European regimes, IAMCR s agenda and activities continued to emphasize the economic, technological, institutional and structural dimensions of national, regional and world communication, most of the time with the lens of critical perspective. Here I would like to indicate that contrary to the then prevailing perceptions about IAMCR, that its approach was always marked with a critical perspective, mainstream sociological or media research was very much present in our midst. The critical label stuck well, and long, to IAMCR particularly because its leadership tended to represent what was then known as the left or the progressive end of the spectrum.

Concurrent to the intellectual structures, IAMCR s administrative structures, too, began to shift patterns in the post-Warsaw period. However, if I have to pick up, or mention, two events that were the hallmark of IAMCR s leadership shake-up, they were IAMCR s International Council meeting in Denmark, in 1987, and the biannual conference of Barcelona in 1988. It was in the meeting in Denmark that the process of selection of the executive board, including the President, was challenged; and it was also in this meeting that, for the first time, a committee was elected by the International Council to make nominations for the presidency which was to be decided in Barcelona in 1988. Until the Barcelona conference no elections were held for the Executive Committee, the International Council, or the President. The process of renewing the term of the Executive Committee, and the International Council, as well as the introduction of new members as recruits to these bodies, was carried out by the General Assembly on the recommendation of either the President, or one of the Executive Boards on behalf of the leadership. The General Assembly routinely, and politely, approved these recommendations.

However, by 1988, the membership was demanding a basic reform within IAMCR s administrative structure, including regular and official elections by ballot; reduction in the number of Vice Presidents to two (which at one point of time exceeded a dozen); changes in the Association s statute so that the President could serve only for one consecutive term of four years; and that Section Heads not hold offices within the Executive Board, a pattern which had been existing for several decades.

The General Assembly in Barcelona, in 1988, was a historical one in that the official nominating committee, elected by the International Council, recommended my name as the only candidate on the slate for the presidency of the Association. However in the meetings of the International Council at Barcelona the name of Cees J Hamelink was added to the list on the recommendation of James Halloran and a few others. At least the membership now had a chance to vote for the President-elect for the first time. James Halloran was given an additional two years tenure to prepare to exit, and it was decided that the President-elect would serve on the Executive Committee for two years to make the transition smooth. It was also in Barcelona that the number of Vice Presidents was reduced to two, but was increased to five by 1992 in Brazil.

As odd as it may sound, this is why, just by accident, that IAMCR developed the practice that though a President is elected along with the officers to the International Council, and the Executive Board, and while the rest of the office bearers go on to assume their tasks and responsibilities, yet the President has to wait for two years before assuming the presidency. This forces 'the chief officer of the Association to divide his term working with two different sets of Executive Boards and International Councils, since midway through the incumbency, a new board and council take office, while the President-elect waits two years before taking charge.

From Warsaw (1978), through Barcelona (1988), Slovenia (1990), Brazil (1992), and Seoul (1994), it was a long road - indeed a challenging one. Not only had the Berlin Wall crumbled, but, here at home in IAMCR, we were witnessing the gradual passing of, what one member of the International Council described as, the Halloran era. Yet I must say that the mark of our hardworking past President, who had labored for almost two decades to develop IAMCR from a small association to a fairly well entrenched international organization, did not really disappear, in my opinion, until the Seoul conference in 1994 when I took the presidency with almost no one from the Halloran regime left on the Executive Board.