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Are the BRICS building a New World Media Order?

By Rodrigo Carro

Since the creation of the group in the last decade, the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) have been working - with different levels of intensity and success - to reshape the current world media order. The results of these efforts were analysed by Professor Daya Thussu.

He argues that although both Brazil and India have successful entertainment industries, with products (soap operas and films) that are traditionally exported to dozens of countries, China and Russia have made the most significant investments in creating alternative news channels to the western media. 

For example, starting in 2000, the state owned Chinese channel CCTV News has entered the African market (amongst others), and now broadcasts in six languages with a big budget, part of US$7bn Beijing spends annually on external communication. The Russian channel Russia Today (RT) - launched in 2005 - claims to be “the most watched news network on YouTube”. “Media contra-flows will grow not only in volume but also in value”, says Thussu.

Thussu argues that the CCTV follows a ‘constructive journalism’ approach where no-one is criticised.  RT, he says, offers an alternative view to Western media.

As Thussu points out, a “balkanization” of the Internet is already going on. China and Russia have their “own” versions of Internet - portals and apps developed locally that are widely popular. As an example, the scholar mentioned the top ten ranking of the biggest Internet companies in the world. Once dominated entirely by American enterprises, the list includes nowadays brands such as Alibaba and Baidu, as a consequence of the sharp growth of Internet users in China.

He quoted figures from 2014, suggesting that of the 2.8 billion internet users in the world, more than half were in Asia (mostly in China and India).

“If the majority of users is not American or western, the Internet will become de-Americanized”, says Thussu, adding that “cyber capitalism with Chinese characteristics might challenge the google-ization of the world”.

The success of China's economic development model - heavily dependent on the state – in bringing 400 million Chinese out of poverty - is a factor that is likely to produce changes in the development discourse in the coming years, thus reformulating the economic pathways followed by many developing countries, argues the academic.

Daya Thussu, professor of international communication, and co-editor of Mapping BRICS Media, University of Westminster, spoke at the Business and Practice of Journalism seminar at Green Templeton College on Wednesday November 4, 2015.