Armand Mattelart – Belgium

The Belgian Armand Mattelart, a professor at the University of Paris VIII, is one of the most biting critics of the global monopolies of the communications and cultural industries.

Armand Mattelart – Belgium

How do you see the evolution of public policies on communications around the world? Is governments held hostage by the mass media? The notion itself of “public policies” in the area of communications and culture, as the non-aligned countries demanded of UNESCO a New World Information and Communication Order, during the 1970s, underwent a long journey through the desert in the last decades of the past century.

The strategies of structural adjustment and deregulation simply prevented it. We had to wait for the late 1990s and the first years of the new century for the need for public policies to be heard in the debates about the world communication order. And governments remain very reticent.

How are social movements positioning themselves in this context? The social movement has an important role in getting the matter on the agenda. I have talked about the positioning of the social movement in the global leadership of the information society. I could list the projects for reforming radio and television industries that are emerging in the European Union, and in several Latin American countries, from Argentina to Mexico, passing through Brazil. These projects lay out the need to rethink the functioning of the private sector and public service as well as legitimising the existence of a third sector, composed of community media, free and independent.

Are you talking about popular communication? The agents of popular communication expanded their perspectives and no longer are content with merely strengthening their networks and their professionalism, but have become one of the most advanced points in pressing for replacing the overall media system and rehabilitating the idea of “public”, aligned with the declaration of Latin American communications organisations which gathered in Quito in July 2004 for the Americas Social Forum: defend and promote the notion of public, because it enables a deliberative culture that challenges and takes on different positions to make them engage in dialogue and build agreements. I could also mention the efforts developed for enacting policies that preserve cultural diversity and the pluralism of the communications media.

Has there been concrete progress in this effort? I don’t want to sound triumphalist but I think new problems and fronts for struggle are being opened in the broader arena of culture. There has been creation of city networks, both at the national and international levels. The initiatives launched by CRIS network (Communications Rights in the Information Society) and the Coalition for Cultural Diversity attest to this.

How can the peoples of the world use communications to overcome the dominance of big media? We must think about the brutal asymmetry between the audiences and the media corporations, and extend counter-powers in order to promote an “ecology of information”. This is the philosophy of action that motivated the launch during the 2002 WSF of the “ethical-moral” project, an international media observatory, Media Watch Global. This observatory aims to multiply itself through national observatories, made up of information professionals from all types of media; of university professors and researchers from all disciplines, particularly media and information experts; of media users and critical observers and the associations that represent them. To observe means also to study the structural causes of the silences in media coverage, the reasons behind censorship, distortions, to be attentive to all debates and initiatives that concern media structures. Observe is not stigmatising, but rather also putting forth proposals.

What is your perspective on global financial capital’s offensive on the communications and entertainment industry? It is a phenomenon that responds to a global logic. Deregulation of the global telecommunications system played a key role in this process because it drew together the industry of content and the industry of machines. This process was opened by the shockwave originating in the United States, in 1984, with the dismantling of the quasi-monopoly of the domestic system, but truly gained force in 1998, with the World Trade Organisation agreement that made “liberalisation” of telecommunications widespread. Concentration extends to all sectors of the cultural industries, from the press to books and bookshops, to radio and television and the recording industry. This is reinforced in the countries that already have high rates of concentration and is emerging in the countries that had seemed to be the exception.

How does concentration of media ownership affect freedom of information? The problem is size, and in 2004 the European Parliament issued a warning of the risk that freedom of expression and information face with the dominance of a handful of media groups. It convened the responsible parties of the European Union to create a directorate that would safeguard media pluralism threatened by the growing concentration and homogenisation in the way information and content were presented. The agents of the oligopoly incorporated into their strategies the political dimension of the international debates on communication and their representative entities are present wherever the “new world information order” is discussed. And they exert pressure on governments and international institutions in order to overturn the legal frameworks that limit concentration or obstruct positions of dominance. They don’t tolerate criticisms that don’t come from their own side.

Can information and communication technologies (ICTs) be a route towards democratising communication? There is no recipe. What is important, I think, is not to sacrifice ourselves on the altar of the latest ICTs. We must take advantage of them without giving into the amnesia that makes us forget the long and rich tradition of accumulated reflection on experiences and grassroots use of earlier technologies, like radio.

The theme – society and communications and communication rights – was taken up by Prof. Armand Mattelart at the Americas Social Forum. Mattelart is one of the foremost thinkers and writers on the topic of communications and today’s media landscape. He was speaking at an event organised by the campaign for Communication Rights in the Information Society (CRIS).

Armand Mattelart is the author of more than 20 books on the history of communication. In “Networking the World”, he places contemporary global communication networks into historical context and shows that the networking of the world began much earlier than many assume: in the late eighteenth century. He argues that the internationalization of communication was spawned by such Enlightenment ideals as universalism and liberalism, and examines how the development of global communications has been inextricably linked to the industrial revolution, modern warfare, and the emergence of nationalism. Throughout, Mattelart eloquently argues that discourses of better living through globalization often mask projects of political, economic, and cultural domination.

Armand Mattelart is currently Professor of Sciences of Information and Communication at the University of Paris-VIII (Saint-Denis).

Titles available in English:
- Networking the World, 1794-2000 (University of Minnesota Press 2000)
- Theories of Communication : A Short Introduction (with Michèle Mattelart, Sage Publications 1998)
- The Invention of Communication (U of Minnesota P 1996)
- Mapping World Communication : War, Progress, Culture (U of Minnesota P 1994)
- The Information Society : Cloth : 0-7619-4947-X; Paper : 0-7619-4948-8.

Fragments du monde:

“Une autre société de l’information est possible” Armand Mattelart, universitaire spécialiste des questions de communication, porte dans son dernier ouvrage un regard sévère sur la société de l’information.

Vous ne croyez pas aux promesses d’un monde ” plus solidaire, plus ouvert, plus démocratique ” dont les discours sur la société de l’information sont porteurs… Ce à quoi je m’oppose, c’est à la forme que l’on nous propose pour implanter ladite société de l’information, qui nous est présentée comme apportant plus de démocratie, plus de prospérité, etc. Il est important de comprendre comment la notion de société de l’information qui s’est popularisée renvoie à un projet particulier, qui, selon moi, ne profite pas à la majorité, mais qui est construit précisément sur le mythe qu’elle va profiter au plus grand nombre. C’est une croyance qui a accompagné depuis leur début les technologies de communication à distance … (suite voir ici);

Armand Mattelart est actuellement professeur à l’Université Paris VIII et membre de l’Observatoire français des médias [1]. Il a vécu au Chili pendant onze ans, jusqu’au coup d’Etat militaire (1973). Il y est retourné pour la troisième fois depuis le rétablissemnt de la démocratie. Il constate aujourd’hui la perte de l’ethos culturel qui inscrivait au centre de notre culture la solidarité (…). Ce qui lui semble « hallucinant », dit-il, c’est l’individualisme qui prévaut aujourd’hui, surtout quand il est incarné par des personnes qu’il a connues avec des idées très différentes.

L’œuvre écrite par Mattelart est très importante, mais peu connue chez nous, malgré la publication chez LOM de deux de ses livres. Pour beaucoup, il reste l’auteur – avec Ariel Dorfman – de Donald l’imposteur ou l’impérialisme raconté aux enfants publié en 1971. Mattelart ne renie pas ce travail de tranchée, tandis qu’il continue à mener la lutte pour la démocratisation des médias, pour en permettre l’accès à la communauté organisée en mouvements sociaux et en regroupements citoyens … (suite voir ici);

Quelques titres en francais:
- Histoire de la société de l’information (La Decouverte 2001)
- Histoire de l’utopie planétaire, De la cité prophétique à la société globale (La Decouverte 2000)
- La communication-monde (La Decouverte 1999)
- L’invention de la communication (La Decouverte 1997)
- La mondialisation de la communication (PUF 1996)

Por Dr. Javier Esteinou Madrid, Número 22 , I.- El impacto cultural de Armand Mattelart en America Latina – En la década de los años 60s. en un clima académico de reinado del pensamiento de la escuela funcionalista, especialmente del difusionismo norteamericano, llega Armand Mattelart a América Latina. Inicia sus trabajos de investigación y aportación teórica en el Centro de Demografía de la Universidad Católica de Chile, en Santiago de Chile, para continuar más adelante en el Centro de Estudios de la Realidad Nacional (CEREN) de la misma institución. Trabaja intensamente en Chile y posteriormente en Argentina, Cuba, México y los principales países de la región hasta 1973 cuando el golpe militar en contra del gobierno del Presidente socialista chileno Salvador Allende lo obliga a salir abruptamente del país y buscar refugio en París, Francia … (rest see on razon y palabra).

Kampf um die Kulturen, von Armand Mattelart, Sechzig Jahre nach der Gründung steht die Unesco vor ihrer wichtigsten Entscheidung. Um kulturelle Eigenheiten vor globaler Monokultur zu schützen, soll eine “Konvention über kulturelle Vielfalt” verabschiedet werden. Doch die radikalen Marktideologen versuchen weiter, den Kern des Unesco-Konzepts aufzuweichen … (Rest siehe dieser Link);


english links



Forum Soc Mundial 2005;

project muse;

Univ of Minnesota;

spanish links

la iniciativa;


razon y palabra;


french links

en francais chez Amazon;

fragments du monde;

solidarité avec l’Amerique Latine;


links auf deutsch;

TAZ 14.10.05;


Opus Dei in Chile;;


… and thousands more – go to google …

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