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The Struggle for Control of Global Communication

The Struggle for Control of Global Communication: The Formative Century

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    The Struggle for Control of Global Communication
    Book Description:

    Tracing the development of communication markets and the regulation of international communications from the 1840s through World War I, Jill Hills examines the political, technological, and economic forces at work during the formative century of global communication._x000B_The Struggle for Control of Global Communication analyzes power relations within the arena of global communications from the inception of the telegraph through the successive technologies of submarine telegraph cables, ship-to-shore wireless, broadcast radio, shortwave wireless, the telephone, and movies with sound._x000B__x000B_Global communication began to overtake transportation as an economic, political, and social force after the inception of the telegraph, which shifted communications from national to international. From that point on, says Hills, information was a commodity and ownership of the communications infrastructure became valuable as the means of distributing information. The struggle for control of that infrastructure occurred in part because the growing economic power of the United States was hindered by British control of communications. _x000B__x000B__x000B_Hills outlines the technological advancements and regulations that allowed the United States to challenge British hegemony and enter the global communications market. She demonstrates that control of global communication was part of a complex web of relations between and within the government and corporations of Britain and the United States. Detailing the interplay between U.S. federal regulation and economic power, Hills shows how communication technologies have been shaped by these forces and fosters an understanding of contemporary systems of power in global communications.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09152-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    This book originated in an interest in the issues of the 1990s in international communications and in market structures and regulation. That interest was focused on the relations between international and national markets, on the role of multinationals in international and national political economies, and on international and national regimes of regulation. The book has been written in the belief that understanding the roots of current international arrangements and policy is important in deciding on future paths.

    It was written as the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement of 1997 and the liberalization of laws regulating telecommunications networks created private ownership...

  5. 1. Infrastructure and Information in the United States and Britain, 1840s–1890
    (pp. 21-67)

    This chapter starts with the introduction of the telegraph into the domestic economies of Britain, the European continent, and the United States. The expansion into international communications then came about largely as a result of domestic factors. At a time when it took three weeks for a letter to cross the Atlantic and six months to reach Australia, the desire for fast communications was such that, even in a free-trade era, governments were prepared to offset the risk to those entrepreneurs prepared to undertake the engineering feat of laying and operating submarine telegraph lines. Behind this public-private cooperation lay a...

  6. 2. Following the Flag: Cable and the British Government
    (pp. 68-92)

    During an economic downturn in the 1890s Britain’s traditional free-trade ideology faced heavy pressure from chambers of commerce that were lobbying for the expansion of British overseas territory and for closer links with the settlement colonies as a way to overcome the problems of overproduction. “Overseas trade was almost the only sphere wherein a state-directed anti-cyclical policy could operate” (Hynes 1979:135). Britain was already suffering the effects of rising industrial competition. Exports increased by only 9 percent between 1880 and 1904, compared with increases of 29 percent for France, 61 percent for Germany, and 239 percent for the United States...

  7. 3. Wireless and the State
    (pp. 93-132)

    In the early part of the twentieth century the conflict between the United States and Britain over the wireless telegraph was essentially a conflict about a worldwide monopoly developed through proprietary standards. Maritime radio—the transmission of Morse code by wireless to ships—was the first application of the new technology. Introduced at the end of the nineteenth century, wireless seemed to provide the possibility of a technology that the United States might use to break the British monopoly of international communications.

    But by being first in the market, the Italian-born entrepreneur Guglielmo Marconi was able to create a de...

  8. 4. The United States, Trade, and Communications, 1890s–1917
    (pp. 133-152)

    While Britain retained its adherence to free trade, the United States in the mid-nineteenth century was mercantilist and nationalist. The leading U.S. economist, Henry Carey, denounced free trade as Britain’s policy to gain world supremacy and to reduce all agricultural states to tribute payers (Calleo and Rowland 1973:26). But as the United States became increasingly industrialized, by the 1890s its ideology had moved toward what Rosenberg terms “liberal developmentalism” (1982:10). Adam Smith’s tenets of economic and political freedom through free trade were linked to the expansion of overseas markets and to “the mental and moral development” of populations in Asia...

  9. 5. South America: Prewar Competition in Infrastructure and Information
    (pp. 153-177)

    The Americans competed most fiercely with the British and French in the Caribbean and Central and South America, beginning in the 1880s. During the early nineteenth century South America had become Britain’s “informal empire.” Argentina had an English trading community in the 1830s, before independence (Barty-King 1979:46). And British influence in the 1820s largely persuaded the Portuguese monarchy, exiled in Brazil since Napoleon’s invasion of the Iberian Peninsula, to agree to Brazil’s independence. By 1897 Britain had more than twice what France—and six times what the United States—had invested in Latin America.¹ Latin America primarily provided raw materials...

  10. 6. The United States: Competition for Infrastructure in the Interwar Years
    (pp. 178-219)

    World War I began the process of redistribution of power between the European states and the United States. In Galbraith’s words: “It shattered a political structure that had been dominant in Europe for centuries. And it greatly altered the position of the United States on the world economic scene. From being an addendum to, even an afterthought in, economic discussion, the United States became the centerpiece” (1994:10).

    After a slight dip in the early months of the war, U.S. exports climbed rapidly, reaching a peak in the late war and early postwar periods. The increase came from supplying Allies with...

  11. 7. British Communications, 1919–40
    (pp. 220-243)

    During the interwar period the British government attempted to use the empire to boost its international status and trade against a continental Europe increasingly moving toward protection of agriculture and export subsidies. Having liquidated many of its Latin American assets during and immediately after World War I, British investment followed prewar trends, and from 1920 to 1929 almost 25 percent of all new capital issued in London went to various parts of the empire (Drummond 1972:29). Capital investment abroad in that period almost equaled investment at home but fell off during the depression of the 1930s.

    Britain’s strategic concerns with...

  12. 8. Cultural Production and International Relations
    (pp. 244-276)

    During World War I the representation of the United States and the American way of life in the press of the Far East and Latin America became such an issue in Congress that it led directly to the opening of low-cost naval radio transmission of international news reports. Although Canada had grumbled about the Americanization of its culture, this congressional action was one of the first recognitions that culture and representation formed part of strategic relations. To the British the empire was both an economic outlet for British goods and the rationale for Britain’s strategic importance in world affairs, so...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 277-292)

    This book began by asking a number of specific questions about international communications and its relationship to international relations and domestic politics. The intention was to explore the dynamics of international and domestic communications in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when the infrastructure and content of international communications were last under the control of private companies. The purpose was to see how communications developed and how governments set out to control international companies and whether any parallels exist today.

    The book was written as a counterpoint to both neorealists and regime theorists who see international regimes as resulting directly...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 293-304)
  15. References
    (pp. 305-314)
  16. Index
    (pp. 315-328)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 329-332)