This article compares two media multinationals that supplied different genres of news, political and economic. Most media companies provided both genres, and these categories often overlapped. Still, investigating two firms founded in twentieth-century Germany shows how product differentiation affects the organization, geographical orientation, and business models of multinationals. While political news had the greatest impact when it was free and ubiquitous, economic news was most effective when it was expensive and exclusive.
This article uses the example of submarine telegraphy to trace the interdependence between global communications and modern capitalism. It uncovers how cable entrepreneurs created the global telegraph network based upon particular understandings of cross-border trade, while economists such as John Maynard Keynes and John Hobson saw global communications as the foundation for capitalist exchange. Global telegraphic networks were constructed to support extant capitalist systems until the 1890s, when states and corporations began to lay telegraph cables to open up new markets, particularly in Asia and Latin America, as well as for strategic and military reasons. The article examines how the interaction between telegraphy and capitalism created particular geographical spaces and social orders despite opposition from myriad Western and non-Western groups. It argues that scholars need to account for the role of infrastructure in creating asymmetrical information and access to trade that have continued to the present day.
This provides an introduction to the special issue on the governance of international communications. We have two main arguments. First, we argue that international coordination of technical standards has historically succeeded over and above any attempts to regulate content or the users of communications technology. Second, we argue that these technical standards have proven highly durable for communications, in particular because communications infrastructures are so path-dependent.
This article compares American, German, and British radio policy in the interwar period. The three countries ended up in different places by the 1930s, but there were surprising parallels in institutions and attitudes to radio in the 1920s. By taking examples generally seen as representing three different radio systems, this article shows both why media content and national institutional arrangements briefly resembled one another, as well as how political and cultural factors led to divergent paths. Content in these three countries paralleled one another, as did ambitions for radio as a public and private space in the 1920s. The 1930s saw radio trajectories deviate. But they did so over the same issues of news provision, state intervention, and radio’s place in each nation’s international ambitions. Engineers and intellectuals were disappointed by radio’s inability to deliver universal peace. State officials’ visions turned international by 1930, but they too would mostly be disappointed by broadcasting’s inefficacy in influencing foreign populations and global politics. Finally, content creators moved from seeing radio as a medium of elevation through music and education to attempting to cater to more “popular” tastes. Utopianism gave way to pragmatism and propaganda.
From August 2013, a new, controversial ancillary copyright law (Leistungsschutzrecht) permitted German publishers to charge online news aggregator, such as Google for displaying article snippets. Implementation remains contested, but this is not the first time that new technology has prompted Germans to seek intellectual property rights in news. In August 1927, a German delegation successfully pushed through its compromise resolution on the legal protection of news during a Conference of Press Experts at the League of Nations. The resolution foresaw protection for news before publication, but allowed national governments to regulate news after publication. This left space for Germany to promulgate a national law on news that Germans hoped would become a model for others. This article uses the Conference of Press Experts to argue that German approaches to media, technology and law developed from the intersection between national and international concerns. In contrast to other scholars’ focus on the press as a national phenomenon, the article shows that the international spotlight enabled a temporary cooperation between two groups often at odds during the Weimar Republic: the press and government officials. Officials saw law as a form of soft power to raise Germany’s international profile, while the semi-official news agency, Wolff, aimed to counter domestic competition and stop radio listeners eavesdropping on its news. Yet, bureaucrats and the media only cooperated effectively on the international stage. In domestic discussions after the conference, consensus swiftly disintegrated. This interplay between national and international imperatives remains key for media policy today as well as in interwar German history.
Wireless telegraphy became an integral part of warfare on the ground, in the air, and at sea by 1918. Wireless helped to make the war global, though historians still debate its impact on the course of the war.
This article explores the changes in news agency mechanisms that accompanied the restructuring of Europe after World War I. During the interwar period, a new form of negotiation replaced the pre-World War I conception of English, French and German spheres of influence with a more cooperative vision of the collection and dissemination of news. I argue that the private and business-oriented nature of news agency cooperation enabled it to outlast better-known political attempts at multilateralism. Indeed, it often produced more concrete results by offering different incentives for cooperation to all involved from large global agencies, such as Reuters, down to the small agencies of new Central and Eastern European nation-states. Overall, the agencies' cooperation until the outbreak of World War II suggests alternative periodizations of the interwar period than the division into a fairly internationalist 1920s followed by the increasing bilateralism of the 1930s.