What happened after the New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) and the report prepared by the MacBride Commission: is it the case, in the words of the popular tango Volverby Carlos Gardel, that 20 years mean nothing? This article analyses the global discussions around the flow of information and communication from the NWICO to the WSIS. The aim of this article is to look at the movements, breaks and continuities which relate not only to the relationship between governments, but also to the main economic, technological, political and social trends in both historical moments. Additionally, the article notes the changes in the agents involved and conceptual shifts in the various stages of the discussion. The article reconstructs the evolution of the proposals aimed at democratizing the communication structures, to enable an analysis of their relevance to the current debate about the ‘Information Society’, a term which, though repeatedly used in recent years, gained momentum in the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) held in December 2003 in Geneva. Our hypothesis is that the frustration resulting from the NWICO debates at UNESCO in the 1970s is a key motivation for the new players at the WSIS summits in Geneva and Tunis – they do not want to repeat past mistakes. However, we consider that the struggle is still political; it is based on a dispute over economic and symbolic resources. It has become increasingly important to re-state the need to democratize the communicational resources of society.
Global Media and Communication, December 2005 vol. 1 no. 3 273-288