In 1981 UNESCO published a report written by the International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems that highlighted key issues in the telecommunications industry as it related to development, in addition to other aspects of the telecommunications industry globally. This report, titled “Many Voices, One World”, has become known as the “MacBride Report” as the chairman of the International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems was named Seán MacBride. Unfortunately, many of the issues highlighted in the MacBride Report continue to persist today in terms of the telecommunications industry and development, with access to reliable telecommunications being a consistent issue across the developing world.
For example, the MacBride Report notes the social good aspect of communications media, and the vehicles that convey it, has been on a steady decline, and the MacBride Report identifies market pressures and privatization as the causes of this decline. This complaint from the MacBride Report echoes the same concerns voiced today regarding modern media and media service providers when discussing ratings driven new broadcasts and the decline of print media. The MacBride Report further highlights how information has been commoditized, particularly in terms of broadcast television, yet this commoditization is in tension with the public necessity for quality information. Again, this argument is one that is continuing to play out today. The MacBride Report also notes issues regarding “lacunae and distortions in information” that lead to ill-informed, uninformed, or misinformed publics and governments. This concern rings particularly true today regarding phenomena like “fake news.” The MacBride Report even cites surveys that show the public overall is not very well informed, though the Report did not specify if the public was ill-informed, uninformed, or misinformed.
These issues, and many others, that faced telecommunications development when the International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems was crafting its report persist to this day. In the United States, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has published reports detailing how some in rural and urban communities lack access to the Internet. Other international organizations have pointed out the uneven development of telecommunications technologies such as telephone access. In short, since the 1980s increased attention has been paid to uneven access to telecommunications and information technologies, but that attention has not necessarily solved the issues found in the MacBride Report.