Before turning to the stresses that threaten the free flow of contemporary international communications, it is vital to conduct a brief review of today’s cross-border cultural services and data flows. As we saw, the US derived great ideological and market advantages during the postwar decades from free flowing press and media exports. Yet these pale in comparison to the immensity of today’s flows. Thus the US dependence on the free flow of information is greater than ever before. The domains that fall under the doctrine’s purview have in fact not only expanded, but also diversified.
Today there exist substantial and vigorous media businesses headquartered beyond US borders. Between 2003 and 2012, Brazil’s exports of cultural services leapt from $195 million to $1 billion; India’s from $108 million to $487 million. Between 2007 and 2012, South Korea’s cultural services exports jumped from $1.5 billion to $3.2 billion; between 2006 and 2012, Turkey’s increased from $1 billion to $1.2 billion. Throughout Western Europe national commercial media constitute strong conglomerate enterprises; the largest exporter, France, saw its exports rise from $1.5 billion in 2003 to $9.9 billion in 2012. Increasingly significant and multifarious flows of cultural services have accompanied this growth. Yet two striking structural continuities also are evident.
First, unbroken US supremacy. Between 2003 and 2012, US exports of cultural services increased from $36 billion to $69 billion. No other country came close to this total. And this still understates the extent of US dominance, in that there exists considerable US foreign direct investment in the cultural industries of other exporting nations.
Second, although exports of cultural goods and services doubled between 2005/6 and 2019, according to another UNESCO report, “the participation of developing countries in global flows of cultural goods has stagnated.” Meanwhile, “developed countries continue to dominate the trade in cultural services – accounting for an average of 95% of total exports. More specifically, the Least Developed Countries represent less than 0.5% of the global cultural goods trade, while in the international trade of cultural services, they are invisible. Foreign Direct Investment also remains disproportionately in favour of developed countries.” For this reason, the author concludes, the global flow of cultural goods and services remains “a one-way street.” Although today the US is joined by a scattering of other wealthy nations in the export of culture, the Global South possesses virtually no presence in this domain.