Re-Inventing Media Management in a More Connected Society

Este artículo forma parte del dossier: 

Challenges Ahead In 2018

A quarter of a century after the first information began to appear consistently in the official national website, [1] the passing of Internet through our lives has totally transformed the scenario, and its presence has stepped up in the last year.

The year 2017 will be remembered as the year of the boom of the web access expansion in our country.  Forty percent (40%) of Cubans are connected to the Internet, which is 37% more than in 2010, and the connection to Internet in the urban spaces from one end to the other of the island has taken hold.

According to official figures ETECSA activated 600,000 new mobile lines in 2017, bringing the total to 4.5 million devices among the population.  There were 250,000 connections on a daily basis through more than 500 public access points in the whole national territory.[2]  Cuba was the country with the largest increase in two digital connectivity categories, according to the Digital report in 2017 Global Overview:  the presence in social networks- there were more than 2.7 million new users and a 365% increase compared to the previous year-and the use of mobile phones to access the social networks-2.6 million new users and a 385% increase. [3]

The announcement of the expansion of internet access to private homes and the launching of mobile data services in 2018 arrives in a society which is highly interconnected with informal networks that employ second-tier devices to distribute digital contents, such as flash memories, external drives, CD, self-managed Wi-Fi networks, among others.

Rather than an infrastructure issue, as the 2017 figures seem to suggest, this reality outlines the challenges to the traditional forms of social communications in the country, the use of the media, the role of individuals in the public space, and it requires policies, regulations and new ways of operating which should integrate the technologies, the media, the contents and the services in a more coherent way.

Management Model for Cuba in the Era of Liquid Modernity

As is the case in the majority of the countries of the world, the network infrastructure in Cuba, both the formal and the informal one, develops faster than the legal frameworks.

The existence of economic and production models, customs involving usages and consumption, as well as differing regulatory principles between the cultural industries-among those is the media- and the telecommunications has conspired against the integrated prospect of a mega-sector  currently operating  technologically with the same supports, and which distributes interchangeably cultural contents, information, personal communications and data. In other words, our regulations, whether express or implied, regarding the media are divorced from the telecommunications, and vice versa, while the social media are not even taken into account at the policy-making level.

The initial effort made to delineate the management in the scenario of the convergence would have to declare the common principles of this mega-sector, consistent with national values, starting with the definitions regarding media ownership, and then devise specific regulations for each level of operations. [4] While the communication policy becomes formalized, one could move forward with strategic definitions and bring forward regulations to that effect, which are a necessary complement of the demands of society to the communications media.  First of all, the media must put their focus on the most important problems in the lives of the Cubans, and provide a forum for reflection and development of their own projects, centered on a prosperous and sustainable socialism which dignifies the average person.

The economic challenge is no less important.  A management model for the press in Cuba ought to recognize that it needs resources to sustain itself, and facilities to finance and self-finance the innovative instruments and processes. Without them it is impossible to counteract the massive power of the transnational corporations.  Absent a symmetry in the access to the networks and to the state of the art social technologies vis-à-vis the hegemonic system that opposes us, one cannot establish the culture to understand what is needed and confront this post-modern madness where platforms change daily, the devices mutate weekly, and power profits from its successes and failures, and adjusts its tactics at the speed of light.

The serious problems facing our communications media in managing the convergence have been interpreted by the US government as an opportunity to advance their strategy of politically dismantling the Cuban Revolution.  The funding for that purpose has increased with Donald Trump through two channels:  the traditional budget allocations for political subversion in Cuba, and the ideological alliances of the international Right-wing forces which are organically engaged in the processes of delegitimizing the Left. 

On May 23, 2017 the US government published its Administration budget request for FY2018. In Miami there was an uproar with Marco Rubio leading the way because Trump did not approve the traditional funding for the Cuba “regime change” programs, i.e. the twenty millions dollars budget allocation that the Department of State has distributed each year under an Executive Order. However, more than fifty million dollars were assigned for the US government-sponsored radio broadcasts aimed at Cuba and other “regime change” projects dedicated almost entirely to strengthen the channels of influence in the digital realm. [5]

No one knows exactly how much is the funding of the pie to “democratize” Cuba during the US fiscal year which started in October 2017 and ends in September 2018. Not even the US government knows. Thanks to the well-oiled mechanism of the international Right-wing, its economic power, and the useful idiots who are willing to pay for any adventure using micro-credits or crowdfunding, every day we wake up with the notice of a new media site hosted in servers located in some obscure city in the world, courses abroad for social communicators, trips and diverse packages that increasingly originate in other governments and NGOs, rather than official US government agencies.

Within this context the budget of the Cuban press has not changed substantially during the last four years and not one penny has been invested in the news media R+D+I.  Rather than requiring additional funding from the Cuban state, the system could make an optimal and rational use of the dual role of communications, which, as we know, are symbolic and economic. This dual condition was analyzed by the Frankfurt School, [6] but contemporary informational capitalism has transformed communications into a dynamic and economically thriving sector, in addition to establishing themselves as a key point of articulation between producers and consumers of culture.

According to a study by the Institute of Cultural and Creative Industries (InsCCI) of the European Commission, cultural and creative industries, which include communications, are responsible for 6.1% of world GDP and between 2 %-7% of the GDP of the national economies. In 2016 the global economy generated a GDP of $4,300 trillion and the exportation of these creative and cultural goods and services reached $646 trillion of which 82% belongs to developed countries, which reflects a monopoly of the large transnational corporations in the trade of these industries, and the limited ability of decentralization [7].

In Cuba we have more than six-hundred media organizations belonging to the radio and television broadcasting system, a wide variety of printed publications, and digital native media with continuous production. They constitute the embryo of a powerful content industry. In addition to a building or a location, a budget and professionals dedicated full-time to the management of the communication media, we have newsrooms functioning in more than half of the municipalities of the nation. In other words, under certain regulatory conditions and without subjecting the professional responsibilities to the market, these media organizations could generate local and national media content services, which in addition to providing income to be reinvested in the development of public media and building the capacity of media professionals for managing the convergence, they could diversify channels, contents and services to serve audiences that are increasingly fragmented and dependent on foreign cultural productions.

What other system, other than the press, is present throughout the national territory and by virtue of its professional skills would have the capability to produce cultural and communicational contents for the news media and the institutions of the territories, both as regards analogic and digital channels? However, if we were to compare our communications media with a shoe factory, one might say that currently we are producing only one type of sandal for one size foot, while the value of the productive chain and the organization which has already been created is wasted.

The cultural and technological sustainability of the Cuban communicational system in the convergence scenario depends on the economic sustainability.  It would be impossible to put forward a management model for the present complexity if we do not raise the question of appropriating the technologies, the aesthetics and the cultural and scientific resources which are commonly used by the ideological and political adversary, certainly with a clear understanding of our objectives.  

Innovation is another challenge. The investments and technologies demanded by the new scenario require permanent creativity and innovation which is the core of the dialogue between tradition and paradigm change in the current era. It is no coincidence that among the ten companies ranked the most innovative in 2016 according to the World Economic Forum, nine of them are linked directly or indirectly to the development of digital application and services, [8] and more than half of them are popular in the Cuban digital environment.

 We have barely explored the partnerships between the communications media of the territories, the universities and the natural and legal persons who are engaged in the development of software and mobile applications for the preservation and quality of the public system as a whole in the convergence scenario.  The relationship between human resources and innovation requires another way of doing things, and dealing with variables which have been alien to us until this point, such as cybersecurity, risk management, technological changes, regulatory dynamics or the dramatic political fluctuations in the global digital scene, which sooner or later will have an impact on all of us.

The magnitude and acceleration of the changes, which will be greater in 2018, compel us to revisit many years of discussion when the media structure was relatively stable, the limits on the influence of each country was more or less clear, and there was no emergent global regulatory regime which intervenes, affects and forms the public space of Cuban society, which is nothing short of a political space.

*Translator: Eduardo Alejandro Méndez Azguí

Notes

[1] Infomed. (2016). “Noticias Al Día, un servicio de excelencia en la red de salud”. Infomed, July 08, 2016. Reviewed  on 12/302/2017.

[2] Cubadebate. (2017). “ETECSA asegura que habrá servicio de internet para móviles en 2018”.  Cubadebate, December 29, 2017. Reviewed on 12/30/2017.

[3] Kemp, S. (2017). "Digital in 2017 Global Overview". We Are Social, New York. Reviewed on 12/30/2017.

 [4] Elizalde, R. M. (2014). El consenso de los posible. Principios para una política de comunicación social desde la perspectiva de los periodistas cubanos. Doctoral thesis to obtain the Ph.D.  in Social Communications Science.  Communications Department. University of Havana .

[5] Sullivan, M. P.  (2017). “Cuba: U.S. Policy in the 115th Congress”. Report 44822. Washington: Congressional Research Service. July 26, 2017. Reviewed on 12/30/2017.

[6] Adorno, T. (1967). “La industria cultural”. En: Morin, E. y T. Adorno, La industria cultural. Buenos Aires: Galerna. 7‐20.

[7] García Lorente, J. (2017). “Economía creativa: el nuevo El Dorado que Europa y Latinoamérica quieren liderar”. IE Reinventing Higher Education. Reviewed on 12/30/2017.

[8] Dyer, J.; Gregersen, H. (2017). “How We Rank The Most Innovative Companies 2017”. Forbes, August 08, 2017. Reviewed on 1/2/2018.   

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