Though Price came of age in a relatively stable America (his memoir is tentatively titled Refugee: Becoming American in the 1950s), he knew how quickly a government—indeed, the very idea of government—can change. And as goes a government, so go its news media.

“A lot of my work is about the role of media in undergirding a democratic society, enacting a check on government, and reducing the potential for arbitrary governmental behavior,” Price says in a telephone interview punctuated by quick dashes to the computer to fetch documents that he can email his interviewer. In his 2004 book, Media and Sovereignty: The Global Information Revolution and Its Challenge to State Power, he spells it out in more detail: “New technologies, political upheavals, changed concepts of human rights—all these conspire to make this an important moment for rethinking and reformulating speech freedom and regulation in a global environment.” While the ability of any state to control images is “questioned everywhere,” he adds, “it would be naïve to see the world as a place where information moves without various forms of restriction.”

Today, as director of the new Center for Global Communication Studies (CGCS) at the Annenberg School for Communication, Price is orchestrating scholarly examinations of media and their nervous dance with governments—and, in doing so, he is helping to position the school as a leading player in the global-communications arena.

“His work is among the best in the world on issues of how to develop policies that are likely to enhance the usefulness of media, especially in democracies,” says Dr. Michael Delli Carpini C’75 G’75, dean of the Annenberg School, who describes Price as “one of the leading scholars in global communications and new technology.”

Delli Carpini also refers to Price as “the most networked man in the world,” and he is not exaggerating by much. Price has been: founding director of the Stanhope Centre for Communications Policy Research at City University in London (which he considers a kind of precursor to the CGCS), director of the Squadron Program in Law, Media and Society at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law (where he served as dean for nine years), co-director of the Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy at Oxford University, and co-chair of the Moscow Center for Media Law and Policy Studies. His CV is filled with myriad appointments at other institutions, as visiting professor, lecturer, fellow, special advisor, and the like.

The Annenberg School has been building on those networks to forge relationships with a number of universities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and think tanks around the world, including Communications University of China in Beijing and the Center for Communications and Media Studies at Central European University in Budapest—which Price, of course, chairs.

Closer to home, the CGCS has worked with several Penn schools and centers concerned with international and regional studies, including the Law School (where Price has a joint appointment as a lecturer), the Center for the Advanced Study of India, the Middle East Center, the South Asia Center, the Center for East Asian Studies, the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict, and the cinema-studies program.

In a sense, the CGCS evolved from a nascent project and graduate-level course that Price came to lead at Delli Carpini’s invitation three years ago. Taking its title and some of its content from his just-published book, the Media and Sovereignty course surveyed the media climate in different parts of the world—from Mexico to China to the Middle East—in order to examine “media regulation across national boundaries.”

In addition, explains Delli Carpini, “Price already had a number of well-developed programs that we essentially imported and developed further at Annenberg.” Those programs took root under what was then the Project for Global Communication Studies.

This past November, thanks to a $10 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation, the Project morphed into the Center. But the key word is still Global.

“It’s increasingly the case, with the Internet and changes in the economy and the politics of the world, that if you want to understand how media is structured and what its impact is, you can’t really look at that within nations anymore,” explains Delli Carpini. “Everything we do in our daily lives in the U.S. has some reverberation internationally. And things that happen internationally have reverberations in the U.S.”

Consider some of the center’s programs and initiatives, many of which can be found on the CGCS website (www.cgcs.asc.upenn.edu), and all of which indicate a broad reach in geography and subject matter:

“Beyond Media Censorship: Speech and State in the Middle East,” a recent workshop designed to stimulate discussion and research and eventually produce a book about how the state interacts with various forms of popular culture in the region, including songs, sermons, blogs, cartoons, and posters.

A proposal for a two-year “China Media Initiative,” in partnership with the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX), to “foster media reform in China.” The CGCS is also partnering with IREX on a USAID-funded media-development program in Jordan.

“Repositioning Public Service Broad-casting,” a conference that will examine how a recent charter review of the BBC addressed challenges to the existing practice of public broadcasting.

“Re: Activism,” a conference on the “fate of activism in the digital age,” held in Budapest in October 2005.

Two conferences on media-related issues surrounding the upcoming 2008 Olympics in China: “Global Olympiad, Chinese Media,” held last summer at Communications University of China in Beijing; and a follow-up, “Image, Identity, Technology: Towards the Beijing Olympics of 2008,” this past fall on campus. A related book is planned for sometime this year.

A two-week summer institute on global media policy, in conjunction with the Programme for Comparative Media Law and Policy at Oxford, for aspiring students and others considering a career in communications media.

Susan Abbott, the CGCS’s senior research coordinator, met Price in 2005 at the first Annenberg-Oxford Summer Institute, and has been working with him ever since, first at the Stanhope Centre and now at the CGCS.

“There were 30 students from 22 different countries there for two weeks, every day from 8 a.m. to the wee hours of the morning, talking,” she recalls. “By seeing what people are up against you get a very intimate picture of a media environment in another country.”

Such gatherings also help foster the translation of academic insight into real-world practice. “As intellectuals you have to be able to talk about your craft to people who are going to be able to use it for policy,” Abbott says. “Because of Monroe’s law background, as well as his vast experience in forming intellectual networks, CGCS conferences always have people from civil society, NGO reps, intellectuals, policymakers, and people from other disciplines. It’s important for academics to know these people.”

“We want to bring the world to Annenberg,” says Price, “and Annenberg to the world.” >>

May|June 07 Contents
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Across the Borderline By Samuel Hughes and Katie Haegele
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