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Can World System Theory predict news flow on twitter? The case of government-sponsored broadcasting

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Social media platforms provide world governments with the opportunity to distribute news content from their broadcast channels directly to foreign publics [Wallerstein, I. (1974). The modern world system. New York: Academic Press] World System Theory, which has successfully explained and predicted the structure of international news flow, is now being challenged. Specifically, these social platforms undermined assumptions regarding the one-way flow of information toward audiences and the exclusive institutional nature of the players in the international system. This study examines the unique case of government-sponsored news media and its international news flow. It finds that while the structure of the international news flow on Twitter exhibits a hierarchical core–periphery structure, non-institutional actors (e.g. bloggers) conformed less than institutional players (e.g. governments and news media) to that structure. This study also found that non-institutional actors assumed the role of bridging news sources and audiences, a role traditionally reserved for a small minority of elite news media. The growing and diversified pool of information mediators resulted in a more fragmented network of news flow, siloed, rather than interconnected. Research findings are synthesized and analyzed in the context of international broadcasting and social media scholarship.
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Keywords: World System Theory; international broadcasting; journalism; network analysis; public diplomacy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA 2: Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA

Publication date: August 2, 2016

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