Francis Balle

In collaboration with the radio des cinq académies de l’Institut de France (Canal Académie)

The Speaker

Francis Balle is currently a professor of political science at the University of Paris II and director of the Institute of Research and Study on Communication and Media.

With a degree from Paris’s Institute of Political Studies and a Ph.D. in classical studies, Francis Balle  began his teaching career in philosophy at the French high school in Oran, Algeria, then went onto teach at the University of Alger until 1967.

Upon returning to France, he first became assistant to and then the chief, assistant to the philosopher Raymond Aaron at the Sorbonne. In 1972, Francis Balle became the first Sorbonne faculty member to teach courses on the media. From 1976 to 1986, he was head of the Institut Français de la Presse at Paris II. In 1985, he created the Master of Research in Media, Society and Globalization and the professional Master in Communication and the Media.

Since 1981, he has been a regular guest lecturer at Stanford University. From 1986 to 1989, he was vice-chancellor of the Universities of Paris. He is a member of France’s High Council on Audiovisual and Media and responsible for new norms and technology until 1993.  He became a member of Radio France’s board of directors in August 2004.

He has authored numerous books on media and communication, including Médias et Sociétés[Media and Society], that was awarded by France’s Academy of Ethics and Public Policy, and has gone through thirteen editions with its publisher, Montchrestien.  With Laurent Cohen-Tanugi, he co-wrote Le Dictionnaire du Web[The Dictionary of the Web], published by Dalloz in 2001, and he also wrote Les Médias[The Media]for the popular “Que sais-je?” series, which has gone through several editions since 2001.
He has been decorated in France’s national merit system, most recently receiving the medal for Commander in the Legion of Honor in 2007.


What can the Media do in The Face of Intolerance?

Do the media really get at the truth? With the rise of dailies in the nineteenth century, the hope was to finally have information that was complete, objective and accessible to everyone. Due to the explosion of different forms of media during the twentieth century, however, the information now available to us has never seemed so unsatisfying; being both insufficient, imprudent, biased and at times even arrogant and overbearing.
What accounts for this uneasiness of information? Why is this paradox of  information both omnipresent and useless, reaching levels of overabundance but still tripping up when it comes to conveying the essential facts?
Francis Balle explains how the media can itself become indirectly involved in the rising intolerance in public opinion, thereby breaking with the implicit agreement to provide an objective account of news and events.

Digital Revolution, Economic Globalization and Americanization

It’s easy to understand why so many believe that culture today is shaped by American influences, given the United States’ influence over economic globalization. Due to the influence of certain forms of media such as cinema, radio, television, the press and most recently the Internet, the vocation of culture today is inevitably world-wide, too, as the movie industry in Hollywood can attest.
It’s precisely this kind of global vision imposed by one domineering point of view that UNESCO has resisted by adopting in 2005 a convention on protection and promotion of the diversity and expression of different cultures, which is exactly in the same vein as the idea of cultural exceptionalism that is so dear to France.
The globalization of culture, however, doesn’t necessarily lead to Americanization or to a homogenization of culture where everyone is walking to the same beat. The phenomenon of globalization makes cultures compete with each other and brings out their differences. Television and the entertainment industry, for example, have considerably developed and diversified. This culture is global and commercial, having become both an industry and a market, and is less American and more cosmopolitan than one might think.

Link to an interview of Francis Balle on the radio des cinq académies de l’Institut de France (Canal Académie):

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