Wales: Small Nations: Big subject

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Nov 23 15:04:29 UTC 2006

Small Nations: Big subject Nov 22 2006

Western Mail

Dr David Barlow celebrates the launch of The Centre for the Study of Media
and Culture in Small Nations

THE University of Glamorgan has recently established a new research
centre. The Centre for the Study of Media and Culture in Small Nations
(the Centre) will be formally launched tomorrow at the Millennium Centre
in Cardiff. This is the first research centre in the UK - and the world as
far as we can see - to take as its focus of inquiry "small nations". The
Centre will play a key role in the new Cardiff School of Creative and
Cultural Industries which will relocate from Treforest to Cardiff in the
summer of 2007.

The idea for the Centre came about as a result of teaching and research
undertaken by academics at the University of Glamorgan in the areas of
media, culture and communication. Much of this work has centred on the
creative industries in Wales and the wider economic, social and political
context in which they operate. However, while work on Wales has been the
catalyst for this initiative, the potential scope of the Centre is global,
as it will include in its brief other small nations in the UK, Europe and
beyond. Essentially, it is the process of globalisation and localisation,
and the impact such developments have on media and culture in small
nations that will direct the research agenda. But what constitutes a small

The criteria being used are not always made explicit and neither are the
motives for attaching such a label. In some instances the descriptor is
imposed by individuals or organisations external to the nation in
question. In others, the label is self-imposed. For example, in a speech
entitled "Globalisation: What it means to small nations", the Malaysian
Prime Minister aligned small nation with that of developing nation. In a
different context, the 2004 tsunami prompted a number of small island
states to band together to address concerns about their fragile economies
and environmental sustainability. Similarly, ambassadors from small
nations such as Cyprus, Iceland, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Malta have
collaborated to raise the profile of their respective countries in

A final - and surprising example - where the small nation label has been
self-imposed involves Australia. Here, a government minister defined the
country as small because it constituted only 0.3% of the world's
population and accounted for only 1% of world trade. One way of bringing
order to this debate is to outline the three main reasons why the term
small nation tends to be used. The first is in relation to a nation's
landmass and territorial boundaries. The second relates to the size of
population. The third centres on the notion of independent cultural

A 1996 study examining the impact of concentrated ownership in the
newspaper industry in small countries with big neighbours used population
size as the defining characteristic. It was the latter sense, independent
cultural viability, that informed a 1984 study of the music industry in
small countries on four continents, with the European contingent
comprising Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Wales. It is not
surprising to find Wales included in such a study. The academic and
professional literature about Wales is littered with the descriptor
"small". When this occurs it is more often than not linked with anxieties
about Wales' independent cultural viability - even vulnerability.

Use of the third defining category also enables the inclusion - as small
nations - of First Nation peoples in North America, Aborigines in
Australia and Maoris in New Zealand. Apropos the latter, in a review of
The Media in Wales: Voices of a Small Nation (University of Wales Press,
1995) the reviewer notes "parallels between the New Zealand experience and
the Welsh experience are numerous and significant: similarities in size
and population; echoes in historical experiences (especially concerning
respective colonial experiences), language policy and media interventions
(S4C in Wales; the Maori Television Service in New Zealand); and sporting

The core aim of the Centre is to undertake and disseminate research in
media and culture which has direct relevance for small nations. The Centre
will also seek to: inform the development of communications and cultural
policy; increase dialogue between industry, policy makers, academics and
the wider public; initiate partnership arrangements; and recognise and
foster entrepreneurial activity in the creative industries. Postgraduate
students in a range of disciplines will be recruited. While research is
the prime focus, the Centre will also actively involve local communities
in its work. As a result, the Centre will incorporate, or facilitate:
public lectures and debates; conferences; exhibitions and performances; a
visiting scholars programme; short courses for industry;  and education

For more information about the Centre contact research assistant Jackie
Aplin at japlin@ or the Director, Dr David M Barlow at dbarlow@


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