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Could satellite technology make TV programming truly global?


The CNN Effect
CNN reporter Frank Buckley does a live shot from the flight deck of the U.S.S. Constellation shortly after President George H.W. Bush delivered an address to the world March 18, 2003 in the Persian Gulf.
CNN reporter Frank Buckley does a live shot from the flight deck of the U.S.S. Constellation shortly after President George H.W. Bush delivered an address to the world March 18, 2003 in the Persian Gulf.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The first satellite communication occurred on July 26, 1963, when a U.S. Navy ship located off Nigeria communicated with the naval station at Lakehurst, N.J. [source: Federal Communication Commission].

Soon after, telephone companies and television networks started using satellites to broadcast signals around the world. But it wasn't until 1980 that satellite technology really flexed its muscle. That's when CNN -- Cable News Network -- launched.

For the first time, people had a newscast that ran 24-hours a day, seven-days-a week. A global audience found themselves suddenly connected with millions of people sharing the same experiences [source: White].

As such, CNN changed how the world viewed itself. The first instance came in 1989 when pro-democracy students in Beijing took to the streets in Tiananmen Square [source: White]. CNN stayed with the coverage for days as public condemnation of the Chinese government grew. The lasting image was of a lone man standing in front of a communist tank, refusing to move.

The next event that galvanized the world's attention also occurred in 1989, when the Berlin Wall, long a symbol of communist intransigence and domination, came down. Then in 1991, the Persian Gulf War began. An international audience of millions watched as CNN news correspondents reported from Baghdad as bombs exploded. It was the first time people could view a war as it was being waged [source: White].

The last event was the terrorist attacks of 9/11. By this time, more satellite news networks, in the United States and abroad, were broadcasting. Hundreds of millions watched as the World Trade Center towers collapsed. Those images, seared into the world's collective conscience, united the globe as no one event could [source: White].

But satellite TV also had an unintended consequence -- the "CNN Effect," a catchall phrase describing how 24/7-live news coverage has affected the foreign policy decisions of nations [source: Strobel].

The CNN Effect was first felt in the early 1990s, when CNN broadcast graphic pictures of starving children in Somalia. The public outcry forced President George H.W. Bush to send troops to that beleaguered African nation to stem the disaster. The United States retreated from Somalia after Americans next saw the horrific footage of an American soldier's corpse being dragged through the streets [source: Strobel].

While those images changed the actions of a government, perhaps nowhere has the impact of global TV been more prominent than in the Middle East.


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