LOS ANGELES — `WHAT is happening in the Soviet Union and in the democratization of Eastern Europe has been hastened by television communication,'' says Don Tomlinson, professor of journalism at Texas A&M University. ``I honestly feel that the globalization of CNN has been a - if not the - principal factor in these bewildering changes.'' Outside the United States, some 10 million cable households, 250,000 hotels, and numerous businesses, embassies, and government buildings now carry CNN or CNN International (CNNI), a 24-hour service that slightly re-tailors American programming for foreign dissemination.
The Far East and Central and South America receive the same programming as the US. CNNI is now available in Europe, the Soviet Union, Africa, the Mideast, and Southeast Asia.
Except for Rupert Murdoch's Sky Cable operation, an extensive service that carries mostly telecasts originating in Britain, there is no other such venture.
Hank Whittemore, author of ``CNN: The Inside Story'' [see review at right], points out, ``Certainly the [Eastern Europeans] who were trying for reforms ... may not have had the same kind of optimism and courage about it, had they not known the rest of the world could see.'' He asks, ``Could certain events of human cruelty have taken place as easily with the whole world watching - the Holocaust, ... Stalinist purges?''
Whittemore says the evidence of CNN's impact is clear: Last year when Jimmy Carter was observing elections in Panama, he stepped out of his hotel room and saw fighting under way. ``To find out what it was,'' continues Whittemore, ``he went back to his hotel room and turned on CNN, broadcasting from Atlanta, to see what was going on across the street.''
And during last spring's Tiananmen Square demonstrations, President Bush, seeing both tanks and peacefully demonstrating students on CNN coverage, fired off a communique to Beijing warning against use of force. ``The whole world can watch while CNN interviews one leader during a crisis, then shifts to interview the other,'' Whittemore adds. ``In this way, CNN has become a unique instrument of communication.''
CNN and CNNI ``are the beginning of a global information interconnect that can respond to real events in real time to an extent that is dramatically altering the way we view our world,'' says Don Conley, journalist-in-residence at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. ``Romania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, East Germany [had] the world's first `information revolutions' - both fueled and made possible by increased access to information. CNN represents the democratization of information ..., and this is only the beginning.''
CNN ``will also also have an impact on introducing repressed and third-world societies [to] American conventions of free press,'' notes Daniel Hallin, an associate professor at the University of California, San Diego.