Public relations has ancient roots in promotional activities but is largely a communication phenomenon of the 20th century. Governments played a fundamental role in establishing communication activities in many regions and continents. These led to the formation of profession-like practices of public relations. From this base, trade associations were formed and education programmes introduced in many countries. Later, the agency sector developed and became internationalised. Although the main international influences on public relations have been from Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, distinctive national forms of public relations based on cultural, political and social influences have been evolving in the second half of the 20th century and into the 21st. In general, public relations practice has thrived in its application and employment in countries with open economies and democratic institutions where free speech is less controlled.