Monday, October 5, 2009

Global Media System, all US

As we have been discussing in class the past few weeks, media certainly plays a role in the daily lives of many people all over the world. We have been delving our discussions into the kinds of influence the media has and what kinds of regulations, and governance should be taken to prevent misuse and ideally have a more equitable system. We have also discussed how globalization affects the media and people in countries on the periphery. It is interesting what Tunstall notes in his article; if you group ten countries together, only about ten percent of their viewing audience tune in to foreign media. In his article, Chesney states that the global commercial media system is closely linked to the rise of a more integrated neo-liberal capitalist economic system. Chesney portrays the commercial side of media, dominated by a few transnational conglomerates. In class, we have been discussing the ways in which media can positively and negatively affect a nation-state, for example, how the US media conglomerates share information and their ideas to other countries. What we have not discussed is the market-driven aspects and how profit-maximizing strategy shapes the media and the global system. As Chesney states, the global media system is linked to the global market economy. What are the motivations behind the big media conglomerates? Do they want to educate and inform the masses? Or do they simply want to make money? I believe they want both, but they are in pursuit of profit and thus they must give the audience what they want, at the same time adhere to the top exec's vision. News Corporation wants Fox News to disperse the news to as many people that will watch because the more eyeballs, the more money. As Chesney mentions, the system is oligopolistic and it is dominated by less than 10 TNCs. He writes, “thus, our world is being remade before our eyes by the execs of gigantic corps, in dogged pursuit of profit.” Companies are focusing on the best returns overseas and are always looking at markets who will help maximize profits. Thussu, in his article about Global Media Flow notes that the media companies see people as consumers, not citizens. Later, he mentions the commercial imperative, “glocalization strategy,” that is “not so much a regard for national cultures, but a communication imperative.” Cartoon Network, for example, 'indigenised operations' producing epics such as Ramayan and Mahabharat. Since only a small amount of people are watching foreign media in a country, the conglomerates incorporate local languages, culture and ideas into programming as a way of getting more eyeballs, (money). Is the inclusion of local programming done by foreign corporations with local people in mind or simply done to maximize profits? Do the people get what they want or simply a diluted or slightly changed version?

One of the issues is the mergers that are creating media giants. The list of Time Warner's and Disney's holdings is quite long. “Third world” media corps. are also turning global, and they are in fact advocates, but will they be successful competing with the Western media conglomerates? Chesney argues that these smaller companies have no choice but to go global, but there is no guarantee that they will be successful. Some countries, such as Mexico, Brazil and India have been able to enter in the global sphere thanks to Bollywood and Telenovelas. This is what Thussu describes as the 'subaltern flows.' But it is clear from Chesney and Tunstall's articles that it is the US, and to some extent Britain, that have the reigns in their hands.

Since English is the dominant media language and countries are trying to protect their 'cultural flare,' there have been formal measures taken to try to curtail cultural imperialism that many believe the global media is doing. EU passed a law in 1997 to require 50% of TV to be Euro-made and there was a meeting in Ottawa to set 'ground rules' to protect cultural flare, which stated that culture should be kept out of WTO control. Thussu quotes one author as calling it a “transnational corporate cultural domination.” Indeed, some view the global media system as a form of cultural imperialism. I do not think, however, that the media powerhouses are simply out to inculcate non-Western countries with Western ideals by showing Disney cartoons or even necessarily with news broadcasts. The media does have this power, but I don't believe the Execs sit around and discuss this in most of the big corporations. ( I could be wrong) I think it is simply about what sells. Hollywood films sell overseas in many countries. 50% of their sales come from overseas and countries are fighting against the Hollywood juggernaut, but again, I don't believe Hollywood writers, directors, producers make films for cultural imperialistic reasons. Most are artists, writers, directors and producers who want to make money by selling their product, films, to as many worldwide viewers as possible. That is why many French directors are now making English films, for example, to have more widespread distribution. A film director noted that if the European market does not integrate into a single market, there is no way to compete against the American market. The film industry is dominated by Hollywood. And as I have mentioned, so are many of the media conglomerates. The majority of Chesney's article focuses on US Media. The media system that he says is closely linked to the rise of a more integrated neoliberal global capitalist economic system, is the US system. With this system taking over and English becoming the media language, will other nation-states turnaround and innovate to create more media that comes from within or will the Western global system continue to dominate and expand?

1 comment:

  1. The fact the cultural imperialism is not intentional doesn't make it less real. The media is not 'out' to inculcate Western values, but they do because they are, by and large, oblivious to depth of culture in their products. The deepest parts of culture are by and large invisible to the ones immersed in it. For instance, children having their own adventures with the parents being oblivious (Rugrats for example) is a very Western concept, a comment on individualism and 'the out-of-touch parent' concept that is 'popular' in Western media. This would not be appreciated in certain other cultures. And if it became popular among kids, they'd probably be equally oblivious to this subtext. But parents would feel their culture being threatened.

    This is the idea that one can not just express someone else's voice without being incredibly self-aware and aware of the other person. 'Glocalization' is shallow, because Western execs have little idea about the tiny ways culture is expressed. Educated 'natives' can be mediators in this respect, but Western execs want as minimal change as possible because IT'S CHEAPER AND EASIER. Cultural imperialism isn't the work of malice today, but sloth.

    Likewise, in exporting, they don't tend to serve what people want (if you've never eaten, how do you know what you like?), but what they already have. And thus, they cultivate a taste for what is already existent, rather than 'good stuff'. (Think of how quickly junk food, which actually lacks complex taste, becomes a child's food of choice.)