Media Globalization And Its Effects On Society And Culture
The term globalization is often used to refer to changes in international relationships, particularly in international trade and economics, but cultural and social relationships for which international communications and the media are involved are also important. This term has a variety of definitions depending on the concept of application. Lyons defines globalization as a multidimensional set of social processes that create, multiply, stretch, and intensify worldwide social interdependencies and exchanges while at the same time fostering in people a growing awareness and deepening connections between people and the local and the distant.
The term media globalization is thus a broad topic which includes radio, the internet, music, film, television, satellite and other forms of digital media. According to Lyons, the developments in communication and infrastructure and growth of global media corporations are some of the fundamental results of media globalization and which have rendered previous national boundaries increasingly irrelevant. This has also seen societies become increasingly integrated in terms of economic, political and cultural order, leading to the diminishing of power of individual nations, especially relative to global corporations. The cultural industry provides a perfect experience of the increasing spread of global culture and diminishing of local cultures as a result of globalization. This paper examines the evolution of global media, the growth of mega-media corporations and the impact of this in the society
The growth of global media
Media globalization has been characterized by certain fundamental changes in global communications such as technological developments and the rise of new media. According to Gorman and McLean (279), the development of the media started to expand on an international scale after post World War II reconstruction, aided by organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Funds (IMF) through financial investment and by 1970s, it started to gain momentum. According to Lozano (68), the media systems were generally national in scope. However, this changed in 1980s following pressure from the United States, the World Bank and IMF to privatize and to deregulate media systems. This coincided with new digital and satellite technologies leading to an emergence of transnational media giants. According to Lozano (68), privatization, proliferation of new media technologies and deregulation of the media systems have and still continue to guide globalization of the media. This was evidenced in the case of China. Until 1999, had China continued to impose regulations and opposed privatization of the media sector in order to allow foreign investment (Head et al 414). However, according to Head et al (414), the country was allowed to become a party to the World Trade Organization on the condition that “it allows foreign investors to hold up to 49 percent of certain telecommunications companies, including Internet firms.” The Chinese government responded by deregulating the media sector.
Media globalization has resulted in the concentration of media business ownership to a small number of transnational media corporations. According to Gorman and McLean (279), during the 1990s, many media businesses merged to form global conglomerates, having global media distributional networks. The move for integration was driven by the need to achieve cost savings and to take advantages of cross-selling and cross-promotion opportunities, in response to market situations. Media businesses thus moved towards being larger, global and vertically integrated, reducing the possibilities of multiple media ownerships unconstrained by national boundaries. Examples of large global media corporations that were formed then include the Disney, the Viacom, News Corporation, Sony, Bertelsmann and time Warner. Apart from the Japanese Sony and Germany Bertelsmann, the rest are American but all of them are geared around making profits internationally (Gorman and McLean 279).
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is a perfect illustration of a corporation that have benefited from the technological changes and deregulation of the media, amidst globalization. According to Martell (88), Murdoch has ownership stakes in the media from satellite networks and TV cable and TV and film production, through newspapers, books publishing, magazines, radio, sport and internet media. For instance, he owns 20th Century Fox TV channels and Fox Movie production as well as a number of other cable and satellite channels such as those offered by sky. In addition, he owns a number of major newspapers in United Kingdom and in Australia, Websites, including MySpace and publishing interests such as HarperCollins. Murdoch is involved in these media across the world, from the UK, United States and Australia, to China, (Martell 88).
Media globalization is also associated it spread and distribution of variety of mass media content around the world. A good illustration of this is the spread of Turkish telenovelas in the Arab world. One unique aspect of the Turkish telenovelas is that they have a cultural proximity that other developed countries do not have. For instance, they label heroes and heroines with local and common names such as Noor and Muhammad rather than giving them foreign names. Further, they incorporate political topics that famous to the Arab countries. For instance, the Ayrilik (Separation) and the Kurtlar Vadisi (Valley of the Wolves) clearly covered the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In addition, Islamic aspects are part of the settings in the programs.
Akova notes, they speak about the Quran and God and incorporate the traditions of Islam such as wearing of the hijab by women. Aspects such as beauty of the places and actors, and the fact that the movies are dubbed in Islamic dialect play a great role in triggering the interest of the viewers. These marketing strategies helped in quickly attracting a large audience shortly after their introduction in 2007. The Noor, which was aired by Saudi-owned satellite channel, Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC), attracted more than 85 million viewers in 2008 in the Arab world. Today, more than a dozen of soaps and TV series are being aired on the Arab Television.
The above case demonstrates that globalization leads to change in a people’s culture as the increasingly interact and overlap. According to Barker (2004, p. 22) human nature makes this a complex process and thus, poses challenges to practitioners of cultural studies as they analyze the observations regarding cultural or social settings. However, the model of ‘circuit of culture’ presented by Du Gay, provides an avenue through which cultural contexts can be analyzed. This model implies that the increased consumption leads to articulation of levels of practices to the question of culture and economy. It thus entails that media production and consumption goes through five major processes: representation, identity, production, consumption and regulation. According to Barker (2004, p. 22), cultural meaning is produced and embedded at each level of the circuit so that the production of significance at each level of the circuit is articulated to the next level without determining what meanings will be produce or will be taken at each level. Therefore, culture is autonomous but it is articulated to other practices to form the whole.
Barker (2004, p. 22) explains the fact that the circuit of culture illuminates the emergence of a new idea or a product. He describes how the Sony walkman was conceived in terms of the meanings embedded at the level of design and production. It was then represented in a way such that it produced identity for itself and by the time it got to market shelves, it had already been consumed mentally, as part of their personal identity. This was a result of advertisements. Some parts of the society tried to regulate the consumption of the product as it was understood as a threat to cultural values. However, the identity and consumption evidenced by consumers’ demand outweighed the traditions of society and maintained its market. The same case applies to the Turkish soap operas in Arab World.
Effects of media globalization in society
There are a variety of effects resulting from media globalization. One of the positive impacts is that the giant global media corporations have the potential to spread democratic values empower, challenge governments whose authority and power depends on the control of information and encourage participation by the marginalized groups (Gorman and McLean 279). According to Akova, the importation of soap operas from Turkey by Arab countries has led to a revaluation of the Arab entertainment industry which was for a long time dominated by the states.
Globalization has led to the spread and formalization of global culture and consequently, people have similar experiences in all corners of the world. Akova notes that telenovelas have helped in spreading the Turkish culture and increasing its influence in the Arab World. As a result, people from Arab countries have been associating and adopting cultural values upheld in Turkey and this explains the fact that the number of them travelling to Turkey has risen tremendously. Noor’s Villa, the house where most of the pictures used in the Noor program were taken has been converted into a museum, as a huge number of people tour the place. More than 70,000 Saudi Arabians made cultural pilgrimage to the place in 2008 alone.
According to Martell (88), the rise of this global media oligopoly has led to a vast restructuring of power relations among media organizations. This has resulted in the concentration of capital and centralization of the power among the media organizations both within nations and globally. Rupert Murdoch’s Media Corporation is a prime example of the limits and imponderables of international flow of capitals and power of the international media. Individuals have less voice compared to the global media corporations. For instance, it is not surprising to find that Rupert Murdoch has more power and influence over the audience compared to the queen in Britain (Hafez and Skinner 165).
Gorman and McLean (279) note that the formation of new giant media corporations has been partly driven by interests beyond media and primarily driven by profit making. As a result of this, the traditional values of the media such as regard for accuracy and objectivity are lost. For instance, as Gorman and McLean (279) point out, the most successful television programs are made for international distribution, rather than for national consumption. Programs such as movies that contain violent material are considered to travel well, compared to programs that do not contain violent material. For instance, as Harris and Morrison (172) note, within just a few years after deregulation of media systems in 1980s, nine of the best selling and most successful TV shows including ‘Transformers,’ ‘GI Joes’ and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were the most violent. ‘Transformers,’ which was sold worldwide, was shown to have 83 violent acts per hour. This development has also raised questions about the role and responsibilities of the media in the contemporary societies.
Durham and Kellner (687) argue that the growth in global media system allows the hybridization of cultural flows rather than disseminating single homogenous culture. According to Durham, and Kellner (687), this is a historical, temporal, reflexive cultural structuring process, whereby cultures interact over time, mediated by technology, migration and institutional and economic forms. This implies that local cultural elements combine with imported ones and create new forms of culture. Often, the impact goes beyond hybridization and leads to extinction of local languages and culture. The telenovelas exported to the Arab world by Turkey make a successful model of hybridization. They are edited and modeled to fit in the in the Arab World and consequently, they have successfully adapted to the conservative Arab environment both by linguistic transformation and through content metamorphosis.
Some scholars such as Herbart Schiller and Chomsky (cited in Gordon 61) have expressed concern that media globalization has led to negative influence on notational cultures and that it generates cultural imperialism. This implies that since the media plays a central role in shaping cultural practices and processes and since it is dominated by western ownership, the distribution, structure and the content of the media in any one nation are subject to pressure from the media interests of other countries without proportionate reciprocation of influence from the nations so affected. According to Gordon (61) this explains the fact that international communication flows follow neo-colonialist patterns which allow the domination of the less powerful nations by western developed nations. Usually, this compromises the local cultural integrity of the recipient nations.
In conclusion, the globalization of the media is evidenced by the restructuring of the media systems into one global media system. As a result, people all over the world have access to a lot of information that is both local and international. This has been driven by privatization and proliferation of new media technologies and deregulation of the media systems. As a result, the development of global media market and its domination by a handful of large companies, most of them from United States, are leading to transformation of media systems around the world. The ‘circuit of culture’ illuminates the emergence and existence of a new idea or product in the market. As noted in this discussion, one of the most significant effects of media globalization has been the spread and the rising and cumulating domination of commercialized media which leads to destruction of alternative models of broadcasting. Further, these companies have gained a lot of capital, giving them a lot of power and influence both within nations and globally. They thus have more influence and power over audience than individuals and governments. This has given them the potential to spread democratic values, empower, challenge governments whose authority and power depends on the control of information, and encourage participation by the marginalized groups and has given rise to hybridization of culture. After taking into account how the media shapes culture and considering the fact that American oligopolies largely control globalization of the media, it would not be misplaced to conclude that media globalization is an imperialistic effort on the part of transnational media corporations.
Akova, M., “Success at home, success in the world,” 2011, viewed, 9, December, 2011 from <http://mashallahnews.com/?p=5189.
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