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Globalization Theories - Mass Media and Globalization

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- Mass media and globalization

Researchers have noted a variety of effects resulting from media globalization. Some of these observed effects are open to interpretation while others are acknowledged by most communication scholars. Certain researchers tie their observations to their own theories which attempt to explain certain observed effects. In contrast, other researchers may take on a more descriptive approach preferring to describe detailed effects and apply the theories of other scholars as models for explanation.

According to researcher George Gerbner, the most successful television programs are no longer made for national consumption but rather for international distribution. Gerbner further noted that content is affected by the desire to increase the marketability of international television program distribution. Programs that contain violent material are considered to "travel well" according to Gerbner (Jhally, 1994). In contrast, comedy programs which may be quite successful in the United States do not necessarily do well in other countries. Comedy is culturally defined, and what is deemed funny by one cultural group may in fact be offensive to another. In comparison, violent material has a very simple story line of good versus evil. It is universally understood and in many ways culturally transparent.

Robert McChesney is a media historian and political economist. In a recent article by McChesney (2005), he criticized multinational corporations in a number of ways. First, that the global media market is dominated by eight multinational corporations which also dominate U.S. media. These companies are: "General Electric, AT&T/Liberty Media, Disney, Time Warner, Sony, News Corporation, Viacom and Seagram, plus Bertelsmann, the Germany-based conglomerate" (p. 93). Second, multinational corporations are becoming increasingly horizontally integrated, meaning that these companies both create content and own publishing companies or broadcasting networks, and are able to distribute their own product. Third, international deregulation and free-market policies have created a climate that has been conducive to foreign investment in media. Fourth, that the World Trade Organization is threatening local culture by encouraging foreign investment in local media. McChesney has observed a trend of cultural protectionism form developing nations:

In the summer of 1998 culture ministers from twenty nations, including Brazil, Mexico, Sweden, Italy and Ivory Coast, met in Ottawa to discuss how they could 'build some ground rules' to protect their cultural fare from 'the Hollywood juggernaut.' (p. 93)

Fifth, there is a well defined second tier of media conglomerates which are increasingly competing on the international level through foreign investment, mergers, and acquisitions. Half of these corporations are based in North America while the others are based in Western Europe and Japan. (This observation by McChesney is interesting since the Trilateral Commission encourages economic trade between precisely these three regions.) Second tier corporations include, "Dow Jones, Gannett, Knight-Ridder, Hearst, and Advance Publications, and among those from Europe are the Kirch Group, Havas, Media-set, Hachette, Pisa, Canal Plus, Pearson, Reuters and Reed Elsevier" (p. 94). Sixth, merger mania seems to be the rule of day when it comes to multinational corporations. McChesney noted that sixty or seventy first and second tier multinational corporations control a major portion of the world's media in the areas of publishing, music, broadcasting, television production, cable, satellite distribution, film production, and motion picture theater exhibition. Seventh, McChesney concluded that the effect of the spread of multinational media corporations has resulted in cultural imperialism, a loss of local cultural identity. McChesney summarized the motivation of multinational media corporations as such, "The global commercial-media system is radical in that it will respect no tradition or custom, on balance, if it stands in the way of profits" (p. 95).

Benjamin Compaine (2005) has disagreed with many of McChesney's criticisms of the effects of globalization of the media. Compaine tackled a number of major criticisms head on in his article "Global Media." First, Compaine disagreed with the view that a few large companies are taking over the world's media. Compaine has compared international media mergers to "rearranging the furniture," as companies are repeatedly sold and re-sold:

In the past 15 years, MCA with its Universal Pictures was sold by it U.S. owners to Matsushita (Japan), who sold to Seagram's (Canada), who sold to Vivendi (France). Vivendi has already announced that it will divest some major media assets, including textbook publisher Houghton-Mifflin. (p. 98)

Second, Compaine disagreed that corporate ownership is having a toll on effective journalism. A study by the non-profit organization Freedom House in 2000 researched 186 countries; it suggested "that press independence, including journalists' freedom from economic influence, remained high in all but two members (Mexico and Turkey) of the Organisation [sic] for Economic Co-operation and Development" (p. 99). Third, Compaine disagreed that global media can hurt local content. MTV in Brazil plays music and videos that are selected by local producers. Star TV, distributes satellite TV in India. Star was initially unsuccessful when it showed American television programs. Star TV only succeeded after it hired an Indian television executive who created Indian soap operas. Fourth, Compaine disagreed that the public would be better served by stricter regulation of the media. Media concentration can be beneficial in the case of two small struggling newspapers merging in order to survive, as opposed to one of them going out of business. Licensing and antitrust regulation can act as a barrier to new players entering the competitive landscape. Relaxing broadcast regulation expands competition. News Corp. began its investment in American media when the FCC raised the limit of national television station ownership from seven to twelve, and also struck down the rule that prohibited TV networks from owning their own programming. As a result, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. was able to build an audience with a core group of television stations and purchase 20th Century Fox. Compaine noted, "Fox was thus able to launch the first successful alternative to the Big Three in 30 years. Its success also paved the way for three other large media players to initiate networks" (p. 101).

Marjorie Ferguson has similar views to Compaine. Ferguson (2002) has stated that cultural homogeneity is a myth which is predicated upon McLuhan's



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