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Global Mass Communication Güven SELÇUK

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The pace of internationalization has accelerated because of advances in distribution technology and new economic imperatives. The mass media are affected, like everything else, by the general phenomenon of globalization.


Page 1: Global Mass Communication

Global Mass Communication


Page 2: Global Mass Communication

The pace of internationalization has accelerated because of advances in distribution technology and new economic imperatives.

The mass media are affected, like everything else, by the general phenomenon of globalization.

Page 3: Global Mass Communication

They are in a special position themselves as both an object and an agent of the globalizing process.

We look at the internationalization of media ownership and of the content that flows through media channels.

There are several reasons for devoting a separate chapter to this aspect of mass communication.

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One is the fact that the global character of mass media became increasingly problematized after the Second World War.

Problems arose from ideological struggles between the free-market west and communist east, economic and social imbalance between the developed and the developing world, plus the growth of global media concentration threatening freedom of communication.

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The issue of cultural and economic domination by the media of the developed world and the consequences for minority cultures everywhere needs special attention.

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Origins Books and printing were international

in their origins, since they predated the era of nation states and served cultural, political and commercial worlds that extended throughout Europe and beyond.

Nevertheless, the newspaper as it developed became very much a national institution, and national boundaries largely delineated the circulation of print media in general.

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When film was invented, it too was largely confined within national frontiers at least until after the WWI.

Its subsequent diffusion, especially in the form of the Hollywood film, is the first real example of a transnational mass medium.

When radio was widely introduced during the 1920s, it was once more an essentially national medium.

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By comparison, we are now being constantly reminded of how international the media have become and how the flow of news and culture encompasses the globe and draws us into a single “global village”, to use the words of McLuhan (1964).

Early recorded music also had a quasi-international character.

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Television is still probably the single most potent influence in the accelerating media globalization process.

In its early days, the range of terrestrial transmission was limited to national frontiers in most countries.

Now, cable, satellite and other means of transmission have largely overcome these limitations.

Another new force for internationalization is the Internet.

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Driving Forces: Technology and Money Technology has certainly given a

powerful push to globalization. The arrival of television satellites in

the late 1970s broke the principle of national sovereignty of broadcasting space.

There are other means of diffusion that work in the same direction (such as cable systems, CDs or DVDs).

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While technology has been a necessary condition of extensive globalization, the most immediate and enduring driving forces behind globalization have been economic.

An important component of international mass communication is advertising.

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The same advertising messages appear in different countries.

Last but not least of the forces promoting globalization has been the vast expansion and the privatization of telecommunications infrastructure and business.

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Box 10.1 Causes of media globalization More powerful transmission

technologies Commercial enterprise Follow-on from trade and diplomatic

relations Colonization and imperialism, past

and present

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Box 10.1 Continued Economic dependency Geopolitical imbalances Advertising Expansion of telecommunications

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Multinational Media Ownership and Control The recent phase of the

“communications revolution” has been marked by a new phenomenon of media concentration, leading to the world media industry being increasingly dominated by a small number of very large media firms.

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The trend is rather towards more impersonal patterns of ownership and operation, as befits such large global enterprises.

Certain types of media content (such as news, feature films, popular music recordings, television serials and books) lend themselves to globalization of ownership and control of production and distribution.

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The rise of the global news agencies of the twentieth century was made possible by technology (telegraph and radio telephony) and stimulated by war, trade, imperialism and industrial expansion.

Tunstall and Machin (1999:77) refer to a virtual “world news duopoly” controlled by the US Associated Press and the British Reuters.

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The French AFP, German DPA and Spanish EFE are also big players.

The foremost example of internationalization of media ownership, production and distribution is that of the popular music industry.

Following the merger of Bertelsmann and Sony in 2004, there are four dominant companies: Sony; Warner; Universal; and EMI.

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Advertising provides another example of very high concentration and internationalization.

According to Tunstall and Machin (1999), about ten leading advertising groups place about half the world’s advertising expenditure.

Advertising agencies tend also to control market research and public relations companies.

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Varieties of Global Mass Media These remarks make it clear that

“global mass communication” is a multifaceted phenomenon that takes a variety of forms. These include: Direct transmission or distribution of media

channels or complete publications from one country to audiences in other countries.

Certain specifically international media, such as MTV Europe, CNN International, BBC World, TVCinq, and so on; plus the international news agencies.

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Content items of many kinds (films, music, TV programmes, journalistic items, etc).

Formats and genres of foreign origin that are adapted or remade to suit domestic audiences.

International news items that appear in domestic media.

Miscellaneous content such as sporting events, advertising and pictures that have a foreign reference or origin.

The World Wide Web.

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It is clear from this inventory that there is no sharp dividing line between media content that is “global” and that which is “national” or local.

Mass communication is almost by definition “global” in character.

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Box 10.2 The meanings of media globalization Media are increasingly owned by

global media firms Media systems become increasingly

similar across the world The same or very similar news and

entertainment products are found globally

Audiences can choose media from other countries

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These trends have effects of cultural homogenization and westernization

Decontextualization and reduction of time-space differences

Reduction in national communication sovereignty and more free flow of communication

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International Media Dependency Galtung explained the global media

pattern in terms of a “centre-periphery” model according to which the world’s nations can be classified as either central and dominant or peripheral and dependent, with a predominant flow from the former towards the latter.

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Certain larger, more “central” countries originate news and other media content and distribute it to their own “satellites”.

In general it is the United States and the larger countries of Western Europe (France, Britain, Italy, Germany, Spain) that are more “central” and have media satellites in tow.

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In the emerging and still unclear “system” of global communication flows, it is probable that the nation state will be less significant as a unit of analysis.

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Cultural Imperialism and Beyond In the era immediately following

WW2, when communication research was largely an American monopoly, the mass media were commonly viewed as one of the most promising channels of modernization (i.e. westernization) and especially as a potent tool for overcoming traditional attitudes.

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From this perspective, the flow of mass media from the developed or capitalist West to the less developed world was seen as both good for its recipients and also beneficial in combating the alternative model of modernization based on socialism, planning and government control.

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The kinds of media flow envisaged were not direct propaganda or instruction, but the ordinary entertainment (plus news and advertising) that was presumed to show a prosperous way of life and the social institutions of liberal democracy at work.

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This was undoubtedly a very ethnocentric way of looking at global communication flow.

However, unlike the international propaganda efforts of previous times, the new “media imperialism” seemed to be carried out at the willing request of the mass audience for popular culture and was thus much more likely to “succeed”.

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Most of the issues surrounding global mass communication have a direct or indirect connection with the thesis of “cultural imperialism”, or the more limited notion of “media imperialism”.

Both concepts imply a deliberate attempt to dominate, invade or subvert the “cultural space” of others.

It is certainly a very unequal relationship in terms of power.

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It also implies some kind of overall cultural or ideological pattern in what is transmitted, which has been often interpreted in terms of “western values”, especially those of individualism, secularism and materialism.

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It has a political as well as a cultural content, however, in the first case essentially a submission to the global project of American capitalism.

Critical theorists have not always agreed on whether it was the economic aims of global market control or the cultural and political aims of “westernization” and anti-communism that took precedence.

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Box 10.3 Media imperialism thesis: the effects of globalization Global media promote relations of

dependeny rather than economic growth

The imbalance in the flow of mass media content undermines cultural autonomy or holds back its development

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Box 10.3 Continued The unequal relationship in the flow of news

increases the relative global power of large and wealthy news-producing countries and hinders the growth of an appropriate national identity and self-image

Global media flows give rise to a state of cultural homogenization or synchronization, leading to a dominant form of culture that has no specific connection with real experience for most people

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The Media Transnationalization Process National – where foreign (not home-

produced) content is distributed in the national television system.

Bilateral – where content originating in and intended for one country is received directly in a neighbouring country.

Multilateral – where content is produced or disseminated without a specific national audience in mind. (...see page 259)

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International News Flow As noted earlier, the globalization of

news really began in earnest with the rise of the international news agencies in the nineteenth century.

The news has become a more or less standardized and universal genre as a component of print and electronic media.

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While earlier international “foreign” news concentrated on politics, war, diplomacy and trade, there has been an enormous expansion of the scope for international news, with particular reference to sport, the world of show-business, finance, tourism, celebrity gossip, fashion and much more.

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A debate about the imbalance of news flow as between North and South raged during the 1970s and became highly politicized, caught up in Cold War polemics (... see pages 262-263).

The news that most people enjoy is dominated by such topics and they are quite likely to be international in character, reflecting global media culture.

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Box 10.4 Factors affecting the selection and flow of international news The nature of news as an event account Timing of events and news cycles Reporting and transmitting resources

available The operation of international news

agencies News values Geography, trade and diplomacy Cultural affinity and language

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The Global Trade in Media Culture There has been an enormous

expansion of television production and transmission outside the United States since the 1970s, leaving the USA relatively less important in global media terms than it was 25 years ago.

This means that more countries can satisfy more of their own needs from home production.

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Sreberny-Mohammadi (1996) cites findings that show unexpectedly high levels of local production (India and Korea produced about 92% of their televised programming).

But there are still high levels of penetration, especially in respect of American films and television drama nearly everywhere.

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Sreberny-Mohammadi warns against overinterpretation of the evidence of “indigenization”, since much is produced by large corporations operating under exactly the same logic as the former villains of cultural imperialism.

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In the background to the European case there is a long history of grumbling (usually by cultural elites) about the threat of “Americanization” to cultural values and even civilization.

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In the aftermath of the WWII, the dominance of American media was an accomplished fact, but impoverished countries still restricted film imports and supported nascent national film and television industries.

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The European Union retains some policies that give some protection to European television and film industries, but the trading deficit in such goods continues.

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Concepts of National and Cultural Identity Imported media culture is thought to

hinder the development of the native culture of the receiving country, or even many local and regional cultures within a country.

The situation of many regional and language minorities can be treated within the same framework.

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The value attributed to a national culture is rooted in ideas developed during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when national independence movements were often intimately connected with the rediscovery of distinctive national cultural traditions (for example, in Greece, Ireland and Finland).

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“National identity” is thus a different and more questionable concept than cultural identity in general, and the notion of a “European cultural identity” is even weaker and even more an “imagined community”.

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Towards a global media culture? One cultural consequence of media

globalization may be overlooked because it is obvious: the rise of a globalized media culture as such.

Media internationalization probably does lead to more homogenization or “cultural synchronization”.

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Some of these points can be seen to connect with the characterization of a postmodern culture, of which McLuhan has been hailed as precursor.

Postmodern culture is by definition detached from any fixed time and place, and has no moral standpoint or fixed meaning.

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While such a global media culture may appear value-free, in fact it embodies a good many of the values of western capitalism, including individualism and consumerism, hedonism and commercialism.

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It may add to the cultural options and open horizons for some, but it may also challenge and invade the cultural space of pre-existing local, indigenous, traditional and minority cultures.

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Box 10.5 Cultural effects of globalization Synchronization of culture Undermining national, regional and

local cultures Commodification of cultural symbols Increased multiculturalism Hybridization and evolution of cultural

forms Rise of a global “media culture” Deterritorialization of culture

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Global Media Governance In the absence of global government,

international communication is not subject to any central or consistent system of control.

The paradigm shift that occured towards deregulation and privatization, coupled with the new “communications revolution”, closed off the path towards greater international normative regulation.