Globalisation and its impacts have constituted one of the latest buzz words of today. It could be seen on the streets in any part of the world through the global exposure of the advertisements and in our media reception through global media coverage of events such as the recent uproar in Egypt, terrorist actions such as the 911 and celebrity events such as the royal marriage of Prince Williams and Kate Middleton.
According to David Held and Anthony McGrew, globalisation "denotes the expanding scale, growing magnitude, speeding up and deepening impact of transcontinental flows and patterns of social interaction. It refers to a shift or transformation in the scale of human organization that links distant communities and expands the reach of power relations across the world's regions and continents" (Held and McGrew, 2002, p.1).
What is Media Globalisation?
The issue of media globalisation is largely concerned with the dominance of the global media industry by a few powerful transnational media conglomerates, and the extent to which they impact upon the worldviews of individuals in different parts of the world.
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Media have a vital place in globalisation. Firstly, media corporations have been among those corporations that have been gradually globalising their operations. Secondly, media organisations help to develop the global communications infrastructure that promotes global information flows and cross-border commercial activities. Lastly, global media are the primary means through which we make sense of events in distant places, and the information and images that they transmit are essential to the development of shared meanings and understanding across borders (Flew, 2007, p. 70-72).
With the radical critique of global media being associated with strong globalisation debates, globalisation is seen as the central strength in media industries currently, despite counter-trends and localised forms of resistance (Flew, 2007, p. 72).
Cultural, Political and Economic Implications of Media Globalisation
Pros of Media Globalisation
A core element of globalisation is the expansion of world trade through the exclusion or reduction of trade barriers such as import tariffs. Greater imports offer consumers a wider variety of goods at lower prices, while providing strong incentives for domestic industries to remain competitive. Exports, often a source of economic growth for developing nations, stimulate jobs creation as industries sell beyond their borders. Trade also enhances national competitiveness by motivating workers to focus on those vocations where they have a competitive advantage. Trade promotes economic resilience and flexibility, as higher imports help to offset adverse domestic supply shocks (Di Giovanni et al., 2008, p. 3).
The expansion in global markets has helped to promote efficiency through competition and the division of labour - it allows people and economies to focus on what they excel in. Global markets also offer more opportunities for people to tap into diversified and bigger markets around the world. It means access to more capital, technology, cheaper imports and larger export markets (Di Giovanni et al., 2008, p. 2).
Simultaneously, the influx of imported goods, services and capital in a country can create incentives and demands for reinforcing the education system, as a country's citizens acknowledge the competitive challenge before them (Di Giovanni et al., 2008, p. 2).
Greater openness can also stimulate foreign investment, which would be a source of employment for the local workforce - thus promoting higher productivity (Di Giovanni et al., 2008, p. 3).
The extensive reach of globalisation allows for greater access to modern technologies. For instance good health equipments in the health care sector could make the difference between life and death. In communications, it would facilitate commerce and education and allow access to independent media. Globalisation can also create an agenda for cooperation among nations on non-economic matters that have cross-border implications, such as immigration, the environment and legal issues (Di Giovanni et al., 2008, p. 2).
The potential for inter-cultural relationships as the media cross cultural boundaries has aided in the sharing and intermingling of different cultures that may alter people's ways of life, for better and worse. This promotes hybridisation but may also risk the loss of traditional culture (Croteau and Hoynes, 2005).
Also, McChesney has noted a focus upon the relationship between media globalisation and the concentration and centralisation of media ownership, and the interrelated nature of these two processes. The trend towards a global media oligopoly hastened in the 1980s and 1990s, for dominant media firms to seek international expansion in order to ensure their presence in media markets, by concentrating ownership within media industries and the expansion of relations across media industries through the expansion of multinational, cross-media conglomerates such as Disney, News Corporation etc (Flew, 2007, p.76).
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Media globalisation has also helped to raise awareness of the poor living conditions of the people living in developing countries. For instance, two World Bank economists, David Dollar and Aart Kraay, concluded that globalisation has helped to reduce poverty. They noted that higher growth rates in globalising developing countries meant higher incomes for the poor (Di Giovanni et al., 2008, p. 6).
Cons of Media Globalisation
In the focus upon the global nature of contemporary media, there may be a tendency to systematically underestimate the continuing importance of local advantage. Straubhaar (1991) has noted "the competitive advantages enjoyed by local producers in having a larger degree of cultural proximity to their audiences than the producers of "global" media content have in such local and regional markets." In addition, the threat of "Americanisation" or cultural imperialism can be invoked to strategic advantage by compelling media players to buy time and/or resources in order to reinforce their own competitive position in the situation of rising international threats (Flew, 2007, p. 126).
Some of the "Americanised" values that are being imposed on non-Western nations include:
Consumerism and materialism,
Individualism and competition for self interest,
Covert racism (by favouring Western music, beauty, fashion, etc),
Excessive hedonism, violence and sex,
Status consciousness based on wealth (Croteau and Hoynes, 2005).
The globalisation of media production and the increase of centres of media production due to their capacity to attract global investment capital have generated different analyses. For Miller et al., the emergence of such media production centres states the degree to which "Hollywood's runaway trend depends on peripheral nationsâ€¦ [where] there are highly-developed efficiencies available from a skilled working class in places that nonetheless continue to import what is made on "their" territory - but never under their control" (Miller et al., 2001, p.63). From this viewpoint, being a site for international media production involves cultural sovereignty and control over intellectual property rights being conceded to the Hollywood majors, for scant economic benefit once tax breaks and other forms of subsidy are factored in (Flew, 2007, p. 128).
Media globalisation is significant in ways in which there is a growing media concentration on a global scale, and that this is linked with a decrease in competition in the media industry. This leads to the dominance of global media product in domestic media markets to the detriment of local media and cultural forms, and a fading capacity of nationally based governments to control media flows so as to promote national cultural policy objectives. Media globalisation is viewed as reinforcing the worst iniquities of global capitalist culture, by forcing media producers besides global giants out of business, creating a "race to the bottom" in terms of regulations and standards, and further embedding the global cultural hegemony of dominant Western political and economic interests (Flew, 2007, p.207-208).
Critical media theorists have always been concerned with tendencies towards concentration of media ownership and their impact upon politics, society and culture, and the impact of media globalisation led by Western transnational media corporations (Flew, 2007, p.72).
Herbert Schiller argued that the present stage of the US-dominated global capitalism was one where what he termed the entertainment, communications and information industries had achieved economic sovereignty; their influence was portrayed not only in the political-economic sphere but upon global culture and awareness; and the result was a form of cultural imperialism, whereby the ideas and ideologies of the dominant West (particularly in the United States) exerted hegemony over the populations of the rest of the world (Flew, 2007, p.73).
The radical critique of global media associated with critical political economy has experienced a revival of interest in recent years. The proposition that media ownership worldwide is subject to growing concentration, leading to reduced competition and increasingly homogenous media content worldwide (Flew, 2007, p.73).
The media industries have an innate tendency towards concentration of ownership and control, and that this tendency has been widened since the 1980s from the national to the global scale. Herman and McChesney (1997, p.1) argued that "since the early 1980s there has been a dramatic restructuring of national media markets, along with the emergence of a genuinely global commercial media market." The major consequence of such developments has been, as McChesney and Schiller put forth, that "a transnational corporate-commercial communication began to be crafted and a new structural logic put in placeâ€¦ [as] communicationsâ€¦ became a subject to transnational corporate-commercial development" (McChesney and Schiller, 2003, p.6).
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Edward Herman and Robert McChesney have argued that "theâ€¦ global media system is dominated by three or four dozen large transnational corporations (TNCs) with fewer than ten mostly U.S-based media conglomerates towering over the global market" (Herman and McChesney, 1997, p.1). This has often been taken as a starting point for understanding the nature of global media today, and is routinely repeated by critics for globalisation (Flew, 2007, p.73). For instance, Manfred Steger (2003, p.76) argues that "to a very large extent, the global cultural flows of our times are generated and directed by global media empires that rely on powerful communication technologies to spread their messageâ€¦ During the last two decades, a small group of very large TNCs have come to dominate the global market for entertainment, news, television, and film."
With regards to trade, restricting international trade generates adverse consequences for a country that undertakes such a policy. For instance, tariffs raise the prices of imported goods, harming consumers, many of which may be poor. It also tends to reward concentrated, well-organised and politically-connected groups, at the expense of those whose interests may be more diffused (e.g. consumers). It also reduces the diversity of goods available and generates inefficiency by lowering competition and resources to flow into protected sectors (Di Giovanni et al., 2008, p. 3).
As some countries have embraced globalisation, and experienced notably income increases, other countries that have rejected globalisation, or embraced it tepidly, have fallen behind. Over the past twenty years, income inequality has risen in most parts of the world. Contrary to popular belief, increased trade globalisation is linked with a decline in inequality. The spread of technological advances and increased financial globalisation - and foreign direct investment - have contributed more to the recent rise in inequality by increasing the demand for skilled labour and the returns to skills in both developed and developing countries. Hence, while everyone benefits, those with skills benefit more (Di Giovanni et al., 2008, p. 5).
As noted by Flew (2007, p.214), the last 25 years of media globalisation did not merely represent a shift in the scalar dynamics of monopoly capitalism and the domination of a smaller number of national oligopolies by global media monopolies. The rise of global media is instead a complex and shifting scalar dynamic between the local, the national and the global, whereby new centres of global media production may emerge from a series of locales as immanent clusters of cultural creativity.
There is no definite answer to what the pros and cons mean to media globalisation. Media globalisation has garnered different degrees of enthusiasm. In some countries, the people view media globalisation negatively, thus they may not be ready to accept it. "Media globalisation is here to stay" (Goh, 2000) despite the people's reception to it.