Sunday, October 4, 2009

A New, Pessimistic View of Global Media

Strictly referring to this week’s readings from the IC Reader, all three articles propose similar yet varying arguments about global media. After reading these articles, I formulated a rather pessimistic and cynical view of the global media system as an economically driven, consumer attractive industry rather than a forum to promote local or cultural ideology. Furthermore, the future of local media systems seems dim, with the consumerism, commercially driven industry on the rise. As McChesney notes, local media corporations are “swallowed” by regional or national ones, extrapolating any hope of promoting culture from the local media firms. The local firms have little choice but to succumb to the grander media powers, essentially creating a noncompetitive media system. Thus, the local firms witness a struggle between protecting their national media, and the economic losses they incur from resisting global media.

McChesney’s article encouraged me to feel sympathetic for the small, local media firms. Not only are they powerless in comparison to the larger media industries, but find great difficulty in breaking into the global media system. As the author notes, there are few ways to develop substantial influence in the global media system, especially with only a few, yet extremely wealthy and powerful firms, controlling the majority of media production.

McChesney also targeted the United States as responsible for “inculcating” the world with western values, while “undermining traditional cultures and values” (202). While I do not always agree with the democratization and globalization indicative of the United States’ foreign diplomacy, I also do not believe we can completely fault the U.S. and denounce its media intentions. I am certain that the United States has economically, democratically driven intentions in its media expansion, but to “undermine” the cultural traditions of other nations seems a drastic interpretation of our intentions. Perhaps in countries that threaten our safety, such as numerous Arab nations, the United States’ media industry tries to promote democracy, but in other areas, namely Latin America, Europe or Africa, I argue that we do not intentionally strip these nations of cultural values.

Furthermore, both McChesney and Thussu argue that the United States is the leader in cultural exports, namely media, and especially the entertainment industry. But I wonder, can we define commercialism as the American culture? What is American culture? Is it definitive? Can we export it? These authors made compelling arguments both about American culture as commercialism, and about the oligopolistic nature of media industry, using numbers and charts to substantiate their claims. However, through such arguments, these articles incited in me a pessimistic and hopeless view of the global media system and of the local firms in succeeding.


  1. "But I wonder, can we define commercialism as the American culture? What is American culture? Is it definitive? Can we export it?"

    This is an interesting point that the readings so far haven't touched upon -- when people talk about exporting American culture, what do they mean? Is it something as simple as fashion or specific songs, or is it something more complex like values and mores? Where American culture and an indigenous culture might overlap, is that still seen as exporting American culture? I think we've already seen that notions of cultural imperialism are more complicated than an active exporter/passive importer relationship. But it would be interesting to understand specifically what people mean when they talk about "American culture" dominating global media.

  2. While I completely agree with you on that there is no "definitive" American culture, I should say that there is NO CULTURE that is definitive ANYwhere in the world (and there has never been, unless, of course, we are talking about extremely isolated, "primordial" communities). When talking about culture we usually tend to forget that each and every culture changes, adapts, and transforms over time, especially when it's in constant contact with others (well, the perfect example off the top of my head: Ottoman Empire. Can we say that ANY of the countries in the greater Middle East (now) has its own "unique" culture after all the centuries within the same political, and socio-cultural structure?). And yet, we sill do associate certain values/images/mores with certain countries/regions, although it's largely a matter of generalization and PERCEPTION (well, pretty much like everything else). Whatever is portrayed in a Hollywood movie with too many sexually explicit scenes, or a "West side" hip-hop music clip on MTV, is inevitably associated with an "American" culture (even if at the sub-conscious level), despite the fact that it is NOT representative of the true American society. Just an example to draw an analogy here: the belief that MOST of the people in the Middle East are fanatic, religious bigots... After all, it's purely about perception, and in this sense, it turns out that a global media market dominated by American-owned/based corporations is a blessing in disguise for the U.S. itself...