Media & Globalization
What role does the media play in the rush towards globalization? Commentators would suggest that multiple roles exist, and to multiple ends. The debate exists on different levels. To some, globalization means the transfer of ideas and culture from the developed west to the undeveloped world, resulting in a homogenization of consumerist culture across borders that threatens to disrupt and permanently alter indigenous values. Yet others might suggest that the flow of ideas occurs in multiple directions, resulting in less homogenization and more diversification of ideas and lifestyles. Even these general models mask the true depth and complexity of the global reach of media. What is certain is that globalization has greatly expanded the importance of what information lies within the "public sphere," and the sharing of that information will undoubtedly continue to have an effect both on the lives of private individuals vis-à-vis their relationships with each other, and the nation-states they live in. The following articles serve to illustrate different perspectives on the continuing debate.
- Michael Richards & David French, "Globalization and Television: Comparative Perspectives," 12 THE CYPRUS REVIEW 11-26 (2000).
The authors examine prevailing theories of globalization and media influence and their applicability to individual experiences in Asian nations. Critics of globalization often cite "media imperialism" as a dominant vehicle for the expansion of a homogenous, consumer-based culture extending across borders. This theory parallels the model of globalization as a phenomenon justifying and reinforcing the prevailing international trade and finance regime. Most notably, critics point to the growing dominance of consumer-oriented western, largely North American, media and entertainment products, and how they contribute to a one-way transmission of ideas and values that result in the displacement of indigenous cultures.
The authors' survey of experiences in Asian nations reflect a more complex reality. A number of Asian governments have successfully pursued policies directed at preventing the influence of western media. At its most blunt, authoritarian or semi-authoritarian governments in the region have at times adopted restrictive practices, such as the censorship or banning of satellite television in Singapore and Malaysia. Many nations in the region also operate state-owned television channels which broadcast government-run news shows to counter the influence of western-produced news channels such as CNN. Yet by far, local developments in Asian television do not reflect a deliberate attempt to control thought or ideas, but instead indicate a growing and diverse audience. The authors point to a number of examples in which western television formats have been adopted and changed to fit indigenous viewing appeal, such as the success of India's popular music channel, or China's culturally-specific version of "Sesame Street." In Taiwan, viewers can watch programs specifically tailored towards ethnic minorities. Throughout the region, television programs based on national folklore and historical myths remain highly-rated and popular among many viewers. Thus, the television experience in Asia seems to indicate that the applicability of the western "media imperialism" model may be limited.
- Josefina M.C. Santos, "Globalisation and Tradition: Paradoxes in Philippine Television and Culture," MEDIA DEVELOPMENT 3, 43-48 (2001).
The author is an independent filmmaker and mass communications professor at the University of Philippines. Her article criticizes the relationship between the nation's social values and the receptiveness of various forms of popular television programs in the Philippines. As opposed to developed nations, where culture and social standing is based largely on notions of individual merit, the author argues that in developing nations like the Philippines, social values are determined more by pre-modern legacies related to social class or family-based association. These social values are shared by both upper class elite landowners and business owners, and the remainder of the population, who largely live in poverty. Also, a "colonial mentality" still exists throughout Philippine society, due to centuries of Spanish and American rule. As a result, the author argues that Philippine social values revolve around class-based hierarchies and an inferiority complex born out of colonial rule.
The popularity of foreign-made television programs tends to reflect these social values. The most popular programs among Philippine viewing audiences are Mexican-made romantic soap operas dubbed in Tagalog. The wide appeal of these soap operas is due to the Spanish cultural influence and fictional depictions of high-class social life. Many poor Filipinos can identify with the characters of poor peasant women who obtain high-class status - a fantasy of social mobility and change. In this sense, the author argues that the global reach of television in the Philippines has done less to change or alter social values, but has had the opposite effect of reinforcing local class-based ideologies. Thus, the author concludes that a symbiosis of foreign television and traditional Philippine values has developed, as opposed to the hypothesis that foreign television changes indigenous social values.
- Steve Buckley, "Radio's New Horizons: Democracy and Popular Communication in the Digital Age," 3 Int'l J. Cult. Stud. 180-87 (2000)
Although the Internet has gained widespread use in developed nations, the author argues that radio is still the most pervasive communication medium in the world. Because of its universal accessibility, radio has a unique and powerful role in fostering the communication of ideas. In Europe, radio was state-owned and directed, and was often used as a medium for government propaganda in times of war. In other regions of the world, popular movements and political dissenters used radio to criticize state policies. Fifty years ago, Bolivian miners created and sustained their own radio stations in order to foster communication and discussion among their communities. Today, trade unions, farmer associations, and religious groups, throughout Latin America, own and operate their own radio stations or programs as educational and political mediums.
As the world rapidly rushes towards globalization, the role of radio should not be forgotten. Although many commentators embrace the Internet as global, electronic democracy at its best, its relative inaccessibility has contributed more to a divide between the haves and have-nots. Computer and Internet connectivity still reflect social and economic realities. Poor and rural peoples still largely lack the ability to access the Internet. Neglecting the influence of radio in today's world may deepen this divide. Because a healthy democracy requires public participation, knowledge, and communication, the use of radio should be emphasized as the Internet revolution has left many people behind.