Globalization and Mass Media


   The decentralized nature of the Internet makes it very different from more traditional mass media, which distribute content created by the media industries. Global messages developed by the media industries are distributed through global media systems, such as CNN. CNN can distribute the same message throughout its worldwide television system. Prior to the 1990s, media systems were primarily national systems, but during the 1990s a global commercial media market emerged. According to McChesney (1999), "the rise of a global media market is encouraged by new digital and satellite technologies that make global markets both cost-effective and lucrative". Contributing to the trend toward media globalization was the formation of transnational corporations, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the World Bank. All of these organizations helped to create a new form of global capitalism that uses global media to disseminate messages to global consumers.

   In addition to financial interests, global media have an impact on media content, politics, and culture. Like the Internet, global media are influenced by the culture and interests of the United States. In some ways, global media could be considered an extension of the American system. At present, the United States exports more entertainment products than any other nation. McChesney (1999) reports that American media companies "have aggressively established numerous global editions of their channels to accommodate the new market". Three of the most important transnational media corporations are Time Warner (now AOL Time Warner), Disney, and News Corporation. In terms of globalization, American cable companies have been called cable colonialists because they control the worldwide export of media content and attempt to establish digital satellite TV systems in regional and national markets around the world.

   As the Internet becomes a broadband medium, it is increasingly taking on the characteristics of a mass medium rather than an interpersonal one. In the future, mass media trends could be extended to the Internet. For instance, a recent study of Dutch children's Internet usage revealed that they primarily used the Internet as a leisure medium to play games, watch video clips, and visit entertainment sites. Research on Americans however, shows people primarily use the Internet to maintain social relationships through e-mail. The Dutch study was conducted by Valkenburg and Soeters (2001), who examined children's home Internet usage. They found three primary motives for children's Internet use: affinity with computers, information seeking, and entertainment. Children must first of all enjoy sitting in front of a computer, the researchers found. Second, children use the Internet to find information about hobbies and homework assignments. Finally, they visit entertainment Web sites. The use of the Internet as an entertainment and leisure medium is similar to television usage.

   Although transnational media corporations are attempting to establish operations in nations around the world, some countries want to protect their domestic media and culture industries. Some nations, including Norway, Denmark, Spain, Mexico, and South Korea, have established government subsidies to maintain their own domestic film industries. The British government proposed a voluntary levy on the revenues from domestic film theaters, which show predominantly Hollywood movies. These theater revenues could then be used to subsidize the British commercial film industry. However, the proposal was not passed by Parliament. Culture ministers from a variety of nations have been discussing how they can protect their own cultural identities in an increasingly American-influenced global media environment. Some nations, such as Singapore, edit and censor for broadcast media content created in the United States. Language usage, for instance, in the Singapore version of the Sopranos is vastly different from the American version because curse words have been edited out of the sound track. In such ways, individual nations can establish barriers that make it more difficult for global companies to broadcast their American-produced content.

   Global media systems have been considered a form of cultural imperialism. Cultural imperialism takes place when a country dominates others through its media exports, including advertising messages, films, and television and radio programming. America's dominance in the entertainment industries made it difficult for other cultures to produce and distribute their own cultural products. Supporters of American popular culture argue that the universal popularity of American media products promotes a global media system that allows communication to cross national boundaries. American popular culture in addition challenges authority and outmoded traditions. Critics of American culture contend that cultural imperialism prevents the development of native cultures and has a negative impact on teenagers. Teenagers in other nations have rejected their own cultural music and dress. Instead, they want to wear American jeans and listen to American recording artists. Rock groups from other countries will even sing in English rather than use their native tongue.

   A larger concern in the emerging global information economy is the fact that most of the world's population cannot afford the types of products advertised on global media. People who are constantly exposed to these media messages may want to own products that they can never afford, which could cause social unrest. Mass media portray a lifestyle of consumption that is very different from the lifestyles of people living in many other cultures.