Globalization And Mass Media
The Role of Globalization in Media Development
One of the distinctive features of modernity is the high exposure of society to mass media consumption: “Young people spend more time watching television than doing any other leisure time activity except sleeping and spend more time watching TV by the time they complete high school (15,000-18,000 hours) than in the classroom (12,000 hours). In fact, by the time today’s children reach age 70, they will have spent 7 to 10 years of their lives watching television” (Strasburger 1995). Just as Orwell narrated in his novel 1984 (Orwell 1949) the heavy media presence is common in modern societies.
But, media proliferation is not the only important characteristic of modernity. Recent intangible, “economic, social, and cultural” connections have given way to a new phenomenon. It was Marshall McLuhan (1989) who first spoke of the concept of a global village. This event involves a novel configuration of the nation-estates, an intrinsic revolution of the institutions, and a major trade of cultural values. Globalization is a latent phenomenon that creates new meanings and modifies the interpretations of life.
Several theories point out globalization as a direct consequence of modernity (Giddens 1991), post-modernity (Harvey 1989), more united –yet, not integrated- vision of the world (Robertson 1990), “westernization”, cultural-imperialism, the “iron cage of rationality ” (Weber 1978), etc. What is undeniable is the major role of media in such process. Hence, this implication in the process is so important that Appadurai (1990) considered it as one of the five dimensions that fuel globalization through a series of disjunctions.
The present essay seeks to show a decisive connection between the two processes listed above. The text will show how media have a dire implication in the global flows. Such a thesis will be sustained mainly in four key concepts: global awareness, cultural exchange, monetary and human flows, and spread of ideologies. Media make globalization possible. Yet, is media globalization a reality for third world countries? Such a question will be answered according to the information presented.
Definition of Globalization
Globalization has been considered as a “trans-national” phenomenon. In the eighties there was a critic point of view that focused on the multi-national companies. This vision stipulated that the States were losing power against these companies because they influenced the economic administration. The State could not eradicate or avoid this influence because of the dependency maintained between the multi-national companies and the general economy. Another point of view was specified in the expansive force of economy, politics and information technology.
Globalization is based on powerful historic dynamics that tend to create space cohesion (A. Mattelavt). Nowadays there are characteristics that have produced some changes in this definition. There is a new global conscience. This is a very important aspect. People consider this new reality as an element that creates new opportunities, but also new dangers (social inequality). Globalization is already developed and is still developing.
There are certain characteristics that identify globalization. The most important are: promotion of global ideologies, technology’s development acceleration, creation of a social conscience towards the natural environment, migratory movements and international cooperation. Everything is global; most of the differences are accepted. Globalization motivates media to expose information about all of these aspects.
Since 1998, with the digitalization process, globalization has been one of the most important subjects in media. Also the different types of media have been modified by it, specifically in their internal business structure and their strategies for international expansion. CNN, NBC, Euronews, TVE international and Fox News are some of the most notorious examples of how media has grown with globalization. These information channels function as worldwide entities that respond to global demands, such as global awareness, cultural exchange, monetary and human flows and the spread of ideologies.
Mass media’s main contribution to globalization rests in the creation of a conscience of the world. The global awareness is the result of the vast information flow ; often, transmission goes by the hand of graphic data – such as video or audio – hence, strengthening the experience and consolidating a ‘more real’ mental representation of the world. Furthermore, media have managed to shape a “global public sphere”. “The world moved from being merely ‘in-itself’ to the problem or the possibility of its being ‘for-itself’” (Robertson).
As Polybus narrated in his “Universal History” about the rise of the Roman empire: “Formerly the things which happened in the world had no connection among themselves …but since then all events are united in a common bundle” (Kohn 1971). Such examples in recent times include the extensive media coverage of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center (9/11) and the aftermath of the Tsunami in Sri Lanka and Thailand. International news functions as general arbitrator of cultural values cross-culturally (Kavoori, 1994) structured by the four global dynamics of modernity, post-modernity, capitalism, and nationalism.
The effect of a global audience can be explained by the “agenda setting” theory. The strong media presence eventually establishes topics to be considered as ‘the most important’. The “bios politikon” and public agenda are, therefore modelled by that of the media. It can be achieved by the intervention of global news conglomerates: wide world broadcasters. CNN’s journalistic initiative has “altered the focus of global news in an interrelationship of changing political centres and peripheries and has given a new meaning to news, journalistic values, the setting of a global agenda…it tends not so much to ‘homogenise’ the globe as to diversify McLuhan’s now clearly simplistic idea of a ‘global village’ into global villages” (Volkmer 1999).
On the other hand, just as news agencies and broadcasters, civic conscience organizations have used the media as the optimal platform for their development. Environmentalist institutions such as “Greenpeace” create events to call media attention, thus reaching a much broader audience. Their actions “coupled with self-restraint and manifest non-violence, introduce a witness-bearing attitude that restores trust and enhances ethical values in an age of widespread cynism” (Castells 1997).