Globalization is defined as the process of integration of philosophies, beliefs and other properties between different cultures (Albrow and King 1990, Giddens 1991). In modern society globalization plays an important role, whether it be on social, economic or cultural levels (Held et al. 1999). One of the key contributors to globalization is the mass media, in recent times this has occurred through cultural integration and the flow of information between different countries through mediums such as television, newspapers, film, music and newer technologies (Curran and Park 2000, Tomlinson 1999). With the development of new technologies, international cultural exchange will become easier, as has already been seen with Internet platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Significant theories in media and communications have arisen through globalization these include modernity, developmental theories such as the network society and cultural imperialism (Held et al. 1999, Herman and McChesney 2004).
This essay will be exploring these theories and concepts in international communications and globalization to better understand media and the media industries in the twenty-first century. It will also critically engage these theories with my personal views and understanding as a media and communications student as well as a global citizen. Early communication theories were based around modernization and development. Daniel Lerner’s early works on modernization focused on the dispersion of Western culture, technological improvements and innovation (Albrow and King 1990, Lerner 1958). In the 1960’s Wilbur Schramm furthered modernization theory, he explained that communication could be used to benefit developing nations both politically and economically (Curran and Park 2000, Schramm 1964). Since earlier modernization and developmental theories, the focus has been switched away from Western influences and diffusion, rather gaining a more neutral interpretation. Anthony Gidden’s attempts to discredit the original ‘media dependency theory’ by differentiating traditional and modern societies, explaining that although influences have played a role in globalization, over time people have ‘stretch[ed] further and further across space and time using mass media and interactive media (Giddens 1991).’
Historically Western influence has played a large role in everyday society, from politics to economics, in media this is seen through television, film and news. One of the major influences over the past few decades is Hollywood and it’s byproducts (Miller 2001, Mingant 2012). Traditional Hollywood films, although focused for an American only target, were broadcasted throughout the world, where it was well received. These films consisted of American values and cultures, additionally the ‘cast and spectacular quality’ are the reasons behind strong popularity around the world for these Hollywood films (Mingant 2012). As a global citizen it is easy to recognize this influence since the local film industry isn’t as large and the majority of the ‘popular’ films are from Hollywood. But this trend is on the decline as we are seeing more and more international films from India and France as well as Eastern and European influences in Hollywood films. This has lead to an increasing significance of other ‘foreign markets in [this] globalized world’ which has to change is the global market (Miller 2001, Mingant 2012).
Similar to modernization and developmental theories, cultural imperialism theories were based on US influence and impact on developing countries. Herbert Schiller, one of the main contributors to cultural imperialism in 1969, explained that the US gaining imperialistic control of developing countries through the media (Schiller 1969, Sparks 2007). This view was influential and opened the door for others to critique and further cultural imperialism theories. Oliver Boyd-Barred advanced cultural imperialism theory by suggesting that it was more than just ‘gaining control’ and more so a matter of inequality between different nations and this lead to ‘political and economic dependency’ (Boyd-Barrett 1977).
Through local news media we can see the inequality of news reporting. The news is often Western dominated and shows hints of modern imperialism, whereas when developing countries are show in the news it is mainly related to corruption or tragedy. Over time this has lead to a bias image of these countries, which places the viewer with an inadequate understanding of the issue. Additionally, the developing nations are unable to produce their own mass media, and if they are they copy the formats of the Western world. As a global citizen it is easy to see the inequality between different nations and with such a large influence from countries like the US and UK, we are beginning to see the same stories covered over and over again. A perfect example is when an even occurs US, for example the shooting of a black teenager; this news is spread throughout the world even though there is very little interest from other countries (Reuters 2014).
Where as when killing occurs in other parts of the world, for example recently in Gaza when thousands had died, it was barely covered in Western media (AAP 2014). This shows a heavy political influence on the media. Nonetheless, although not predominant in the Western world, I believe Al-Jazeera is becoming a news platform for developing and Eastern countries. These are ‘real worldwide’ news stories, which have an equal balance of news stories from all over the world. Additionally, these news stories are more informative and let the audience make their own view on the topic at hand. In this modern age we are going through a technological revolution, new media platforms are being produced every day and content creation is easier then ever. Social media is slowly taking over as the predominant medium and sites such as Facebook and Twitter are booming through more and more people joining as well as advertisement revenue. Through this boom we are seeing increased globalization across these platforms. Many worldwide issues are discussed on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, from the FIFA World Cup, to the recent events in Ferguson, USA (Frier 2014, Reuters 2014).
It is also important recognize that when going though these stories on social media, everyone is given an opportunity to present their own view. Outside of these social media platforms, users are able to access more worldwide news as well as create their own content. As a global citizen, I often see myself researching topics in much more detail to gain a better understanding of news and issues. I feel this is the best way to gain an accurate view. I have a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and through these media platforms I see many issues being discussed. Social media and the Internet will slowly take over as the dominant form of information flow. Globalisation can be seen to have many benefits as well has having a negative side. Traditionally globalization meant influencing other global nations with respect to media, politics and economics.
This was a global view during early media theory works. Only through the 1970’s did the globalization theories become questioned with claims of inequality and bias (Boyd-Barrett 1977, Schiller 1969). From these findings through to modern media we are seeing a slight move away from Western dominance of media. The concentration of media agencies is owned by a few people and although the US is no longer considered culturally imperialistic; the global media system is still yet to hit the developing nations. As a global citizen, the media is complex system and without looking further into issues of media we are given a one sided story with bias.