ⓘ Media imperialism


ⓘ Media imperialism

Media imperialism is a theory based upon an over-concentration of mass media from larger nations as a significant variable in negatively affecting smaller nations, in which the national identity of smaller nations is lessened or lost due to media homogeneity inherent in mass media from the larger countries.


1. History and background

The media imperialism debate started in the early 1970s when developing countries began to criticise the control developed countries held over the media. The site for this conflict was UNESCO where the New World Information and Communication Order NWICO movement developed. Supported by the MacBride report, "Many Voices, One World", countries such as India, Indonesia, and Egypt argued that the large media companies should have limited access to developing countries. This argument was one of the reasons for the United States, United Kingdom, and Singapore leaving UNESCO.

In 1977, Oliver Boyd-Barretts "Media Formation Model" framed media imperialism as the relationship between different national media systems, particularly through power imbalances, and the relationship they have to historical political systems. It emphasized the industrial arrangements of media in wealthier nations and the imposition of those arrangements as" models” for foreign markets, with the most powerful producers becoming normative in their financing, structure and in the dissemination and to some extent, content of their products. Boyd asserted a typical arrangement in which news agencies, adopted the structures, roles and" task behaviors” of their parent companies who are also providing financial support.

Later during the 1980s and 1990s, as multinational media conglomerates grow larger and more powerful many believe that it will become increasingly difficult for small, local media outlets to survive. A new type of imperialism will thus occur, making many nations subsidiary to the media products of some of the most powerful countries or companies. Writers and academics working in this area include Ben Bagdikian, Noam Chomsky, Edward S. Herman, Armand Mattelart and Robert W. McChesney. However, critics have responded that in most developing countries the most popular television and radio programs are commonly locally produced. Critics such as the sociologist Anthony Giddens highlight the place of regional producers of media such as Brazil in Latin America; other critics such as the media historian James Curran suggest that State government subsidies have ensured strong local production. In areas such as audience studies, it has been shown that global programs like Dallas do not have a global audience who understand the program in the same way.

A media source which ignores and/or censors important issues and events severely damages freedom of information. Many modern tabloid, twenty-four-hour news channels and other mainstream media sources have increasingly been criticized for not conforming to general standards of journalistic integrity.

Media imperialism is not always an international occurrence. When a small number of companies or corporations controls all the media in a country, this too is a form of media imperialism. Nations such as Italy and Canada are often accused of possessing an imperial media structure, based on the fact that much of their media is controlled by a small number of owners.


2. Canada

The media in Canada can be seen as imperial in the sense of concentrated ownership. Apart from a relatively small number of community broadcasters, media in Canada are primarily owned by a small number of groups, including Bell Canada, the Shaw family via Corus Entertainment and Shaw Communications, Rogers Communications, Quebecor, and the government-owned CBC/Radio-Canada. Each of these companies holds a diverse mix of television, specialty television, and radio operations. Bell, Rogers, Shaw, and Quebecor also engage in the telecommunications industry with their ownership of internet providers, television providers, and mobile carriers, while Rogers is also involved in publishing.


3. USA

The United States has proved to have quite a significant role in media imperialism. For instance, many forms of mass media demonstrate how the United States exerts media power over other countries, especially those lacking in a strong media presence. A major cultural influencer in other countries is television. Specifically in relation to news and journalism, America has a strong presence in the international arena. American news networks like CNN often have large international staffs, and produce specialized regional programming for many nations.

Movies have a distinctly American dominance. For example, Hollywood is a major producer of films, which tend to be high quality and are released internationally. Hollywoods dominance is also seen in the term "Bollywood", describing Indias Hindi-language film industry.

Another form of mass media used for media imperialism is music. Much of todays, and older, American music finds itself popular in other countries. However, in the "British Invasion" of the 1960s, British music became popular in the United States. Since then, there has not been such a large shift of imperialism. Furthermore, some could argue that it wasnt that large of a shift of power, because it was still a dominance of Western influence.

Overall, American media imperialism can be seen as a positive and a negative. Negative views towards it stem from the negative connotation of the word imperialism. This word is associated with political imperialism, in which a large country creates an empire out of smaller ones. However, media imperialism can be seen as a positive when it is viewed as a way to create a consensus narrative. A consensus narrative is a result of "products that provide us with shared experiences". By having similar experiences, it opens the gateway for communication and development of relationships. Yet, this can also become a problem when the cultural exchange is not balanced or reciprocated. American culture is being transmitted to other countries, but other cultures may not be received in return.

Therefore, this creates an atmosphere of cultural imperialism where American culture is dominating others and becoming the main one. For example, ".numerous international observers contend that consumers in countries inundated by American-made movies, television, and images have even less control than American consumers." Moreover, these forms of mass media channels are not the only ones that have an American feeling to them, the internet also has somewhat of an American appearance.

Additionally, media imperialism, in the sense of concentrated ownership, has its own effects within the United States. Many news organizations are owned by a limited number of corporations. One such example is Rupert Murdoch and his companies ownership of several notable media outlets, such as the Wall Street Journal. Other large media corporations consist of The Walt Disney Company and Comcast. In 2018, AT&T and Time Warner merged, further concentrating media ownership in the United States.


4. Italy

In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi operates Italys top TV stations with the Mediaset empire, and the public broadcaster RAI has been subject to political influence. Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders has warned of formal political influence in stifling the media. In April 2013 comedian Beppe Grillo accelerated the debate within Italy about the independence of media from political interests, releasing poll results showing that out of 95.000 responses 99 percent wanted a public broadcast channel free from political meddling, and 52 percent wanted more investigative journalism about domestic issues. He wrote in a blog post, a part of the Italian population is living in a gigantic Truman show, and responsibility for this is entirely due to Italian journalists, with the usual few exceptions.RAI has to be reorganized and transformed into a public service following the model of the BBC without any connection to the parties.

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