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The Effects of Media Globalization By Mary Hickman

Media globalization cannot be stopped. It is a result of new communications technology. It is also the prerequisite and facilitator for all other forms of globalization. Multi-national media is critical to global industries. Many Americans feel that we ought to enjoy the benefits of media globalization, such as global communication, rather than fearing and attempting to avoid the consequenceswhich ironically include hindrance of free speech. Communicating internationally has never been easier. Thanks to new media platforms, we can have a video conversation with a loved one who is 10,000 miles away or keep up-to-date on the stock market with our cell phones. The internet can also improve our health or save our lives. Your doctor may send an X-ray or MRI to another doctor in India or China for a second opinion and have it within hours. An Israeli company is making big advances in compression technology to allow for easier, better transfers of CAT scans via the Internet so you can quickly get a second opinion from a doctor half a world away (Friedman, 2005). Thomas L. Friedman, quoting Craig J. Mundie, a chief technical officer for Microsoft: The Windows-powered PC enabled millions of individuals, for the first time ever, to become authors of their own content in digital form, which meant that content could be shared far and wide. Friedmans book underlines his belief that media has the power to cross cultural gaps, bring people closer together and generally make our lives more convenient as it never has before (Friedman, 2005). Through

the worldwide web, endless amounts of information are readily available to us. Yet it is important to consider what the chief technical officer of Microsoft did not say: readily available information does not necessarily mean we are better informed. And while new global media can cross cultural boundaries, this does not always bring people closer together. In truth it can deteriorate foreign relations as cultural barriers are broken down by American media (Siochru, 2004). Despite the benefits, there are also very real consequences. A majority of all media is owned by a very small percentage of wealthy corporations. Local media is being swallowed alive by conglomerations. Freedom of speech is threatened by these multinational corporations; they drown out the voice of local media with profit-maximizing formulas. Media moguls have the most to gain from globalization of media. Their power is concentrated; they have merged, often with companies that are unrelated to the field, as when GE bought NBC (Pappas, 2004). Naturally, the political ideas and bias of GE can be seen in NBC: GE expels criminal amounts of pollution. Therefore, pollution is not a topic covered by NBC. Imagine, for example, what our local news would sound like if it had been bought by Phillip-Morris (Pappas, 2004). Multi-national media corporations produce products which maximize their profits while decreasing the cost of production. Globalization has made it easy to shift production to low-wage, high-repression areas of the world.andeasy to play off one immobile national labor force against another (Chomsky, 1994). Jobs which might usually have been performed locally are being shipped internationally and performed at less than half the cost. Corporations are increasing profit by cutting costs and selling to an international audience. Meanwhile, the American

middle class is disappearing along with the jobs. Robert McChesney, in a documentary titled Orwell Rolls in His Grave, stated that the income for the wealthiest 1% of Americans has risen 141% over the past twenty years. The income for the American middle class, however, has only risen a pathetic 9%. These statistics ought to appall and frighten, yet they go largely unnoticed by the American people because they are not handed over to us by our media (Pappas, 2004). Charles Klotzer of St Louis Journalism Review: The top 5% is capturing an increasingly greater portion of the pie while the bottom 95% is clearly losing ground, and the highly touted American middle class is disappearing. Klotzer claims that the media intentionally ignore these facts (Klotzer, 2004). The benefits of media globalization may make it difficult to see these consequences, which are often subversive. After all, why should the media inform us about the negative effects of their global dominance? To do so does not support their main interest: profit. According to Noam Chomsky, Their first interest is profits, but broader than that. Its to construct an audience of a particular typeOne that is addicted to a certain life-style with artificial wants (Chomsky, 1996). The wealthiest countries have the resources to produce the most media; therefore, the media delivered to the global audience will promote the culture of the wealthiest countries. And it is the wealthiest minority within these countries who defines the content of the media, thereby influencing culture around the world. The multi-national media corporations are not held accountable for their actions. Only the government has the power to regulate media; in the past twenty years there has been a rising trend in decreasing regulation for the media. Between 1980 and 2000, the U.S. witnessed an unprecedented historical

explosion of mergers (Bennett, 2000). These corporations were allowed to merge at least in part due to free market principles on behalf of the government. However, one of the consequences of the mergers is they have led to lowered public service obligations of media organizationsas free market ideology has ironically created near monopoly business practices (Bennett, 2000). Not only does the oligopoly have the governments blessing; the American media oligopoly is also subsidized by the government (Pappas, 2004). Anyone who believes in a true democratic society ought to feel outraged that tax dollars are being given to lobbyists to fund a lucrative oligopoly. More media is readily available to us than there ever has been before. As the number of media vehicles increases, so does competition in the open market. This increase in competition has not led to an increase in content diversity. Instead, media content, or media products, have become standardized to fill a profit formula as the largest media corporations compete with each other for audience share. Even news stations have taken up the profit formulas. It can be inferred that what occurs is a lower quality of journalistic content and an unspoken agreement across the board as to what news is (Bennett, 2000). Theres just a common consensus among extremely narrow sectors of power as to the way the world should be perceived and as to what kind of people there should be (Chomsky, 1996). The effect of a self-censored media is thought-control, controlled by personalized media content. According to Lance Bennett in an address presented to the UNESCO-EU Conference, The journalistic abandonment of the public interest is not driven by changes at the individual level in professional journalism norms or motives. Nor is it driven bypopular demand

for less substantial information. To the contrary, the media, and their news products in particular, have fallen in public esteem to the lowest levels recorded in the modern era of polling (Bennett, 2000). The pursuit of profit, not truth, is at the core of multinational media. There have been increases in advertising in media while journalistic quality plummets. A memo from CocaColas ad agency to magazines states: The Coca-Cola company requires that all insertions are placed adjacent to editorial that is consistent with each brands marketing strategy We consider the following subjects to be inappropriate: hard news, sex, diet, political issues, environmental issues If an appropriate positioning option is not available, we reserve the right to omit our ad from that issue (n.d.). Media is largely funded by advertising. The Coca-Cola memo makes it explicit that media content is affected by the desires and politics of advertising agencies.Noam Chomsky, when asked what globalization means for the press and media, replied: It means much narrower concentration of media sourcesIt will reflect the points of view of those who can amass the huge capital to run international media. Diversity and information will decline, media will get more and more advertiser-oriented (Chomsky, 1996). If Noam Chomsky is correct and advertising in media increases, we can expect our media to be overwhelmingly dominated by advertiser interests and bias. In summary, we can expect the quality of journalism to wither. Media is a unique product in that it shapes how people think and behave. It is a product of culture which also shapes

culture. Sean Siochru made note of this in an address at the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, held in Geneva: Media products are different, not least because they are more than mere consumer goods: in important respects they also produce us (Siochru, 2004). Because of the societal influence demonstrated by media, it is imperative to regulate it differently than other commodities (Siochru, 2004). Currently, America enforces very little regulation over media for the sake of an open and free market (Pappas, 2004). While the free market principle works for most other goods and services, the theory as applied to media has been detrimental to society (Bennett, 2000). The media falls victim to strong consumerist desires, which they encourage American citizens to exhibit. For capitalisms cheerleaders, like Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, all this suggests that the human race is entering a Golden Age. All people need to do is sit back, shut up and shop and let markets and technologies work their magical wonders (McChesney, 2001). The truly frightening aspect of the consumerist philosophy is that America is not the only country affected; globalization has allowed us to share our culture of greed with the world. When multi-national corporations are granted free speech rights, the voice of the people is stifled. The authors of the Constitution intended to guarantee these rights for individuals only; individuals do not have the same voice as a global media corporation (Pappas, 2004). Furthermore, when one considers that media shapes culture and that American oligopolies are largely in control of media globalization, one could come to the conclusion that media globalization is an imperialistic effort on the part of media conglomerates (Chomsky, 2004).

Thomas L. Friedman, author of the best-selling book The World is Flat and an opinion editorial columnist for The New York Times, noted the significance of the recent explosion of media. Says Friedman, [Media globalization] will be seen in time as one of those fundamental shifts or inflection points, like Gutenbergs invention of the printing press, the rise of the nation-state, or the Industrial Revolutioneach of which, in its day, noted Rothkopf, produced changes in the role of individuals, the role and form of government, the ways business was done and wars were fought, the role of women, the forms religion and art took, and the way science and research were conducted, not to mention the political labels that we as a civilization have assigned to ourselves and our enemies. Friedman acknowledges that media globalization currently does, and will continue to have a profound impact on the way people conduct their lives. While media globalization is in itself more helpful than harmful, American media corporations are setting a dangerous trend in their media products. If we assume that the example that America is setting as the forerunner of media globalization will be imitated on a global scale, the consequences are beyond frightening: they will threaten democracy by silencing the voice of the people.


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