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Communications Media, Globalization, and Empire

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In Communications Media, Globalization, and Empire, an international team of experts analyze and critique the political economy of media communications worldwide. Their analysis takes particular account of the sometimes conflicting pressures of globalization and "neo-imperialism." The first is commonly defined as the dismantling of barriers to trade and cultural exchange and responds significantly to lobbying of the world’s largest corporations, including media corporations. The second concerns U.S. pursuit of national security interests as response to "terrorism," at one level and, at others, to intensifying competition among both nations and corporations for global natural resources.

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Chapter 1 Globalization, Media and Empire: An Introduction

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The act of communication in itself is an arguably insufficient object of study: communication is no more nor less important than the universe of both silence and noise from which communication emerges and which gives it shape, just as the spaces between objects represented in a painting have vitality no less essential to the scope for meaning of the whole. To understand communication we must understand that which is not “there”. To communicate is simultaneously not to communicate; to enlighten may at the same time obscure; to inform may deceive. From such a premise, we should conclude that the title of this book is much less than the product of its silences.

For many decades from its inception during the first half of the twentieth century scholars advanced the study of media when more correctly they may be said to have promoted a propaganda of public opinion and pluralism; they concentrated on the place of media within the nation rather than media’s role in construction of the nation. In dealing with the administrative entity that we call the state, and the cultural product to which it lays claim and that we call the nation, they understated the dependence of these upon the play of symbolic power through media. Their focus on media within the nation took insufficient account of the play of international interests, technologies, finance, and ideologies in shaping media; and marginalized the adventures of national media on international markets, and the role of media in securing the compliance of populations both domestic and foreign with the international political and economic ambitions of domestic and transnational elites. Transnational dimensions of media activity were first presented (in the 1960s) in the context of benign discourses of modernization and democratization, or discourses of cultural protection for local (often elite) cultural products, in preference to malign discourses of imperialism, whose relevance should surely have been acute in the decolonization context of that period. When in the 1970s scholarship did seize on the importance of media as tools of political, economic and cultural subjugation of nations, classes, genders and races, in competition for the earth’s resource and for the precious time and trusting fealty of citizens, subjects and employees, discussion soon reverted to audiences and the nebulous processes by which human beings struggle to make meaning from texts on the basis of limited cognitive and cultural resources. The political economy of media as agents of both imperialism and resistance, was further diverted, hijacked even, during the 1990s, by discourses of globalization that focused on markets and regulation more than interests and social classes, on discontinuities between modern and pre-modern more than continuities, on the surface chatter of trade and cultural policies more than long-term strategies of power. Discourses of globalization, attending to interdependencies, networks, transformations of space and time, transnational corporate networks, the seductions and utilities of corporate products, constant assurances of goodwill for mankind and a better future, stand in sharp opposition to the discourses of imperialism, with their attention to hubris and control, victimage and justice, and the critical interrogation of media as vehicles of product promotion, distraction, and self-exculpatory consolations for, diversions from and denials of an incessant savagery and enslavement that, with particular intensity these past few hundred years, has visited alike colored and white, man and woman, and the very earth itself, its creatures, forests, oceans, and air. Neither set of these incompatible narratives is complete: globalization theories focus on the benefit of liberal markets and understate the continuance of protected markets (e.g. US government subventions and favorable tax policies in such areas as agriculture and movies). Imperialism theories excoriate the nefariousness of the empire’s cultural product yet are reluctant to acknowledge the potential for liberation in exposure to new informational and entertainment paradigms and technologies.

 

Chapter 2 Cosmopolitans and Conquistadors: Empires, Nations and Networks

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Surveying the thickening network of sea routes and maritime traffic in 1795, the German Philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that binding “distant parts of the world” ever more tightly together through trade and exchange laid the basis for a new world order founded on mutual respect and hospitality to strangers. He imagined people everywhere ceasing to be subjects, governed by powers over which they had no control, and becoming citizens with the right to participate fully in social and political life and help shape its future forms. At the same time, he was acutely aware that this possibility was being comprehensively undermined by “the actions of the civilised and especially the commercial states of our part of the world” who “under the pretence of establishing economic undertakings … suppress the natives” and impose “injustice … carried to terrifying lengths” (Kant on the Web, 2005).

This central opposition between cosmopolitans and conquistadors, between a world system based on open flows, equality of respect and creative collisions and one organised around asymmetric power and domination, continues to structure contemporary debate. On the one side stand those who present contemporary globalisation primarily as a system of cultural exchange. They see new spaces for popular action, novel hybrid forms of expression, and emerging cosmopolitan tastes and styles. Facing them stand those who see a new economic “empire of capital” emerging (Wood, 2003), dedicated to securing key resources, dominating major world markets and colonising imaginative horizons. Advocates of the first position point to the accelerating global flows of people, ideas, and cultural products and the increasingly heterodox cultural landscapes of the world’s major cities. Proponents of the second view emphasise the strategies of domination pursued by the new transnational capitalist class who command the leading global multinational companies, administer the global trading regime, and support pre-emptive strikes against “unfriendly” and “rogue” regimes (Sklair, 2001).

 

Chapter 3 Film and Globalization

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Non-US based people of color are the world’s majority filmmakers, with diverse ideological projects and patterns of distribution. The various language groups in India produce about a thousand films a year and employ two and a half million people across the industry, while China’s vast production, strong export trade and extraordinary filmmaking tradition brought in US$13.86 million in foreign sales between 1996 and 2000 (Anderson, 2000; Chinese film industry, 2001). Yet the story of film and globalization is largely a Hollywood one. The US industry’s overseas receipts were US$6.6 billion in 1999 and US$6.4 billion in 2000 (the reduction was due to foreign-exchange depreciation rather than any drop in admissions [Groves, 2001b]).

Note. Hancock, 1999.

Note. www.netribution.co.uk

Los Angeles-New York culture and commerce – a.k.a. Hollywood – dominate screen entertainment around the globe, either directly or as an implied other, and the international success of US film since the First World War has been a model for its export of music, television, advertising, the Internet and sport. Shifts towards a neoliberal, multinational investment climate between 1990 and 2000 have reinforced Hollywood’s dominance through the privatization of media ownership, a unified Western European market, openings in the former Soviet bloc, and the spread of satellite TV, the Web and the VCR, combined with deregulation of national broadcasting in Europe and Latin America. Today, US companies own between 40 per cent and 90 per cent of the movies shown in most parts of the world (Miller et al., 2005, pp. 9–10). As the table on the previous page indicates, it also attracts the vast majority of investment in cinema.

 

Chapter 4 Cyberspace, Globalization and US Empire

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In this chapter, I argue that the framework of media imperialism is appropriate for the study of US dominance of information and communication technology (ICT) industries in the period 1975–2000. Early media imperialism theories focused on US television exports at a time when such exports were set to decline in many local markets. Covert influences such as ownership, business models, professional values, content formatting, audience preferences, cultural hybrids and technologies, were insufficiently considered. In particular, the earlier focus on television and content may have distracted attention from the emergence of microprocessor-based computer networking technologies, their significance for the development of ICT industries, and the profound influence these have exerted on US economic and foreign policies from the 1970s. This chapter evaluates the significance of ICT for US responses to challenges to its superpower status from the 1970s. It documents the continuing dominance of US corporate power, of US-based transnational corporations (TNCs) and, among them, of ICT industries, within the global economy. It charts US dominance of most spheres of computing and telecommunications at the turn of the 21st century. With specific reference to intelligence estimates of future global trends it assesses the significance of the “Asian challenge”, specifically the challenge of Asian ICT activity to the prospects of a continuation of US hegemony.

 

Chapter 5 Globalization, Public Service Broadcasting and Citizen Responses

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On library shelves solid, cloth bound multi-volume works testify to the significance of two different media systems developed in the twentieth century and which still exist, in very different formations and conditions, in the first decade of this century. The five-volume History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom by Asa Briggs took the story of public service broadcasting (PSB) up to 1974 (Briggs, 1961; 1965; 1970; 1979; 1995).

In the US a different, and ultimately much more powerful and influential, broadcasting system developed, shaped by the exigencies of commerce. Eric Barnouw’s trilogy describes the origins and development of commercial broadcasting organizations, pays tribute to the innovation and creativity in programme making generated by the broadcasting companies, and demonstrates the enormous impact these programmes had on viewers and US society (Barnouw, 1966; 1968; 1970).

In the early twenty first century the economic, political and technological structures shaping the development of these two broadcasting systems have been radically changed, with the abandonment of attempts to rein in and regulate the economic structures of advanced capitalist states. In the 1970s and 1980s a host of economic concepts emerged that embodied these changes: deregulation, restructuring, privatization, the free market system, globalization, and neoliberalism. Michael Tracey, in his elegiac study of public service broadcasting, identified the consequences of these changes for public service broadcasting, “an institution born in one age, seeking to survive in one which is utterly different” (Tracey, 1996, p. 10).

 

Chapter 6 Regulating Globalization: Domestic Response to International Investment in China’s Media Market

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This chapter discusses domestic and international forces that have accelerated the opening of China’s media market to the world. The combination of a unique social-political history and recent endeavors towards reform and openness breeds an inconsistent policy system characterized by tight regulation of media investment and weak or inconsistent implementation of the regulations. This chapter investigates both the legitimate zone of foreign involvement in China’s media as well as a “grey area” that comprises operations and interactions that were initiated in advance of recent legislation. The impact of China’s entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and subsequent regulation of foreign media investment is addressed. The chapter examines how China maintains a delicate equilibrium between media commercialization and political and cultural integrity, while exploring the power dynamics that govern China’s relations with global media investors.

Media globalization and localization. Media globalization is the product of a process of intensified media commercialization that originated in the Western world. According to Herman and McChesney (1997), media systems tend to reflect the overall political economy. As capitalism develops and the profitability of commercial media increases, issues of media control move from a predominantly political to a predominantly business and commercial context. Often starting as small enterprises in competitive markets, some commercial media grow into large enterprises that shape monopolistic or oligopolistic markets. There has been increasing concern in Western countries about concentration of large media in the hands of a few conglomerates, and the possibility that media may be increasingly susceptible to manipulation by the same plutocratic elites that disproportionately influence the financing and conduct of political campaigns. Such monopolies often exhibit high restraint in dealing with issues of great importance to political and corporate elites.

 

Chapter 7 Xinhua News Agency and Globalization: Negotiating Between the Global, the Local and the National

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This chapter sketches a view of the relationship between the global, the local and the national, and its implications in the field of media and communication. It explores the reconstruction of national media through negotiations with global and local forces. It explains how the negotiating process itself facilitates the formation of the global/national/local triad, in which nation-states remain powerful. In this process, national media continue to play a pivotal role.

We define national media as actors who operate nationwide, mainly within the territory of a nation-state. They are state-based media, which can be owned publicly, privately, or by the nation-state. National media in general, and news agencies in particular, are the major contributors to “national consolidation” or “national identification” (Boyd-Barrett, 1997; Boyd-Barrett & Rantanen, 1998; Curran, 2002).

National media are today increasingly marginalized. Scholars draw attention more to the global and the local, and the interrelations between them. The “national” is invisible in the “global/local nexus” (Wilson and Dissanayake, 1996, p. 2). National media seem to be redundant, replaced by a hybrid of global and local formations (Morris & Waisbord, 2001; Dirlik, 1996). Some forms, particularly television, are no longer considered as a medium of “national political integration” (Katz, 1996, p. 23) because of the tendencies of “atomisation” and “globalization”, which “overlook and thereby threaten the nation-state” (Katz, 1996, p. 26).

 

Chapter 8 Localization Strategies of International Media Companies: Entering India in the 1990s

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Localization is an expensive option. Why, then, do global media corporations do it, even when there is no regulatory pressure on them to do so, as in India? The basic aim is to gain acceptability among audiences, advertisers and those who monitor cultural or moral standards. I will focus on the localization strategies of companies that are the progeny of corporate alliances and local partners. I argue that in tracing these strategies one must look beyond manifest content to underlying homogenization in the modes of production and distribution. Corporations absorb the uncertainty of local market taste by decentralizing or out-sourcing local production. These collaborators then become the foothold for outsiders to gain inside positions, as well as giving local operators an outlet to global networks. Specific practices of localization include (a) localization of programming content, which includes (i) splitting satellite beams; (ii) ceding creative autonomy to locals; (iii) creating culturally specific made-for-market programming; (iv) enhancing visibility to local artists; (v) basing local programming on American formats; and (b) the cosmetic localization of programming through (i) dubbing, (ii) sub-titling, and (iii) using local hosts to “link” programming. But it is only in the larger cultural-linguistic markets that we see customization take place.

 

Chapter 9 Transnational Media and National Vision: Television in Liberalized India

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The transformation of political values and objectives brought about by exposure to foreign programming and the entry of foreign capital in the national communicative space remains a significant concern for several observers of transnational media. Yet, the notion of values central to this discussion continues to be an abstraction in most literature. Terms such as beliefs, opinions, and political or social values commonly appear in discussions around media. Such investigations, however, require specified notions in the context of a community because of differentiated reception of foreign messages. Without doubt the entry of foreign media represents a salient development for local communities, their economies at the least, but the more explicit implications may be lost in broad discussions and conclusions.
Tracing values in their social and political context presents an essential exercise for furthering our understanding of global expansion of commercial media. Media institutions play multiple roles in a setting. The programming may offer illustrations of social and political realities of a community (Curran & Gurevitch, 1991; Ang, 2001). Communities also utilize local media institutions to articulate and reinforce their sense of community by providing communication sphere for community discussions. How does the entry of foreign corporations and commercialization of domestic media change this role and what form of threat does this present for community values?

 

Chapter 10 Hispanic Media Globalization

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In general terms, the main factors behind globalization can be summarized as follows: firstly we have financial factors, such as the liberalization of some markets and the power of transnational corporations. Secondly there is an important factor that concerns the language: English is considered the most international language in the world. Thirdly we must consider new technologies such as the Internet, satellite and cable systems. These have contributed to the extremely fast development of globalization in recent years. Finally, there is the fact that the nineties have been described as the “information era”. Information became increasingly more important at work and in daily life in those years, thereby increasing the relevance of media during that decade (Stephens, 1995, p. 27). So, recent globalization is closely related to the media market.

Media play a key role in cultural globalization. In this sense media globalization depends mainly on the existence of global media companies (GMC). According to Levitt (1983, p. 92), “the global corporation operates with resolute constancy as if the entire world (or major regions of it) were a single entity; it sells the same things in the same way everywhere”. From this view, some media conglomerates can be considered global companies. These global media companies are also characterized by being big companies integrated vertically and horizontally, they are leaders in their domestic markets, affiliated to foreign companies and operating in different countries. They promote the international distribution of media contents and develop the production of global media. Companies from different countries share most of their ownership, which brings knowledge and penetration into those countries.

 

Chapter 11 Deregulation, Privatization and the Changing Global Media Environment

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Today, the level of economic restructuring and consolidation is unprecedented in the history of international business and commerce. The globalization of economic activity has forced many nations of the world to carefully consider their national economic policies. The once sacrosanct government monopolies of the past, including airlines, telecommunications and steel, are feeling the international winds of change. There is a growing realization that if such government protected monopolies do not move fast enough in providing advanced services at the right cost, they will soon find themselves being outperformed by their international rivals.

The result is a worldwide movement to deregulate government involvement in business and to privatize (or sell off) state-owned companies.

In a transnational economy, the allocation of resources is predicated upon market goals and efficiencies. This is especially true in the fields of media and telecommunications whose business models are decidedly global and where success is dependent on the free flow of trade across national borders. The combination of international deregulation and privatization trends coupled with advancements in new media and telecommunications technology has forever changed the global media landscape. This chapter will examine the principles of deregulation and privatization and how both sets of factors have transformed the business of media and telecommunications.

 

Chapter 12 Global Advertising in Asia: Penetration and Transformation of the Transnational Advertising Agencies

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The history of global advertising in Asia is relatively young, when compared to Western Europe and Latin America. Until the late 1980s, most countries in the Asia-Pacific region, except Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, remained largely untapped by TNAAs. Since then, the transnational advertising agencies (TNAAs) made vigorous expansion into the region, mainly to serve their clients, transnational corporations. The Asia/Pacific region has been recognized by these global marketers as one of the fastest growing and healthy markets boosted by the buying power of expanding middle class populations. It has emerged as a vital consumer market for transnational corporations rather than as a low cost labor market for manufacturing transnational products (Kilburn 1995; Kim, 2003).

Research into transnational advertising focuses on two main areas: one centers on relevant creative strategies: e.g. whether standardized or specialized campaigns are appropriate and effective in the context of foreign countries. Such research focuses on the effectiveness of message strategies and approaches. The other centers on the global political economy of the industry: e.g. the structure of ownership patterns and the growth of transnational advertising (see Miracle, 1984; Moriarty & Duncan, 1991; Janus, 1986; Schiller, 1989; Sinclair, 1992; Kim, 1995).

 

Chapter 13 Toward Globalization or Localization: Multinational Advertising in Eastern Europe

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The economic and political opening of Central and Eastern Europe after 1989 was a signal for multinational advertising agencies to establish their presence there as soon as possible. With the following influx of Western media products, an excellent laboratory has emerged for the observation of the relationship between global advertising and local economies and cultures. Drawing on Kelly-Holmes (1998), this chapter argues that commercial advertising non-deliberately fulfilled the function of socialization, teaching East European audiences not just about individual products, but about how to live and participate in a consumer society, bringing to the previously planned economies the ideology of consumption and discourse of the market.

Globalization, originally defined as the intensification of human interaction across territorial boundaries, has recently come to encompass the increasing promotion of a neo-liberal economic and political agenda. Driven by the ideology of free market, this process entails a systemic transformation of the economy, polity, culture, in the modes of existence and the degree of control exercised locally, and is characterized by intensification of the longue durée of commodification around the world (Mittelman, 2004; Gill, 1995). Transnational advertising, along with financial capital, has become a central factor in facilitating the process worldwide. “If financial capital is the fuel that fired the engine of transnational corporations, transnational advertising is the fire that lights the path toward capitalism and consumption” (Viswanath & Zeng, 2002). After the 1989 collapse of Communism in this region, Central and Eastern Europe’s opening to an inflow of foreign capital and foreign media products provided a rich site for observation of the relationship between multinational advertising and the processes of globalization.

 

Chapter 14 Global Corporations, Global Public Relations

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The logos and advertisements sponsored by global corporations and the movies, video games, books, and music produced by global media conglomerates are now visible all around us. Less noticeable, however, is the work of the public relations practitioners who support the activities of those corporations and media organizations. Once considered a predominantly American activity, public relations is now routinely practiced around the world, by non-governmental advocacy organizations and charities as well as by corporations and governments. At its highest levels, public relations has itself become a global business, dominated by three publicly owned agencies that offer a wide range of services, from media relations, public affairs consulting, and reputation management to events planning, sports and entertainment marketing, and traditional advertising services. Our goal in this chapter is to discuss the main reasons for the worldwide expansion of public relations, describe the rise of the global umbrella agencies upon which corporate clients now depend, and consider the debates about the purpose, power, and ethics of public relations that these historical changes have inspired.

 

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