Monday, December 05, 2005

Week 10 Resou, Evalu & Analy

Alas, we have come to the end. This is the last week of posting for this class project on Global Media & Culture. If you are reading this and you are not a member of my group, I encourage you to follow up on the results of this ten-week journey and check out our team's wiki project.

Ok, now to this week's posting:

This week I focused my attention on another chapter ("Globalization, Culture and the Fate of Nations") from Global Transformations by David Held, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt & Jonathan Perraton, which we had neglected before but which has turned out to be the chapter most directly applicable to our subject.

The writer(s) begin: "Few expressions of globalization are so visible, widespread and pervasive as the worldwide proliferation of internationally traded consumer brands, the global ascendancy of popular cultural icons and artefacts, and the simultaneous communication of events by satellite broadcasts to hundreds of millions of people at a time on all continents" (Held, et al. 327). In the Information Age globalization moves at the speed of light, electrons and digits. Nothing else in history has been so powerful a unifying force globally than mass media and popular culture. "New technologies of telecommunications and the emergence of international media corporations, among other factors, have generated global cultural flows whose stretch, intensity, diversity and rapid diffusion exceed that of earlier eras" (Held 328).

And the state of things in the media world is such that this "worldwide proliferation" is controlled by an increasingly limited number of "international media corporations."

The chapter lists the few most dominant corporate players in several media bold and parentheses after each quote I'll total the number of corporations mentioned:

"news gathering...UPI, AP and Reuters" (3)
"visual news gathering outside of the main networks...Reuters and WTN." (2)
"Internationally available [TV] news...CNN, News International and...the BBC." (3)
"Global recorded music sales...Thorn-EMI, Polygram, Warner and Sony held 73 per cent of the global market in 1991, while Bertelsmann and Matsushita account for much of the rest." (total, 6)
(all of the above, Held 349)

This Global Transformations chapter did not list so clearly the primary corporations in the television and film industries, short of pointing out through other research how much the global landscape of those are dominated by the US. However, an article by J. W. Robert McCheesney (whose work in this field was qoted by Held et al a number of times) which I made reference to in a previous post does give a clear, and more recently updated list of the 8-9 companies that make up the global oligopoly controlling the vast majority of the media on the planet: "...the global media market has come to be dominated by the same eight transnational corporations...that rule US media: General Electric, AT&T/Liberty Media, Disney, Time Warner, Sony, News Corporation, Viacom and Seagram, plus Bertelsmann, the Germany-based conglomerate." A quick recall of recent buy-outs and mergers will remind us just how comprehensive that list is: GE also owns Universal and NBC, Disney owns ABC and a numbers of major movie studios (I read in the 1996 or 97 Disney stock prospectus that 4 out of every 5 movie tickets sold in the US were for Disney-owned movies), Time-Warner also includes AOL and CNN, Viacom owns CBS... these companies account for nearly every major TV network and major film studio in the US. That is a high degree of concentration of money, power and influence, and that means that the unprecedented massive flow of information and cultural product flooding the global marketplace and impacting every nation is in the hands of a very few and mostly like-minded entities.

These corporations may not be making the political, cultural and sociological impacts they are making on nations and cultures intentionally...they are mainly focused on their profits...but nevertheless they are making such impacts, if only because they are redefining the playing filed for everyone else, and making it in their own image. Held and his fellow writers summed up well in their chapter, writing, "In the end, Hollywood, Microsoft and AT&T are in the business of making money - not founding alternative centres of political identity and legitimacy. Yet the huge flows of information, people and imagery that circulate around the globe, crossing borders with impunity, have changed the context in which national projects of any kind must develop” (Held 374). No longer can individuals, societies, cultures make national media products in isolation from the rest of the world, globalization of media has taken that away forever. Everything must be done in a world in which those 8 big companies exist, and in which the standards set by those corporations are the bar to reach.

The good news for followers of Jesus who want to make sure that smaller cultures and marginalized peoples are not ignored and boxed out of this global cultural dialogue, is that just as media has expanded globally at exponential rates in the last fifty years, so has technology, and the more the technology develops and becomes cheaper and easier to access, the more opportunity minority peoples will have to get their voice heard: "...technological shifts, including for instance the camcorder, have reduced the costs of production and so created new cultural spaces for 'alternative' TV channels and production" (Held 374). We can be advocates for such opportunity.