Globalization of Media: Issues and Dimensions

Dr. Mansi Khanna*
Mrs. Manju Khanna**

It is widely evident that the media is in fact becoming a global conglomerate, which is in turn endorsing the emergence of a single global village .The digitization and convergence of the media offer new possibilities for increasing cultural diversity, such as the number of channels, the user’s direct access to the contents, the greater possibility for subtitling or dubbing and the new routes for the distribution of contents. Globalization becomes a positive force for all the people of the world including the special needs and problems of landlocked and small island developing countries. Now media is playing a very crucial role in the development of the society. It is also influencing the culture, and social norms and taboos, which is evident by various examples around us.

Media have become the chief transmitters of culture. The traditional showcases of culture – museums, theaters, art galleries or libraries – have handed over part of their functions to the cinema screen, television or computers; with the help of media culture has greater distribution and scope, since the images reach broader, more heterogeneous and widespread audiences.

Four of the main international organizations involved in regulating and governing the media at the global level are covered below. There are others, but the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) stand out. In brief, each has the following responsibilities and powers.

Media governance institutions

  • The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), founded in 1865 and the oldest of the four institutions, is responsible for the allocation of radio spectrum across borders, terrestrially and via satellite, for the purposes, among others, of telephony (mobile and fixed), data transmission, television and radio. The use of spectrum is coordinated to prevent interference and border “spillover”, and slices of it are allocated for different uses and users.
    Since it is a scarce public resource, its allocation among users is an important and contentious issue at the international level. The ITU also allocates the satellite orbital slots, including the valuable and scarce Geo-stationary orbit.
  • The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), on the other hand, have much “softer” responsibilities. But these extend too many areas of social concern. UNESCO is important less for its formal powers and its capacity to enforce multilateral agreements, than as a forum for voluntary cooperation on (usually no contentious but necessary) issues of mutual concern across a wide area, and for raising and debating issues of global import. UNESCO in its early decades was instrumental in many conventions, declarations and congresses, overseeing agreements on issues such as the exchange of audio-visual content for educational use, cross-border direct satellite broadcasting and copyright exemptions for development purposes.
  • The newcomer is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Established in 1998, its main function is to manage the process of assigning names and ICANN is not alone in being dedicated to governing the Internet. The Internet Architecture Board (IAB) oversees technical development, and is composed of the Internet Society (ISOC), a body of coordinating professionals, and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the accredited standards body. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), by agreement with ICANN, is a key body in resolving domain name disputes for the Internet, an issue that has gradually taken on a huge commercial and legal significance. ICANN initially saw itself as primarily technical, but its management of IP addresses and of the Domain Name System (DNS), which ultimately controls the routing of Internet traffic, quickly moved into economic, political, social and even cultural domains.
  • Last and certainly not least, is the World Trade Organization (WTO), which straddles some key areas of media and communications and is set to extend its mandate further.Although WIPO is a United Nations agency set up to oversee intellectual property rights(IPRs), the WTO (which is not a United Nations organization) gained decisive preeminence with the signing of the TRIPS agreement in 1995. The WTO now has at its disposal some of the strongest policing and enforcement powers ever ceded by governments to an intergovernmental body, and it uses them extensively in the field of copyright.

ICT is an important aspect of media which emerged due to the globalization of the media and it is playing a crucial role in the development process and it falls under the canopy of development communication. They have proved useful in: health care delivery; distance education; enhancing rural productivity through access to market information and access to finance; promoting empowerment and participation in national and international policy processes; improving service delivery by governments; improving environmental monitoring and response systems; and facilitating environmental activism.

There are many positive points associated with the globalization of media which have influenced the culture and the heritage of the countries in many ways. It has helped in strengthening democracy in various countries.

Media is the fourth pillar of democracy and plays the role of the watchdog of the society, and hence it forces government to implement rules and regulation for the benefit of the society. It also forces government to maintain transparency in the implementation of programmes. Earlier this function of the media was restricted by the boundaries of space and time but with the globalization of media now it has become possible to overcome these boundaries and serve the whole world.

The revolt that recently took place in Egypt, supported by the international media, forced Hosni Mubarak to quit and helped in the restoration of democracy. This was possible because of the globalization of media. Other countries like Libya also faced revolt. It happened because of the impact of global media; such is the power of global media and hence it plays a vital role in the transformation of the society both in the positive and negative manner.

There are some negative effects of globalization.Perhaps the biggest issue in communication has been the unequal flows of films, television, music, news, and information. This unbalanced flow bothers many nations on several counts. It is seen as a cause of cultural erosion. Globalization in the media industry represents a threat to cultural diversity.

Entertainment is another area where the impact of globalization of media has been negative. There is a growing dominance of US products in the entertainment industry in India and other countries- in films, music and television. The local entertainment industry in many countries is withering. The single largest export industry for the United States is entertainment – not aircraft or automobiles. In 1997 alone Hollywood films generated gross profits of more than 30 billion dollars worldwide and the blockbuster, ‘Titanic’, grossed more than1.8 billion dollars. The expansion of global media networks and satellite communications technologies give rise to a powerful new medium with a global reach. Cable News Network (CNN) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) have infiltrated most developing nations, at times beaming programmes 24 hours a day. The networks that open third world homes to CNN and BBC News programming also brought Hollywood to an increasing number of otherwise remote villages in India. Furthermore, the spread of global brands – Nike, Sony – is setting new social standards from New Delhi to Tokyo. Such onslaughts of foreign culture can put cultural diversity at risk and make people fear a loss of identity.

The phenomenon of globalization brings up many opportunities to learn from each other, and to benefit from a wider range of choices, but it also seems very threatening. Parents find their children attracted by products and role models from alien cultures just as workers find their jobs rendered obsolete by imported technology and foreign competition. Instead of widening our choices, globalization seem to be forcing us all into the same shallow, consumerist culture – giving us the same appetites but leaving us more than ever unequal in our ability to satisfy them.

As discussed earlier, the entertainment industry and other forms of media if scrutinized closely raise many deep questions and issues. It is impossible to imagine a world without the media. It has penetrated our lives in every respect and one is constantly bombarded by useful (?), useless and degrading information. One may even not want to be involved with media, but it hardly matters. Media is not a carpet which only the rich tread on, but it is also accessible in (at least in one of its many forms) to “the less fortunate ones” and no one lies outside its influence. This is why globalization (read westernization) of media has a very deep impact on our age old cultural traditions. The globalization of information provides channels of communication and interaction between cultures. The latest such channel is the Internet, the global network of electronic communication which, by cancelling distances of time and space, has contracted the planet and accelerated history, with all the implications this carries for culture.

So, overall we can say that globalization has changed the way of our living and thinking and now we are enjoying living with different cultures. We have become broad minded and liberal and this is due to the impact of global media. Media has become ‘Super Media’ and it will lead to good governance and enhance development across the world.

References:

  • Josefina M. C. Santos, “Globalisation and Tradition: Paradoxes in Philippine Television and Culture,” Media Development, no. 3 (2001): 43-48.
  • Terhi Rantanen, The Media and Globalization (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2005).
  • Mirza Jan. “Globalization of Media: Key Issues and Dimensions,” European Journal of Scientific Research 29, no. 1 (2009): 66-75.
  • Roman Terrill, “Globalization in the 1990s,” University of Iowa Center for International Finance and Development, 1999, http://www.uiowa.edu/ifdebook/ebook2/contents/part3-I.shtml#B.

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