Saturday, October 10, 2009

Analysis Question #2--Global Governance and Media Conglomerates

The current world economic situation has called into question the way that global media is governed and how it disseminates content. With the global economy in crisis, the gulf between rich and poor--both nation-states and individuals--seems to have widened. Concurrently, a few international media corporations are continuing to increase their influence across the globe: a majority of the media content, both news and entertainment, the world sees is controlled by a small number of Western-based conglomerates: the News Corporation, TimeWarner, and Disney. Some argue that through glocalization, more regional and local opinions are being expressed through media--but this isn't entirely true. While more local sources of media are indeed emerging, they are still affiliated with, still filtered through, the prism of these large multi-national corporations. In order to more accurately represent local media content, I think nation-states certainly need to revisit the issue of global governance.

The trend over the past few decades in government media regulation has been, well, a significant lack of it. Privatization and liberalization in the industry has definitely contributed to the rise of the conglomerates, as have the skyrocketing development of ICTs and convergence--the combination of different technologies and industries that creates new cultural products and ways of distributing them. The huge networks that these conglomerates create, along with the huge amounts of capital and the economies of scale that come with them, have made it hard for smaller media companies to break into the market, according to Sean Siorchu et. al's "Introduction to National Media Regulation." However, with the current economic situation, the media industry, like many others, has lost money--for example, here in the United States, many newspapers have folded after decades of publication. For nation-states, this economic climate is perhaps an indication that they need to play a larger role in their governance of media. There's little doubt that the large conglomerates will continue their dominance, but for the sake of individual cultures, especially those in developing countries, nation-states need to actively assert their role as global governors.

Although, as Daya Kishan Thussu states in "Mapping Media Flow and Contra-Flow," Southern media content does make its way to the developed North more than it used to (films from the Indian Bollywood, for example), it's not enough. Glocalization is much more common: " content and services [are] tailored to specific cultural consumers, not so much as because of any particular regard for national cultures but as a commercial imperative." That phenomenon supports the fact that media as defined by Western ideals is all about profit margins, ad revenue, and of course the spread of democratic thought. The free-market economy imperative of global media means that local and regional interests are not always accurately portrayed or represented, and this is where individual nation-states can really inject their influence on behalf of smaller media companies. Whether they would be successful remains to be seen, but I think they owe it to their citizens to advocate on their behalf and push for stricter government media regulation.

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