Monday, October 5, 2009

Notions of Power

All four sets of authors from this week’s readings- McChesney, Thussu, Tunstall, and Rai and Cottle- would agree that there is global media system that is constantly refashioning its global flows of information. I also believe that they would probably all agree that knowledge (or in other words, information) is power- power that is being used to shape the ‘global public sphere’.

McChesney, in his article, “The Media System Goes Global”, discusses the rise of the global media system and how just a few U.S. media firms have driven its emergence. Within his analysis, he examines the global commercial media system that McChesney holds will respect no tradition or customs (McChesney 202). This section of his article made me reflect on my on my trip to Spain this past summer. I spent a significant amount of time visiting with my cousins while I was there who are in their late teens and early twenties. They were talking up a storm about Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty, and ER. As I was reading this week, I remember thinking to myself as we conversed about American television, that it was incredible that as foreign as our surroundings may have been, our conversation allowed us to connect about something we could all understand but also that could transfix them with such excitement. They continued to say that they really did not enjoy watching too many Spanish television shows because the American ones are better (even though they are dubbed). I am sure if the owners behind the top TNC’s were in the room, they would have been quite pleased with what they would deem a success. I, however, was slightly disappointed that we could not engage in a conversation about, what Rai and Cottle call, a ‘contraflow’ or even something within pop Spanish culture that was just as distinct as something within pop American culture.

McChesney also contends that with the depoliticized environment, there is more room for economic liberalization (within the context of neoliberal democracy) to expand the global commercial media system’s reach and the extent to which it is embedded. With the information in the hands of a limited group of rich corporations, they have control (or power) over what and how information is disseminated and to whom. Within McChesney’s examination of the global commercial media system, he cites Disney as part of the holy trinity of the global media system because it is “the ultimate global consumer goods company”. I believe that since this article was written, Disney has expanded into the adventure tourism market by offering family tours to Machu Picchu in Peru. This demonstrates the extensive power of what economic liberalization can do within the global commercial media system.

Thussu concludes that ‘soft’ media power is firmly underpinned by ‘hard’ political and economic power (Thussu 236). We do have to be conscious that even though over time global capitalism has emerged, is expanding, and becoming more deeply embedded in the concept of the ‘global public sphere’, that it is not the only form of political and economic power that exists in the world. With the power of dominating ‘soft’ media power comes some responsibility to beware that how news and information is presented could greatly affect the stability of the world system. This is especially true given that today, there are so many information flows internationally which are contribute to global, regional, national, and local cultures.

Tunstall also makes some interesting points about power within his article, “Anglo-American, Global, and Euro-American Media Versus Media Nationalism”, that I would like to highlight. First, he says that the term globalization is of U.S. origin. This term is thrown around so much, that sometimes it is very easy to lose sight of that. The word globalization is associated with power not because of what it means, but because of the power behind its origin. Second, within Tunstall’s argument, it is evident that population size must be considered within the three global media systems he identifies- national, local, and neighboring nation-state. Third, he argues that there direct and indirect media exports and extrapolates how indirect media exports are latent with power from where the media is exported, translated and/or edited. Third, Tunstall’s point is that nationalism is still relevant even as a the global media system takes off strong because people want to get their local news in their local languages from journalists with their distinctive cultural history. India and China are the most populous countries in the world. Imagine if they dominate or play a key role in the global media system. If this ever happens, the global public sphere would be forced to dramatically change.

Rai and Cottle also discuss notions of power within their article, “Global Mediations: On the changing ecology of satellite television news”. They argue that the media is becoming more localized and is contributing to the greater ‘global public sphere’ of 24/7 satellite news. Rai and Cottle allude to the ‘regionalized colonization’ of the media in certain places as a result of 24/7 satellite news. Beyond the power of the West over the East within the media, it is also important to note that there are notions of inequality of the reach and/or access to media in poorer countries.

Ideally, the ‘global media system’ should be fair for all. However, I am not sure that will ever be the case as long as global capitalism remains the dominant international economic and social system. In conclusion, I am very intrigued to watch as the ‘global public sphere’ and the ‘global media system’ plays out as varying degrees and notions of power challenges them.

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