The mass media are seen today as playing a key role in enhancing globalization, facilitating culture exchange and multiple flows of information and image between countries through international news broadcasts, television programming, new technologies, film and music. If before the 1990’s mainstream media systems in most countries of the world were relatively national in scope, since then most communication media have become increasingly global, extending their reach beyond the nation-state to conquer audiences worldwide.
International flows of information have been largely
assisted by the development of global capitalism, new technologies and the increasing commercialisation of global television, which has occurred as a consequence of the deregulation policies adopted by various countries in Europe and the US in order to permit the proliferation of cable and satellite channels. Globalization theorists have discussed how the cultural dimension of globalization has exercised a profound impact on the whole globalization process.
The rapid expansion of global communications in the 21st century can be traced back to the mechanical advancements of technologies during the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, which started mainly with the invention of the telegraph in 1837, and included the growth in postal services, cross-border telephone and radio communications and the creation of a modern mass circulation press in Europe. It was however the evolution of technologies capable of transmitting messages via electromagnetic waves that marked a turning point in advancing the globalization of
The emergence of international news agencies in the 19th century, such as Reuters, paved the way for the beginnings of a global system of codification. Nonetheless, it was not until the 1960’s, with the launch of the first geo-stationary communication satellites, that communication by electromagnetic transmission became fully global, thus
making the globalization of communications a distinctive phenomena of the 20th century.
Key theories in international communications grew out of international relation studies. The “modernization” or development” theory in the area of communication research
emerged in the Cold War context and were largely preoccupied with the ways in which the media could help transform traditional societies to include them into the capitalism orbit. Among the key theorists in this tradition was Wilbur Schramm with his sponsored UNESCO work, Mass Media and national development – the role of information in the developing countries.
The idea was that international communication media could be used
as a tool to transfer the political-economic model of the West to the growing independent societies of the South. Schramm’s views was that the mass media could be used by elites to
raise the ambitions of the populations in developing countries, who would cease to be narrow-minded and conformist and would be active in their own self-development. The dependency theories the 1960’s and 1970’s were perceived as an alternative approach grounded in neo-Marxism, and which adopted a theoretical framework that saw
capitalism and inequality as a key perspective in understanding the impact of power relations on global communications. According to the argument, transnational corporations based in the North engaged in a web of interdependency with the economies of the South, setting the terms of global trade, dominating markets, production and labour.
Dependency theorists and Latin American scholars argued that these economic relations worked within an exploitative dependency model that promoted American capitalist mentality in developing countries (Mattelart, 1979). Development was thus shaped in a way that benefitted largely the developed nations, maintaining the peripheral countries in a continuous position of dependence. Latin American scholars stressed that it was Western
media companies that were reaping the rewards of the modernization programmes, and that they were actually reaching out to the South in order to conquer new markets for their
Globalization is thus seen as having consequences for the distribution of power and wealth both within and between countries. Cultural imperialism theories of the 1970’s and 1980’s highlighted how the media in developing countries imported foreign news, cultural and television genre formats (i.e. talk-shows, sitcoms) and also values of capitalist consumerism and individualism. The core critique of the imperialism thesis was that the
developing countries had established a relationship of subordination.
Written by : Ananya Kaushal