OPTION TWO: ESSAY Assess the evidence for and against the ‘media imperialism theory’ There has often raged a defining debate about the vices of an internationally focused and orientated press, with the major focus on the mass medias supposed ability to manipulate and dominate. The focus of this paper is to question the theorem that surrounds the debate of media imperialism.Through the course of this paper an assessment of the evidence that is often brought to our attention, the so-called pros and cons of the debate, about the role that one culture imposes upon the other through the domination of their communications systems will be analysed for both its strengths and weaknesses in connection with the media imperialism theory. In order to understand the complexities of the arguments put forward a clear yet concise definition of the term media imperialism is imperative to our understanding of such a subject area.
Boyd-Barrett (1977:117) has outlined a commonly used definition concerning media imperialism where it is stated that it is a continual process whereby the ownership, structure, distribution or content of the media in any one country is subjected to massive amounts of pressure and influence from another country with greater media interests without a comparable amount of influence being returned. According to O’Sullivan (1994: 74) Boyd-Barrett also regards a major western nations influence as being a one-directional flow of media.Karl Marx Central to the notion of media imperialism is the concept of achieving and maintaining power, whether in the colonial era of the early century or the technological global era of global contemporary society. Therefore whoever has the financial power has the power to influence. So media imperialism is fundamentally a basic result of a capitalist culture that is continually focused primarily on one thing money. Karl Marx described the link between economic, political and cultural power as (Thussu: 2000: 54);”The class which has the means of material production has control at the same time over the means of mental production so that, thereby, generally speaking the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it …
… Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they..
. among other things… regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch” Now this is, granted, slightly vague when applied to the debate around media imperialism, but it is useful.This passage can be useful in that the conglomerates that contest contemporary media markets in a global environment are often accused of controlling or dominating, for example, the media output of a developing country.
A Western nations excessive wealth is welcomed with open arms by the poorer nations of the world, but it is the West’s desire to reap further financial rewards that causes the greatest arguments as they in effect invasion domestic markets, as is evident in Hollywood’s global domination of the film industry. Consumerist ValuesOther problems that the media imperialism theory offers is that this flow of western media upon their less well-developed world neighbours is that they convey the capitalist nature of the western world through an expression of consumerist values. This though is not entirely the case, as it seems to ignore the immense diversity that is obtainable through the images, themes and information, which invariably appears on the commercially funded television, which occasionally includes material that is highly critical of corporate interests (Branston ; Stafford: 1999: 253).The theory of media imperialism also heavily implies that the audiences of the so-called developing countries are extremely passive and are simply brainwashed by the elements of foreign television.
In a study on audience perception Liebes and Katz (1993) found that audiences were not subjected to the hypodermic effect, where the content of a particular media became drug-like, but constructed an array of different meanings. There is a notion that this expression of consumerist values would make the audience become, or want to become consumers, simply as a result of watching programmes like the 1980’s soap, Dallas.Research found that this was not the case as, for instance, Israeli Arabs and Moroccan Jews found that what they gained from such a programme was an emphasis on kinship relationships, whereas Russian refuges believed that on the whole, the writers, directors and producers manipulated the characters attitudes and direction (Branston & Stafford: 1999: 253-254). Films As for culture, the “Hollywood juggernaut” and the presence of U. S. cultural domination remain a central concern in many countries, for obvious reasons.Exports of U. S.
films and TV shows increased by 22 percent in 1999, and the list of the top 125 grossing films for 1999 is made up almost entirely of Hollywood fare. When one goes nation by nation, even a “cultural nationalist” country like France had nine of its top ten grossing films in 1999 produced by the Hollywood giants. “Many leftist intellectuals in Paris are decrying American films, but the French people are eating them up,” a Hollywood producer noted. Likewise, in Italy, the replacement of single-screen theatres by “multiplexes” has contributed to a dramatic decline in local film box office.The moral of the story for many European filmmakers is that you have to work in English and employ Hollywood moviemaking conventions to succeed (www.
monthlyreview. org). Whereas action movies had once been the only sure-fire global fare-and comedies had been considerably more difficult to export-by the late nineties comedies like My Best Friend’s Wedding and The Full Monty were doing between $160 million and $200 million in non-U. S.
box-office sales. When audiences appear to prefer locally made fare, the global media corporations, rather than flee in despair, globalised their production.