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Daniel Stanley

In what way(s) do the media contribute to the process of


globalization?

It could be said that the term globalization refers to ‘development’ (or not

in some cases) in all facets of society through an ever-more

interconnected web of communication. The more connections, be they

cultural, sociologically grounded or economically based, forged by a

nation the more globalized one could interpret it to be. The flow of

information across the globe therefore would determine this process of

globalization, not only its velocity, but also its geographical and

economical path. As the force sitting atop this mountain of information,

and chief distributors thereof, the media plays an integral role in the

formation of ‘globalized’, and indeed ‘de-globalized’ nations. The power

afforded the media is effectively handing control of a vast amount of the

processes of globalization over to it. As Hallin describes the gravity of

media‘s power in relation to the world: ‘journalism gives the world political

meaning’ (1994: p.1). The differing societies, certainly in the western bloc,

engage with the media from a fundamental level, ergo the media

corporations form the front line for the flow of all information, from which

their respective public sphere will feed. In this piece, I intend to highlight

the magnitude of such an assertion of power and the ideological

implications of this. If ‘the journalist, first of all, is not only a provider of

information but also a political ideologist’ (Hallin 1994: p.1), then the

responsibility afforded them is vast. The flow of information that grounds

globalization has distinct political affluence, and with this there has
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formed a power structure based around the holders and distributors of this

flow.

One of the key tools used by the media to harmonise and

strengthen the process of globalization is the ‘Media Event’. I shall involve

the work of Hallin to discuss the use of the media event, although he

primarily discussed in relation to the American media lens, this can be

transposed to other nation’s media. The introduction and continuing

development of technology has inspired many to claim that a global

community has been created, in which all beings are welcomed; a claim

that I shall discuss and refute. Indeed technology has had great impact on

the process of globalization within a media forum; however, I shall

indicate how it is a fallacy to afford this the creation of a global

awareness, and highlight that the key basis of exclusivity has hindered

this notion. The distribution of wealth across the world has rendered

technology useless in including all, until it is free of charge. The resultant

ideological implications of this essay shall be that the media indeed

control a vast amount of the processes of globalization, however, the

power and economical gain from such an endeavour has led to the

western media retaining of the fruits of globalization, whilst leaving other

nations out in the cold. It is worth noting that the vastness of the debate

surrounding globalization is extremely difficult to encompass in one piece,

and so a relatively small portion will be tackled. I shall centre the topic on

the western media in relation to non-western countries and the effects this

has on a potential ‘global village’


Daniel Stanley

If one key part of globalization is imagined community, how do the

media create such an illusion? One of the tools used is the creation and

coverage of a ‘Media Event’. Historically, media events have been used to

instil communal togetherness throughout nations, for example, the

nationalised televised coronation of the Queen in 1953, or the Michael

Jackson trial in 2008. The creation of an event, through which people can

make connections on opinions and discussions moves to include the public

in an interconnected communal debate. According to Hallin ‘the

experience, shared primarily through television, is for everyone’ as

‘media events tend to integrate societies: they dissolve or de-emphasize

social divisions, and bring members of a community together around

shared values and a shared sense of identity’ (1994: p.153). The use and

creation of public figures engages the public to bask in a shared sense of

identity, as members of an imagined community. In the more

contemporary era of globalization, the use of these events has sought to

be broadcast across the globe, an example being the inauguration of

Barrack Obama into office in 2009. The inclusion of non-American

nationals in the process of gazing at the election and subsequent parading

of the new president broke down previously established barriers. This too

may be considered a reflection of the power of the globalized political

system in America; economically we are now, if not always were, aware

that their decisions impact us through the intricacy of globalization.

This bringing together of people’s attention, if nothing else,

‘constitutes international society for a brief period as a tangible, salient


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community’ (Hallin 1994: p.156). Although the community is not real and

in fact imagined, for a temporary period, we are encouraged to feel part of

‘us’ instead of ‘them’. The popularity of the media event depends solely

on the power of the media format to promote its communality. As Hallin

describes ‘the media are active, first of all, in building up a global

audience for the event’ (1994: p.155) and it is this global promotion that

instils community and further develops the processes of globalization.

Although these media events are often centred on an individual, indeed

‘the event is as much a celebration of the common identity of the

audience [...] as it is a tribute to the individuals who stand for the

community’ (Hallin 1994: p.153). Hallin continues ‘media events tend to

integrate societies: they dissolve or de-emphasize social divisions, and

bring members of a community together around shared values and a

shared sense of identity’ (Hallin 1994: p.153). Effectively, the importance

of the person taking focus of a media event is matched by the need for a

universal feeling of community and identity, elevating the media event as

not just entertainment but a tangible process of globalising and

harmonizing an audience. Speaking largely of televisual example Hallin

continues to state ‘the power of television to override social boundaries

should combine with the integrative effect of ritual to produce at least

temporarily a global sense of community’ (1994: p.156). The phrase

‘global community’ is indeed problematic as it relies solely on access to

television to be included, a problem that shall be addressed further in this

essay.
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Within the process of globalization lies an intricate network of

flowing political power, findings its base within western society, both

contemporary and historically. The media of western countries has bullied

and cajoled its way directly into mainstream society in a number of

countries based outside its geographical remit. Certainly in the

theorization of globalization, there has been a tendency to centre

thoughts from a western perspective as if ‘they stand-in for the rest of the

world’ (Gurevitch, Bennett, Woollcott & Curran 1986: p.3). The

concentration of study based around western media is a reflection of its

dominance in contemporary globalization debate. There are many

western-produced media that dominate the ‘air-time’ of countries

thousands of miles away, in particular sporting events such as the English

Premier League football. Broadcasted to over 100 countries allows such a

media, not only to reach a wide audience, but allow access to the cultural

canon of that country. To put it another way, by being a regular fixture

within a society, the media cements itself as a fundamental facet of its

culture. If ‘media systems reflect the prevailing philosophy and political

system of the society in which they operate’ (Gurevitch, Bennett,

Woollcott & Curran: p.3), then the impact of this amalgamation into other

countries culture places the media in a politically important role.

The reception of such media invasion has important reflective

meaning for the successful transition towards globalization. The

acceptance of western media within non-western countries plays an

important role in facilitating the continuation of what some theorists


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declare the culturally corrosive elements of globalization. According to

Arvind Rajagopal in his essay titled Mediating Modernity: Theorizing

reception in a non-western society, a non-western society will emit ‘the

customary response of mounting another rung on the ladder of progress’

(1982: p.293). The political implications of Rajagopal’s statement are stark

in terms of what or whom decides on the ‘ladder of progress’. Where is the

decision made regarding what constitutes a rung on this ladder? Who

decides what is progress? The answer of course, although often more

complex in structure than first realised, lies with the media systems of

western society. Through the process of globalization, western media are

allowed access to the hegemonic ideals of neighbouring (and also remote)

societies, and in turn manipulation of these ideals. An example of one of

the facets of western society that invariably becomes ingrained is

apparent as ‘mass consumer culture invades one more domain’

(Rajagopal 1982: p.293).

Through the constantly evolving networks of political influence, the

media systems based in the west are given jurisdiction over prevailing

ideals of the images of success, beauty and other hegemonic values. As

De Jong, Shaw and Stammers articulate, ‘decisions that will have an

immediate effect upon the lives and prospects of individuals, or even

whole nations, are taken in institutions located thousands of miles away in

other countries’ (2004: p.34). Every part of the production process of

western media has an impact on the ideological implications for nations

located across the globe. The political world and the media industry are
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obviously interlinked as ‘all political conflict takes place largely within and

through organised media of communication’ (2004: p.1). With the political

world so entrenched in media outlets, the effective control, or influence at

least, of the voting public makes the media an invaluable resource for

political success. Therefore, western media have an important role in

shaping not only the ideological images of a society but, in extremes,

even the political regime governing such societies. In effect, ‘national and

other boundaries that constrained activism and media alike have not

disappeared; but both have been transformed by expanded possibilities of

interconnection’ (De Jong, Shaw & Stammers 2005: p.1). The use of media

outlets to engage the public in political thought and discussion allows the

media to feed information pertaining to individual political representatives

in the frame and context of how the media establishment sees fit.

Therefore, the interconnection referred to here leaves the mediator in

charge of the flow of information, dictating to the public the positives

and/or negatives of a political representative.

When the introduction of new media occurs, what follows is usually

a flurry of claims that this new medium will revolutionise globalization as

we know it as the new format will bring people together like never before.

Looking through history, the television set, the printing press and the

internet appear as prime examples of such mediums that promised to

galvanise societies across the globe as access to information transformed

the connections made from country to country. Placing these inventions

on such a pedestal however is indeed not without its problematic side.


Daniel Stanley

These claims of magnificence lie at the heart of the utopian view of

globalization producing an all encompassing ‘global community’ existing

in abject harmony. Whilst my intention here is not to demonize forms of

media that have progressed the cause of globalization and had an

undoubtedly large impact on all facets of life, it would be wrong to leave

this notion unchallenged. The introduction of such media formats has seen

information reach peoples and places never imaginable before, however,

the utopian argument relies very heavily on the mechanical, technological

aspects of these inventions. As Hallin records ‘It is the common hypothesis

that electronic communication tends to break down the barriers of

established groups’ (Hallin 1994: p.156). However, to obtain access to

these interconnected highways of information, one needs a piece of

(relatively expensive) technology to do so. With the majority of the worlds

wealth concentrated in countries in the western canon, a huge percentage

of the global population remains un-contactable through these means.

Indeed ‘access remains the preserve of the globally privileged’ (De Jong,

Shaw & Stammers 2005: p.1). To ignore such issues with access is not to

‘confront soberly the realities of the contemporary world, in which states

remain the dominant forces, and in which the inequalities of wealth and

power are central features’ (2004: p.45).

If one was to overlook such issues (briefly), another barrier to

overcome in the pursuit of an exalted ‘global community’ is the natural

human tendency to remain firmly set in a comfort zone. Although, the

‘globally privileged’ have ever-increasing access to a plethora of media


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formats and institutions statistics show, certainly when considering

internet-based formats, that the most visited institutions are those set

within ones own country (De Jong, Shaw & Stammers 2004: p.45). In

Britain, during 2002 the BBC website claimed a landslide victory in hits for

news-seekers, highlighting the power of a single media institution in terms

of audience reliance. One could argue that although the facilities are

largely present in western society, it is not guaranteed that they will be

used to further entrench oneself in a globalized perspective. It is still

pertinent to acknowledge that although western society, above all else,

awards itself the title of ‘highly globalized’, even the most intrepid of

internet explorers, on average, seeks their own countries news

broadcaster before seeking out another’s. Of course, this would be largely

due to local content however, when news breaks of international stories,

the BBC is heavily relied upon for presenting the information through the

familiar British lens. So retrospectively, the claims that inventions like

television and the internet are single-handedly revolutionising

contemporary life for the entire fallacy that is a ‘global community’ are

heavily flawed. In fact ‘in neither case, is there some magical force called

‘globalization’ that is pushing these developments forward’ (De Jong,

Shaw & Stammers 2004: p.47). A utopian view on the matter leaves no

room to account for the under-privileged classes the world over, and once

again places the hegemonic gentry of the west as the first, last and only

members of a ‘global community’.


Daniel Stanley

Throughout this piece, I have concentrated on 3 particular areas of a

media that has contributed greatly to globalization as it is understood

today. Firstly, the use of media events has worked to galvanise and

harmonise a community far wider than any previously experienced. It is

possible through the use of western media systems to elevate one nations

event, into a global phenomenon watched and discussed across the globe.

Through the uses of the different technological developments experienced

within the industry the audiences are wider, and definitively more

involved due to the complexities of web-based facilities. The media has

effectively taken control of the direction of information and with it the

control of a vast amount of wealth. The media are somewhat able to

increase or decrease a nations wealth through the promotions of tourism,

trade and even political industries. Politics and the media prove an

interesting and powerful courtship and nations and states in both western

and non-western countries have been influenced at the core as a result.

My argument has formed on the basis that the western media have

eclipsed all non-western media in terms of wealth and power accredited to

them. For instance, whilst Bollywood films have a larger audience in terms

of numbers than its western counterpart, the political and economic

significance of this audience pales in comparison. Hollywood has bigger

friends, in higher places. Finally, as is well documented, the claims that

the technological advances aiding globalization are utopian and

revolutionary are flawed and problematic. There is of course, a vast

amount of positive effects that television and the internet have offered to

the cause of globalization, however, due to economic inequality, these


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benefits are largely felt by those who can pay for it. A significant number

of people are excluded through financial inadequacy and until such a time

has ended, the notion of a ‘global community’ will be imagined, firmly in

the minds of those atop the global food chain.

References
Dayan. D & Katz. E, ‘Articulating Consensus: the ritual and rhetoric of
media events,’ in J. C. Alexander (ed.) Durkenheim Sociology: Cultural
Studies, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998

Gurevitch, M. Bennett, J. Curran, J. Woollacott, J. (1986) (eds) ‘Culture,


Society and the Media’, Routledge, London & New York

Lull, J (2000) ‘Media, Communication, Culture: a global approach’,


Cambridge: Polity Press
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De Jong, W. Shaw, M. and Stammers, N. (2004) ‘Global Activism, Global


Media’, London: Pluto Press

Jameson, F. Miyoshi, M. (1999) ‘The Cultures of Globalisation’, Duke


University Press

Curran, J. Myung-Jin, P. (2000) (eds) Introduction in ’De-westernizing Media


Studies’, Routledge, London

Rajagopal, A, Mediating Modernity: Theorizing reception in a non-western


society in Curran, J. Myung-Jin, P. (2000) (eds) ’De-westernizing Media
Studies’, Routledge, London

Hallin, D (1994) ‘We keep America on top of the world’, Routeledge,


London

Van Ginneken, J. (1998) Which are the worlds most influential media? The
economics of the rich and poor media markets in ‘Understanding Global
News’, London: Sage

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