Essay on How Does Imperialism Affect Us Today

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It is conceivable to characterize media imperialism as 'a concept that suggests an unequal relationship between nations, in which one tends to dominate another' (Schiller, 1991). However, to truly understand what media imperialism is, we would first need to define the terms 'media' and 'imperialism' separately. Media is difficult to define, but if we were to use the traditional definition, it is defined as 'the main means of mass communication (broadcasting, publishing, and the Internet) considered as a whole'. Essentially, media is something that is learned, shared, or acquired, and is non-static and continually evolving. Imperialism comes from the word 'empire' and is defined as the extension of a nation's influence and power through the use of military force, colonization, or other means. Imperialism is the unequal territorial and human relationship based on the ideas of dominance and superiority. Media imperialism is also associated with global communications. Global communications can be defined as the communication practice occurring across national borders, political, and social divides, and culture. Global communication has had an increased need due to globalization expansion, which will be mentioned in this paper. This paper aims to contextualize and critically examine media imperialism and explore how media imperialism is still a relevant concept today.

We find ourselves in a society where the distribution, consumption, and production of media products are occurring on a global scale. Various media scholars have argued that globalization is a factor that plays a key role in supporting media imperialism and is helping to push the West forward its cultural values and democracy to developing countries. However, some argue against media imperialism, such as John Tomlinson and many others who believe that media imperialism is no longer a significant concept for developing countries, for three reasons. Firstly, the audience is selective and interpretive in what information they will receive; secondly, every country will have its policies in place which restrict the flow of foreign media, and finally, local competition.

Media imperialism focuses on various modes of communication through which it spreads the message and how it operates (Thuss, 2000). Jeremy Tunstall believes that media imperialism should be examined while exploring the broader theory of cultural imperialism because it's a situation in which a vast amount of media and commercial products from developing countries, media that is authentic, part of the local culture and traditional, is constantly being overshadowed by the large dumping of Western media, especially from the United States.

One of the main examples of media imperialism today is that of the United States. It is considered a core country and partly extends its dominance through media streams. Thussu argues that media streams are closely related to economic power; the freer markets are, the more capable companies from economic power are to dominate global markets (2010). Consequently, the US media and entertainment industry, like Hollywood and Disney, can penetrate the global market and export US cultural values and productions. Studios like Disney and Warner Brothers use local facilities in Asia, Latin America, and Europe, creating country-specific productions there, while still maintaining the US culture (Thussu, 2010). You can see this influence in Brazilian soap operas, for example, where a glamorous US lifestyle is depicted but with a Brazilian touch, mirroring the characteristics of US television dramas in selling production through sponsors (Schiller, 2010).

Hollywood not only glorifies the US but also exports different US cultural values. An example of one of these values is that of Individualism, which Hofstede believes is highly respected in the US (The Hofstede Center). For example, Saving Private Ryan depicts a group of soldiers endeavoring to save the life of one individual. There are even American films supposedly based on stories from other cultures and beliefs that still have US cultural values added in. An example of this is Disney's Mulan, which was based on a Chinese folktale. Mulan ensures her family's reputation, which relates to the Chinese cultural value of loyalty, but in the film, she needs to affirm her self-worth and achieve gender equality, which does not align with the original Chinese tradition. She also strives for independence and personal fulfillment, which could reflect US cultural values of individualism rather than traditional Chinese values.

Media imperialism scholars argue that this plays a role in distancing people from their traditions and cultures, alienating them from their original beliefs (Petras, 2014). Since it costs less for countries to buy productions from the West rather than producing them themselves, third-world countries watch media filled with Western beliefs, traditions, and values, leading them to desire similar things and undermining their way of life (Schiller, 1976).

However, there are many critics of this, particularly those who argue that media imperialism underestimates the free will, choice, and influence of the audience (Tomlinson, 2001). It does not recognize a person's ability to interpret and process information differently based on their background (Ogan, 1988). It also ignores the concept of cultural resistance, where culture can be used to challenge oppressive systems and power holders, mainly Western culture in this case. In the late twentieth century, CNN, and other Western news sources dominated the news network and only reflected Western perspectives on global events (Seib, 2011). As a result, news outlets around the world emerged, like Al Jazeera, which offered a different perspective from the Western one and gave a voice to an already voiceless culture (Seib, 2011). This is known as the Al Jazeera Effect, and one could argue that this demonstrates the resistance and cultural opposition of those typically subjected to media imperialism.

According to Roach (1987), media imperialism could be seen as the control of the Global North, which was related to the exportation of foreign content where media could be used as a means of transporting information that over some time dominated by the third-world countries towards the country who had not utilized and/or developed their resources to that extent due to the lack of technical knowledge and funding or due to some other reason, and this situation later forced these countries to adopt the International policies of the United Nations, 'Free Trade and Free Flow of Information' that encouraged these countries to allow others into their economy for the external countries as privatization, FDI, and disinvestment.

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According to Thuss (1998), the three major reasons for media colonialism were, first, brought and fallen barriers to global commerce that made it much easier to step into new territories, second, multinationals wanted to increase sales, profits, and shareholder value, and this opportunity could be provided to them by globalization, and third, governments around the world wanted to encourage domestic companies to go abroad as the saturation point had reached the home market and for that, they needed markets for their products to maximize their profits and capital, and the UN concept of free-market trade and information provided them with this opportunity.

During the process of media imperialism, theorists have noticed several factors that hinder or facilitate the process of media imperialism. The first in the series was the lack of funding. Osake in 2006 conducted a research study in Nigeria in which he found that the economy of the country was not in good shape due to corruption and mismanagement. On January 10th, 2006, NBC shut down several television stations for failing to meet their financial obligations to the commission. In situations like this, TV channels find it difficult to produce their programs. They began producing programs with foreign owners, especially foreign aid from US companies. These companies initially provided them with financial support for the programs as if they were following the concept of 'free flow of information' under the principle of US trade.

Another important factor was infrastructure. Due to the lack of local equipment, many stations were not able to receive signals from their transmitters over a 40-kilometer distance. The lack of funding forced stations to rely on outdated equipment, which would not necessarily improve the quality of programs suitable for the audience's attention. As a result, cheaper programs were acquired from Western stations to fill their broadcast airtime.

According to Mayo, on a more concrete level, a lack of the capital necessary for providing services and backup materials that keep broadcasting systems functioning, as well as a lack of professional technicians, actors, scriptwriters, producers, translators, and other essential staff, proper facilities, and interpersonal contacts. This combination of factors alone explains why so many third-world countries find it easier to fill their broadcasting airtime with cloned, adapted, and exported programs, which were available at a significantly cheaper price, rather than trying to develop their distribution systems and productions.

At the same time, when growth and objectives are not clearly defined, many governments have jumped on the bandwagon praising Western technology to justify communication projects without considering the purposes for which the technology is to be used. Another aspect of this is the speed at which innovations are diffused. The consequences of confusion are best demonstrated by the Iranian revolution, where the more advanced communication systems implemented by the Shah clashed with the traditional communication systems of Iranian culture and values (Mowlana, 1996).

Some countries had implemented policies aimed at gaining greater local control over the distribution and production processes. Canada, for example, had ensured that at least 60% of the programs in a day must be Canadian in character and content. To overcome this situation, the global operators had to change their stance and include the local tastes because their companies were at stake. Both Richards and the French have said that recent evidence from national and local and national TV, activities in many Asian countries emphasizes the importance of local programming, cultural, and ethnic. Since not only the global structure that played a vital role in people's lives, but it was the local context that shaped people's day-to-day lives.

In conclusion, media imperialism can have both positive and negative consequences on global communications. It can promote mutually positive acts, such as improving the quality of life for many individuals and equal rights and opportunities. However, it can also prove detrimental to 'inferior' cultures and cultural values when a more powerful culture takes over. It has the possibility of creating one homogenous culture throughout the world and distorting foreign cultures.

Furthermore, it tends to be argued that media imperialism is still relevant in today's media landscape, where core countries own the majority of global media and export their cultural values. Nonetheless, media imperialism has received criticism for not taking into account the free will and influence of the intended audience and ignoring the possibility of cultural resistance. This also shows that attempting media imperialism can have very negative effects on global communications as it weakens the relations between different heads of state – as in the case of Obama and Nigerian and Kenyan governors.

Today, one could argue that instead of looking at and using media imperialism theory, one should look at globalization. Media imperialism suggests that it is solely an uneven cultural imposition, where the more dominant nation and culture, defined as Western culture, is imposed on other inferior cultures. However, as exemplified in this article, one can see that this is not always the case, and due to globalization and technological advancements, it is possible for other cultural perspectives and values to be exchanged and spread as well. Note that Western culture is still predominant in this, but the concept of globalization takes into account that culture is neither homogeneous nor static. Globalization allows for the possibility that the intended audience is not unresponsive and it does not deprive them of their influences, which media imperialism does. At the inception of the theory of media imperialism, scholars focused on nation-states, but today the nation-state is no longer the dominant player.

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Essay on How Does Imperialism Affect Us Today. (2024, April 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/essay-on-how-does-imperialism-affect-us-today/
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