Understanding The Convergence Of Media Systems And Political Communication In The U.S. And Western Europe

1429 words - 6 pages

Understanding the Convergence of Media Systems and Political Communication in the U.S. and Western Europe

A powerful trend is clearly underway in the direction of greater
similarity in the way the public sphere is structured across the
world. In their products, in their professional practices and
cultures, in their systems of relationships with other political and
social institutions, media systems across the world are becoming
increasingly alike. Political systems, meanwile, are becoming
increasingly similar in the patterns of communication they
incorporate.

We will explore this trend toward global homogenization of media
systems and the public sphere, focusing particularly on the relations
between media and political systems, and on the industrialized,
capitalist democracies of Western Europe and North America. We will
organize our discussion of how to account for this trend around two
pairs of contrasting perspectives. Much of the literature on
homogenization sees it in terms of Americanization or globalization:
that is, in terms of forces external to the national social and
political systems in which media systems were previously rooted.
Other explanations focus on changes internal to these national
systems. An important distinction can also be made between
mediacentric perspectives, for which changes in media systems are
autonomous developments which then influence political and social
systems, and those which see social and political changes as causally
prior to media system change.

Americanization and Globalization

The phenomenon of homogenization in world media systems was first
emphasized as a scholarly issue in the cultural imperialism literature
of the 1960s and 1970s. Cultural imperialism theory was obviously a
theory of external influence (e.g. Schiller, 1969, 1976; Boyd-Barret,
1977). It saw homogenization as a result of cultural domination.
The global expansion of mass media industries based in advanced
capitalist countries and particularly in the United States resulted in
the destruction of local cultures and their replacement by a single,
standardized set of cultural forms tied to consumer capitalism and
American political hegemony. Europe occupied an ambiguous middle
position in this literature. European media were seen as part of the
dominant Western cultural influence on developing countries; at the
same time, the early cultural imperialism literature also raised the
issue of U.S. influence over European culture.

The idea that media system change can be understood as a process of
Americanization is still very much alive, and there is obviously much
truth to it. American programming still dominates many media markets,
in some industries--film for example--perhaps as much now as ever
before. And at a deeper level, moreover, in...

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