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The invention of the telegraph put in place a subtle way of ensuring that news travelled and spread to far places. On a different dimension, the same invention laid consolidated foundations under which the western media conglomerates would be anchored among them the tribune, New York herald while not negating the sun.
Since the early days of the telegraphic technology, media has been part of people’s life with far reaching impacts on them globally until today. This implies that it is perhaps almost impossible for people to live without media influences. Since it is also practically impossible for the western media to remain only in the west, western media conglomerates have global impacts both economically and politically.
This influence is perhaps evident in the setting of general formats of operational platforms of the booming media categories such as the radio, television and the internet amongst others. Additionally, perhaps a thorough scrutiny of the majority of each of these media, some attachment of their originality to the western media conglomerates is evident.
The capacity of the media to give constructions and creation of meaning from what constitutes peoples’ surroundings as one of its principal roles within the societal constructions fascinates many people. According to Hackett and Zhao, “This is largely because of the centrality of the symbolic to media form” (2005, p.23).
However, this role of the media raises questions to almost every critic pertaining to how the surroundings imaging’s as created by the media impacts the society in terms of modifying their perceived interpretations of their surroundings to suit the media’s approach.
Since global media is impacted to profile the western media conglomerates, the paper argues that these western media conglomerates have critical impacts in terms of modifying people and creating meanings as theorized by political economies and cultural studies approaches to the global media.
Consequently, it is the interest of the paper to consider the characterization of the western media with the major intent of bringing out the impacts of the western media conglomerates in global platforms.
Overview of Political and economic implications
Like many other companies, solely established media companies comes together to constitute a substantial company capable of leaping from the advantages of economies of scale. Conglomeration infers to “process of corporations purchasing other companies and thus becoming much larger and usually more diverse, often to include both media and non media firms” (Raboy 2002, p.89).
One particular advantage that a firm obtains by conglomeration is the capacity to globalize itself. From the media industry point of view, globalization implies “the distribution of media products across national boundaries; large media conglomerates now owning and distributing media across the globe” (Nederveen 2004, p.67). The adventures of globalization have the concepts of conglomeration embedded on them.
Corporations including Murdoch’s news corporation, which in the modern day poses media companies in the excesses of 100, perhaps exemplify this. Many media companies are widely embracing this trend (Lechner & Boli 2008, p.4). The repercussions of this endeavor are widely anticipated resulting to concentration of power to only the mega media companies.
The concentration of power among the few western media conglomerates, arguably, can result to the emergence of undue global political, economic, and cultural implications acerbated through the immense western media conglomerates globalization endeavors.
From the political stand, conglomerates stand better opportunities to provide interventions in the political process hence posing a considerable threat to the widely advocated free democracy. Large media conglomerates have the capacity to employ their “media holdings to promote political candidates and policies, skewing and attacking opponents” (Croteau & Hynes 2005, p.48).
While this may entail a subject of criticism, opponents of conglomeration of media are quick to pin point the historic contribution of media conglomerates in aiding the former Italian minister by the name Silvio Berlusconi rise in political power. Additionally, media conglomerates suffer the accusation of eroding people’s culture through their persuasive and pervasive messages.
As if this is not a curse enough for the media conglomerates, they have been accused of “contributing to culture of violence, exploitive sexuality, bitterly divisive political discourse, sensationalism and carrying away with it the traditional values of people” (Croteau & Hynes 2005, p.48).
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Arguably, with the society that believes in the capacity of the large media, especially the western framed media companies that endeavor to establish roots overseas; high chances of eruption of political cloud of their resistance in their supposed to be host nations are widely anticipated.
People opposed to the proponents of the likelihoods of the western media conglomerates to establish and inculcate political divides within the global society believe that the priory voiced concerns are mere exaggerations and overblown mis-perceptions about the media and globalization. Their main argument rests on the pillars of promotion of freedom of choice.
In this context, media is a way of availing subtle information to people that aids them recognize the vast choices that they deserve to have the capacity to make without any political coercion. Consequently, the western media conglomerates take a central role in the spreading of the American messages of freedoms of choice and democracy.
Croteau and Hynes (2005) posit that “the concentration of the media ownership is a natural byproduct of a maturing industry, as young as startups and older, underperforming firms are consolidated into business plans of mature but innovative companies” (p.38). This overrules the possibilities of the conglomeration to foster political climates temperature escalations.
Consequently, it is perhaps magnificent to contend with Wallerstein (2004) proposal that “the rapid growth in the media outlets, the constant shifts in the consumer tastes and the ever changing terrain of the industry makes any apparent domination of the industry by a few companies an illusion” (p.91).
Now, it perhaps becomes sound to reveal how permitting and conferring the western media conglomerates power of control of the media both locally and in the international platforms has eroded the traditional power of the political institutions to control media.
Any argument against the domination of the western conglomerates pegged on political impacts squarely rests on the capacity of the nations to exercise the power of media control. In this context power refers to “the ability to act in pursuit of one’s aims and interests, the ability to intervene in the course of events and affects the common ethics and strategies of operation” (Croteau & Hynes 2005, p.53).
As a result, it emerges hard for nations that these companies have established themselves to dictate change on the operational strategies of the western conglomerates media companies to suit their political regimes. It upon conceptualization of such difficulties that political impacts of western media conglomerate implications becomes conspicuous.
Alternatively, on a different perspective cultural imperialism inculcates and widens the political climate between the superior and weaker nations. Cultural imperialism refers to “a kind of domination of by powerful nations over weaker nations” (Hesmondhalgh 2007, p.67).
The western media conglomeration being widely accused of attempting to spread the American culture globally through their globalization endeavors also shares the blame of attempting to curtail the political will of the weaker nations.
Political implications of the trend toward concentration of media power among a few largely western conglomerates “is then viewed as purposeful and intentional because it corresponds to the political interests of the United States and other powerful capitalist societies” (McChesney 1999, p.81). In this context, the poor nations belonging to the developing world have little or even no political control of large global media.
This feeling is one of the ways of extending neo-colonialism in which people perceive developing nations as not being in a full position to be politically independent in terms of making their own policies.
This is perhaps widely justifiable by the fact that the large western-based media conglomerates such as AOL, Microsoft, and BBC news among others are compliant with the US media policies while, on the other hand, they are not compliant with the developing nations media control policies, yet they have a substantial presence in them.
The concentration of media power among a few largely western conglomerates poses significant economic impacts on the western conglomerates. For instance, following a careful scrutiny of the media in terms of power and markets, the issue of the relevance of taking considerations of the real nature, as well as the construction of media institutions, becomes clear.
This means it is crucial to consider what Baker (2007) says “…occurs within the media institutions that solicit, produce, manage and distribute media content” (p.69). Mega scale media organizations, as discussed in the previous sections, have established conspicuous prominence in the global media arena of the 20th century.
This dominance is perhaps also reflective of the wide scale integration of companies with the chief objective of dominating the world’s various sections of the economy. As Price reckons, “there is both greater concentration of media ownership and the absorption of small scale commercial media producers and distributors by large corporate conglomerates” (2002, p.91).
The repercussion of the dominance of the global media market by a small number of companies is erosion of the spirit of competition, which has the consequences of soliciting for the emergence of media products monopoly.
As Flew sees the media and globalization, economics, politics technologies and cultures are part and parcel of any discussion staged in favor or opposition of the global media conglomeration (2007, p.83) in an attempt to bring out how the global media fabric is weaved.
In economic terms “from the beginning, global media news services have been oriented to needs and interests of the wealthy nations which provide their revenues” (Herman & McChesney 2001, p.12). In this context, the motive of amplification of the revenues levels drives any merger by small corporations to form one outstanding corporation or a decision to do this.
This view is immensely consistent to the Herman and McChesney perception that “Firms must become larger and diversified to reduce risk and enhance profit-making opportunities, and they must straddle the globe never to be outflanked by competitors” (2001, pp.5-6).
One of the ideas that perhaps most communication scholars widely contend is that the ideas of leaping maximally from the economies of scale instigates conglomeration of western media. The many economic impacts of according a few western media conglomerates organizations economic power include enabling them to have cute access to large capital.
Consequently, such firms are able to develop expensive projects: something that small companies are incapable of achieving. Germany approximated the cost of a single Hollywood film to about 63 US million dollars while, on the other hand, the cost in 2003 of seven movies that topped that year’s list was in the range of 102 million US dollars (Rantanen 2005, p.34).
It is may be eminent that only remarkably few media companies can afford such a monumental risky investment. Any company likely to embrace such a risk needs to have hefty access to capital and it is likely to be a conglomerate.
Majority of the expensive media lines of business more often are only reserves of large corporations. National televising networks among other media business ventures top such lines of business. Consequently, “competition limits itself to few corporations that develop huge resources in some of the very lucrative areas of media business,” (Waisbord & Morris 2001, p.18).
Through limited competitions, mega corporations are at point of realizing large profits amid mega costs. While large, an organization is well positioned to proactively deal with operational risks than its constituent small firms that came together to form it. The argument reveals the advantages that a synergetic firm realizes. Ideally this means that a whole is more well placed to deal with dynamics that its constituent parts.
Media economics gives an indication of the availability of the markets for conglomerates services and products. The value of these products and services perhaps only surface to the top when translated into dollars.
The question of empowering the western media conglomerates corporations to achieve their endeavors to have a global presence rests on the need to increase profits maximally as opposed to conversion of the surroundings to create useful meanings to people.
With the deregulation, coupled with the privatization of the media, sensational information becomes easy to spread. The spreading of such information is even more pronounced when the conglomerates establishes globally. Flew argues that the whole idea of west media conglomerated corporations rests on the game of profit maximization by inculcation of strategies of market dominance through reduction of competition (2001, p.79).
“The highest levels of world finance have become intertwined with the highest levels of mass media ownership, with the result of tighter control over the systems on which most of the public depends for its news and information” (Bagdikian 2004, p.26). This argument emphasizes that the conglomeration of western media companies targets economic gains rather than the promotion of global multiculturalism.
The resulting dominance of these few corporations is largely conspicuous globally. Hoskins, Mcfyden, and Finn (2004) contends with this line of view and voices out that “A small number of media conglomerates, based in a few Western countries, dominate the production and global distribution of film, television, popular music, and book publishing” (p.56).
Unfortunately, as many proponents of globalization of the media would widely anticipate, the key driver of such dominance does not lie on the foundations of fostering global understanding and harmonization of the global society to inculcate multiculturalism. Rather, the main reason of conglomeration lies on the need to take advantages of economies of scale and synergy for individualistic economic gains.
Therefore, based on the detailed expositions made in the paper, it is evident that the political and economic trend toward concentration of media power among a few largely western conglomerates has far-reaching repercussions to the global society.
Conglomeration has been defined as the “process of corporations purchasing other companies and thus becoming much larger and usually more diverse, often to include both media and non media firms” (Raboy 2002, p.89). While one hand, the trends may be looked from the lens of being advantageous, the trend can also truncate numerous disadvantages.
In economic terms, the trends erode the spirit of competition with consequences of impairing free market approaches in marketing of media products and services through the creation of monopolies. On political standing, Conglomerates stands better opportunities to provide interventions in the political process hence posing a significant threat to the widely advocated free democracy.
Moreover, through the presentation of political and economic repercussions of political and economic trend toward concentration of media power among a few largely western conglomerates, the paper finds it necessary for creation of skeptical mind among the global media consumers.
This way the consumers can be able to predetermine the ideologies they subscribe to while they orient themselves to consume the west conglomerates media products and services since consumption of such products and services, as it is today, is globally inevitable.
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