Among the three readings for this week, Michael Curtin’s “Thinking Globally: From Media Imperialism to Media Capital” caught my attention more than the rest of the two. So I would like to share some thought on that article.
Curtin starts the article clarifying that the media globalization refers beyond the wealthy English-speaking countries such as Canada, Australia, and the UK; it includes in the real sense of global. He begins with the media imperialism thesis emerged in the 60s, which argues “the US and European allies controlled the international flow of images and information, imposing media texts and industrial practices on willing nations and susceptible audiences around the world.” (P109) The term “media Imperialism” soon got numerous critics. One of them is Taiwanese scholar Chin-Chuan lee’s case study research on media influence on Canada, Taiwan, and PRC, and the result indicates that the media impact is not linear. The more developed the country is, the most acceptable its audiences towards Hollywood media. Cultural and Postcolonial scholars also questioned, “Media Imperialism” regarding how culture could be dominants national preference to media. And there are study shows that audiences prefer nation production more than exported ones. Hence, media globalization is certainly not western hegemony, but “part of a larger set of processes that operate translocally, interactively, and dynamically at a variety of levels: economic, institutional, technological, and ideological.” (P111)
Political power is also an issue in the global media. Curtin uses the example of Rupert Murdoch’s releasing Star TV in Hong Kong suggesting government control and interference is what media cooperation meet in foreign countries. The initial idea of Star TV was to expand Murdoch’s Media Empire in Asian and set multiple channels. However, The emergence of Star TV also allows local channels to broadcast in satellite, and thus took away the market. Then the authors talk about the business model of the concentration of productive resources that allows companies to receive the best profit in the shortest time, and the creative migration phenomenon happened in Hollywood, Hong Kong, Mumbai, and Cairo.
Though the article gives very clear historical fact and regional analysis, it generate all media industry into the same position, where in fact, there is hugely different between the global movie industry and television industry. Hollywood system is still very successful international as it did in the 30s, but the television industry is not the same case. From production to distribution, global television business is facing more difficulty than the movie industry. Compared to film, television is considered “mass media,” that other countries hold more regulation. The globalization of television is an entirely different step than the movie industry. Thus, it is worth separating the TV industry from the media globalization to give a close look.
I would like to give an example of the difference between American movie performance and television performance in China back in 2005. Though American television received huge popularity in China in the recent years, it once failed miserably in early 2000. When the first season “Desperate Housewives” was first launched on National broadcast in China around 2005, its rating was far lower than the imported Korean drama aired at the same time, despite the fact that “Desperate Housewives” was much more well-made than family drama. Besides the cultural difference, there might be other reasons for the failure of this drama. First, compared to the stars in Korean dramas, actors in American television were much less known to Chinese audience back then. Two, like Lee’s research on Media Imperialism, American drama was considered too elite to the ordinary Chinese audiences back then. And the third reason is that there is not an established reputation and television atmosphere in China. Unlike the Hollywood movie business, which its genre, stars, and films have set up a market in China, while TV industry does not form as a business yet. Thus, one single television drama back then would not change the mass audience’s perception on foreign television, and it will not create a miracle by its own.
Curtin’s piece is very helpful to understand media globalization overall, but we may need to keep in mind that television and movie are two different business model, and they have separate paths regarding globalization.
Nowadays, American television has established its fame in China, and young audiences are addicted to numerous shows just as American audiences do. However, government restriction and regulation become another factor preventing American television from showing. Here is an article from 2015, CNN.