Media in the Modern World Term Paper

Pages: 7 (2270 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: History - Asian


In the modern world, it is easy to forget that in the recent past, many of the world's powers are incredibly young as nation-states. Britain controlled India until the mid-20th century; Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997, when it became governed by China, which was only founded in 1949. In the shadow of nation-states like Britain, whose official status as an independent nation stretches back centuries, India and Hong Kong are relative toddlers in governing.

Both are still experimenting with the amount of state control over many areas-speech, religion, and other liberties-that influence the lives of their citizens each day; the advent of new technologies that will most likely render the traditional role of the state as the primary broadcaster of information as a national media obsolete. The tensions between these two models-of constitutionally protected (and internationally respected) speech with the need for at least some government regulation in these fledgling nations-shall be the principle focus of this paper.

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This essay will examine a specific method (the media) that has been utilized in each country's development, and how that method is evolving. First, a general history of each nation's situation and the traditional role that the media has played will be explained. Then, according to Pashupati, Lin Sun, and McDowell's factors in the role played by the media in postcolonialism (development communication, nation building, and combating cultural imperialism), these criteria will be examined in the media of both India and Hong Kong (Pashupati, et. al., 2003). This section of the essay will also treat the usefulness of each of these factors. Finally, an examination of the current state of each country's media and the implications of this situation will be presented.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Media in the Modern World, it Is Assignment

Both nations have guaranteed to their citizens the freedom of speech. India's constitution guarantees freedom of speech to its citizens, and competitors do exist to Doordarshan, the national broadcasting network, although the national channel dominates the market. Hong Kong, while in theory subject to China's restrictions on expression, allows essentially unrestricted speech, only requiring registration and basic obscenity standards be observed, in contrast with the "overtly propagandist role" of the media in China (ibid, p. 258). Hong Kong has, in fact, been criticized by China for its permissive speech laws.

Both India and Hong Kong have utilized their respective systems of media-from radio in the early stages of India's independence to the state-run television stations of each today-to shape the national culture and identity. The complexity of today's many options-internet, satellite and cable television-poses unique questions for nations with free speech but who are accustomed to having some form of control over what citizens may access. Doordarshan was, for years, the primary source of information and news for India's citizens -- the idea of competing voices in the marketplace is most certainly going to be new territory for the government of India, which is accustomed to being the strongest voice.

In Pashupati, Lin Sun, and McDowell's article, in a post-colonial (or newly independent) state, a state-controlled media serves three main functions: first, as a basic means of development communications with the citizenry, then as a method of nation building, and finally as a defense against cultural imperialism from other nations (Pashupati, et. al., 2003, p. 253). The first function is not addressed in detail, as it is only personified by benign and non-biased communication regarding events (i.e., it does not attempt to influence the citizenry in any way). Educational programming, farming programs, and local attractions all fall under this category of broadcasting. While encouraging an informed citizenry is a vital task, it is one that does not encapsulate influencing people's behavior or beliefs, and as such, is the least controversial of the three functions.

The second function of state broadcasting, nation building, is more complex. The need in a newly formed nation-state to develop a national identity and encourage the integration of different social, political, religious, and language groups is a requisite for ensuring the success of the young country. Ethnic tensions or regional conflicts can undermine the sovereignty of young (or established) nations. It is, naturally, in the best interest of a fledgling nation to encourage toleration of all groups which exist within the geographic boundaries of the nation, not just a majority. In light of these factors, a nationally-run media is a superb tool for engendering this kind of national unity.

When Hong Kong became part of China in 1997, as opposed to being an English colony, the Chinese and Hong Kong governments used the national media to foster a sense of "Chinese" identity among the Hong Kong citizenry (Fung 2004). This was done because of perceived (and some real) tensions between islanders and mainlanders; "mainlanders were stigmatised as 'uncivilised' and 'uneducated' outsiders and intruders, and a ready-made cultural contrast against which modern, cosmopolitan Hong Kongers could define themselves," (ibid., p. 401). Intuitively, a nation (like China) knows that a region which considers itself separate from the national identity can be detrimental to the "main" nation, and China took measures to remedy the perceived differences between Hong Kong and the mainland. One study found that "during the political transition, in which media events were intense, the effect of media...resulted in the increase of Chinese identification [among Hong Kong residents]" (ibid, p. 405). This conscious effort on the part of the government to influence the identities of its residents is a significant example of the role that may be played by a state-run media.

The function of establishing and encouraging a national identity and sense of unity is also evident in the actions of India's state-run television station, Doordarshan. India is a nation of varied religious and ethnic groups-while Hindus are the vast majority, Muslims make up a significant part of the population. Many Indians speak different tongues as well, and these main differences could cause major strife amongst the citizens of India. Doordarshan broadcasting can use its national reach to educate and inform its citizens about other religious or linguistic groups and to foster a spirit of national unity among these different groups.

This interpretation of Doordarshan's programming, however, is not an opinion shared by all. Pashupati et. al. have suggested that Doordarshan's primarily Hindi programming excludes the majority of Indians, who are not Hindi speakers (Pashupati et. al. 2003, p.259). They also suggest that the programming on Doordarshan is geared toward Hindus to the exclusion of other religious groups, namely Muslims (ibid.). In this manner, the national television station may be a tool of "social engineering," that is to say, it creates a definite ideal of what "Indian" culture is, and excludes those groups not in this category (ibid, p. 260). Another author notes that despite India's liberal economy, the national television station continues to broadcast "neoconservative" messages regarding women, minority religion, and westernization (Zacharias 2003).

In examining the "national identity" function of a state-run broadcasting channel, we can see both benefits and drawbacks. Ideally, a nationwide outlet for government communication can foster a sense of unity, as it did during Hong Kong's incorporation into China. However, a drawback to the same function is that it may reinforce a message regarding what classes, religions, and languages are considered "genuine" nationals, as in the case of the religious minorities who are essentially excluded from Doordarshan's programming. The government-run media is a powerful tool, and repercussions may result from any perceived slight of one group in favor of another. Only if it is utilized in an inclusive and responsible manner can a national media foster a healthy national identity for a state that might not otherwise have clearly defined itself.

Pashupati et. al.'s final function delineated for a state-run media is its ability to combat "cultural imperialism," presumably from either the colonizing nation or from the West (Pashupati et. al. 2003, p.253). This sense of westernization and colonial influence as a threat to a nation's own identity and even existence is prevalent among newly postcolonial nations, like India and Hong Kong. In many ways, cultural imperialism can be defined as the newfound glut of information available on the internet or via satellite television. Simply having the information available is enough to sway a portion of the consumers from one point-of-view-that is, the one espoused by a government-to an alternative point-of-view, whether it is an opinion of religion, of political systems, or even of something as mundane as fashion trends.

The nationalist concept of not letting in too much Western culture is failing miserably, however, with the advent of internet access and satellite and cable television. Since both India and Hong Kong have protections of free speech, neither country's citizens would accept overt government restrictions on the kind of media they access. Already in Hong Kong, there is nervous talk about youth using the internet too much-it has been studied as an addiction (Leung 2003). Hong Kong, has, for all intents and purposes, crossed a threshold into a "western" model of twenty-four hour information with the establishment of a satellite television network for the region.

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