Essay: United States Still the World's Dominant Media

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¶ … United States Still the World's Dominant Media Economy?

Is the U.S. still the world's most dominant media economy? One could probably make an argument either way on this question. Scholars, authors, and media pundits all have worthy theories and learned perspectives. And there is no editorial or socially constructed consensus as to the whether the media potency of the U.S. -- vis-a-vis an economically struggling and yet still culturally significant America -- has passed it's zenith and is on a downward slope. This paper posits that while the American culture still has an enormous impact worldwide, due in large part to mass media availability on a 24-hour news cycle in even the most remote parts of the world, the U.S. is not the exclusive, respected world superpower it once was. America has lost its "attractiveness edge," as Nancy Snow phases it. She may be engaging in understatement. And albeit the image of America as the benevolent superpower that saved Europe from Nazism and protects the weak around the globe has faded, American corporate media companies have not lost enough credibility or viewership around the world to be considered number two to any nation. Hence, it is the position of This paper that yes; the U.S. is still the world's dominant media economy.

The United States' Image and Media Power Envelopes the World

Certainly reading Nancy Snow's 2007 book -- the Arrogance of America Power: What U.S. Leaders are Doing Wrong and Why it's Our Duty to Dissent -- is one way to approach how the world sees the United States. Professor Snow, a respected propaganda expert at the University of Southern California, writes that America is still viewed by millions as an "exciting, commercially driven, market-friendly adjunct global culture to one's native culture" (Snow 119). To millions the U.S. still symbolized what Snow calls "…openness, trend-setting," the vanguard when it comes to fashion, music, television and film -- but not dominant enough to "overrun or dilute the less powerful culture" (Snow 119).

Snow goes on to say the U.S. is "the face of our age of globalization" and as such the U.S. is by way of becoming a symbol of globalization that is more of a "threatening concept than American culture alone" (Snow 119). Clearly Snow believes that when the U.S. image transcends mere culture and becomes the "face" of global power, others around the world have legitimate fears that the U.S. wants it all, everywhere. In the eyes of those anti-globalization activists, the U.S. is espousing a "consumerist ideology that is harmful to the physical and mental environment," Snow continues (119).

The face that Europeans particularly disliked -- some to the point of public hostility -- was that of former President George W. Bush, Snow explains. Bush was "…more widely and deeply disliked in Europe than any president in U.S. history," Snow adds, quoting from a New York Times column. On a research trip to Germany a few years back, Snow listened intently as German scholars and media professionals told her America's propaganda came across to them as the "love of money, a market economy that helped the rich and hurt the poor," social policies that were racist and an "aggressive" foreign policy (Snow 126). That said, the Germans also related their love for American popular culture, movies and music in particular. Her point in 2007 is that "…no other country comes close to America's dominance…stranglehold…over global television, cinema, music, book and magazine publishing and internet presence" (Snow 126).

Powerful global media corporations -- like those owned by billionaires Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner -- are transmitting their "Western images and commercial values" directly and powerfully "into the brains of 75% of the world's population," according to Lee Artz and Yahya R. Kamalipour, both professors of communication at Purdue University (34). Through the power of their media blitz on the world's community, Murdoch, et al., are globalizing an imagery that "…is surely the most effective means ever for cloning cultures" (Artz, et al., 2007 34). And by cloning cultures, Artz asserts, American media moguls can make those cultures "compatible with the Western corporate vision" (34). Artz refers to this media haughtiness in several ways through his narrative: a) is the "mass-produced outpouring of commercial broadcasting"; it is the fostering of "consumerism in the poor world"; and one could even call it's domination "neocolonialism" that will spark "new kinds of struggles to eradicate this enduring cultural influence in the Third World" (34-35).

Artz accuses American entertainment industries of embracing a production principle that is the "lowest-common-denominator" for mass audience -- sex, violence, alcohol -- and hence these industries are in reality "pandering to the basic, pleasure-seeking instincts in humans" (35). And because economic globalization has brought higher incomes to many citizens in Asian countries, resulting in an expanding consumer base for media, the U.S. entertainment industry provides these industrializing societies with those exploitative pleasure-seeking themes with little or no substance.

Those very Asian nations that Artz alludes to are experiencing "…rising literacy levels" and "increased access to Western (mostly American) entertainment offerings" which leads those viewers to "look beyond their traditional cultural practices" (Rampal 2007 33). Even a casual visitor to Asian countries can see "…the pervasiveness of American culture," Rampal -- professor of communication at Central Missouri State -- states. And beyond the issue of U.S. cultural saturation among Asians, there is no doubt that indigenous media industries in Asia are being challenged and in many cases being smothered by Western culture and media.

Are there Potential Rivals to the American Mass Media Juggernaut?

Could the many nations within the EU become independent of media globalization and be weaned off of pap-filled entertainment programming from the U.S. All the indications based on research are that for the foreseeable future, there are no rivals to American Mass Media programming. Dr. Jeanette Steemers, professor of media and communication at the University of Westminster in the UK, writes about the emerging power of European television. While it is true that the "vast majority of television channels in Europe" remain targeted at and viewed by "distinct national audiences" due to barriers of language and culture in twenty-seven sovereign nations, it is also the case that American media -- CNN, MTV, Discovery, National Geographic, et al. -- is highly visible. That having been said, Steemers relates that while culturally viable programming in the twenty-seven countries (with 452 million people and 172 million TV households, 92 million of those households with cable / satellite TV) has in many respects lost out to the power of "consumer-oriented" and "global" programming, there is hope that cultural pride and local political realities will usher in a more appropriate news and entertainment agenda (59).

On a practical level, the advent of satellite transmission has made it nearly impossible for European countries to keep global (think U.S.) programming out of homes, Steemers writes (64). The heavy lobbying of commercial media interests in Europe -- to eschew "restrictive legislation and ownership rules" -- has prevented EU leadership from instituting a "single integrated market" to promote "a more sustainable European television economy" (Steemers 64). The EU would like eventually to provide the production infrastructure powerful enough "to compete with the United States," Steemers explains (65).

In her "Lecture Two" from the University of Westminster Steemers asserts that even though "Globalization transcends national boundaries" the "Nation-State" remains relevant (Steemers 8). Western approaches to entertainment and cultural programming tend to "…ignore alternative models and systems"; in fact there is validity in the "Media Imperialism Thesis" (Schiller) which posits that the U.S. sees communication as "a one-way" street and not "multi-directional" (Steemers 19). The imperialism thesis implies that while the U.S. still dominates computer functionalities (Microsoft) and entertainment programming (Disney, News Corp, Time Warner) by underestimating overseas resistance to that domination the U.S. perhaps is heading for an eventual fade (Steemers 21).

On page 24 of Steemers lecture two is a photo of Rupert Murdoch next to an unkind characterization of Murdoch, who is considered by many in the U.S. And elsewhere in the world a right wing ideologue, a multi-billionaire snake in the global grass whose political economy and economic clout allows him to invest in -- and purchase, in many cases -- corporate media companies the world over. If U.S. corporate media's entertainment stranglehold is as compellingly powerful in the global community as some scholars believe, when candidly considering Murdoch's corporate approach, add hard-core conservative propaganda to the entertainment genre to be more completely accurate.

Will China's media interests -- which has instituted new market-related practices and hence has "reshaped journalistic culture" -- allow it to produce original, interesting and vital programs notwithstanding the tension between "rapid commercialization and continued ideological control"? (Ma 2000 21). Given that this article is 10 years old, and subsequent to its publication China has first flirted with Google, then sealed a quasi-censorship deal, and continues to censor its Internet content, Ma's narrative may be a smidgen outdated. Still, Ma (professor of journalism and communication at… [END OF PREVIEW]

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