International Media Policy
Aspects such as globalization, continuous technological breakthrough, the state of conflict, the visible separation between the West and the East, or Occidentalism and orientalism, which intensify the discussion about otherness and emphasize the racial hate speeches define the nowadays media context. Currently mass media negotiates its role in this environment, defined by the above-mentioned social coordinates. Because globalization entered the social normality, mass media followed the game imposed by this social movement and applied a globalized media discourse, sustained by the available technological innovations that allow for the rapid dissemination of media content throughout the world due to the new media emergence. The global media allows for the worldwide promotion of self-mass communication content, which is a new feature of media, which permits everybody to become the news initiator, challenging like this the supremacy of the classical, mainstream media (television, radio or printed press). Nevertheless, in this global society, mass media also allows for the transfer of values and life principles, mostly coming from the occident (developed countries) into the developing and third world countries, setting like this a hegemonic culture of the developed countries, as they set new trends and lifestyle models through the media content (movies, music, etc.) that they create and diffuse throughout the world. Briefly, this is the context upon which Bangladesh and Colombia are examined in this essay, in relation to the media theories and media trends hereon defined.
Key Words: mass media, media content, globalization, technological breakthrough, otherness, new media, self-mass communication, classic media, mainstream media, Bangladesh, Colombia.
International Media Policy
As the society is in a continuous transformation, the role of mass media also changes, adapting to the needs and developments that characterize the modern world. The rapid emergence of new technologies require for an adaptation of the media content and media discourse for meeting the communication standards of the transforming world. In this context, mass media requires new strategies for maintaining its classical role of “watchdog” and for exercising its main function – to inform audiences (Ramey, 2007, p. 110). The current essay analyzes mass media theories specific and adapted to the nowadays world, which indicate the transformation that occurred into mass media system as a result of globalization and of the rapid technological evolution, focusing on applying the advanced theories to Bangladesh and Colombia case.
Although the classical media like television, radio broadcasting or printed newspapers and magazines might sustain the power groups by promoting media content that cover the needs of those groups (Allen & Stremlau, 2005, p. 5) while ignoring or promoting in a biased manner issues that are not related or that are opposing the power groups, sustaining like this the elite groups (Davis, 2007, p. 44), the nowadays emergence of the new media represents a new, yet highly powerful tool for revealing the facts less covered in mainstream media. As such, as Bennett (2003, p. 5) indicates, the rise of the internet and of the technology allows for the diffusion of content with local interest throughout the world, making thousands or millions of people around the world aware of local problems of isolated countries.
For instance, the reality from Bangladesh or from Colombia is reproduced through new media, generating awareness about the sweatshops from Bangladesh or about the local riots from Colombia throughout the world.
The emergence of new media is actually a reflection of the changes that occur in society and represent a manifestation of people’s need to communicate, which also generates the mass self-communication (Castells, 2007, p. 246). And the self-communication occurs despite the constraints or censorship that states or various power interest groups intend to impose upon media content (Allen & Stremlau, 2005, p. 6), as the new technology, available nowadays to more and more individuals throughout the world allows the rapid circulation of the content through all the corners of the world, linking in just few seconds countries and audiences from different corners of the world (Davis, 2007, p. 76). This indicates that people are becoming aware of the fact that they are living in a global community and that they understand that they too can generate news, not only receive news transmitted in a bureaucratic and power-interest-focused manner, by using their own computer or even mobile phones, fore generating viral videos, memes, blogs, etc. that other individuals can share, creating a global spread of the new media content and a horizontal communication (Bennett, 2003, p. 13; Castells, 2007, p. 259).
The advantages of this media is that it is inexpensive, it has a global reach and shows reality, which is a fact that the classical media such as television print press or radio might hinder, due to political interest or even as a strategy for maintaining peace through minimizing the violent speech or the content that puts a country in a negative light, as Allen and Stremlau (2005, p. 6) indicate.
As such, the viral clip “Made in Bangladesh” (2009) and other similar movies focused on the poverty of this people and on showing how the developed countries exploit them, raised awareness of people throughout the world about the fact that famous fashion brands, part of large corporations are exploiting the people of this country, by paying them salaries that maintain them in a severe poverty condition. “Made in Bangladesh” (2009) clip, while it does put the country in a negative light, as it shows the poverty levels that it reached, it also tells the reality.
In addition, this viral clip has another purpose, of supporting the cause of Bangladesh people. Like this, new media and mass self-communication represent activism tools that use the modern media strategy (creating a content based on a reality and sharing it through social media, determining others to share it also, generating an integrated online communication (Kelley, 2006, p. 132)) for convincing people to sustain a cause. In the case of Bangladesh, the cause of the activism is to determine people from developed countries to stop allowing themselves to get manipulated and absorbed into consumerism, searching to buy inexpensive products, because they are produced at the expense of people such as those from Bangladesh, working for $0.07 per hour to afford their subsistence (“Made in Bangladesh”, 2009), being themselves, just some little wheels in the consumerism industry, managed by corporations from prosperous countries.
The brutal difference between people from developed countries and the ones from a third world country such as Bangladesh that the movie “Made in Bangladesh” depicts is closely related to the concept of “otherness” (Ferguson, 1998).
The meaning of otherness refers to taking into consideration the cultural differences, which implies different perceptions, different ideas that may vary or may be totally opposed to the perceptions and ideas of self, which brings into discussion the media representation of the race, as the proponent of the cultural differences (Ferguson, 1998, pp. 301-3012). In fact, the media representation of race is connected to what the anthropologist Levi-Strauss calls binary-opposition, based on structural contrast and social patterns grouped in a system of classification that defines the trait of a culture or a race, suggesting stereotyping and often negative stereotyping of race in media (Ferguson, 1998, p. 304).
Allen and Stremlau (2005, pp. 6-7) show that media emphasizes the racism by providing biased content for describing specific races as opposed to other races, sustaining like this a subversive hate speech that encourages the violence and acts against a democratic market and peace.
Related to Colombia’s case, mass media typically promote stereotyping content about the population of this country such as the drug dealing and the prostitution activities or the dictatorship politics, creating a biased image for this nationality and sustaining negative features of this population, describing it as violent, aggressive, dangerous, totalitarian (Giraldo, 1996, p. 2), which are negative stereotypes promoted throughout the world, generating a hate speech against this country.
However, when accused of encouraging a hate speech against races, ethnicities or nationalities for supporting the political or economic interest of the groups that hold the power, mass media institutions invoke the freedom of the speech as a fundamental human right and individual liberty (Marshall, 2005, p. 21) that characterize a powerful and consolidated democracy, where everybody has a right to an opinion and where there should be issued varied opinions and contents, allowing audiences to create an informed opinion, based on the varied information received regarding a specific subject (Allen & Stremlau, 2005, p. 11). Nevertheless, while governments in some countries (the case of Iraq) do sustain the freedom of speech, reality has shown that this is dangerous, as mass media can influence violent behavior by providing biased content against races, ethnicities, religious or political groups, etc., leading to conflicts and this is why a press regulation is required (Allen & Stremlau, 2005, p. 5).
When it comes to ethnocentrism, ethnic minorities negotiate their living and their cultural individuality, threatened by a standardization and alignment of their culture to the “mainstream” wave, which is sustained and promoted through media programs that deliver infotainment content that serves the existent power, maintaining cultural hierarchies, supporting like this the negative stereotyping of races, which hinders cultural diversity and harmony between races (Ferguson, 1998, p. 313).
Fejes (1981, p. 240) advances the idea that the media content in the globalized world is structured on a dependency need, where the dependency is given by the international economic and political context, which favors the developed countries in the disadvantage of the third world countries, as the developed countries exploit (through media also) the needs of the underdeveloped world.
This forced dependency relation is observed in Bangladesh’s case, where people are living in poverty and are facing hunger because of lack economic opportunities. The occidental countries exploit the people of this country by giving them very poorly paid jobs (reaching $0,07/hour) and making them work sometimes even 18 hours per day (“Made in Bangladesh”) for sustaining and responding to the needs of people from developed countries. As such, the big fashion corporations such as Gap, BJS, Lacoste, Reebok etc. own fashion factories in Bangladesh where they employ locals in sweatshops, whom they pay monthly salaries smaller than an occidental may earn in a single working day, in order to satisfy the demand for inexpensive clothes ($3/product (“Made in Bangladesh, 2009”)) of the occidental buyers, encouraging and sustaining like this a consumerism industry in the developed countries at the cost of the exploiting the needs of the third world countries.
This situation is related to the binary opposition: eurocentrism/orientalism, which is set on a discourse of reflecting the culture’s strict classifications and limitations in relation to other cultures and structures, promoting the developed countries’ cultural wisdom in a benevolent, yet superior attitude, which leads to the idea of exoticism, only differing of racism in terms of social distinction, as the racism is “poverty-stricken” and exoticism is “mollycoddled” (Ferguson, 1998, p. 306). Therefore, while aware of the situation from Bangladesh or other poor countries, the developed countries serve them media and lifestyle models, in a benevolent manner, yet this is an indication of exoticism, just another form of racism, because the developed countries show their superiority towards the third world countries by imposing their cultural models.
Ironically related to this situation, Fejes (1981, p. 416) discusses about a media imperialism generated by several developed countries through music or movies broadcasted globally that promote their cultural and economic values (such as individualism and consumerism), transforming the local cultures into that of their dominators, advancing like this the hegemony of the developed countries’ culture over the developing and the third world countries.
As the culture is representative to race in media discourse, Mackenzie (in Ferguson, 1998, p. 304) observes that one race can define another, precisely through contrast, just as Orient defines Europe as an occidental culture or the developed countries as hegemonic cultures.
As such, Colombia’s press supports the liberal movement and actions of the United States, creating like this media content that is focuses on the country’s initiatives to support US in its fight against totalitarianism, drug dealing and violence, for which the South American countries were and are still recognized for in the global media discourse (Beltrain, n.d., p. 16). This aspect is actually illustrative in the viral clip that circulates through internet “Colombian Riot Police Beat Protesters” (2013). The clip presents a local riot, initiated by the Colombian farmers as a response to the government’s decision to support the crops imported from US and Europe by allowing the economic agents from these regions state subventions, in the detriment of the local farmers, for whom this governmental measure means their extermination from the local crops market. The clip indicates two aspects: first the fact that Colombian politics is focused on strengthening the liberalization by standing close to US and following its steps and its cultural model (inclusively in the media content), just as Beltrain argued; second, the fact that its classic media (radio, TV and printed press) ignore this reality, as it opposes the interests of the power groups, but the new media reflected it, showing the police brutality against the protestants of the government, which indicates the autocratic nature of Colombian government and media, which follows the countries’ politics (Brandt, 1992, p. 8).
One explanation for why Colombian mass media seems to ignore this reality – the farmers’ riot against a government’s policy – may stand precisely in Allen and Stremlau’s (2005, p. 7) observation according to which voicing out violent outburst in transitional societies may enhance the violence and the hate speech. However, as Castells (2005, pp. 258-259) indicates, new forms of communication emerge from pain, violence, conflicts and the current century is characterized by the mass self-communication that creates a new space for showing the reality, moreover, in a global sphere.
Allen and Stremlau (2005, p. 12) state that establishing a media policy in countries that are emerging in or from violent conflicts is problematic and there is a need to re-conceptualize the role and involvement of the state in the development of the media, aligned with the state’s ideology, political, legal and judicial systems, as for instance, an open media environment requires a strong state with a well functioning legal and judicial system.
Transition countries require an increased degree of control and supervising, in order to avoid as much as possible violent or hate speech against various racial, ethnic, religious, political and other such groups promoted through media content, but As Allen and Stremlau (2005, pp. 12-13) observe, this is not happening, as the transition countries copy the model of the press of the developed countries. The researchers argue that transition countries are not prepared to request the liberation of their press and their appeal to international regulations that grant this right is not justified, because they need to be aware of the local realities and of the consequences that the uncontrolled media might have upon society (Allen & Stremlau, 2005, pp. 12-13).
The re-conceptualization of the media in the transition states might require censorship and state control, just as the media from the developed countries as UK or US is also controlled and censored or constrained by various groups of interest. Nevertheless, Allen and Stramlau (2005, p. 14) observe that too much state control on the media content may generate another problem of promoting autocratic messages in the detriment of an intended liberal market economy and when this happens, there is required the involvement of the international or regional institutions in order to assure a greater transparency and accountability.
The case of Bangladesh is illustrative. As such, when political or religious figures were transposed into new media content under the form of memes (funny images describing reality in an ironic tone that circulate mostly through social media or online content) (Bennett, 2012), in 2010 Bangladesh’s government blocked Facebook for nine days, until the memes were removed (Powell, 2012, p. 20).
Colombia also had its periods of media being controlled by the state. While after it obtained its independence in 1818 the country also obtained the freedom of printed publications, in the early 20th century media had became a milieu for promoting politicians and the word was that politicians were initially journalists and secondary politicians, using pamphlets for promulgating their political agenda (Beltrain, n.d., p. 15). An observation regarding the pamphlets once used in printed media is that they are now reproduced by the new media’s memes, which gain popularity and even make the users the promulgators of such content, when they choose to share it.
This essay revealed that mass media’s classical role of “watchdog” and its main function of informing audiences has shift towards producing “infotainment” content and serving the interests of various power groups. While the interest of the power groups might be to protect societies (mainly in the case of the transition countries) from the emergence of various conflicts and media content might be censored in this respect, it is nevertheless true that in the nowadays global world, mass media represents a tool used by developed countries for establishing their hegemonic cultures through the media imperialism. It is nevertheless true that the rise of new media and the emergence of self mass-communication have shifted the media content and mechanism, as in this content the receivers can be the transmitters of the messages, which can now have a global circularity, generating global awareness. New media is often similar to media activism, as the essay indicated, yet a new function of mass media in the current times, as this essay indicated by using Bangladesh and Colombia examples.
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