Mass Communication: A Weapon of Mass Destruction
The construction of global media products in an interconnected world influences the social, political, and economic elements that help shape our perceptions of other cultures, countries, and people. Cees J. Hamelink, author of "Global Communication" describes global communication integrated with globalization occurring “as homogenization, but also as an ingredient in a process of glocalization or hybridization, as the driver of forms of fragmentation and polarization that can be subsumed under heterogenization”. This definition of global communication allows for collaboration with globalization as a means of production, trade, social ideology, and many other aspects of society that may vary from culture to culture. However, the repercussions of an increased global spectrum is what Ulrich Beck coined as “rick society”, an “important dimension of the context of global communication that we live in”. Beck questioned the implications of global communication as an aide in the deterioration of human security. In certain aspects, his concerns may have been valid.
The distribution of power and wealth has been a concern ver since the first societies were formed with great Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle acknowledging these issues. In authoritarian or dictatorship countries, decisions are limited to a particular group or person, yet even in democracies this same power is very unequally distributed. Inequality is ironically equal in it’s forms that exist across the globe with deep hierarchical standards in access to resources. Global communication is not exempt from this inequality since there are a few elite that have access to it, robbing “many people of their fundamental communication rights and that manage to create a culture of denial and silence about these abuses”. The study of global communication is dedicated to better understanding the influences this sort of advancement and inequality have, requiring an “analysis of the wider context of global realities”.
The approaches to understanding the interactions between society and informational developments can be seen via technological, cultural, socio-political or economic dimensions. However, Hamelink notes that “since the early twenty-first century the reality of global communication is rapidly changing. Communication theory and communication policy may have a bounty of complications, issues, and controversies but one of the current questions in consideration is the affairs of corporate media ownership. “The concentration of media ownership versus pluralism and access for multiple voices in the media” is problematic especially when added into the conversation of inequality. Political economist Janet Wasko believes that “increasingly, the study of political economy is crucial to understanding the growth and global expansion of media and information industries” However, it wasn’t until the 1950s and early 1960s that the academic study of communication embraced economic analysis as well as a political economic approach (Wasko).
In the 1980s, it was clear that the commodification and commercialization of media and communication resources was increasing the producer-consumer relationship in the media/communication landscape. This relationship is the interest political economists have in investigating the consequences of media concentrations on the market. Wasko emphasizes that political economists integrate approaches to research the relationship of power that is involved in the production, distribution and consumption of media and communication resources within a wider social context. However the variance in theories can be muddled between social science theories, normative theories, operational theories, or common sense theories. Therefore, the focus of Susca’s normative theories concerned with the structure of media organizations allows for narrowing down the influence of media practice on the political economy (i.e. behavior and content).
The United States has an interesting media/communication background especially in 2018 with the possibility of merging two of the big six to be one. Amidst the potential 21st Century Fox and Disney merger, the “tapestry of American life” is at risk along the increasing concern of media consolidation. When a handful of companies control a majority of what an entire country consumes across all media platforms, it can be seen in the cultural actions and beliefs within that society. For example, an underrepresentation of minorities, especially in a positive light, has led to negative race relations such as “stereotyping of Muslims in news reports led to increased support for military action against Muslim countries”. Therefore, this concern of only having a handful of media conglomerates within each country is that we are decreasing our global views of one another.
Owning the media means that the owners get to shape societal beliefs which can be problematic in our views on everything from politics to public health. I fully agree with Professor Susca’s analysis that the potential Disney-Fox merger could “create a media powerhouse worth so much that it could be as powerful as a state actor on the world stage”. Mergers have not been shown to benefit consumers or workers within these powerhouse companies, yet people talk about technologies such as the internet as being the ‘savior’ to combat these massive threats. Meanwhile, the United States has seen the increasing inequality between those with privilege and those without. When the majority of these companies have primarily old white men in charge of the stories that come out of their boardrooms, our society is at risk of being exposed to only a single story. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian author and world renowned public speaker, has commented on the dangers of a ‘single story’ repeatedly since her famous TED talk in 2009. When we only see one side to something, we believe that is all there can be without fully recognizing the extent of these single stories infiltrating our daily lives. The distinction between viewer and consumer is being increasingly blurred particularly by organizations that are primarily interested in profit-based stories that ride the backs of stereotyping and familiarity.