Cultural Industries in the Digital Age: Some Provisional Conclusions

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Media, Culture & Society Cultural industries in the Digital Age: some provisional conclusions Enrique Bustamante Media Culture Society 2004; 26; 803 DOI: 10.1177/0163443704047027 The online version of this article can be found at:

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Cultural industries in the Digital Age: some provisional conclusions Enrique Bustamante


Translated from the Spanish by Philip Schlesinger and Jairo Lugo This study is based on the analysis of the seven main sectors – both in terms of political importance and of social influence – of contemporary culture and communication. It addresses the following: books, disks, cinema, the press, radio, television and the video games industry. The work addresses three main cross-cutting problematics that are considered to be crucial: intellectual property rights; the strategies of transnational multimedia groups; and the development of communication and cultural policies and their evolution in both the analogue and digital worlds (Bustamante, 2002, 2003). The framework that traditionally unified this apparently diverse group of elements was the concept of the ‘cultural industries’,1 which is still useful for analysing the transformations and the most important tendencies of the last decade. It is assumed that the future of our culture cannot escape from being determined by the evolution of the ‘old’ analogue world, and particularly by three main interrelated processes that have produced important changes in the cultural industries during the past few decades: Deregulation: this has entailed a diminished role for the state and public service and a shift in the cultural industries from overall regulation to regulation by the market. The state’s actions and regulation now take a secondary role, subsidiary to that of the market and its dynamics. Concentration: the 1990s, in part because of the promise and challenge of the digital networks, but mainly because of increasing competition of all types in both national and international markets, brought about a new leap Media, Culture & Society © 2004 SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks and New Delhi), Vol. 26(6): 803–820 [ISSN: 0163-4437 DOI: 10.1177/0163443704047027]

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Media, Culture & Society 26(6)

forward in terms of concentration, generally based on external growth (mergers and the take-over of others’ assets) and also based on vertical integration. Globalization of forms and principles of management: this is due to the rapid expansion of national or international markets which entails intensive access to capital markets (stocks, bank loans, general indebtedness) and a permanent search to maximize profits in the short term; in other words, a complete conversion of the cultural industries into institutions defined by finance. However, we are not witnessing the imposition of a single global model: it is not possible to argue for a process of ‘Americanization’ in general terms, nor for the creation of a McDonaldized culture dominated by standardized products, which are globally diffused in a supranational form. Instead, what we see is how multiple local impulses are producing mixtures and exchanges with global culture. However, this does not diminish the fact that the relations between this ‘world culture’ and ‘local creativity’ are undergoing a...
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