AMIC Annual Conference
17-20 July 2006
Contra-Flow in Global Media: An Asian Perspective
Professor Daya Kishan Thussu
University of Westminster
The focus of this paper is on the global flows and contra‐flows of visual media, mainly television and film, as, despite the exponential growth of the Internet in the last decade, it was being used only by about 15 per cent of the world’s population in 2006, while television and film had a much larger audience base. The paper proposes a typology to divide the main media flows into three broad categories: global, transnational and geo‐cultural. It then goes on to examine what it terms as the ‘dominant flows,’ largely emanating from the global North, with the United States at its core; followed by contra‐flows, originating from the erstwhile peripheries of global media industries – designated ‘subaltern flows.’ While celebrating the global circulation of media products from a wider range of hubs of creative and cultural industries, the paper emphasises the disparities in the volume and economic value of such flows in comparison to the dominant ones and cautions against the tendency to valorise the rise of non‐Western media, arguing that they may reflect a refiguring of hegemony in more complex ways.
Multi‐vocal, multi‐directional, multimedia
The global media landscape in the first decade of the twenty‐first century represents a complex terrain of multi‐vocal, multimedia and multidirectional flows. The proliferation of satellite and cable television, made possible by digital technology, and the growing use of on‐line communication, partly as a result of the deregulation and privatization of broadcasting and telecommunication networks, have enabled media companies to operate in increasingly transnational rather than national arenas, seeking and creating new consumers worldwide. With the exception of a few powers such as the United States, Britain and France whose media (particularly broadcasting, both state‐run and privately operated) had an international dimension, most countries have followed a largely domestic media agenda within the borders of a nation–state.
Gradual commercialisation of media systems around the world has created new private networks that are primarily interested in markets and advertising revenues. Nationality scarcely matters in this market‐oriented media ecology, as producers view the audience principally as consumers and not as citizens. This shift from a state‐centric and national view of media to one defined by consumer interest and transnational markets has been a key factor in the expansion and acceleration of media flows: from North to South, from East to West, and from South to South, though their volume varies according to the size and value of the market.
The US‐led Western media, both on‐line and off‐line, and in various forms ‐ information, infotainment and entertainment ‐ are global in their reach and influence (Bagdikian, 2004; Boyd‐Barrett, 2006; Thussu, 2006). Given the political and economic power of the United States, its media are available across the globe, if not in English then in dubbed or indigenised versions. As its closest ally, Britain – itself a major presence in global media, particularly in the field of news and current affairs ‐benefits from the globalization of Americana. The only non‐Western genre with a global presence is Japanese animation (and this would not have been possible without the economic underpinnings of the world’s second largest economic power). These represent what might be termed as ‘dominant media flows’.
Though some peripheral countries have emerged as exporters of television programmes and films (Sinclair et al., 1996), the USA continues to lead the ...