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Media


Terry Flew & Stuart Cunningham


DEVELOPMENTS in communications media are important in all the processes of globalisation. There are three dimensions to this. Firstly, media constitute the technologies and service delivery platforms through which international flows are transacted. Secondly, the media industries are leaders in the push towards global expansion and integration. Thirdly, the media provide informational content and images of the world through which people seek to make sense of events in distant places. It follows that media are central to the globalisation debates, partly because of their role as communications technologies that enable the international distribution of messages and meanings, but mainly because of their perceived role in weakening the cultural bonds that tie people to nation-states and national communities. Chris Barker has argued that global media - and global broadcast media in particular - are globalising in both their form and their content. Television, Barker has claimed, is 'globalised because it is an institution of capitalist modernity' and, at the same time, it is 'contributing to the globalisation of modernity through the worldwide circulation of images and discourses'.1 The element in this which has generated particular concern for national governments is the way in which the rise of global broadcast media is seen as leading to an uncoupling of polity and culture within the nation-state, analogous to the uncoupling of polity and economy that is associated with the rise of transnational corporations and global financial markets.2


While these developments seem new, they should not be seen as being without historical precedent. James Carey has drawn attention to the profound significance of the introduction of the telegraph in the 1840s. The telegraph enabled the development of the modern, multidivisional corporate enterprise, monopolistic markets and futures exchanges, and it was at the centre of the development of the electrical goods industries. The telegraph also restructured everyday language through its effects on popular journalism, as it demanded a new economy of writing style and made the concept of objectivity central to reportage over the 'wire'. Most significantly, the telegraph meant that the movement of messages was separated from the movement of physical objects, and hence communication was separated from transportation and 'freed ... from the constraints of geography'.3 The telegraph also changed the way in which communication was thought about, providing a new conceptual model - the 'transmission model' of communication as a social practice. In this sense, 'the telegraph was not only a new tool of commerce but also a thing to think with, an agency for the alteration of ideas.'4


Carey has also drawn upon the work of the Canadian communications historian Harold Innis to argue that while print culture was associated with the rise of nationalism - as it was a form that promoted continuity over time, decentralisation and regional differentiation - broadcast media challenges this national communications grid by developing a form that is 'space-binding' within and between nations and,