Transformation Of Media System

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  • 1. Page |1 Transformation of Media Systems By Austen Uche Uwosomah Introduction All over the world, transformation has occurred on media systems within the past decades particularly in aspects of structural organization in “media firms and policy makers” (Hardy, 2008:78). The transformation is noticeable in both the print and electronic media. These two spheres of media systems have been structurally and politically transformed due to the cumulation of factors such as technology, liberalization and commercialization. Of the trio, “technological development played an important enabling role …” (Dyson et al, 1988, see Hardy page 59). The availability of new delivery technologies in the electronic media of cable and satellite offered variety of channels that catapulted transmission of programs and advertisements over nationally regulated broadcasting monopolies thereby putting increased strain on policy makers to deregulate media policy permitting expansion of national and private commercial channels (Humphreys 1996; Brants and Siune 1992, see Hardy, ibid page 65). Deregulation policy marked the dawn of liberal media systems in the West and with liberalization more media outlets were allowed to operate bringing about competition for audience patronage further leading to increased commercialization in media activities. In this brief paper, I shall give inventory on how commercialization has caused transformation on the Western media systems and in particular, the western broadcasting media. Western Media Systems and Commercialization Political and economic factors are two underlying stats that have consistently effected changes in media systems across the world. This is evident in the way structural changes in Western media outlets have occurred over the years due to deregulation and profit maximization incentive. Historical antecedence from recounts that, mass media services all over the world were first started by the state from the time different states nationally regulated or organized press activities after World War II. “During the cold war, radio and television signals were broadcast and jammed between East and West as both sides financed propagandists radio directed at each other’s population.” All radio and TV were developed largely in a national mould (Hardy, Ibid: 65). By then media outlets were under sole funding of the state. First it was the newspaper medium and later public broadcasting corporations. This was before privatization of media saw the light of day. Around the 1980s the monopolistic grip of government on public broadcasting was reduced. Hardy (Ibid:57) remarks that the most significant harbinger of commercialization in media systems, not undermining technology, economies and politics, “was the abolition of the public service broadcasting monopolies and the expansion of commercial television to become an integral and dominant part of national media systems”. The surge of commercial television was empowered by the enabling environment created by deregulation, a consequence of liberalization, and which led to privatization. This opened vistas for
  • 2. Page |2 “transnationalization and marketization across western media systems”. This was the era when several national governments in the West re-regulated media ownership from statutory to public corporation. The benefit of this was that the media corporations were able to act more liberally with regards to content formation and dissemination. This is even so as they were mandated to make certain percentage of revenue required for their funding. Commercialization in national broadcasting or public service broadcasting media came with the influx of commercial programs in the content of radio and TV daily programs. Before the advent of radio and later TV all commercials used to find their way on pages of newspapers as advertisements. But the technologies of radio and TV revolutionalized and brought a rapid diversification of business activities into the broadcasting industry. And then there was the softening of media policy to allow private ownership in broadcasting media and “the sale of public communication asset to private investors” in most western countries. This paved way for the intervention of market forces and competition among media operatives. The outcome of this as Hardy (Ibid: 71) notes according to Tunstall and Palmer (1991: 43) were “competition for audience between a substantial number of channels; direct inter-channel competition for advertising; aggressively competitive programming; a sharp decline in serious programming in peak hours; progressive competition for popular talent…”. Further, Hardy affirms that “the expansion of commercial television, and increasing competition among all broadcasting firms led to growing number of commercialism” in the media sector. In Western Europe for instance, by the 1990s, there were about 36 commercial terrestrial channels including new satellite and cable television (Brants & Siune1992: 104. see Hardy page 58). Many changes occurred during this time in the western European media environment. The changes that were noticeable, inter alia include: “(1) emergence of the communication/media sector as a dynamic industry in its own right (2) trend towards concentration of media groups and establishing multimedia conglomerates (3) increasing availability of new services through cable and satellite (4) reorganisation of broadcasting/communication sectors through deregulation and privatisation…” (Weymouth and Lamizet 1996: 211, see Hardy page 58). According to China TV Report (2003-2004) in a review on European Communication Committee: Economy —Strategy of Digital Market, it was revealed that commercialization in media systems is a constant and dynamic process encompassing all the areas of media operations to meet market requirements vis-à-vis advertisers and consumers. The media acts as link between consumers looking for interesting contents and advertisers looking for media attract consumers. “Accordingly, media organizations can be grouped into investor, content producer, program distributor, transmission and reception network operator, technology and equipment supplier, advertising operator, and media research organization. Together they form the content market, consumer market and advertising market” (see China TV Report 2003-2004).
  • 3. Page |3 Various media systems of wealthy countries, United States first of all and now other western countries use the media for analyzing the modern day neoliberal and commercially connected world. According to Herman and McChesney (2004) “All countries are moving, each in its own way, towards the US model, and as we have observed, this process is being reinforced on global media across borders; they make alliances with local firms, they create an impressive political force and growing commercial sectors…” (see Duronjic 2004, © Media Online 2004). It is currently overwhelming that majority of media outlets are now not only locally based, but have increased business expansion, either by carving up a market outside the local or by absorbing investment from outside the state media sector without meeting surmountable challenges, be they legal or political. By the late 1990s, media outlets had grown into too many conglomerates to be effectively controlled particularly as some of them achieved increased scale of economic advantage. Policymakers, perhaps impressed by the media consolidation initiatives determine to restructure the media industry by restricting the issuance of licenses and eliminating a number of existing ones (Zhao, 2001; Guo, 2003, see Bai, 2005). Conclusion The number of media channels viz: radio, satellite, cable television and TV stations now reaching its peak, competition has intensified among them. They have begun competing ferociously for a limited advertising cake. The aftermath of this is financial crisis for the media. And this has sent shivers down the spine of media managers. Too many media are now depending on advert revenue and as competition means some media outlets getting adverts money and some loosing it, the growth of media outlets is rather bleak. In fact, in light of media concentration on advertising revenue; which is the bane of commercialization of media, it is reasonable to infer that media sector, which is moving ever closer to the center of economic action, will eventually be restructured. If perhaps there is persistent downturn in advertising rate in the media as it is presently the case due to the sales promotional personal advertising programs of manufacturers, then the development described above would probably reinforce a need to provide a sense of urgent restructure of the media systems. References China TV Report (2003-2004) Media Commercialization Analysis www.csm.com.cn/en/business/pdf/010/samples_en.pdf Bai, R (2005) Media commercialization, entertainment, and the party-state: The political economy of contemporary Chinese television entertainment culture, http://lass.calumet.purdue.edu Duronjic, T.T.(2004) Edward S. Herman, Robert W. McChesney; On Media Centralization and Commercialization -Trendy Media Globalizatio and New Journalism; (2004) www.mediaonline.ba/en/pdf. Hardy, J. (2008). Western Media System. London and New York: Routledge.