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The Relationship between Mainstream Media
and Neo-liberalism:
The case study of Hallyu in Thailand

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  1. 1. The Relationship between Mainstream Media and Neo-liberalism: The case study of Hallyu in Thailand By Chingduang Poonnopatam 494 53168 28 Chulalongkorn University Submitted To: Assistant Professor Surat Horachaikul 2800451 Seminar in Communication and Current Social Issue 30 April 2009
  2. 2. This paper will contain 6 main parts. The first part is introduction to give you some idea about my focus of this paper. Secondly, I will discuss about the difference between mass media and mainstream media in my opinion. At the end of these section will be my definition of mainstream media. Thirdly, I will briefly discuss about neoliberalism from two definition chosen specifically on my focus. Also, give my definition at the end. In the fourth part, it will be the relationship between mainstream media and neoliberalism which I‟ve separated in three characteristics. Part five is my case study of Hallyu which is the new trend of the world, particularly in Asia, but I will only focus on Thailand. The last part will be conclusion to wrap up everything that has been discussed. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
  3. 3. The Relationship between Mainstream Media and Neo-liberalism: The case study of Hallyu in Thailand
  4. 4. “Hey! Did you watch Gossip Girls last night?” a university student asks her friend with exciting tone. “Oh my god! I love Blair‟s Stella McCartney dress a lot!” her friend answers actively. This is the kind of conversation I heard very often from people around me. Surprisingly, I live in Thailand, but we watch Gossip Girls, a U.S. TV series, in real time just like people in the U.S. and the other places around the globe. Before I attend this Seminar in Communication and Current Social Issues class, I used to watch Gossip Girl passively. However, right now, it changes. Gossip Girls is not just a TV series anymore, but it is an American Tools that have been used to indoctrinate their culture to us and to sell their product. Gossip Girls is just an example of American media to show that in everyday life we are affected by what are shown in mainstream media; both local media and American media internationally. What is mainstream media? In my opinion, mainstream media has three parts including mainstream, media, and mass media. Mainstream means belonging to or characteristic of a principal, dominant, or widely accepted group, movement, style, etc. ( Media, or medium in singular, according to SMCR model, is the method of passing messages from sender to receivers through channels. For mass media I pick two definitions that could well explain my case study. The first definition comes from „Mass Media Research‟ book to show the most basic characteristic of mass media and also type of media channels: “Mass media refer to any form of communication that simultaneously reaches a large number of people, including but not limiting to radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, the internet, billboards, films, recordings and books.” According to this definition, you will see that mass media and media have difference in term of audiences because mass media have to reach mass audience.
  5. 5. The other definition I picked from „Manufacturing Consent‟ book. Chomsky and Herman noted function of mass media in very interesting way: “Mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society.” „To inculcate‟ is the word that catch my eyes. Yes, that‟s true! To inculcate not to educate, because educate is to give knowledge but to inculcate is to keep telling something repeatedly until the audience believe that is what it is. However, there are some to least media that educate; for example, the program from Ministry of Health. In my opinion, I don‟t think mainstream media and mass media are exactly the same, but they have most things in common such as both must reach mass audiences through those channels provided, or both can inculcate people. However, one characteristic that mass media doesn‟t possess is the dominant part. Thus, if media only reach many people but not dominant or widely accepted, I would not say that it is mainstream media; for example, in Thailand, ASTV also reach mass audiences but I would say that it is an alternative media while evening news in channel 3, for example, is mainstream media. To conclude, mainstream media, in my opinion, is non-independent, in other word, manipulated media by elite group that indoctrinate their beliefs to mass people. It is dominant media that most people accept and rely on. It also affects form of other media. What is neoliberalism? Neoliberalism is the political economy philosophy that revives from liberalism. It influences everyone and maybe every government worldwide. I agree with Saad-Filho and Johnston that “we live in the age of neoliberalism. It strongly influences the lives of billions of people in every continent in such diverse areas as economics, politics, international relations, ideology, culture and so on.” To find out what
  6. 6. neoliberalism is and why it becomes so influential, here I pick up two neoliberalism definition. Arthur MacEwan defined neoliberalism as “The doctrine that economic growth is maximized when movement of goods, services and capital, but not labor, are un-impeded by government regulation” From this definition we‟ll see that neoliberalism focus on economic growth and deregulation. The word economic growth sound like will benefit majority, deregulation sound like will benefit a particular of group, I mean, corporation. However, Mark Hudson noted in his article that deregulation is for the fair distribution of wealth and for political democracy. To give you clearer picture of neoliberalism I pick another definition from „Internalizing globalization‟ book: “Neoliberalism is the assertion that the market is the core institution of modern-capitalist- societies and that both domestic and international politics and policy-making are (and should be) primarily concerned with making markets work well.” This definition obviously shows that neoliberalism primarily concerned with market. From all these definitions, I cannot see anything focus on people but market or corporation in other word. Thus, in my opinion, neoliberalism is more focus to develop world economics while ignore local and individual need. I would define neoliberalism myself as a theory which believes that deregulation and no intervention of government will maximize profit of corporation and will result in economic growth and benefit people in majority. The relationship between mainstream media and neoliberalism I would say that the relationship between mainstream media and neoliberalism has 3 characteristics: firstly, media act as a tool to spread neoliberalism idea across the globe. Secondly, both media and neoliberalism support corporations. And, the last is the effect that neoliberalism let corporations manipulate media. By the way, please note that when I talk about media, I only mean mainstream media because it has more impact to people.
  7. 7. I. Mainstream media as a tool to spread neoliberalism In my opinion, media play the major role in changing the world to the same direction. They usually have a power to change values, attitudes and behaviors, simply by expose people to the manipulated media content. When people usually rely on mainstream media, they portray the story, for example, about the success from using neoliberal policies. When other countries know that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan conquer economic crisis with neoliberal policies, it becomes model and government follow this unsaid instruction immediately to get their country through the crisis. Media also inculcate us that neoliberalism is the right thing to do. It embeds people with neoliberal idea. The first step is by showing the successful of neoliberal countries in news; indirectly persuade that if any country wants to be developed, they have to use neoliberal policy. The second step is telling them that it is a win-win situation; by the big corporation get cheaper labor while they create job in so-called „developing country‟ and this result in cheaper cost at end product, so it benefit the consumer. People will believe in these words easily because they have already seen the successful model in media. However, these are only sweet words. Look at China, after they close their country for long time, China finally decide to join WTO to boost their economic. After China join WTO, in the mid-1990s alone, the U.S. manufacturer untold billions in cheaper for their product have saved. (Friedman, The World is Flat) Thus, in my opinion, all of the FTA policies give high benefit to the superior nation such as the U.S. and some benefit to the inferior nations that join them. Media also put the pressure on developing country that they have to do this and that in order to keep up the developed country. As a result, many third world countries increased their international indebtedness in a rush to develop along the lines of state-led substation industrialization (ISI). (Cerny, Menz and Soederberge, 2005) The indebtedness implies that the living quality of people isn‟t better. II. Both media and neoliberalism support corporations This part will be divided in two sections included how media support corporation and how neoliberalism support corporation. How media supports corporation?
  8. 8. Devereux noted in „Understanding the Media‟ book that „the mainstream media industries play a pivotal role in the continue spread of a consumer culture that drive and perpetuates global capitalism.‟ Media indirectly support and are supported by corporation. There are types of media which directly support corporation as well such as advertising and public relation. Advertising is mainly used to create unnecessary need to prospect customers, or in marketing we call it „to create recognition of needs‟; while public relation is used to shape the perception of customers and also other stakeholders. In broadcast media, there‟s also another type of advertising called „product placement‟, or the appearance of the product or service in a broadcast program or movie, paid for by the manufacturer to gain exposure for the product or service. ( This will make audiences feel that this product is part of life; for example, the beginning case of Gossip Girl, Stella McCartney dress is a product placement. When people watch it, obviously they have positive image toward that dress maybe because they‟re impressed by the character. But for whatsoever reason, it could result in purchasing the dress. In other word, they create consumerism trends as a result from unnecessary needs especially in teenagers by using commercial. Unsurprisingly, consumer debt in America has rocketed; in 1983, among 25-to-34-year-olds debt was almost $4,000; by 2001, the dept under the age 35 was up to $12,000. ( All of these techniques are basically to create positive images toward corporation in people mind, and this will yield positive result on profit objective of corporation. Moreover, global media are increasing and they mainly come from USA. Unsurprisingly, big corporations mostly come from USA too, so media and corporations are mutually supported to boost USA economics, not the world. How neoliberalism supports corporation? In the theory itself, it‟s obvious that neoliberalism mainly focus on market, profit, economy and alike. In order to maximize the economic growth, neoliberal government need to support corporation to maximize their profit. If the corporations have big market, they will gain more money; as a result, economics of the nation (who own big corporation) will be better. To get big market, the corporations have to expand globally by using „free-trade‟ as an excuse. Moreover, every corporation activities will be easier by „deregulation‟ so it become more free market. The result is rich corporation buy smaller corporation, then they own
  9. 9. almost every big thing in country (or maybe world); for example, Chareon Pokphand Group own True corporation, PCT, Seven Eleven, Plastic, Pet food, even automotive product and many things else. Some corporations have brands to compete with one another; for example, P&G own two brands of feminine care which is Always and Tampax, own five brands of hair care which is Head & Aussie, Infusium 23, Shoulder, Herbal Essence and Pantene. So how can it be competitive market when corporation is the invisible hand? Neoliberalism also gives new route for corporation to make profit by allow private-sector to own state-run enterprise or called „privatization‟. However, pro-neoliberalism claimed that this is for the sake of majority. Here is evidence from „Capitalism Hit the Fan‟ video that after apply neoliberalism policy, corporation is better off while life of majority isn‟t. From the chart below, you will see that wages since the widespread of neoliberalism in 1970 haven‟t increased; on the other hand, productivity rate is rocketed, as a results, corporation gain higher profit. So it basically means that people have to work harder in order to get more money to serve their need that increased by media corporation. Unsurprisingly, nowadays people even work 4 or 5 jobs to earn enough living. III. Neoliberalism let corporations manipulate media Because of neoliberalism, maximize profit is first priority to every corporation including media corporation. As I said before that mainstream media are not independent, it depends on sponsorship of corporation or politicians. With the support of either corporation or politician, media cannot serve public interest anymore; instead media have to deliver program in favor of their sponsor.
  10. 10. These result in poor media content such as bias in media because media cannot make their own program instead they have to use sponsorship prepackaged program. As a result, people expose to only one-sided story. Sometimes media didn‟t lie, they just present particular point of view that they want people to know and hide something. However, in turn, corporations have to treat media well in order to get the good clipping. The more money corporations give to media, the more power they have and the less educated people get. Moreover, media cannot stay in business without advertising revenue, so the primary purpose of media is to gain audience to attract advertising industry. In order to gain the audience, media have to make their TV program interesting which could result in poor content; for example, in Thailand, TV series with high rating usually contain a lot of make out scenes and violence scenes or word which harmful to young audiences. When children regularly expose to these kind of scenes, they will be familiar with these behavior and imitate it. If it‟s too aggressive, it could become social problem. However, no one blame on corporation which is the root that make people fight to get advertising. They blame on media and media will say „we‟re already rated every TV programs‟; for example, PG-13. So, who to blame on? Parents? Or school? Whoever, but the result will be on this society we live in. The case study of Hallyu in Thailand From the beginning case of Gossip Girls shows that mainstream media, including Hollywood film, TV series, songs etc., could make people crazy about USA because the positive things presented in media. As a result, everyone wants to get American citizen, wants to study in USA, wants to use Made in America product and so on. However, Americanization has been long time. Now, at a particular group of people, especially among teenagers, consume Korean media even more than American. Hallyu is a mandarin word first created in 1999 used to explain Korean Fever around the world especially in Asia which resulted from Korean series, TV show, novels, music, movies etc. In Thailand particularly, we can see that right now Korean becomes pop culture, there are many Korean-related things; for example, Korean band dance-cover among teenagers, Korean band forum, watch
  11. 11. Korean series website, Korean language study trend etc. I remember about 5 or 6 years ago, I perceived Korean product as cheap and low quality, but today as I‟m expose to Korean media, my perception toward Korea has changed and I believe that so do others. Nowadays people like Samsung or LG cell phone more than they did, they go to Korean town to dine at Korean Restaurant or sing at Korean Karaoke. If you remember, many years ago, when you shop in supermarket, you will see many imported things from Europeans and Japan, but now, you‟ll see snacks, food ingredient, instant noodle etc. from Korea. Also, other product like clothes, schedule book, dolls, contact lens etc. also imported from Korea. These are the result of media that Korea used to indoctrinate their culture to us, not accidentally but on purpose. Korean Government founded Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 1998 with six related department, but here I will pick only one that highly related on my focus: Korea Business Council for the Arts (KBCA) which founded to promote culture as a product (International Organization Bureau) and their method is using media as a cultural ambassador. In series particularly, they manipulate media content, adapt it to more interesting plot but show cultural activities such as Korean brand cell phone, wear traditional dress called Hanbok, or eat Korean foods. This is like product placement that I said earlier. As a result, people absorb these activities bit by bit until they‟re familiar with them and want to join in those activities by purchasing Korean product. Not only promote their products, but also their tourism. Korea used to be uninteresting destination where hard to think of unique tourist attraction, but now they use series shooting location as their attraction. Owner‟s son of Thonginphone, a Foreign Language Institute, gave the interview to „‟ that the students request more for Korea Trip as a result from Korean Series. Because of the popularity of Korean series, the exportation of Korean series alone rise from 400 million U.S. Dollar in 2000 to 548 million U.S Dollar in 2003 ( Also, the officially retail price for copyright series 1 unit, which is equal to 50 minutes, rise sharply from 2198$ to 4046$ in 2004. These Hallyu products are 10% of all business in Korea and have the highest added value. (
  12. 12. Like the effect of other mainstream media, Korean media affect media in Thailand; for example, Cute Press and Mistine: BB cream advertisement with the theme of „beauty like Korean girls.‟ Kamikaze Music is Korean-like style such as colorful costume and music video or cartoon-like acting. Some band like „K-otic‟ even have a Korean singer who hardly can speak Thai. In conclusion, neoliberalism serves only certain minority group but it‟s still encouraged to use because it benefits the elite group. Neoliberalism not only affects in social gap or power of corporation, but also moral and ethic because neoliberalism allow stronger to take advantage. One factor that spread neoliberalism around the world is the help of mainstream media. They inculcate us that „There‟s no Alternative‟. Media owner can manipulate the content to affect audiences‟ behavior in their favor, just like the example of Korean Government. Only consume mainstream media, people will hear only one-sided story. If people have access to alternative media, they will discover the new perspective that have never presented in mainstream media before.
  13. 13. REFERENCES - Afredo Saad-Filho and Deborah Johnston ed., “Neoliberalism, a critical reader”, Pluto Press, 2005. - Devereux, Eoin, “Understanding the Media”, SAGE publication, 2007, P.14. - Dr. Srethphan Krachangwong, “Korean Fever: the transfer of culture through media” (เกาหลีฟีเวอร์ : การถ่ายทอดวัฒนธรรมผ่านสื่ อ), international organization bureau. - Friedman, Thomas L., “The World is Flat”, Picador, 2007, p.143. - Hudson, Mark, “Understanding Information Media in the age of neoliberalism: The contributions of Herbert Schiller”. - McEwan, Arthur, “Neo-liberalism or democracy? Economic Strategy, Markets, and Alternatives for the 21st Century”, Zed Books Ltd., 1999. - Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, “Manufacturing Consent”, Manufacturing-Consent-excerpt?autodown=doc - Read, William H., “America‟s mass media merchants”, The Johns Hopkins University Press Baltimore and London, 1976, p. 144. - Palmer, Kimberly, “Debunking the Young Debtor Stereotype”,, December 24, 2007. - Roger D. Wimmer and Joseph R. Dominick, “Mass media research: an introduction”, Cengage Learning, 2005, p.2. - Susanne Soederberge, Georg Menz and Phillip G. Cerny ed., “Internalizing globalization: the rise of neoliberalism and the decline of national varieties of capitalism”, Antony Rowe Ltd., 2005. - Wolff, Richard, “Capitalism Hit the Fan”, bin/commerce.cgi?preadd=action&key=139 - 2008&date=10&group=1&gblog=2 - - - - - - -