News has not been globalized but Americanized
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  • 1. News broadcasting has not been globalised but Americanized By: Yusuf Kurniawan A. Introduction The phenomenon of the ‘shrinking world’ is now becoming more and more apparent. Something happened in a very remote place now can be covered and reported through various mass media at the same time or just after the happening. So, merely in a matter of hours after an occurrence they can watch and listen to the news from the comfort of their own homes through televisions. It is just one of many phenomena of globalization that has been taking place in the entire world. The globalization of news is mostly due to the emergence of satellite technology that have played a central and defining role. The intensification of news broadcasting speeds up tremendously along with the new inventions in broadcasting technology. Moreover, the mushrooming global news corporations has fuelled the flows of news more swiftly to all over the world. The emergence of media moguls such as Ted Turner with CNN, Rupert Murdoch with his News Corporation, Silvio Berlusconi and Henry Luce with the Warner Brothers have created corporate structures that span across continents. Even they handle print and film production and also control distribution facilities like satellites and cable networks. 1 The rise of global media that led to global news was empowered by transnational corporation (TNC). It is pointed out by Herman and McChesney that “The crucial change for global capitalism, which laid the groundwork for the rise of global media, was the emergence and ascension of the transnational corporation (TNC).” 2 In addition, the news globalization proliferates since there is continuous effort of deregulation on international news broadcasting, and bilateral and multilateral agreements between/amongst countries to eliminate legal barriers to cross-border transactions. This has opened up opportunities for countries around the world to do Sreberny-Mohammadi, Annabelle (1997) ‘The Global and the Local in International 1 Communications’ in Curran, James and Gurevitch, Michael, eds, Mass Media and Society, Arnold, London, p.183. 2 Herman, Edward S. and McChesney, Robery W. (1997), The Global Media: the new missionaries of corporate capitalism, Cassell, London, p. 13.
  • 2. 2 more cross-border investment, trade and advertising. 3 However, there seems to be a phenomenon that news broadcasting today has not been globalized. B. Analysis In this essay I would investigate the phenomena of news that tends to be Americanized. And the main medium of news broadcasting that I will mostly discuss is television. It is based on the notion that television is the most dominant news medium that people rely on. And its appeal to audience is still unbeaten by any other mass medium, including the internet. Here I will discuss news production and news distribution respectively to give introduction to the news globalization. News, global news and news production First of all, it is necessary to know the dominant definition of news. According to a study that was conducted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) ‘News in most media systems seems to be defined as the exceptional event, making coups and catastrophes newsworthy wherever they occur.’ 4 News is something that can not be separated from media. It is the most significant and integral part of any mass medium; the one that mass media ‘sell’ to audience. It is more often than not that news is deliberately produced in certain ways by media firms to make money and gain popularity of the medium. Such commodification of news has become very common amongst media industries. It is sometimes also triggered by certain occasions or events in which audience want to watch and listen to the news. For examples during the gulf war (1991-1992) in which news related to the war was expensive commodity. And millions of people around the world kept on watching the news. Again, when the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games 2000 in Sydney was taking place, it was estimated that more than three billion people watched it. 5 Such occasions/events can be commodified and sold to audience. They are just a few of many examples of big events that can attract Herman, Edward S. and McChesney, Robery W. (1997), The Global Media: the new missionaries of 3 corporate capitalism, Cassell, London, p. 41. 4 Alleyne, Mark D. (1997), News Revolution: Political and Economic Decisions about Global Information, MacMillan, London, p. 3. 5 Lecture notes on Dynamics of International Broadcasting seminar 9:’Global television and sport.
  • 3. 3 attention of many audience. And within such occasions news turns to be a very expensive commodity. It is one of the aspects of economic value of international news. With the two examples I mentioned it proves that audience do not solely watch ‘political’ or ‘serious’ news, but they also pay their attention to ‘entertaining’ news, or news for pleasure. It is argued by Boyd-Barret and Rantanen that “‘News’ represented the reformulation of ‘information’ as a commodity gathered and distributed for the three purposes of political communication, trade and pleasure..” 6 News has become an expensive commodity that is competed by media firms in broadcasting it. Along with the changes mentioned previously, media industries, especially news corporations, have become very important vehicles in delivering news to audiences. Accessibility and availability are the key points in news globalization. Because globalization of news is measured among other things with these two key points. Accessibility relates with whether news are easily accessed or not by audiences. The phenomenon today audience still have to provide certain equipment in order to be able to access news television network like CNN, BBC World, ABC etc.. And indeed they have to pay for it, both for providing the devices and for the subscription with the satellite provider. So that only limited level of society who are capable of receiving these news channels. Availability also determines the requirement of global news. News that has been considered global should be available for audience anytime and anywhere. CNN seems to be the most dominant example, since this Ted Turner’s global news network has planted its claws deeply in six continents, in some 210 countries with more than 120 communication satellites. 7 And one more thing that is also very important is universality. It is measured among other things with the language used in the news broadcasting. Cultural discount such as language, often makes audience difficult to comprehend a programme. 8 Boyd-Barrett, Oliver and Rantanen, Terhi, (eds) (1998), The Globalization of News, Sage Publications 6 Ltd, London, p.1. 7 Parker, Richard (1995), Mixed Signals: The Prospects for Global Television News, The Twentieth Century Fund Press, New York, p.5. See also Flournoy (1997), p.6. 8 Hoskins, C. and Mirus, R (1988) ‘Reasons for the U.S. Dominance of the International Trade in Television Programmes’, Media, Culture and Society, vol. 10, no.4.
  • 4. 4 In terms of news quantity and quality, the more precise word to depict news ‘globalization’ today is ‘uneven globalization’. Because there is uneven flow of news and information between the North and the South (countries). It is confirmed by Alleyne that the news flow between regions varies quantitatively and qualitatively. 9 The quantity of the news flows from the richer countries of the North to the South surpassed the news quantity that is coming from other direction. Moreover, the quality of news from the South is also still lower than that of from the other way round. It is realistic since all the big international news organizations are based in the North. 10 Therefore, for example, news from Africa to the Caribbean frequently comes via London or New York. 11 This issue had been the major concern of the developing countries that was raised by the agency of UNESCO and expressed by the McBride Commisions’s final report (1980). 12 It is argued that there is “‘one-way virtual flow of news from the northern ‘centre’ to the southern ‘periphery’”. It means that the news flow is selected and controlled by western transnational corporations that made news as a commodity that is bought and sold. 13 Global news is usually signified by certain live broadcast that attracts more audience’s attention since the news coverage is sometimes done under hazardous situation. For instances the students demonstration at Tiananmen Square and the coverage from the warhead cameras of the cruising missiles during the Gulf War. 14 News distribution The news globalization is heavily dependent upon the news distributors. In this case the roles of global news agencies such as US Associated Press (AP), French national agency (AFP), British national agency (Reuters) and German national agency (DPA) was very significant. These were early global news retailers that supplied news to news corporations to all over the world. According to Oliver Boyd-Barrett, the global Alleyne, Mark D. (1997), News Revolution: Political and Economic Decisions about Global Information, 9 MacMillan, London, p. 13. 10 Ibid. 11 Ibid. 12 Barker, Chris (2000), Global Television: An Introduction, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, p.101. 13 Ibid. 14 Parker, Richard (1995), Mixed Signals: The Prospects for Global Television News, The Twentieth Century Fund Press, New York, p.4. See also Alleyne (1997), p.9.
  • 5. 5 news agencies are ‘organizations whose main raison d’etre is to gather and to sell news throughout the world for the benefit of ‘retail’ media (newspaper, broadcasters, on- line suppliers) and other outlets (business, finance institutions, governments, private individuals).’ 15 This relationship can be seen for example in news-gathering by the international agencies. 16 In relation to this Boyd-Barrett and Rantanen argue for it that news agencies have become the major players in the processes of globalization. 17 The major global news agencies of the 1990s that are considered to be the major players of news globalization are Agence France-Presse, Associated Press and Reuters. 18 These news agencies and others have been the mediators of news globalization in terms of that they supply news to TV news network Their existence is very important, so that the collaboration between news agencies and television news network can be considered mutual. On one side news television news networks need news that sometimes could be covered by themselves, on the other side news agencies also need news media enterprise to sell the news they have covered. In this case, CNN is one of the biggest suppliers of international news. 19 Globalized or Americanized? The notion that news has been ‘Americanized’ rather than ‘globalized’ is quite sensible since there are some phenomena that lead to it. First of all, the emergence of CNN International in 1985 20 as a twenty-four-hour America’s News Channel has created a new challenge for world-wide media companies such as the BBC World Service. Moreover, within the United States itself CNN emerged as major competitor of the former dominant “Big Three” commercial networks, namely the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), and the Boyd-Barrett, Oliver (1998), ‘’Global’ News Agencies’ in Boyd-Barrett, Oliver & Rantanen, Terhi, 15 (eds), The Globalization of News, Sage Publications Ltd, London, p.19. 16 Ginneken, Jaap van (1997), Understanding Global News: A Critical Introduction, Sage Publications, London, p.44. 17 Boyd-Barrett, Oliver and Rantanen, Terhi, (eds) (1998), The Globalization of News, Sage Publications Ltd, London, p.2. 18 Boyd-Barrett, Oliver (1998), ‘’Global’ News Agencies’ in Boyd-Barrett, Oliver & Rantanen, Terhi, (eds), The Globalization of News, Sage Publications Ltd, London, p.19. 19 Barker, Chris (2000), Global Television: An Introduction, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, p.102. 20 Flournoy, Don M. & Stewart, Robert K. (1997), CNN: Making News in the Global Market, University of Luton Press, Luton, p.3.
  • 6. 6 National Broadcasting Company (NBC). 21 This Ted Turner’s corporation underwent a very rapid development since its emergence in 1980 until it became interactive channel in 1995. 22 Before the emergence of CNN as the global news network that now operates in more that 200 countries 23, international news mainly circulated through ‘transnational news agencies and government-owned short-wave radio stations.’ 24 So that it enabled governments and domestic media organizations to censor, edit or control the flows of news into their countries or regions. As a result, the news received by audience sometimes has been manipulated. Even occasionally there are some news that is totally censored by government solely for the sake of government’s policy. It is supported by Barker that western news agencies is significant because they supply ‘spot news’ and visual reports that are often without commentary. 25 However, with global news broadcasting, it would be difficult to control the global news flow. This is probably the distinction between satellite broadcasting and cable TV. As long as audience have the facilities such as parabolic dish and satellite receiver, then they will be able to receive transmission from direct broadcast satellites (DBSs). 26 At the same time, it also proves that with the emergence of satellite broadcasting, national boundaries between regions and countries do not obstruct the news flows any more. In my opinion the unbalanced news flow between the North and the South is actually something that could be taken for granted. First, because North (western countries) were mostly imperialists of the South (Eastern countries). So, it has become like a tradition of the western countries to control everything over the Eastern countries, including the news flow. Notably satellite technology has been controlled and governed by western countries, notably the US and Britain. It is pointed out by Barker that ‘from the beginning, satellite technology has been Emmert, Fredric A. ‘U.S. Media in the 1990s’, available at 21 http://useinfo.state.gov/usa/infousa/media/media1cd.htm. 22 Flournoy, Don M. & Stewart, Robert K. (1997), CNN: Making News in the Global Market, University of Luton Press, Luton, p.3. 23 Parker, Richard (1995), Mixed Signals: The Prospects for Global Television News, The Twentieth Century Fund Press, New York, p.5. 24 Alleyne, Mark D. (1997), News Revolution: Political and Economic Decisions about Global Information, MacMillan, London, p.5. 25 Barker, Chris (2000), Global Television: An Introduction, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, p.102.
  • 7. 7 dominated by the USA. INTELSAT, the international satellite governing body, was set up and controlled by the Americans even though at a later date other western powers were to become influential partners.’ 27 The western major global news broadcasters mentioned are CNN International and the BBC World Television. At any cost the dominance and significance of CNN as the major news channel is still unbeaten by others. It inevitably raise an issue that news broadcasting tends to be Americanised. Aside from whether or not CNN has been objective and neutral in reporting the news, this cable news network has grown to become a giant that clutches its claws deeply in six continents, in some 210 countries with more than 120 communication satellites. 28 Seen from the number of countries could be reached by CNN, it proves that CNN is the single network that is capable of blanketing the globe with its broadcasting. Moreover, from the point of view of technology, even though CNN is still much younger compared to its predecessors, it has more advanced equipment compared to other networks like CBS, NBC and BBC. Accordingly, it will also influence the quality of the broadcasting. Say for instance, the news about earthquake in Kobe (Japan) that is just reported in words by phone (a correspondent reports live from abroad by phone through television) without being accompanied by pictures will be less attractive to audience compared to the news report that is shown with pictures and sound or relayed live from the venue. In short the quality of news flows is determined by how news is covered. 29 In accordance with the perspective of news broadcast by CNN, in general we will think that the news must be always U.S oriented. It is quite obvious that first, CNN is the largest network and it has the largest audience in the world. Second, being an American based corporation an indication and notion of being American oriented could not be avoided. Even though it is argued by CNN Senior Vice President Eason Jordan in an interview in August 1996 that basically CNN avoids to Alleyne, Mark D. (1997), News Revolution: Political and Economic Decisions about Global Information, 26 MacMillan, London, p.9. 27 Barker, Chris (2000), Global Television: An Introduction, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, p.52. 28 Parker, Richard (1995), Mixed Signals: The Prospects for Global Television News, The Twentieth Century Fund Press, New York, p.5. See also Flournoy (1997), p.6. 29 Alleyne, Mark D. (1997), News Revolution: Political and Economic Decisions about Global Information, MacMillan, London, p.13.
  • 8. 8 be called being Americanized. He adds that to insure that news coverage is not limited to an American view, CNN hires non-U.S. citizens to staff the desk. 30 During the Gulf War the significance of CNN global expansion to the entire world became most evident. 31 It is supported by James Larson’s finding in his research that instead of other television news network, Iragi, Israeli, Libyan, American and Saudi Arabian officials during the Gulf War all used CNN as a medium of political communication. 32 C. Conclusion Based on my discussion above, there are some conclusions could be drawn. Firstly, the news globalization can not be separated from the role of global news agencies as international news supplier, even though later many broadcasters also play their own role as global news supplier besides as news broadcasters. Secondly, the news flow in the world up to this moment is felt not ‘globalized’. It is because the western dominance in global news broadcasting is very strong, notably from the US (CNN especially). There is no doubt that the US is the major player of global media corporations. CNN’s dominance in the global market was actually challenged by the emergence of other television network such BBC World Television and News Corporation that are also global news networks, but still CNN is proven to be more significant than other news networks. Flournoy, Don M. & Stewart, Robert K. (1997), CNN: Making News in the Global Market, University 30 of Luton Press, Luton, p.10. 31 Flournoy, Don M. & Stewart, Robert K. (1997), CNN: Making News in the Global Market, University of Luton Press, Luton, p.6. 32 Alleyne, Mark D. (1997), News Revolution: Political and Economic Decisions about Global Information, MacMillan, London, p.11.