Wednesday, April 23, 2008

News is the vehicle of hidden ideology of power centers

The mass media play a crucial role in almost all aspects of daily life in contemporary human society. They constitute a primary source of definitions and images of social reality and the expression of shared identity. The reality we confront these days is, in fact, "mediated" reality. News is one of the most significant sources in this regard.


While we assess the dissemination of news in the context of global information flow "the amount of news reaching us from various parts of the world is strongly dependent on a few basic variables, the most important ones being the economic relations prevailing between countries" (Rosengren,234). Putting straightly, the US hegemony prevails.

More specifically, "Much of the impetus behind the recent globalization has been commercial and American. Nowhere has this been more strikingly evident than in the 24-hour news field, which is dominated by Ted Turner's CNN at present. Though such an operation has a global reach, its heart is in Atlanta, Georgia. Its programming tends to be stamped with a particular editorial standpoint and a certain way of exploring issues, events, and the actors involved in them" (Blumler and Hoffmann-Reim 207).
The most fundamental question of society, concerning the distribution and exercise of power, turn on the understanding of the connection between international power relations and the media. In "What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream", Chomsky discusses that different media are doing different things, and argues that the 'elite' or 'agenda-setting' media (of US) are setting "a framework within which others operate." He observes that framework as "a reflection of obvious power structures." (Chomsky 20) In other words, "world patterns of communication flow, both in destiny and in direction, mirror the system of domination in the economic and political order." (Sinclair et al. 301) As Chomsky observes, no one, trying to break the mold, is going to last long. He further argues that the product of media won't be without the interest of the power systems around them. "If that wouldn't happen, it would be a kind of miracle" (Chomsky 22). Thus, the news flow must not be considered a value neutral process. Rather, news becomes the vehicle of hidden ideology of power centers.


It is understandable, in this light, why most of the media would have a vested interest in the Capitalist system and would be inclined to give support to its most obvious defenders. It is not unlikely to assume the international media as the carriers of powerful nations' culture and ideology. Though it is debatable how much they would be successful actually to influence the audience it is clear that international media, at least, lead the world in their transportability across cultural boundaries. With reference to the "framework" observed by Chomsky, there is substantive ground to believe that American media have their obvious cause to support the 'monopoly' or 'power relations.'

Even "the much trumpeted British Broadcasting Corporation may have the freedom to broadcast whatever it thinks to be the truth about al-Qaeda or Middle East, India or Pakistan, Maoist insurgency in Nepal, but where British interests and security are concerned, it cannot have that freedom" (Adhikary, Communication, Mass Media and Journalism 240). In the context of Gulf war, the American and British media have been criticized for retelling what Washington and London wanted the people to hear about the crisis. "When the war did bread out, the media latched on ever more tightly to coat tails of the high profile western media, like CNN, which was increasingly dominated by the most crude war propaganda. During that time, President Bush signed three secret executive orders that put America's media under U.S. intelligence agency wartime control. The purpose of this control was to demoralize the Iraqis with false reports and promote fervor for the war in the U.S. So did the American media. During Afghanistan war, both U.S. army and American media fought jointly."(241).
Having more access to and control over media has far reaching consequences. This situation is more difficult to societies like ours because one lacking technology or money to purchase or develop local technology be at a distinct disadvantage in global communication. Electronic colonialism, the dependency relationship established by the importation of technology, foreign produced software, along with engineers, technicians in short, and the wherewithal to direct and manage information resources, creates a real problem (Adhikary "Electronic Imperialism").


The foreign media do not influence just in direct ways. Their insidious influence comes indirectly too. Taking foreign mass media as the primary source of definitions and images of social reality has contributed in shifting the entire value system of some people: "These Nepalese people are discovering that individualism is good but communitarianism is bad; that Christianity is good but animism, Bon, Lamaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism are bad; drinking local beer (chyang and tongba) is bad but drinking Western beer is good; that riding car is good but walking/ trekking is bad; and drinking water is bad but drinking Coca Cola is good" (Bhattachan 89-90).
The doctrine of 'free flow of information' seems becoming mere an instrument of domination in the hands of powerful nations. As the consequence, foreign media's influence as exporters of foreign culture is going on unobtrusively. Because media have their obvious cause to support the 'monopoly' or 'power relations' there seems sufficient ground that they tend to impose 'cultural homogenization.' American hegemonic flow of news is perhaps one of most significant evidences.

Two major conclusions could be drawn from above discussions. First, global information flow system has failed to rescue the 'free flow of information' being misused by powerful nations as mere curtail to hide their dominance. Thus the process has become unidirectional gateway to certain mass media, for instance American and Indian media entering Nepal. Second, the connection between international power relations and the media is in such a way that international mass media, specifically American here, won't be free from the interest of the power systems around them. Hence they serve as the vehicle of hidden ideology of the US power.


References:

Adhikary, Nirmala Mani. Communication, Mass Media and Journalism (2nd ed). Kathmandu: Prashanti Pustak Bhandar, 2006.
Adhikary, Nirmala Mani. "Electronic Imperialism." Space Time Today 2 December 2002.
Bhattachan, Krishna B. "Globalization and Its Impact on Nepalese Society and Culture." Impact of Globalization in Nepal. Ed. Madan K. Dahal. Kathmandu: NEFAS and FES, 2005. 80-102.
Blumler, Jay G. and Wolfgang Hoffmann-Reim. "New Roles for Public Service Television." McQuail's Reader in Mass Communication Theory. Ed. Denis McQuail. London: SAGE, 2002. 201-210.
Chomsky, Noam. "What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream." You Are Being Lied To. Ed. Russ Kick. New York: Disinformation, 2001. 20-24.
Rosengren, Karl Erik. "International Communication at the Mass Media Level." McQuail's Reader in Mass Communication Theory. Ed. Denis McQuail. London: SAGE, 2002. 231-237.
Sinclair, John, Elizabeth Jacka, and Stuart Cunningham. "Peripheral Vision." The Globalization Reader. Eds. Frank J. Lechner and John Boli. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001. 301-306.

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