Sunday, March 8, 2009

Media-imperialism Versus cultural identity

If we ask question that do the mass media produce direct, immediate and powerful influences on the audiences, then a simple yes or no answer is not possible. Sometimes the media seem powerful and sometimes not. We can see that an international 'media culture' has come to stay in which certain languages, cultures and types of story have come to find wide influences in all over the world. The mass media play a crucial role in almost all aspects of daily life in these days. The sociological significance of media extends beyond the content of media messages. Their influence is not limited to what we know. People learn and internalize some values, beliefs and norms presented in the media products. Media also affect how we learn about our world and interact with one another. They provide a diversion, a source of conflict, or a unifying force. Such impact is almost obvious when we look at the ways in which the mass media mediate our relationships.

In contemporary society, it is media that most often act as the bridge between people of different origins. The media can serve as an entertainer, informer, and also as a way to transmit values or norms. The relationship between society and the media is more complex than a simple 'free flow of information' slogan might suggest. The process of 'mass communication' is not synonymous with the 'mass media', the organized technologies that make mass communication possible. The 'mass communication' remains as an abstract concept while 'mass media' has acquired a status of reality. Globalization in the field of media is not just about the technological innovations used to communicate over long distances. In addition, and perhaps more important, it also refers to the exchange and intermingling of cultures from different parts of the world. In reality, this process is quite unidirectional. Some scholars claim that the export of American and Western popular culture is latter-day imperialism.

Though there are likely to be large differences, for instance, between media those adopt or are given a significant social, cultural or political task and those that are primarily concerned with making profits. But, both types of mass media have common characteristic in the sense that they contribute in the cultural intrusion. It is a fact that most of the media have a vested interest in the Capitalist system and are inclined to give support to its most obvious defenders. The so-called Third world countries are pawns of the western-based global media and the media are like the 19th -century European colonial powers. Some people argue that Rock music encouraged youngsters to use drugs or engage in sexual behavior.

The communication flow is one way from the powerful nations to the weak ones. The result is that Western values are imposed in an impossible-to-resist way. Scholar Herbert Schiller's view is that the Western-controlled international mass media preempt native culture, a situation he sees as robbery, just like earlier colonial tapping of natural resources to enrich the home countries. 'Influence on people' is not only the final stage in the process of mass communication but also the bottom line of public concern. It is for this reason that people are worried about the effect of western mass media influence.

Communication and culture are so closely bound together that virtually all communication engaged in by humans is culturally linked. In respect of culture, according to Dennis McQuail, the mass media constitute a primary source of definitions and images of social reality and the most ubiquitous expression of shared identity. Also, they are the largest focus of leisure time interest, providing the shared 'cultural environment' for most people and more so than any other single institution. The most fundamental questions of society- those concerning the distribution and exercise of power, the management of problems and the process of integration and change- all turn on the communication. So the one way flow of communication is dangerous. It must be changed as soon as possible. Since nothing has influenced the lives of modern human society as the mass media have, we should be much more serious about it.

The consequence of media globalization should be understood properly. We should not hesitate to accept the good aspects of media influence. We know that the media often play a significant role in the adoption of new technologies and the way they are used. Media play role in diffusion of innovations. The media also change our images and interpretations. They can also change our feelings about social issue and help in decision-making. It may tell the truth so that people would have the information that they need to be sovereign. Also, there is chance of manipulation and media-imperialism. But cultural invasion in the name of globalization and modernization cannot be acceptable. Promoting conditions for the preservation of the cultural identity of every society is necessary to enable it to enjoy a harmonious inter-relationship. There should be established national cultural policies, which should foster cultural identity and creativity, and involve the media in these tasks. Such policies should also contain guidelines for safeguarding national cultural development while promoting knowledge of other cultures.

- Nirmala Mani Adhikary