Sep 30, 2009

The readings this week had to do with the power of transnational corporations within the larger context of global media and how mergers, integration, and buyouts are putting much of the world's media in the control of a handful of corporations.

This idea is nothing new to me as I have been learning about this trend since my days at De Anza Junior College in Cupertino, CA, but the facts are no less daunting than before.

The question each of the readings aims to address is what the power of these media conglomerates is and whether or the grasp that these corporations have over transnational corporations can be considered cultural imperialism?

There were a few facts in the readings that struck me most:

• The fact that whole of Africa has produced 600 films in the continent's history

• That 1/3 of the world's nations create no film products whatsoever

• That Nickelodeon has such a strong presence in Latin America and Europe, because animation is so easy to dub with minimal continuity breaks for the viewer as a result of that dubbing i.e.: subbing a Texan accent with a Bavarian one for German audiences

• A statement by a Disney executive that "for all children, the Disney characters are local characters and this is very important. They always speak a local language"

And that is the exact point I find most troubling. As someone who spent a great deal of my undergrad studying the role of representation in media I know that simply having a character speak a local language and possibly donning a more 'ethnic' name does not necessarily make it more relatable to those audiences. Because many of the premises and characterizations portrayed in those translated shows still come from a Western gaze.

If these 9 companies are going to control as much of the global media spectrum as they do, regulation may unfortunately be too difficult (thanks in large part to decisions by Western nations and Western backed/created/controlled international organizations), but perhaps creating clauses where these media makers are required to train the local people in media creation and storytelling may result in a more complete representation of the rest of the world that at least to some degree would veer from the Western gaze and characterizations of nations that have previously been the subject of, but rarely the creators of media.

Perhaps many of the films may not veer too far from Western ideals and representations or maybe what results could resemble Brazil's Cinema Novo or the Iranian film industry - which finds hidden metaphors in simple aspects of everyday life - but it would be interesting to see what could result.

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