Oct 9, 2009

Analysis Question #2: Is regulation outdated?

Drawing on my previous blog post, ruminating on how we, as the Western dominant players in the mediasphere lose out by not having access to contraflows of information, I feel the issue of global governance should be raised to address the dearth of this kind of programming. That said, I don't actually think that global governance would help. For one, the death of the nation-state has yet to occur. As such, there can be no truly GLOBAL governance of media, no international regulation on what countries show how much of what content from where. This means that the power of regulation still resides with the government of the nation-state. And nation-states being what they are -- that is, perpetually working to ensure the continued dominance of the nation-state itself -- no nation state is going to willingly open its doors and say, yes, we need to make sure we have X amount of foreign programming coming into our households.

For non-media dominant states, concern over governance is motivated by concern for national industries. In this sense, too, global governance can't work, at least not regulation alone. Regulation does not ensure investment in media technologies and industry, which is what is needed for non-Western players to adequately compete on the global state. Further, international governance cannot dictate that national governments invest in local media production. Hopefully without sounding too much like a "pick yourself up from your own bootstraps" preacher, nation-states have to WANT to produce their own information flows and communication technologies in order to do so. Our readings have touched upon the success that India and South Korea have seen in these regards, with media industries, especially in the latter case, coming to prominence as a result of national investment in these sectors. Given the inequalities of production values at work on the global level, protectionism alone cannot make a minor player into a global competitor. The Davids of the media world need real incentives to take on Goliath.

On the one hand, I can sympathize with Siochru and Girard's assertion that because of media's intimate relationship with culture, we cannot leave it entirely to the whims of the free market. On the other hand, there is something to be said for the merits of competition and how the free market, aided by the right incentives, spurs creativity. The last thing we need is to have new barriers of access erected due to government regulation.

I think concerns about media ownership and rights of information and communication continue to be relevant. Yet governance and regulation seem, dare I say it, somewhat antiquated models with which to deal with these issues. The cynic in me questions if regulation would even achieve much difference from the current model, given what we know about relationships between business interests and politics. Perhaps, given the times and political climate that we live in, what we really need is a strong, powerful advocacy/lobbying group to apply pressure instead.

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