Understanding the Convergence of Media Systems and Political Communication in the U.S. and Western Europe

Understanding the Convergence of Media Systems and Political Communication in the U.S. and Western Europe

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Understanding the Convergence of Media Systems and Political Communication in the U.S. and Western Europe

A powerful trend is clearly underway in the direction of greater
similarity in the way the public sphere is structured across the
world. In their products, in their professional practices and
cultures, in their systems of relationships with other political and
social institutions, media systems across the world are becoming
increasingly alike. Political systems, meanwile, are becoming
increasingly similar in the patterns of communication they
incorporate.

We will explore this trend toward global homogenization of media
systems and the public sphere, focusing particularly on the relations
between media and political systems, and on the industrialized,
capitalist democracies of Western Europe and North America. We will
organize our discussion of how to account for this trend around two
pairs of contrasting perspectives. Much of the literature on
homogenization sees it in terms of Americanization or globalization:
that is, in terms of forces external to the national social and
political systems in which media systems were previously rooted.
Other explanations focus on changes internal to these national
systems. An important distinction can also be made between
mediacentric perspectives, for which changes in media systems are
autonomous developments which then influence political and social
systems, and those which see social and political changes as causally
prior to media system change.

Americanization and Globalization

The phenomenon of homogenization in world media systems was first
emphasized as a scholarly...


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amounts of capital to invest in new technologies and to compete in
liberalized international markets has produced a strong trend toward
the development of multinational media corporations (Herman &
McChesney, 1997). Clearly such corporations, to achieve economies of
scale and scope and to take advantage of market integration, tend to
internationalize both products and production and distribution
processes, contributing further to the homogenization of strategies
and professional practices. The extra-national circulation of
professionalism, the integration of company management within the same
group and the universal circulation of the same products can only
weaken those national characteristics that, at least in part, had made
economic and entrepreneurial systems of individual countries different
from each other.

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