Sunday, April 5, 2009

Teresa's Qs

1- Does the propaganda model proposed by Herman and Chomsky only apply to mainstream media? How do alternative, more radical media fit in the model?

2- Herman and Chomsky largely talk about the consolidation of the media in hands of a few owners. It is widely argued that this concentration affects the diversity of news voices, a crucial aspect of democracy because the citizens need to draw from different perspectives to make an informed decision. The point is that is not clear to what extent this consolidation affects news content. Does the content become more homogenous? As far as I know, it is still a contested terrain. In case it does not become more homogeneous, what would be the consequences of media consolidation for democracy? Similarly, it has also been found that in terms of democratic theory, sometimes more is less. This means that when people had fewer choices, they were forced to watch news. Now, that they have more choices with cable and the Internet, they watch and read less news. Therefore, although I agree with some points posed by Herman and Chomsky, I think that the conclusion is not clear cut it terms of what is better for democracy.

3- On a related note, consolidation leads to large, more resourceful companies. As Bagdikian (cited in Benson, “Bringing the sociology of media back in”) posed, these more profitable companies are more willing or have the resources to challenge powerful economic groups because they can devote to in-depth reporting and do not depend on a handful advertisers as smaller and less resourceful media companies do. Therefore, I wonder what’s the point of having more ideological diversity if those alternative media do not have the resources to do a good job?

4- Finally, Herman and Chomsky also criticize the advertising system because it eliminates the media that rely on revenues from sales. I wonder what’s the idea of having diverse news voices that (almost) nobody is willing to pay and read?

5- Schiller asserts that “American cultural domination remains forceful… [because] its practices are being adopted by the rest of the transnational corporate system”. As a result, the world adopts American cultural products and reproduces practically identical items. To some extent, this may ring true but the argument is, ironically, ethnocentric and simplistic. It portrays America as the evil giant who dominates the world while poor little countries have nothing to do with this domination. In fact, as someone from a “dominated” country, I can tell that quite frequently American corporations have failed in these countries because people have more agency than what is expected. For example, in Chile HomeDepot and JCPenney had to close shortly after landing in the country because their products did not fit with the local taste. Even McDonald’s had to overhaul their menu completely and is still struggling to make a profit compared to local food chains. Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of multinationals in Chile, but if they are to succeed, they have to domesticate their products. In the political realm, the CIA did, indeed, intervene all over Latin America. But, then again, the intervention was possible because there were local groups who favored it and allowed it. For instance, the 1973 coup d’etat in Chile had more to do with internal conflicts than with the U.S. intervention.

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