Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hope for a better-informed global media consumer

We have been discussing the global media, and particularly its socio-political implications for the past couple of weeks. And the only agreement we could come to – “we” as a class, as well as the authors of the readings – is that there is nothing much that can be done about the current system of global media ownership and flows. Yes, it’s always easy to criticize and point out the faults; and yet, none of us can do that constructively, suggesting viable improvements or ways out. But then, it’s not just us. It’s also the “people with power” who could do something about it, if they knew how to approach the matter.

But they don’t. Is it the system? Fair enough. Even if we go blaming the system, we could at least try thinking of some bottom-up means, which are usually said to work against the “oppressive regimes.” On a global scale, the nation-states would be the “local” players, acting from the “bottom.” But that power was taken away from them by the transnational conglomerates, and the nation states seemed to have given it up fairly easily. Or at least they had to, given the current global economic trends and integration.

So where did the power of the individual go?

The concept of liberty, when discussed by the philosophers of the Enlightenment, was not meant to be conferred upon the mass of the people universally, at least for so long as there was no universal education on the proper use of this liberty. Giving liberty without the appropriate limitations on it could lead back to chaos, oppression, and the eventual loss of the liberty itself.

People worldwide are increasingly gaining the “liberty” to access information and consume media from literally around the world (that is, given they have the means and make the necessary effort). And yet, the increasing availability is not matched with a similar rate of education on the use of that media and the need to approach it critically, in all respects. Mostly on purpose – and yet, sometimes not as much – people can be easily “socialized” into the consumerist and apathetic mindset, without any realization of the need for alternatives. And the ultimate questions, time and again, are “WHO makes these decisions?” or “WHOSE interest does this serve?”

Given the current global political and economic circumstances, nation states or even representatives of the so-called global civil society cannot overtly oppose transnational media giants, their interests, and programming/production that often takes away the individual’s right to true liberty. And yet, the former can make the effort of conscientiously and regularly investing in awareness campaigns and education on media and news consumption. Only thus can the vicious circle of media production and audience demand be broken, as well as an increased awareness of the true world around them be achieved. Then, if the demand for a more “informed’ and “un-distorted” media culture appears, one would hope that the global giants would step in to meet that demand.

Thus, although the current prospects are bleak, the global civil society, as well the nation states, can play a role, and do have the moral responsibility of doing so, being the representatives of their people. Yet, when it comes to profits, unfortunately many ethical considerations tend to be forgotten…

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