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Özgür Gazeteciler Platformu

 

The Globalization of News

Edited by Oliver Boyd-Barrett and Terhi Rantanen. London-Thousand Oaks-New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1999. 230 p.

Reviewed by

M. Akif Beki

"The Globalization of News" consists of selected articles by ten established scholars of news media, teaching at universities around the globe. The book is well structured, and the various articles are united around one task: examining and exploring different cases and aspects of news agencies.

While helping us better understand the impact of news agencies on the process of globalization, the book seems to exaggerate their role in this process. At times it appears that news agencies are the only force at work in this otherwise an extremely complicated phenomenon. Perhaps such exaggeration should be expected, given the fact that the writers of the various chapters, including the two co-editors, are all immersed in the study of media issues.

As media scholars present their views and analyses, a number of themes emerge: globalization represents technological rather than moral change, and hence does not signify the emergence of a new normative order; it does not necessarily lead to homogenization of culture; its impact is mainly one-directional, moving from the developed to the developing; it is not a new or novel phenomenon in human history.

Given the fact that the editors are at pain to exaggerate the significance of news agencies on the one hand, and to water down the importance of other forces in shaping the process of globalization on the other, one cannot help but ask: why should anyone do injustice to the other dimensions of globalization in order to appreciate the role of news agencies?

There is no doubt that news agencies lie very much at the heart of international flow of information, but this is not a sufficient ground to deny the cultural revolution that could only be brought about by the invention of television, which along with communications satellites, ultimately turned our world into a global village.

There is no denying the fact that diverse forces are at work in the globalization processes and that the consequences of globalization may vary and even appear to be moving in opposite directions. Therefore to argue that globalization involves a unidirectional flow of events, as the co-editors seem to do, require more evidence than the book provides.

Ever since Marshall McLuhan has ushered in the coming of the new age of globalization in the mid-sixties, this new phenomenon never ceased to attract intellectual attention. Although credit for invention of the now popular term "global-village" belonged to McLuhan, origins of the idea of "the world citizenship" can be traced back to the 18th century philosophers. It is worth mentioning here that a good six weeks at least was needed for a letter to cross the Atlantic when the dream of "the citizenship of the world” first appeared in the minds of few. While McLuhan foresaw the dawn of the "global-sized village" at a time when a videotape shot in Europe had to fly across the Atlantic to come to the attention of American audiences, a method that has already become outdated. But it was not until the first communications satellites were placed in orbit around the earth, in the mid-seventies, that McLuhan's prophecy became a reality. Now only a TV set could "involve all people around the globe with all others at all times" as if they were living in a global village, thereby creating a "world culture". This was a major advance in communications technology following the earlier television innovations in the fifties.

On the other hand, the effects of globalization were, according to McLuhan, to have greater decentralization, rather than centralization. This is to say that what may appear on one level to be macrocosmic in the sense of universalization and homogenization may appear at an other level to be microcosmic in the sense of fragmentation and dissociation. It is only now in our time that what McLuhan has predicted can fully be comprehended, because introduction of the Internet further advanced this Cultural Revolution.

The importance of communication systems to social, political and economic processes was recognized as early as the first newspapers hit the newsstands in the beginning of 17th century. During the course of the past three hundred years, as it became more and more common to focus on press and its functions in both written works and university courses, journalism developed into an independent branch of social sciences with its own realm of study. Yet, the more it comes under the scholar's scrutiny, the more we become aware of the ground rules of cultural transformations our world underwent and still is going through. In this respect, "The Globalization of News" is an important contribution towards a better understanding of the intertwined natures of the evolution of news media and the parallel process of globalization. Undoubtedly, it is a book worth reading particularly by theoreticians, researchers, as well as practitioners.

*** M. Akif Beki is a Washington based TV journalist with the national private Turkish TV station, Kanal 7.