Neoliberalism and Australia

8 August 2016

Does globalisation imply cultural homogenisation? Your answer should consider specific and local global media examples and should include reference to the Appadurai and McChesney article in the course reader. The role of globalization has had a major influence on society and the world, and this essay will argue it has resulted in cultural homogenization.

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This can be illustrated through an introduction to globalization, the consolidation of media, ownership and vested interests, world standardization and neoliberalism, politics and the media and public service media. Examining the different views of globalization, including Appadurai and McChesney as well as other sources it can be clearly understood the negatives arising due to globalization, and its impact on cultural homogenization.

Globalisation can be defined as the process of international integration, including the sharing of ideas, laws, economies, politics, cultures and concepts between nations. To understand globalization, it is necessary to compare the differing viewpoints. Appadurai argues that globalization is a battle between homogenization and heteroisation and that there is a series of ‘scapes’ which consist of ethnoscapes, technoscapes, financescapes, mediascapes and ideoscapes. (Appadurai 2011).

He also maintains that as globalization is brought into other countries, they “tend to become indigenized in one or another way”. (Appadurai 2011). This claim rejects the notion that globalization leads to standardization, rather its influence is organic on a nation and not part of a controlled system, such as neoliberalism as argued by McChesney. McChesney defines neoliberalism as “the set of national and international policies that call for business domination of all social affairs with minimal countervailing force” (McChesney, 2001).

McChesney believes globalization is actually neoliberalism and it has been presented on a silver platter as free trade when in actual fact, it has caused privatisation of publicly owned assets, deregulation of important safeguards in the financial markets, withdrawal of social provisions by the state, media consolidation by vested interests and the concentration of wealth, power and influence in global corporations unhindered by borders. (Ong, 2006), (Harvey 2005). Ong further states the results have “menaced national currencies and living conditions”.

These alternative views contrast with mainstream academics to provide a true picture of the nature of globalization, and its relationship with neoliberalism. These arguments are directly relevant to cultural homogenization because neoliberalism or globalisation is not limited to one particular nation, but rather occurs simultaneously on a global scale, and evolve societies of these nations into a homogenized web of similar systems, processes, governments, corporations and national identities beneath the control of unaccountable global corporations.

Consolidation of media or media convergence can be defined as a process where fewer individuals or corporations own the market share of media in a particular country, and a few corporations have most or all the market share. According to McChesney, “Specific media industries are becoming more and more concentrated, and the dominant players in each media industry increasingly are subsidiaries of huge media conglomerates”. (McChesney 2001). He reveals in this source that consolidation of media is a significant issue for the freedom of the press.

It can be argued that due to consolidation of media, the lack of ownership diversity will lead to cultural homogenization, as populations receive crucially important news from those with the majority market share, such as Fairfax and Newscorp. Media concentration is heavily evident in Australia, with limited competition. “The Australian situation has much to do with…the three media dynasties of Packer, Fairfax and Murdoch. All three asserted their private commercial and political interests strongly, and used proprietorial influence in ways that flouted journalistic and editorial independence. ” (McCutcheon and Pusey 2011).

The source comments on why the market in Australia is so concentrated which include, favourable monopolistic laws and few safeguard regulations, decreases in funding for public broadcasting, restrictions preventing new companies from starting in media due to onerous licencing and regulations preventing new entrants and short term outlook biased toward profits rather than national interest. (McCutcheon and Pusey 2011). Media concentration also causes only certain views and information to enter the public sphere, and may be biased instead of impartially examining both sides, as large corporations follow their own views or agenda.

This is why the role of a public broadcasting service is crucial, which will be discussed later. Consolidation of the media is also closely tied to ownership and vested interests. Many media companies source their information from a news agency, or news wire which is a service that provides news from journalists who provide the pipeline of stories, reports and information to media companies. This pipeline can consist of news stories that are broadcast on television, newspaper articles, magazine articles and radio stories. (Paterson 2005).

In Australia, the dominant news agency is Australian Associated Press, owned by Newscorp, Fairfax and Seven West Media. This ownership of Australian Associated Press by the three major media companies reveals the true monopoly over information in Australia. This is relevant to globalization implying cultural homogenization, because what controls information through the media, controls the opinions, beliefs and ideas of a people. “The concerns with ownership relate, in the end, to whom has control over media content and how these people will use this power”.

This source is critical of concentration of media, and warns that increased concentration has inherent dangers toward a democracy and an informed citizenry. In 2013, Newscorp’s The Daily Telegraph was scrutinized following publication of its “Kick this mob out” story, by ABC’s Media Watch program. It was found following an investigation, the political stories published during the first week of the election campaign included 40 out of 80 against the government, and none against the opposition. (Grubel 2013), (Barry 2013).

This establishes an example of media concentration, and its power to influence opinions in the public sphere. Ownership and vested interests are not for the public good, and are motivated by profits, which focuses resources on popular stories, not those that may be unpopular, but in the national interest. This leads to cultural homogenisation as the media caters for the masses and can powerfully manipulate and encourage people to express desirable opinions or views. Neoliberalism and world standardization is another important aspect to examine in the argument of globalization implying cultural homogenization.

As mentioned earlier, neoliberalism is a worldwide process of privatization of public assets, deregulation and removal of trade protections, consolidation of large corporation’s power through media convergence, and a war on the working class people. “Neoliberalism wages an incessant attack on democracy, public goods, and non-commodified values…As corporate power lays siege to the political process, the benefits flow to the rich and powerful. ” (Giroux 2005). Neoliberalism includes the recent austerity measures imposed on European countries following the global financial crisis.

The benefits to the rich and powerful, through the neoliberalist agenda include a modification of taxation from wealth generation, to a tax on work. (Collins, Hartman, Kraut and Mota 2004). Giroux states that the free market and capitalism in general, “spewed forth by the mass media, right wing intellectuals, and governments alike has found its material expression both in an all-out attack on democratic values and in the growth of a range of social problems including: virulent and persistent poverty, joblessness, inadequate healthcare, apartheid in the inner cities and increasing inequalities between the rich and the poor. ” (Giroux 2005).

By understanding the true role of neoliberalism, its impact on globalisation and standardisation of culture is sharply apparent, in recent times and presently, countries around the world are facing these similar circumstances. Others regard Neoliberalism as a major attack on the people and it “eliminates the very possibility of critical thinking, without which democratic debate becomes impossible. ” (Buck-Morss 2003). Neoliberalism is closely tied to homogenisation, because as the world further integrates all countries become entwined in the web of similarity, where western or internationalist ideas overcome traditional cultures and beliefs.

Politics and the media involves the regulations, laws and rules that govern media in Australia. Media regulation is a key aspect of globalisation and neoliberalism. According to Hesmondhalgh, the concept of four waves of marketisation, which included the privitisation of publicly owned companies, regulatory walls between ownership of differing media being abolished, cross media laws, preventing ownership of both print and television by a single owner being removed, and the advertising restrictions on television programs being eased.

He expresses the changes as bringing forward “cultural imperialism”. (Hesmondhalgh 2008). The history of deregulation of the media in Australia is also discussed. “In 1987, strict limits on how many stations a company could own were considerably loosened. The main deregulatory act came in 1992, with the broadcasting services Act which weakened restrictions on broadcasters, abolished radio ownership laws almost entirely, and introduced pay television, dominated by Packer and Murdoch”. (Hesmondhalgh 2008).

This was complemented in 2006, with further erosions of media protections when the Australian parliament passed laws which lifted foreign and cross media ownership restrictions. The laws resulted in furthered media consolidation, which paved the way for media moguls to have two out of three of newspapers, television and radio stations in a specific area. (ABC 2006). Other sources focus on the internet and the changes which have happened to this medium. Lessig, in Code: and other laws of cyberspace illustrates that there is increasingly commericalisation of what he calls “code”, which refers to the internets basic structure.

Lessig warns about the dangers of power concentrated in a few companies. “as code writing becomes commercial – as it becomes the product of a smaller number of larger companies – the government’s ability to regulate it increases”. (Lessig 1999). This statement indicates that as large companies dominate the internet, they control the code, hence the ability to control the rules, and the regulations are not favourable to democracy as protections are removed and new regulations allowing large companies to maintain their dominant market position are introduced.

Public service media, for example the British Broadcasting Corporation and Australian Broadcasting Corporation is owned by governments and accountable to the public, as opposed to commercial media. “It has been argued that online public service media continue to play a vital role as institutional guarantors of media citizenship principles such as provision of accurate and unbiased information, distribution of social knowledge, providers of opportunity for deliberation, and outlets committed to diversity of representation and maximisation of participation and pluralism.

On the other hand, the crucial role that public service media plays is being severely interfered with by government. In May 2013, a revival of government discussions centred around the privatisation of ABC and SBS. This would include an”operational review” to “look at the feasibility of partial or full privitisation of both”. (Gordon 2013). This is directly relevant to the cultural homogenisation argument, because with the privitisation of public service broadcasting in Australia, the diversity of content would disappear.

The traditional model of public broadcasting affords the organisation sufficient political independence to defend their values and interests… as well as the provision of media content to those audiences that the commercial sector would likely neglect”. (Errington & Miragliotta 2012). This source reveals that public service media has a commitment to serve the common good, rather than ratings and as its audience are ‘citizens’, not ‘viewers’, it is accountable to the people. With the privatisation agenda already under discussion, the ABC and SBS future is uncertain.

Public media is essential for a robust democracy, and by privatisation as witnessed through these arguments, can only lead to cultural homogenisation and the neoliberalist agenda. Throughout an examination of the topics covered, a number of conclusions can be drawn. Firstly, cultural homogenisation and globalisation are aspects in concert with neoliberalism, and their impact on society is negative. Secondly, those with alternative viewpoints to either globalisation or neoliberalism are fiercely opposed to it, regarding it as an attack on democracy.

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