10 Pages, Grade: 1 (A)
Question: 3. With a case or case studies to illustrate your answer, critically examine the cultural effects of globalisation.
After, what has been a ‘very long, uneven and complicated process and is currently called globalisation’ (Robertson, 1992: 10), world capitalism and the underlying system of sovereign states have become ‘the first historical system to include the entire globe within its geography’ (Wallerstein, 1997). The brands, images, and the cultural output of transnational companies of mainly North American origin are flooding almost every part of the world. What George Ritzer has called McDonaldization, ‘ the rationalization of everyday interaction and individual identity’ (Keel, 1999)- the principles of a fast food restaurant that ‘more and more sectors of society are adopting’ (Wright, 1997), ‘transforms national economies into one global, interdependent economy’ (Eva, 1998). As a consequence, activities, which were previously carried out within a national or regulated international framework, will from now on be carried out globally, in accordance with the needs of the global marketplace, which is steadily growing. By 1980, it was estimated that there were over 10.000 transnational corporations of all national origins, and by the early 1990s more than three times as many (Stopford and Dunning, 1983: 3; Ikeda, 1996: 48).
In the media sector the vision or the nightmare of a global business would look like this: one single mega-corp, which delivers down its cable, to our homes, every intellectual morsel (it thinks) we need. The films, sit-coms and documentaries it has made; the news it makes; the information and e-mail services it controls; the chat-rooms it monitors and the celebrities it has made famous.
In the following this essay will examine how true this fantasy of total control is in reality by looking at two German conglomerates, KirchGruppe and Bertelsmann AG, which are currently expanding in Europe and the United States. Furthermore, the cultural effetcs of globalisation will be looked at in this context.
The two media giants, KirchGruppe and Bertelsmann AG, control 90 per cent of Germany’s commercial TV stations (Schoen, 1998) and Kirch who is co-operating with its Italian counterpart Berlusconi and media mogul Rupert Murdoch (owner of BSkyB and the world-wide operating media group News Corporation, which has recently taken a stake into China Netcom) is present in almost every European television market. Bertelsmann, which is one of the largest media corporations in the world (third as of 1995) (Mbcnet, 2001) is the only antagonist to this media empire. Through the merger with the British TV-group Pearson, Bertelsmann is now owning production companies and channels, among others the RTL -channels in Germany, Channel 5 in Britain, M6 in France and Programme in Spain (Ott, 2000a).
In Germany, “Bertelskirch” how the German press likes to call the two conglomerates, have divided the TV market among each other in a cosy duopoly (Pitzer, 2000).
On the one side is Bertelsmann with major investments in book, magazine, records, and music publishing, broadcasting, on-line services, and other allied entertainment and information products. It owns book clubs, Gruner+Jahr, the German publisher of such titles as Stern and GEO and Bantam Doubleday Dell, which is the second largest trade publisher in the United States. It also has major investments in the music industry, handled by Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) Entertainment, which is also owner of the labels Arista and Ariola and the second largest record club operator in the USA. Bertelsmann is owner of RTL, Germany’s most successful and profitable commercial channel, which has several spin-off channels (RTL 2, Super RTL, and Vox) and has established itself as a major player in television production. Apart from that the company holds a 5% stake in the Internet provider America Online (AOL) and has joint ventures with AOL Europe and Lycos Europe (Mbcnet, 2001) . Besides, it operates the e-commerce companies bol.com and barnesandnoble.com. At the moment the firm employs 76.000 people in 58 countries (@mey, 2001).
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