Globalization is changing and transforming patterns of human life. At times, the changes have been so potent it has caused a sudden extinction of minor cultures. Obviously change is not the complexity itself. Change has been a social element in man’s evolution and progress. Any race incapable of change has succumbed to obliteration.

The complexity lies within the speed and the direction of change. Where is this change taking our present human civilization?

The idea of globalization is nothing new. The great Persian and Roman empires, the Catholic and the Islamic world, the communist empire, Nazi Germany, and many other examples represent idealism of leaders who have tried to unify the world according to their mission. But at no time in human history has globalization been so acceptable to people. One may examine the point with reference to historical, economic, social and political reasons.

One of the two instruments available for globalization is satellite televisions. It is no exaggeration to claim that what is today named globalization has been made possible only after the appearance of satellite television and the Internet. These two media are the two integral elements of globalization. Incidentally, these media also made “super media” possible.

GLOBAL TV

Televisions of the world, despite their relative short history (a little more than two decades), have played an effective role in man’s political, social and cultural equations. Along with the Internet, satellite TV has established the founding ideas of globalization and has provided grounds for its growth.

During the first decade of its life, the satellite TV operated as potent instrument of publicity for technologically advanced countries. During the 1990s and beyond, the astonishing success of countries such as Japan, China and the European Union in sending their own satellites to outer space and the remarkable advance made in communication satellites brought radical changes to the industry.

Upon arrival of new countries to air space industry, the U.S and Russian lost their monopoly on satellites and it became a competitive industry.

A satellite in space beaming images to thousands of televisions across the globe.

The new communication satellites enjoyed advanced technology and had high capabilities for transmitting data. These satellites had more capacity than their sponsors could use, so the excess capacity could be sold to other countries for profit. Naturally many rich countries were willing to buy space to air their programs in the world network. (Later we will pose the question as to why such countries do not succeed in promoting their own culture and continuously complain about cultural offences.) These countries paid out enormous prices out of public funds to rent space; thereby joining the club of countries that had satellite TVs. As a successful example we may name “Aljazireh Network”. This network, operating by Qatar’s annual national budget funds, started operation during 1990 in Arabic and soon became popular in the region. Covering the Gulf war during the 1990s it proved as efficient as CNN and BBC.

With access to new possibilities of transmitting and receiving new images and the replacement of antenna using receivers and transmitters by satellites, television networks had reached staggering heights of success. Now, they had the possibility of reaching wider audiences, no longer limited to a particular geographical area.

The audience of new programs was now global; people overseas or in remote mountainous areas were now able to receive satellite programs.

But the change in the nature of audience had to be matched by a change in the form and the content of the programs.

Since the audiences now included a variety of nations and cultures, TV programs had to develop new standards so they could attract those individuals of various regions and cultures.

Hundreds of satellites receive images from space.

Satellite television brings a variety of cultures and societies from all over the world right into your living room.

Among the newly developed standards, worth mentioning include; better clarity and color, speed of communication of data and news and their ability to be updated quickly, direct coverage of world news (like the Gulf War during the 1990s), as well as more entertainment and entertaining movies. In addition, news and information has taken on more of a general character, avoiding details to the degree possible. More emphasis is put on world events rather than regional news. The movies shown are more from old Hollywood style entertainment. But TV shows that are made to entertain have been most popular with both the senders and the receivers. Such programs have more influence on various cultures than news and movies. In fact they fabricate cultures. It may seem to be a bit of exaggeration, but later in this thesis we shall have opportunity to examine the case in a thorough manner.

One of the specific features of entertainment shows is their ability to penetrate daily affairs and popular cultures of a society. This enables them to address a wide spectrum in society; they are able to arouse the curiosity of the receiving societies.

How do other people think? How do they look and treat each other? People want to know about life beyond their national borders. In many cases they want to act and become like people of other societies without asking whether the new trends are in harmony with their own traditions, history, or culture.

They are only attracted to sensational and beautiful global programs.

Those who are very impressed may even try to move to the country depicted in their favorite shows. This has the consequence of a growing migration to the industrial countries which have been a nuisance for the latter.

But in some receiving countries, certain traditional groups feel threatened by such satellite programs and actively oppose them.

By exaggerating and publicizing only the negative aspects of these programs, critics depict the sender countries as perverse and corrupt  Without considering the positive aspects of other cultures, they try to find an effective way to prevent the impact of foreign cultures on their own society. A common case in point are Islamic societies where every “social development” is labeled “imported from the west.” It is important to note this is not a peculiarity of Islamic societies alone. China can also be classified as a nation with such ideologies.

But the fundamentalists benefit from the situation, i.e., exaggerated and unrealistic images. They depict western countries as corrupt, and manage to entice their countrymen into fundamentalist and sensational movements. To justify themselves, the fundamentalists always site satellite TV programs as instances of corruption in the western world. In fact, satellite TVs have prepared the ground for the growth of fanatic fundamentalism; in other words, they have prepared social conditions suitable for fundamentalism.

By Toby Malek

 

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Toby Malek is a versatile media artist and thinker. He is an experimental film maker and a rapid sound and video installation artist. He is also a painter. Central to his art are questions relating to culture and the relationship between mankind and his environment. He is living and working in Vancouver, Canada.