Wednesday, April 6, 2011

News Corporation Imperialism

by JJR

The European Union, officially founded in 1993, unites 27 European countries under a common currency and acts as a unifying body for the greater Europe. Among their political duties, the EU strives to foster a European identity that complements the national identities that many citizens hold. Of course television is part of this formation of identity, and European television calls into question Habermas' Public Sphere. This concept speaks to the greater public opinion that is formed when individuals come together to reach a consensus on something. European television is a sensitive medium because Europeans, especially in France and Italy, have a very keen cultural awareness and do not like foreign media agendas proliferating their countries. Fortunately, Rupert Murdoch's giant media conglomerate, News Corporation, is aware of this and uses this idea to market to niche audiences in Europe, and uses a business model that is somewhat contrary to the framework of cultural imperialism that has been the norm for these conglomerates in the past.

France and Italy's populations combined is 122 million, about a quarter of the EU's total population, and certainly more than a fourth of the television viewing audience. That said, these are lucrative outlets for a company like News Corporation to take advantage of, but instead of pushing a huge American brand like Fox, they are very culturally specific. In France, the Voyage network features programs which center around French cultural activities, with two examples being Prenez l'Air and La Mer en Face (*see links below). In Italy, the Cult network provides independent films and series only in Italian. Cult is for a sophisticated viewer, and is reflective of Italy's history of elite media.

In conclusion, in is News Corporation's cultural sensitivity that has allowed them to be so profitable and expansive in the European market. Of course American content is available almost everywhere in Europe, but the availability of alternative media is what sets News Corporation apart from its competitors. In today's media climate, it may not be as appropriate as it once was to talk about media as completely imperialist, and maybe the conversation will start to adapt to new models of transnational media in which the cultures to which the content is being sold is really the key to success.

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