New Media Order
Chalaby, Jean K. (Ed.). Transnational Television
Worldwide: Toward a New Media Order. London: I.B. Tauris,
2005. 264 pages. Paperback. ISBN 1-85043-548-0. $24.95.
by Ralph D. Berenger
American broadcast news pioneer Edward R. Murrow first saw a
demonstration of television in the 1940’s as an extension
of radio, he commented, “this instrument can teach.”
Later, when the technology overtook programmers’ ability
to experiment with content, a former member of the Federal Communications
Committee uttered the oft-repeated line in the 1960’s
that television entertainment was “a vast wasteland.”
While both have kernels of truth in their assessment of television,
both have served to provide parameters for transnational broadcasters.
Is transnational media primarily a teaching tool or is it an
entertainment desert? Those questions and more are pondered
in Jean Chalaby’s Transnational Television Worldwide,
one of the first serious efforts to assess the worldwide phenomenon
of cross-border television.
From its inception until the advent of satellites, television
was an earthbound, nation-specific medium, and that aspect is
covered in this book since many terrestrial systems broadcast
across borders. Not until the late 1970’s, barely a generation
ago, were broadcasters able to extend their reach globally by
satellite, and the effects are both ongoing and dramatic.
points out the dizzying variety of broadcast media systems on
four continents in his anthology of 10 meaty chapters by himself
and 13 contributors, who provide a different way of thinking
about international broadcasting to reach dispersed audiences
around the world.
includes assessments of television in the Middle East (written
by Naomi Sakr, a board member of TBS, whose Satellite Realms
(2001) continues to be the seminal work in the field See TBS
9), Turkish Cyprus (by Kevin Robbins and Asu Aksoy, who examine
the “experience” of Turkish migrants’ “knowledge”
of their “identity); Africa (by Graham Mytton, Ruth Teer-Tomaselli
and Andre-Jean Tudesq, who tackle the seemingly impossible task
of assessing systems that broadcast in European, Arabic and
African tongues across the vastness of the great continent);
South Asia (by David Page and William Crawley, who assess the
uses of television across the Pakistan-India divide for both
culture, development and, yes, propaganda); India (by Daya Thussu,
who ponders the globalization/localization issue and finds the
lines between the two have blurred in many cases to become glocalized);
China (by Joseph Man Chan, who writes about the complexities
of a country going through a media evolution, but also includes
considerable material on the media frenzy taking place in Taiwan,
which has banned some mainland TV channels until PRC policies
are as liberalized as Teipei’s); Latin America (by John
Sinclair who suggests cultural imperialism might be reversing
given the breadth of Spanish being spoken around the world),
and Europe, addressed by the editor, who writes about the continuing
“deterritorialization” that’s taking place.
The concluding chapter, by Joseph Staubhaar and Luiz Guilherme
Duarte, suggests that local and not global television programming
is what viewers worldwide tend to tune in.
of the latter chapter is clear – and reinforced by other
authors, many of whom are questioning the increasingly downgraded
notion of cultural imperialism from “core” countries
– that the more “localized” or “regionalized”
a broadcaster makes the product, the more viewers’ are
receptive to it. Implications, not stressed in the book, are
profound for emerging media market economies and advertising-based
collection is recommended reading for international broadcasting
classes as a reader, it suffers from the malady afflicting many
of the same types of investigations of transnational broadcasting.
It delivers only a glancing reference to international laws,
regulations and political cultures that impact international
broadcasting at all levels. While satellites bounce programming
from space to disparate audiences around the globe, those programs
are still created on terra firma, and subject to the laws of
the countries in which they are created. Another area that would
have been fruitful to study in this volume of transnational
broadcasting systems is the entire area of advertising; its
impact on programming, audiences and regional economies.
are minor deficiencies when stacked against the worthiness of
this volume for students of international satellite communication
is senior lecturer in sociology at City University in London.