For several years I have lived in a multi channel environment. At the beginning these channels were TSR, TSI, TF1, Antenne 2 (now France 2) and DRS. These channels have been available to television viewers for years in Western Switzerland. As a result I have grown up with a multilingual, multinational media. Studying in an international school and working in international organisations have broadened my worldview.Making friends for short periods before they move onto another country. This has affected the way I consume the media, following BBC world, following world news and current affairs to understand today's world. Studying literature, geography, languages and history have all helped
Over the past weeks I have spent countless hours thinking about globalisation and the future of the media, not knowing which elements fit to which essay. Al last I have finished both pieces of work and this is a synthesis of both essays.
Chapter four of the BBC charter considers that England is a mature country for it's multi-ethnic population. The fact foreign nationals live in England has become mainstream. I queued up and I saw Eastern Europeans, British, Middle Eastern and African people. These individuals are studying a variety of courses at the same university. They are usually leading the world in social theory and other fields and reflect how things are going to change.
Culture is pervasive, "ordinary" as Raymond Williams thought, part of everyday life. In a place like Great Britain this is interesting because it has one of the world's most advanced media landscapes. Digital video broadcasting (DVB) by Freeview on terrestrial does not offer great choice in ethnic programming, prefering to concentrate on the mass audience. In contrast British Sky Broadcasting, a satellite broadcasting company offers a great variety of content. With the digital revolution it has space for hundreds of channels ranging from Discovery packages to news, music and other theme channels. Already looking in the special interests section we get a view into the future of the British satellite environment.There are channels from Bangladesh, India, China and Japan. So far these are commercial channels rather than national channels. The distinction is made because over the coming years as the digital divide is bridged chances are that we will gain a greater variety of choice which I will come back to.
During the 2003 WSIS conference in Geneva time was taken in defining what changes would needed to bridge the digital divide.
"The main commitments that Heads of State will be adopting cover ten objectives, to be achieved by 2015 at the latest. These include connecting all villages on the planet (as many as 1.5 million remain unconnected at present) and bringing ICTs to all schools, universities, hospitals, research centres, etc. There is also a commitment to provide a website and e-mail address for every government department in the world." Source
For some this task appears to be a mammoth undertaking, especially since for an information society to work literacy is one of the most important pre-requisits. For any progress to be made to create a media literate society money must be invested to provide both an infrastructure for learning but also for other basic services like labour and health. Last year a report was released entitled "Towards a fair globalisation, check title", which details the need for people to work out of poverty through decent work. Another element of this argument or concern was the idea of indecent work for children, making sure that each child would have the opportunity to study at primary and secondary levels. This education is essential for anyone working and living in an information society because once a person is given the tools to learn then they may learn independently of other people. From that point on there are no limits to what individuals can acheive.
In any advanced society television and radio are two essential elements. These two media are one of the best ways by which to create national integrity, through national news bulletins, television series and educational programing. As more and more people gain access to these technologies so does the interest of commercial arms to provide more entertaining programs as a means for advertising more products. As time progresses and the people's traditions adapt towards a different way of life centered around the media some people fear that the heritage of the children may be losed. I feel differently about this. Over a period of several months I followed a group of young Albanians in Geneva and saw that through the Albanian popular university Rinia contact was formed. This is a small community level project but with great importance to the children of immigrants. As the children are born in a nation other than that of their parent's they have little access to their cultural heritage. Such projects make sure that the knowledge remains within the heart of these young adults.
Some people beleive that globalisation is nothing more than the parasitic encroachment of one culture over another but I see things differently. I often think of the word internationalisation rather than globalisation. Globalisation can mean a number of things although to the altermondialiste (other world) are against this term, prefering to think of an alternative process. I think this process would be internationalisation. The word international, from the context I was brought up in, is used to refer to a mentality where age, colour race and ethnic background are a source of interest rather than hate. The interest I am refering to is curiosity, for example imagine that one of your friends is from Mexico, an other is from Sweden and a third is from Montenegro. Not only will you know where these countries are in the world but you will also know what they are known for, the languages that are spoken and the cultural products of that country. By cultural products I mean literature, the cinema, the Arts and food. Being a member of the international community means that you know people from every continent and a great number of countries. Being international is about how we live our lives, and is part of our philosophy of life.
Future structure of the media
In the United States of America cultural production is an industry. Films are worked on by teams of highly specialised people as well as television series. As a result when a script is written it is a collaboration between a team of people. When teams work together they must meet compromises and they decide which elements will work and which will not. One of the consequences of such labour intensive creative processes is mass appeal, something which other nation's media industries do not concentrate on to the same degree.
Another important element is funding. When you're in a country the size of Switzerland or Estonia it's far more expensive to create programs for such a small audience. The European Union has recently had a number of programs to encourage co productions and so have various broadcasters. Recently the European Broadcasting Union based in Geneva has worked in helping European broadcasters create series where each country creates one episode in the series. This provides for a variety of ideas and because the cost is shared more productions can be completed.
Over the coming years we can expect that as the WSIS projects get under way to bring other nations up to a more media rich environment that countries like Mali, Tanzania and Bhutan will start broadcasting and providing their content. More to the point the digital means are already there so that each broadcaster can reach a global audience through satellite broadcasting. We have seen the way that search engines have moved from the web onto the desktop and in the near future as the broadcasters provide more channels we can expect that the technology and the requirements of the audience will mean that you could find a google like search engine on your electronic programme guide.
The CERN who are currently building their large hadron collider are developing the datagrid, a system of computers which will allow for the transfer of gigabits of data per second from terabytes of storage space. With a more advanced infrastructure than that offered by Abilene or Internet 2 we will find that data transfer speeds will increase so much that the national archive of films for each broadcaster will be digitized and stored on servers, accessible for a small fee by anyone who wishes to take advantage of this offer. Not only will there no longer be the need to go down and rent dvd from the store as you can do it online but if there are rare films you would not have access to the new media landscape would make them available for you. This is particularly interesting for film students and film enthusiasts alike.
In the media landscape of the future interactivity will be one of the strongest features around. As WIFI and laptops become more ubiquitous so people will move their web habits from the computer or bedroom out into the living room. As they watch television shows or follow the news they will be discussing the topics they see on tv and compare views and opinions with other viewers of the same programs. Rather than sending an sms when voting takes place they will be able to the website, generating hits and revenue for advertisers, and chose the person. This will not be country dependent therefore like a recent miss world type event people will vote from around the world in real time.
When students are learning aboutn cultures, about geography or the sea they will be able to communicate to experts from the comfort of their classroom or even pilot minisubmersibles through a coral reef (with built in safety features of course to avoid damaging the coral). As a result the world will no longer be something seen on television, it will be something experienced. In other words television will become more active, no longer the 20th century couch potatoe anymore.
Although the media are important today they will be far more important in the near future and programs will no longer be restricted to their countries of origin. The World Wide Web and television programs will be in as many languages and from as many countries as exist, creating an international television environment requiring advanced categorisation of channels, program content and such. In effect English will no longer be the dominant language on the web. Although it seems chaotic now in future chances are that new better systems of organisation will already have been found.