Media and Globalization

Globalization is the word most often used to describe how the world has become increasingly interconnected at all levels in recent decades. Since the mid-1980s, scholars have studied how such driving forces as economics, technology, politics and cultural change have contributed to the globalization process, and they have argued about how it is best understood. Some differences of opinion stem from which of those driving forces scholars have been most interested in. Others can be traced back to the various theoretical perspectives which have informed the work of those scholars. More than a matter of theory, globalization is something that can be observed in the world around us - in the financial crises that result in people losing their jobs and homes; in the spread of epidemics; in the trafficking of drugs and people that spills across borders; in the activities of the multinational corporations whose products we buy; and not least in the media products we consume. It is a process that has consequences for citizens, for society, for states, and for the world community.

globalization and politics • what is ‘the media’? • making comparisons • continuity vs change • politics on street and screen


To think about: what communicative spaces will remain open in the future; what happens when history unfolds on live television; to whom do global media speak?


Key concepts: global communicative space; global public sphere; hybridization


Further reading:  globalization • cultural globalization • globalization and the media •  the global public sphere

Picture: Developments in media technology mean we are no longer aloof from the world, as Marshall McLuhan wrote 50 years ago: we live in a global village. Copyright: Aleksandar Mijatovic / Shutterstock.

Primary Sources

A website replete with primary source material relating to cultural globalization (or links to it) is that of UNESCO. To follow the development of policy debates over time see:

•    UNESCO, The Power of Culture, 1998

•    UNESCO, Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, November 2001

•    UNESCO, Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, October 2005

•    UNESCO, World Report on Cultural Diversity, 2009

Current facts and figures about audiovisual outlets and use, that can be used in comparative studies of European media, are to be found on the website of the European Audiovisual Observatory (a public service organization funded by the Council of Europe) and, for global statistics, UNESCO.

Recent Marshall McLuhan anniversaries have yielded retrospectives that address the theme of change and continuity in a globalized world where nothing seems to stand still.. Of mediums and messages’ can be accessed on the Al Jazeera English website: and a talk on 'McLuhan at 100' by Paul Levinson can be found on YouTube.

Research topics

An important manifestation of globalization - and one which links it to the study of the media - is the growing awareness of the world as a single place. One way to access it through empirical research is thus to analyse media reports of global problems. Is the sinking of an overcrowded boat in the Mediterranean, or the besieging of national borders, framed as a problem for Europe, for Italy (or Germany or Sweden), or simply for the refugees and migrants struggling for a better life and, indeed their lives? Did reporting of the 10th anniversary of the Asian tsunami remind viewers that the fates of ordinary people are intertwined? Was ebola depicted as a problem for the stricken in West Africa, or for the world community? Studying global television is a compelling way of exploring larger theoretical issues. One is the question of whether global media contribute to the tensions currently dividing the world, reinforcing stereotypes and fanning the fires of misunderstanding when the pressures of the 24/7 news hole steal time and space from reflection. Or are the imagery and narrative techniques deployed in television journalism mechanisms with the potential of bringing the world closer to viewers on other continents, and make them comfortable with the diversity that characterises a world of transborder flows (as I suggest in Mediated Cosmopolitanism: the world of television news)? For an overview of the different arguments, see Global News: Reporting Conflicts and Cosmopolitanism.