If you were to turn on a TV right now, chances are that the program showing would be American. Same as if you turned on the radio, or went to the cinema. Australia is inundated with American media, so much so that it can almost feel like we are a part of America. This ‘Americanisation’ is known as cultural imperialism.
Henry Schiller describes cultural imperialism as, “The sum of the processes by which a society is brought into the modern world system and how its dominating stratum is attracted, pressured, forced, and sometimes bribed into shaping social institutions to correspond to, or even promote, the values and structures of the dominating centre of the system. The public media are the foremost example of operating enterprises that are used in the penetrative process.”
To put it simply, cultural imperialism is when one culture – their ideology and values – is enforced onto another, usually through the use of media. This idea of cultural imperialism is usually talked about in relation to western culture, particularly that of America because there media is probably the most widely distributed.
I was talking to my friend about this the other day and she pretty much said that cultural imperialism wouldn’t be that bad if it meant we followed in America’s footsteps on issue like marriage equality, but it would be terrible if we followed them on issues like gun control. I think my friend reflects the views of most people about this topic, which are, when the views of the other culture align closely with our own we don’t see it as a problem. The problem is when the opposing culture takes over our own.
With our media so oversaturated with American culture, it can sometimes be hard to draw a line between what ideas and values are ours and which are theirs. This can be a big problem as it leads to the loss of cultural diversity. It is especially a problem in countries whose views differ more greatly from America’s.
Overall I do think it’s a problem that so much our media comes from America. America’s aren’t the only stories I want to hear. I want to be able to experience all sorts of different cultures through the media I consume, and I especially want to experience my own.
Appadurai, A (1996) ‘Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy’, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 27-47.
O’Shaughnessy, M and Stadler, J (2008) ‘Globalisation’, Media and Society (fifth edition) Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 458-471.