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Memoria e Ricerca

La televisione è un mezzo di comunicazione globale? Una prospettiva storica

di Jérome Bourdon
in Memoria e Ricerca n.s. 26 (2007), p. 27


Is television a global medium?: A historical view.  
 
In recent years, much writing on television has suggested that television is the global medium par excellence[1], having imposed the same culture of images[2], the same news[3], the same media events[4] or even the same “Western Culture”[5] on huge populations worldwide. Historians striving to write “global history” have noted that television and communication technologies at large seem central to explaining “why ours is a global age.”[6] Those who claim that television is predominantly a global medium have focused on direct global diffusion as a major factor in the history of television: this is one of the bases of the powerful “mythology about globalization”[7] which has shaped much comments on television, but less, as I will argue, its actual history. On the other hand, with few exceptions, television history is always written in a strictly national framework. This despite the fact that television history has been blooming for the last ten years, especially in Europe, e.g. in Spain[8], Italy[9], or France[10]. Most authors pay little attention to global trends and influences, and put forward the tight relations between television as a mass medium and the national culture and politics. The aim of this chapter is to propose analytical tools which will enable researchers to connect the national and the global, and thus to reconcile these two views of television in an integrated global history. In order to achieve this aim, I will have to amend both the global view that exaggerates the global potential of television and the national view that ignores it. My focus will be on interactions between nations. There have been numerous international interactions during the whole history of television, which have been neglected by top-down globalizing views and by isolationist national historical writing.  
 
A typology of international interactions.
Interactions between nations have been a key part of television history from the very start. Those interactions can be classified into three categories: policy, technology, and programming. First: policy. National governments which established television stations had to adopt a legal framework: the flow of policy models, inherited from former colonial masters, imposed by powerful neighbors, or, more rarely, negotiated within democratic states, is the “infrastructure” of television history, since it has direct implications on all other aspects of broadcasting. Second: technology. Technology transfer is closely related to policy transfer. Supported by their governments, Western (later Japanese) corporations have massively exported transmission and production equipments to other countries. Third: programming. This is the form of interaction most debated. Direct sales of programs, mostly fiction, have been the major focus of researchers, who have neglected flows in other genres such as news stories[11], as well as exchanges of formats, ideas[12] and scheduling strategies[13]. My perspective on the history of television starts from policy and ends with program circulation and diffusion. Globalization, taking international relations as a keypart of the process, does not mean the demise of the nation-state, but its transformation and reevaluation. I claim that television is a global medium precisely inasmuch as it has always been a national one and will remains so in the foreseeable future.
However, “the nation” is neither a stable nor a homogeneous notion. The emphasis on national policy does not contradict the view that television is a global medium: the expansion of the nation as the form of collective identification and organization is an integral part of globalization, a view long held by anthropologists[14] and historians with an eye to long term evolutions. Anne-Marie Thiesse[15] rightly wrote about the “cosmopolitism of the national Nationalism is an aspect of the globalization of culture: the political and cultural form called the nation-state has become the dominant form of organization and identification for human collectivities. Nations-states have adopted increasingly similar shapes. Immanuel Wallerstein has noted: “over time, the particular nation-states have come to resemble each other more and more in their cultural forms (…). It is almost as though the more intense the nationalist fervor in the world, the more identical seem the expressions of this nationalism.”[16] Television has been an important instrument of this cultural convergence between nations, and thus of the transformation of the nation-state into a new global entity, no less of a nation but less of a state.  
 
Television, the nation and models of media policy.
It is customary to classify national media systems according to normative theories, following Fred Siebert[17], whose four theories (authoritarian, libertarian, social responsibility and soviet) have been refined by Denis McQuail[18] into six: authoritarian, free press, social responsibility (public service), Soviet, development, and democratic participant. This kind of typology suffers from two major interrelated faults. First, it originates in political philosophy and neglects economics: freedom from state control is equated with freedom of enterprise, democracy with capitalism. It leaves no room for free market/unfree media situation, i.e. for situations where television stations are free to earn advertising revenues while complying with restrictions of press freedom: this has been far from infrequent, especially in the US sphere of influence. Second, although McQuail partly corrected this, as the sovereign Western nation was the taken for granted framework of Siebert’s typology, the way “theories” circulate between nations has been neglected, especially in situations of clear inequality between nations. As far as international relations are concerned, the critical division is between two models, commercial, advertising financed television, whose management is in the hand of private owners, and public-national television, whose management is in the hand of ministers, civil servants or public service employees, and whose revenues are mostly public (license fee, or taxes). The relation between degree of political freedom and each specific model has been an evolving one. However, beyond the question of the democratic dimension of each model, both have a direct influence in the way the nation has been and is being shaped as a political and cultural form. Both models reflect different views of the nation. The interaction between both models is a key to the global history of television.  
 
Public-national television as the early dominant model.
Until the eighties, most television stations in the world have been public-national stations. The major exception was the commercial, US, model, which was imitated in the American sphere of influence. I boldly wrap up Western European, Soviet and Third World stations in the same category of “public-national.” Of course, a crucial difference between them was (and still is) the amount of political freedom enjoyed by broadcasters, especially by journalists, which varied heavily from totalitarian Soviet Union or China to more independent public service broadcasters in Scandinavia or the UK, through semi-authoritarian Gaullist France. Why then group them together? Historically, Third World broadcasting models have been modeled after that of the formal colonial masters (mostly France and the UK, but also the Netherlands for Indonesia). In former British colonies, television was founded mostly within corporations modeled after the BBC. There also was some involvement from commercial interests (e. g. British commercial ITV’s company Rediffusion in Nigeria.) At any rate, commercial losses and/or government interferences quickly left room to direct State intervention and to “the control of broadcasting by the ruling group, often military, in each country.” [19] In former French colonies, where broadcasting depended directly on the Ministry of Information, the road to governmental control was better paved. However, the resemblances between Western Europe, Communist countries and Third World cannot be explained only by direct historical links between countries, but also by the needs of emergent States in the former colonial world. All stations concerned have had much in common as far as the relation between television and nation is conceived. All States shared a basic tenet: television is a public medium which has a part to play in representing and building the nation. The national missions of public television can be divided into three: symbolic, political and educational. First, television has been a symbol; a State television was considered as part of being a full-fledged nation. Second, television has had a political mission, namely, it was a means to integrate mostly recent or emerging political bodies around their leaders. Third, television has had the mission of educating people, especially as citizens of new nations, and of making available to them a national culture if not a national language.  
 
Television as a symbol of the nation.
When I say that television was considered as a symbol of “the nation,” I do not wish to discuss “the nation” as a concept of the social sciences. I ask what “nationals” consider to be part of the definition of their specific nation. In particular, what do rulers consider necessary to have the status of a full-fledged independent nation, beyond the minimal requirements of international law -- a population, a territory, a State? Undoubtedly, after radio, and maybe even more than radio, setting up a national television station has been a part of the definition of a modern nation. How did a television station become a national symbol? First, let us note how pervasive this belief is, since many historians have stated that the development of television has “lagged behind” in their countries, which implies that television is a “natural thing” for a modern nation to possess. Unless one considers the US and the UK as universal models, it is hard to explain why French[20] or Australian researchers[21] readily claim that television came “late” to their countries: late absolutely, not “later” than in other countries. Only the fact that television was perceived as a symbol of true national sovereignty can explain the sense of urgency both rulers and historians have had about the development of television. At a global level, “the medium was the message,” that is, starting television was a way of sending a message of national “completeness” to other nations. Television was the best, most visible symbol of modernity for newly independent states, and also for Communist countries, where industrialization and technological progress (in competition with the West) were an integral part of State ideology. Finally, television nicely fitted into the global ideology of development through modernization supported by international organizations in the fifties and the sixties. The desirability of television was so high that even the poorest of countries invested in it. The former colonial powers, sometimes supplanted or replaced by noncolonial industrial powers (the US, Germany, later Japan) were active exporters of broadcasting technologies in the field of production and transmission, sometimes through aid-tied equipment offers. However, Third World states contributed their shares, even in Africa, which is quite remarkable considering their low levels of development. African states made tremendous effort to start television right after the independence. As early as 1965, thirteen African states had set up a television station, twenty in 1980, and thirty-seven in 1990[22]. The country which resisted longest to television -- and has only recently launched a national station -- is Tanzania, which tried to promote an original, non-Western, ideology of development and also picked an African language, Swahili, as its first national language. Once a national public station had been set up, many countries did not seem to care whether the message could actually be received, that is, whether viewers could purchase the television sets needed to receive the message broadcast by huge and costly networks of transmitters. In India, public broadcaster Doordashan has long boasted of being one of the largest broadcasting organizations in the world, “reaching ninety-five percent of the country’s 850 million people.”[23] However, transmitter coverage is not the same as rate of household equipments, which, in 2000, was below forty percent.[24] In most of black Africa, the gap between potential coverage and actual reception remains huge. This relative indifference to actual reception can be derided as waste of energy. It can be explained by the fact that television was first of all a symbol for other states to see, not a means of communication; a place which foreign heads of state could visit, not programs for all citizens to see.  
 
Television and national integration.
Television, however, was also a tool for integrating or for building the nation. Radio, especially after the experience of World War Two, has demonstrated the power of electronic communications. The image added a sense of extra-power and immediate seduction. Television could become a reservoir of visual symbols of the nation. It could also materialize the links between the center of power and the periphery, by allowing direct one-way communication between new rulers and their national population. The sense that television was a tool for integrating citizens to a common culture was felt most strongly where foreign broadcasts could be received. The threat of overspill, perceived as damaging to sovereignty, has played a key part in the global history of television. The presence of US army stations and the resulting fear of foreign entertainment penetration accelerated the development of television in countries as diverse as the Philippines, Iceland and South Korea.[25] Where television exposed minorities to a similar yet “foreign” culture, governments hastened either to set up new transmitters (as France did in its Eastern part, from fear of German television stations) or to launch national television they had so far been reluctant to start, as Israel did in 1968, partly because of the success of Arabic language broadcasts among its Arab minority and Sephardic Jews from the Middle-East[26] or as Pakistan did in 1964 because of the fear of broadcasts from India[27]. Where this overspill included advertisements, as was the case in Canada for US broadcasts, the fear concerned not only national sovereignty and identity but also loss of advertising budgets, especially when advertising was restricted in the country “targeted” by the overspill. Beyond the prevention of foreign influences, “nation-building” could be interpreted in a more specific manner. In many countries, such as South Korea or Italy[28], television has been perceived as having contributed to the development or consolidation of the national language. In China, although major cities developed their own stations in regional dialects in the late fifties, the national network CCT (Central China Television) was established in the mid-seventies “to unify the country” through, among other things, “use of the official dialect, puonyantin Mandarin, which is promoted as the national language.”[29] In general, broadcasting contributed to the promotion of large, nation based linguistic communities and to the global rarefaction of languages.[30] Only in poor countries of extreme linguistic heterogeneity, broadcasting could not be used to encourage the formation of a national lingua franca: this was especially the case in Africa. Big and relatively rich Nigeria is one of the few countries where television started along regional lines until the government created a national network broadcasting in English, which has never become a dominant national station[31]. Public-national television assigned national missions to its programs everywhere. It is easily forgotten that the classic trilogy of public service missions, inform, educate and entertain, was framed nationally. Public service had to inform about the nation (especially its leaders and politicians), to educate about the national culture, and much of its entertainment, its game shows and variety shows, emphasized national trivia, national artists and festivals. Its fictional programs emphasized national authors[32]. There is an implied paternalism in stressing the national values of broadcasting for the Third World, while assuming that old European nations were so well integrated that they did not have to worry about this aspect. Everywhere, and not only in the Third World, national-public television was used for national building and nation maintenance. This link between television and national culture affected all genres, including the first media events, often considered as the most global genre. In the early days of each national television, media events played a crucial part in publicizing the new medium, boosting sales of receivers. They were also charged with symbolic national signification. Speeches of major politicians, military parades (Israel 1968), royal and imperial marriages (Spain 1956, Japan 1961) have been major media events. Few had success outside their countries, a major exception being the 1953 British Coronation, which was eagerly viewed, although not by many, in France and Germany. The major events which had international implications were sports competition, especially the Olympic games. Again, their national signification should not be overlooked, especially for host countries, which regarded the Olympics as an occasion to connect with the rest of the world (e.g. for a remote ‘Western’ nation like Australia with the Melbourne Olympics of 1956, the year television started) and also to gain legitimacy in the global arena.  
 
The American exception: the paradox of commercial imperialism.
Until the eighties, most television stations in the world were public stations. The major exception was the United States and its area of influence. Compared to other countries, television history in the US is exceptional for two reasons: it is a commercial system, and, no less important, it is a relatively stable system, based on technical and legal rules which have early allowed the creation of three extremely profitable networks (CBS and NBC with ABC emerging as a serious competitor in the early sixties), a fact which has had influence on the whole history of world television. In this powerful, self-contained national system, the relation between national culture and television was quite specific. There was no worry about foreign influences. There was no sense that the state had a part to play in using television to promote national identity (the comparison with neighboring Canada where broadcasting is central to debate on national identity is striking.) However, commercial motives did push the networks into promoting and consolidating a national American culture. Particularly, they nationalized regional and local musical and theatrical repertoire, simply because this appeared as the best way to create and exploit a market[33]. Where and how was commercial television exported from the US ? Publicnational television was dominant in Western Europe, and in the former Western colonial empires in Asia and Africa, and, finally, in the Communist world(s). By contrast, “the North American pattern has tended to find its way into Latin America and into such part of the Pacific and South East Asia as were not under the direct influence of one of the European powers.”[34]. However, it did not find its way “naturally.” From the very start, US television organizations lobbied to promote commercial television wherever it could, by direct participation (especially in Latin America), by proposing management counsel, by coproducing, especially to circumvent quotas[35] and by exporting their programs: in 1950, “representatives of seventeen (US) firms met and agreed to form the Television Program Export Association (TPEA),”[36] which systematically promoted exports. Their efforts had considerable consequences: where commercial television was introduced, it was extremely difficult for states to gain control back from the hands of private businesses. In the Latin American “backyard” of the US, the influence was most direct. Southern governments and corporations were in no position to resist US influence: “Once rates of television penetration reached a point of saturation in the US in the late 1950s, the ‘Big Three’ vigorously courted the untapped markets southward.”[37] Overall, the rare “early nationalist policies” which were developed in some rare countries (Mexico, Peru, Uruguay) quickly had to yield to commercialism[38]. In the rest of the Third World, when commercial broadcasting was possible, the US networks were also active. “By 1965, ABC had financial stakes in fifty-four stations in twenty-four countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.”[39] The US pattern was partly exported to Thailand, the Philippines and to a lesser extent Iran. The most important Asian country, because of its regional influence, was Japan where public, license fee funded NHK started in 1953, the same year as private broadcaster NTV. This early competition explains why entertainment was considered as a major mission of television[40]. Japan, also submitted to direct lobbying from US producers, was open to American television imports[41]. Japan’s commercial system, in turn, had some influence in Asia: e.g., Japanese television companies had a direct stake in the TTV (Taiwan Television Company) which transmitted its first signal in 1962[42]. In Anglo-Saxon countries, the long history of cultural relations with the US had a direct impact on the televisual landscape. In the UK, ITV’s commercial network started alongside the BBC in 1955: this gave a decisive impulse to American imports in a country which so far had been considered extremely reluctant to buy US product. Australia had a dual system from the very beginning in 1956, although, compared to the UK, the regulatory body was weaker and the balance of power tilted in favor of the commercial broadcaster. In the 1990s, this unbalance will obtain in most European countries.  
 
Entertainment: the early Americanization?.
In the late fifties and early sixties, American sales and export of entertainment programs abroad prompted some negative, critical reactions, especially where their presence was massive: in Australia, in the UK, in Japan and of course in Latin America. Where they were contained to a modest proportion, especially on Western European public television, they were not a major source of worry. Because entertainment was not considered central, because it did not receive the attention of television critics and prestigious professionals, the early expansion of American entertainment was not always perceived by public service professionals, especially among the sometimes complacent European monopolies[43], but also in some parts of the Third World[44]. Much before the great Dallas debate of the eighties, however, some American heroes had become global heroes, or at least were well-known in major countries on almost all continents, with the exception of Communist countries: such were the case of Rintintin, Perry Mason, and, most “innocently,” of famous Disney cartoon characters for children. As early as 1958, “Over 100 different American television programs were running every week in 543 nations ranging from a height of ninety-three half-hours series aired by Australian stations down to just three per week in France.” Exports’ gross receipts were around ten percent of the total gross for American programs[45]. Another reason for the early relative acceptance of, or at least indifference to, American programs is the fact that formats were exported and sometimes hybridicized and thus domesticated for audiences and politicians who saw only what appeared as a purely national product. Again, the early history of Latin American television gives us a flavor of what would happen later in the world. The most well-known and successful American hybrid was the telenovela. Latin American telenovelas were inspired by the soap operas of radio and television, even though they have very early evolved into something specific, as has been often documented.[46] There are other early stories of hybridization and format adaptation which continued a process initiated by the print press in the nineteenth century. In particular, in the fifties and the sixties, game shows and variety shows were borrowed and adapted by some European public services which dilated game-shows into lengthy evening shows. If format trade has recently become one of the hot topics of the international television industry[47] format adaptations as such are nothing new.  
 
Deregulation: weaknesses of public television.
Why the world rallied commercial television in the eighties is a question beyond the scope of this chapter. I will only emphasize the specifically televisual factors which led to global deregulation and the way this affected the relation between the national and the global levels in television history. Political criticism leveled at public television because of its total or partial lack of independence has been a major facilitating factor of deregulation, especially in dictatorial regimes but also in France and Italy where a single party had long dominated the country. Openly (when possible) or stealthily, publicnational television came under criticism for being undemocratic, manipulated during elections, censored or self-censored, ignoring or blackening the opposition and supporting the powers that be. A second weakness of public-national television has been its willingness to compromise with commercial forces. Financing has almost always consisted of both public resources (government budget or license fee) and advertising revenue. In the Third World, the license fee was out of the question for economical and practical reasons. International aids (mostly at the time of setting up a station), direct government financing (mostly) sometimes fed by a tax on the sale of receivers, and finally, almost everywhere, some amount of advertising (where the market was big enough) were used. In 1977, out of seventy-nine Third World countries, only five operated a system supported by government and/or license fee without any advertising revenues[48] In Western Europe, between 1956 (Germany) and 1968 (France), all major state broadcasters started broadcasting advertisements, with the exception of the BBC (which had a commercial broadcaster as competitor) and Scandinavian stations which were modeled after it. Finally, after years of reluctance, public-national television often yielded to the seduction of American or Americanized entertainment. This was especially striking in the Soviet bloc: as television became the medium of the majority of the audience in the seventies, the first research on television consumption made the tastes of the audience “visible.”[49] State-controlled stations started resorting to American series, and American television stars provided, if not a global culture, at least some global drama. The world of television was made aware of the magnitude of American exports by the famous 1974 UNESCO report aptly entitled Television traffic: a one-way street[50]. In 1979- 1980, mini-series such as Holocaust and Roots proved that commercial American television could tackle controversial subjects. In their wake, the success of Dallas prompted a debate among European broadcasters who felt they had to produce similar successful prime time fiction. With unequal success, France, Germany[51] and Romania[52] broadcasted home-made series presented as their national responses to Dallas. Overall, political subservience and resort to advertising and to American imports stimulated negative critics of public television. Paradoxically, much of the criticism leveled at public television regarding the poverty of the mass culture it delivered to its viewers[53] reminds the scathing attacks launched on American networks in the early sixties, summed up by new FCC’s chairman Newton Minow’s 1961 famous phrase: “the vast wasteland.”[54]. Some twenty years later, in the world of public-national television, the “vast wasteland” of commercial television seemed to carry promises of freedom and industrial dynamism. Except in countries which had had an early experience of commercial television (i.e. mostly in Latin America), deregulation and commercial television came to be seen, in large parts of the world, as a way to solve what was perceived as a continuous crisis of television, and as a path to freedom. 
 
Globalization mythologies as a Trojan horse of deregulation.  
Deregulation has also been prepared by the globalizing discourse of the seventies and the eighties: through cable and satellite, it was widely believed that a cultural invasion would take place from the sky, that numerous new channels would be available to viewers. This might be viewed positively or negatively, but it was always presented as somehow inescapable, inevitable, as “a unidirectional process or a fait accompli,” which carried “ideological baggage whereby globalization becomes the new dynamic, the motor of world change.”[55] The success of CNN in covering certain major events in the late eighties and early nineties (especially the Gulf War) was the occasion of a new discourse of instant global news being shared worldwide, often reproduced in Academic works[56]. The idea that a metanational global culture was in the making has been so strong that it stimulated powerful media groups into launching new transnational channels. The growth of the European Union and the coming of a European united market prompted the launch of Sky Channel (1982), MTV Europe (1987) and Euronews (1990). In other markets the idea of global or “pan” satellite systems gained ground, such as the ASCO system for Arabic audiences (1985). The story of those systems is mostly one of failure and return to the home base (in 1990, Sky Channel absorbed its domestic rival BritishSatelliteBroadcasting to form BritishSkyBroadcasting) or of “domestication”: they are used as the basis for building national themed channels on cable. They remain relatively successful only where there is no national competitor[57] In general, their profits still come predominantly from the home base and they also have to fight hard when competition grows (witness the competition between Fox News and CNN in the US to-day). Satellite and cable channels might not have built a new global culture but they have served the interest of transnational private media corporations, as they have helped to persuade national governments that private broadcasting was inevitable and should be developed nationally, to counter “invasions” from the sky. In the eighties and the nineties, together with the continuous expansion of television, especially in Asia, the commercial model took precedence over the publicnational model. The process started in Western Europe where new broadcasting laws were passed in most countries between 1982 and 1990. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Soviet world introduced private television alongside the former State stations. Finally, more slowly, the Third World followed suit, and private stations were created in Southeast Asia and in Africa. To a large extent, global television history of the eighties and nineties repeated the history of television on the American continent in the fifties. Commercial lobbying at the national level became global commercial lobbying. This was visible in the direct relations between new media moguls and heads of state, e.g. at the time Rupert Murdoch visited India in 1984[58], a year before François Mitterrand met Robert Maxwell and Silvio Berlusconi to negotiate the deregulation of French television[59]. It went beyond that: a major lobbying force behind the growth of commercial television has also been the increasingly concentrated advertising agencies, which played a key part in promoting the liberal communication policy of the European Union[60].  
 
Demise or metamorphosis of the national? Marketing and identity.  
What globalization mythologies, the crises of public television, and global commercial lobbying has brought about is not global television, but mostly the proliferation of new commercial stations, both more national and less national than their former monopolist public counterparts. This event is both a cause and a symptom of a change in the definition of the nation, but it is too early to claim there has been a “demise of the national,” as has been written about international coproductions[61]. Commercial stations are less national than public-national stations, because the State had much less control over them and cannot use them so easily for its pedagogical/national aims. In that sense, it is right to talk of the erosion of the Nation- State. Public television stations, despite some variable amount of political and professional independence, were all shaped directly by governmental decisions and sometimes controlled by governments. Commercial television stations do not follow the same rationale. Decisions are made by private managers under the intense pressure of competition. These managers are often controlled by foreign, i.e. transnational interests, which promote American fare because this is what history has made available as popular global fare. That is, the nation-state symbolized by public-national television has left room to a new relation between the state, on the one hand, and commercial interests, both global and national, using the nation as marketing space. The main transformation commercial station may have fostered is not globalization but regionalization: commercial stations have looked for new ways of creating communities of audience around their schedule. Autonomous regions but also rich urban areas have seen the growth of new commercial regional and local stations. The state has sometimes accepted the creation of regional public stations in some cases (financed by regional subsidies and advertising). In very diverse situations, some audiences now enjoy both the national stations but also increasingly powerful regional stations (again, in very different nations, such as Spain, China or Nigeria). In most cases, commercial television has clearly chosen the nation as the right marketing space. After the failure of global or transnational channels in most parts of the world, the nation has turned out to be the right space for popular programs formatted and scheduled as national programmes, with a national content or at least in the national language. National spaces have turned out the strongest spaces of culture and identity, therefore the best marketing spaces. This being said, the national imperative is not the same for public and private stations. Public-national stations had a duty to produce as much original fare as possible, while extolling the national heritage. Commercial stations produce original programs when the market is rich enough, because they know this is what succeeds best. They also do it after an initial period when, much to the chagrin of the State, “wall-to-wall Dallas”[62] is the strategy used for quickly drawing audiences. After a few years, they try to produce local fare when economically viable. However, they represent the nation in a different way to that of public-national stations. Celebrities of wealth, fashion and music, instant heroes of game and reality shows, and, if there is enough money, local actors acting as contemporary characters in national soaps, crime series and sitcoms, are the dominant figures. Surprisingly enough, as far as news is concerned, this leads commercial television to be more national than public television, which often felt it had a duty to inform the nation about the world beyond the national borders. Comparative surveys between public and commercial stations news coverage regularly show that commercial stations’ newscasts are more national than public stations’[63]. Indeed, since the fifties, international coverage has diminished in the European media[64].  
 
Format circulation and new forms of public address.
All this being said, television is also a more global medium, mostly because it is formatted in increasingly similar ways in different national contexts. This process takes place at two levels. First, format circulation. In the eighties, and even more in the nineties, formats have been increasingly traded as such, that is, rigorously copied and not loosely adapted as they were in the fifties and the sixties. This global circulation started with game shows and continued with fiction, while the global circulation of reality-shows has grown in the 1990s and the 2000s[65] Second, schedules are now built along the same lines, if not with the same contents. On public-national stations, the schedule was less rigid and less regular, except for specific programs like the news. Advertisements might have been present, but only in certain time-slots and -- mostly -- not interrupting programs. Previews and promotions were not needed. In prime time, the same evening of the week was not necessarily devoted to the same series, or even to the same genre. Some famous programs reoccurred only every month, were suspended for a few years, then came back: this “courteous” model, as it has been dubbed, has been the policy of most European public service channels for years[66]. The commercial, competitive model of television provided viewers with a different sense of time. The day became rigidly divided according to slots – “prime time,” “day time,” “access” - the words became international professional parlance. Time slots were also rigidly associated to genres and to programming strategies. In daytime, and more crucially in access prime time, “horizontal programming” (or “stripping”) became the rule: the same program, i.e. a game show or sitcom, was to be found at the same time of the day. Viewers, in this context, are rarely surprised by schedule changes. On the other hand, their pleasure is constantly disrupted by advertisements and promos which invite them to do something besides viewing a specific program: to view more television, or to buy specific products.  
 
Diasporic viewing: nations without territories?.
Thus, with television and through television, the nation has been deeply transformed. Commercial television is less busy building the nation than formatting it to the needs of the market. This is not the only transformation the nation has experienced. Through increased population movements worldwide, and the globalization of national channels through the media, typically satellite television, national communities are also deterritorialized, or at least they are less attached to their territories than their used to be[67]. This process is crucially related to the availability of national channels worldwide, which are no longer strictly national, but connected to wider “geolinguistic regions”[68] or to diasporas who variously combined the culture of an increasingly imaginary homeland with the culture of their land of residence, as many scholars have explored in a variety of contexts[69]. The best example of such a diaspora is the Hispano Americans, who were twenty six million out of a US population of 265 million, with a complex media system including several specific Hispanic television channels. However, most diasporas still rely on channels which have a clear national identity (like Spain’s TVE international, or the various Arabic channels). Small diasporas who cannot enjoy a television channel have also developed a strong video-culture, such as Croats in Australia during the Balkans war[70]. Again, we are entitled to say than “global television”is not less national, but differently national. Diasporas are sometimes called “post-national,” but they still have some relation with nations, both with nations of origin and of residence. They are multinational diasporas, whose television menu is made of channels which, paradoxically, do not (cannot?) take into account this multinational character. As Silvio Waisbord has observed about Latin American television, television, a supposedly global medium, has ignored the multicultural character of many nations. “It is still predominantly centralist, often propagating images of middle-class lives and delivering news about big cities to national audience,” it often “opts for tested formula, crass commercialism, racial, gender and sexual stereotypes, and crude sensationalism.” Far from being the ultimate global medium, television has been “an arena for the representation and interpretation of nationhood in a globalized era.”[71] Television has thus has become the major locus of a new crisis in culture : not the disconnection between the increased technological knowledge and resources and the incapacity to use them for the collective well being of humankind (to the contrary), which has been several times diagnosed, in very different ways (Simmel, Freud, Arendt), but the disconnection between levels of collective conscience and levels of collective action. Commercial television pictures a world of nations, giving much value to national language, national knowledge (including trivia), national politicians and celebrities – with the international addition of American stars. However, major decisions are taken at other, non-national levels, of multinational corporations and organizations (not necessarily coordinated). Thus, and much beyond the usual debate on the objectivity of news, television has become a deeply alienating medium : internationally patterned and controlled, but staging mostly culturally self-sufficient national communities in a world where there are many post-national, diasporic, multicultural, uncertain communities and individuals. 


[1] Chris Barker, Global television: an introduction (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996).
[2] 2 Stuart Hall, "Old and New Identities, Old and New Ethnicities," in Anthony D. King, ed., Culture, Globalization , and the world-system: contemporary conditions for the representation of identity, (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 27
[3] Ingrid Volkmer, News in the global sphere : a study of CNN and its impact onglobal communication (Luton, UK: University of Luton Press, 1999).
[4] Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz, Media Events. The Live Broadcasting of History (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1992).
[5] Anthony Smith, “introduction” in Anthony Smith, ed., Television: an International History (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 1
[6] Raymond Grew, “On the Prospect of Global History,” in Ralph Buultjens and Bruce Mazlish, eds., Conceptualizing Global History (Boulder and San Francisco: Westview Press, 1993), 233.
[7] Marjorie Ferguson, “The Mythology about Globalization,” The European Journal of Communication 7 (1992): 69-93
[8] Manuel Palacio, Historia de la television en Espana (Barcelona: Gedisa Editorial, 2000).
[9] Aldo Grasso, Storia della televisione italiana, (Milan: Garzanti, 2000, 1st edition 1999).
[10] Jérôme Bourdon, Haute fidélité. Pouvoir et Télévision 1935-1994 (Paris: Seuil, 1994).
[11] Akiba Cohen et al.; eds., Global Newsrooms, local audiences : a study of the Eurovision news exchange (London: John Libbey, 1996).
[12] Albert Moran, Copycat Television. Globalization, Program Format and Cultural Identity (Luton, University of Luton Press, 1998). Jérôme Bourdon, “Genres télévisuels et emprunts culturels. L'américanisation précoce des télévisions européennes,” Réseaux 14 (2000): 209-236.
[13] This territory is new for research. See, for Europe, Jérôme Bourdon and Régine Chaniac, “L'Europe au prime time,” Mediaspouvoirs, 20 (1990): 145-152
[14] Louis Dumont, Essais sur l’individualisme. Une perspective anthropologique sur l’idéologie moderne (Paris: Seuil, 1983).
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[16] Immanuel Wallerstein, “The National and the Universal: Can There Be Such a Thing as a World Culture?” in Anthony D. King, ed., Culture, Globalization , and the 18 world-system : contemporary conditions for the representation of identity (Minneapolis,MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 93.
[17] Fred S. Siebert et al., Four theories of the press : the authoritarian, libertarian, social responsibility, and Soviet communist concepts of what the press should be and do (Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1956).
[18] Denis McQuail, Mass Communication Theory (London: Sage, 1994), 84-100.
[19] Elihu Katz and George Wedell, Broadcasting in the Third World. Promise and Performance (London: Sage, 1978), 84
[20] Pierre Albert and André-Jean Tudesq, Histoire de la radio-télévision (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1981), 14.
[21] Elisabeth Jacka and Lesley Johnson, “Australia,” in Anthony Smith., ed., Television. An International History. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998), 208
[22] Figures quoted in André-Jean Tudesq, L'Afrique Noire et sa television (Paris: Anthropos, 1992), passim
[23] Doordashan website, 1998
[24] Marc Balnaves et al., The Global Media Atlas (London: British Film Institute, 2001), 47.
[25] Keren Segrave, American Television Abroad. Hollywood's Attempt to Dominate World Television (Jefferson, North Carolina and London: McFarland, 1998), 92.
[26] Dan Caspi and Yehiel Limor, The in/outsiders : the media in Israel (Cresskill: New Jersey: Hampton Press, 1999).
[27] Dietrich Berwanger, “The Third World,” in Anthony Smith, ed., Television. An International History, 189-190.
[28] Grasso, Storia della televisione in Italia, 22
[29] James Lull, China turned on: television, reform, and resistance (London: Routledge, 1991), 22.
[30] Abram de Swaan, "Notes on the emerging global language system : regional, national and supranational," Media, Culture and Society13 (1991) : 309-324.
[31] Tudesq, L’Afrique Noire et sa télévision, 28
[32] Adriano Belloto and Luigi Belloto, Sipario! Volume Terzo. Teatro e televisione: modelli europei a confronto (Roma: RAI-VPQT, 1996).
[33] J. Fred MacDonald, One Nation under Television. The Rise and Decline of Network TV (New York: Pantheon Books, 1990).
[34] Katz and Wedell, Broadcasting in the Third World, 101
[35] Segrave, American Television Abroad, 28
[36] Segrave, American Television Abroad, 18
[37] Silvio Waisbord, “Latin America,” in Anthony Smith, ed., Television. An International History, 255.
[38] Elisabeth Fox, Latin American broadcasting : from tango to telenovela (Luton, U.K.: University of Luton Press, 1997).
[39] Edward S. Herman and R. W. McChesney, The global media : the new missionaries of corporate capitalism (London: Cassell, 1997).
[40] Hidoteshi Kato, “Japan,” in Anthony Smith, ed., Television. An International History, 173.
[41] Segrave, American Television Abroad, 44.
[42] Chin Chuan Lee, Media Imperialism Reconsidered. The Homogeneizing of Television Culture (London: Sage, 1980), 149
[43] Bourdon, Genres télévisuels et emprunts culturels.
[44] Katz and Wedell, Broadcasting in the Third World, 36.
[45] Segrave, American Television Abroad, 20
[46] Ana M. Lopez, "Our Welcome Guests: Telenovelas in Latin America," in Robert C. Allen, ed., To Be Continued…Soap Operas around the World (London: Routledge, 1995).
[47] Full Monte. Format focus keeps numbers up at mart," Variety, Feb. 26 2001.
[48] Katz and Wedell, Broadcasting in the Third World, 51
[49] Ellen Mickiewicz, Split Signals. Television and Politics in the Soviet Union (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), quoted in Tristan Mattelart, Le Cheval de Troie Audiovisuel. Le rideau de fer à l’épreuve des télévisions transfrontalières (Grenoble: Presses Universitaires de Grenoble, 1995), 158.
[50] Karle Nordenstreng and Tapio Varis, Television traffic -- a one-way street? (Paris: UNESCO, 1974)
[51] Alessandro Silj, East of Dallas. The European challenge to American television (London : British Film Institute, 1988
[52] Mattelart, Le cheval de Troie audiovisuel, 192
[53] Jérôme Bourdon and Jean-Michel Frodon, L’oeil critique. Le journaliste critique de télévision (Bruxelles: de Boecke, Paris: Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, 2002
[54] MacDonald, One Nation under Television, 157.
[55] Ferguson, "The Mythology about Globalization," 73
[56] Volkmer, the Global Public Sphere
[57] Jérôme Bourdon, "Une communauté inimaginable. L’Europe et ses politiques de l’image," Mots. Les langages du politique 67, 2001 : 150-167.
[58] .D. MacDowell, "Globalization and Policy Choice: television and audiovisual services policies in India," Media, Culture and Society 19: 151-172.
[59] Jérôme Bourdon, Haute Fidélité, 267
[60] Peter Humphreys, Mass media and media policy in Western Europe (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996).
[61]Sharon Strover, "Recent Trends in Coproductions: the Demise of the National," in Farrel Corcoran and Paschal Preston, eds, Democracy and Communication in the New Europe: Change and Continuity in East and West (pp. Creskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press, 1995), 97-123.
[62] Chris Dunkley, Television today and tomorrow. Wall-to-wall Dallas (London: Penguin, 1985).
[63] Jérôme Bourdon, “A History of European Television News. From television to journalism, and back?” Communication. The European Journal of Communication Research 25, 2000: 61-83
[64] Panel: a comparative historical research on news in Europe, Jostein Gripsrud et al., European Science Foundation conference: European media, cultural identities, cultural politics, Copenhaguen, 18-21 April 2002
[65]Worldwide Webs Wake up to Reality,” Variety, June 3, 1991. “Two Way Transatlantic. Euro coin and creativity make sizable inroads into US market,” Variety, Sept 25, 2000.  
[66] Jérôme Bourdon and Régine Chaniac, Le prime time en Europe.
[67] Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at large. Cultural dimensions of globalization (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1996
[68] John Sinclair, Latin American Television. A Global View (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999
[69] .g. Asu Aksoy and Kevin Robins, “Thinking across spaces. Transnational television from Turkey.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 3 (2000), 343-365.
[70] Dana Kolar-Panov, Video, War and the Diasporic Imagination. (London: Routledge, 1997).
[71] Waisbord, "Latin America," 263.