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The Impact of Globalization and Transnational Media in Eastern Europe at the End of the 20th Century: An Attitudinal Study of Five Newly Independent States


An Attitudinal Study of Five Newly Independent States In the decade leading up to the new millennium, the international community celebrated the end of the Cold War and witnessed the emergence of globalization, a bundle of processes that are cumulative and mutually reinforcing in effect. People now live in an interdependent world where borders no longer define a nation or its security. Today, nation-states remain players on the global stage, but they are now forged by an elaborate socio-political-economic process that includes international institutions, multinational conglomerates, non-governmental organization, and cross border interest groups such as Doctors Without Borders, Green Peace and Amnesty International (Kaldor 2001). Most importantly to this new world order, transnational media have become the harbingers of globalization, and one of the key elements of modernity. As Giddens tells us, “Modernity is inherently globalizing.” (1990). At the end of the 20th Century one region of the world that had been profoundly affected by globalization and transnational media was Eastern Europe. For a very long time the history of Eastern Europe was shaped by its geographic and intellectual position between East and West, and by the hegemonic influences of occidental Europe, Byzantine Russia or the Ottoman Empire. After the collapse of the USSR in 1990, old socialist satellites from the Baltics to the Balkans quickly abandoned the governing ideology of communism and pursued autonomous sovereignty (Mason, 1996). Many of these Eastern European states are now struggling with a difficult transition to democracy. The popular press have labeled such countries “transitioning economies,” but a centralized economy was not the only institution that was forced to confront modernity. Most state institutions were abruptly challenged with the task of reinventing the wheels of government, the workings of their social order, and the effects of globalization. Recent research (Gher 2003) has clearly identified the conflicts that Eastern European transitioning economies are having with modernity. These evolving nations are challenged every day by the strange world of globalization and transnational mass media. The main question of this research centers on the impact of globalization and transnational media in five transitioning states in Eastern Europe: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Croatia and Slovenia. For this research, transnational media is defined as: communication, information or entertainment that crosses international borders without the regulatory constrains normally associated with electronic media. Satellite television is especially important in this process. At the end of 2000, 216 geostationary and more than 150 LEO satellites orbit the Earth, a planetary infrastructure, fully capable of providing direct voice, data, radio and television services to the six billion citizens of the planet (Ricardo 2000). What’s more, American television and film are now the most widely distributed entertainment products in the world. Amin estimates the percentage of American entertainment program penetration at 85 percent globally (1996). For example, in one NIS country examined, on a typical weekday, Croat television (Hrvatski Televizija) aired 221.5 hours of programming via broadcast, cable and satellite; 88.7 percent of that time was filled with foreign programming, mostly American and German. In addition, on the average day, Croatia’s three, public service TV networks broadcast programming for 48 hours; only 25 hours of that schedule (including six hours of proceedings of the parliament) were Croat produced shows. This means that 47.9 percent of Hrvatski Televizija’s three-channel schedule is foreign-produced programming, which is a violation of the European Council’s mandate for membership in the European Union, and a clear example of the impact of transnational media in Eastern Europe. A review of television listings in six regional newspapers found a similar pattern of foreignproduced television programming

Leo A. Gher, Kiran Bharthapudi

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