Oliver Boyd-Barrett

Oliver Boyd-Barrett can be classified as a globalization homogenist for his extensive defense and reformulation of media imperialism theory, which draws the following conclusions:

  • Media imperialism has never been seriously tested as a theory.
  • It has much to offer as an analytical tool.
  • By incorporating key concepts like hybridity and the weakening of the nation-state, the concept can be modified and reformulated to be relevant in contemporary analysis.

Two Models of Media Imperialism

Boyd-Barrett provides a useful distinction, between the “Schiller Model” of cultural imperialism and the generic model. The generic model, developed in Europe (and heavily influenced by Boyd-Barrett himself) integrates time/space considerations, so is more widely applicable than the Schiller Model. It acknowledges the “multidimensionality” of media forms and degrees of dependence and imperialism – so it is not as important if the focus is on the third-world of the developed world. The model can be used to analyze, for instance, the domination of American television in the UK.

Schiller provides the following examples to defend the usefulness of the media imperialism models:

  • Dominance by Hollywood – In 1997, the 193 US films on release in the UK commanded 73.5% of the box-office revenue. Boyd-Barrett explains that control of distribution and exhibition fosters other US commercial activities, and he refers to Puttnam (1997) in explaining that the consequences of this: ‘a fundamental dislocation between the world of the imagination’ and the dynamics of everyday life.
  • Wholesale suppliers of international television and print news are headquartered in New York, London, and Paris.
  • Global manufacture of personal-computer operating systems is almost entirely in the hands of US companies.
  • Boyd-Barrett refers to Herman and McChesney in discussing how the global media market is still dominated by US interests and the US domestic market (New Corporation; Time Warner; Disney; Viacom).

Boyd-Barrett defends his articulation of media imperialism on the basis that it recognizes that imperialism could vary between different media, and between different levels, dimensions or spheres of activity within any one sector of the media industries.

Critique of Earlier Models

Although Boyd-Barrett refutes many of the criticisms normally leveled at media imperialism theory, he does offer two main critiques or earlier models of media imperialism on two grounds:

  • Too embedded in political discourse against the United States, particularly due to the influence of Latin American scholars.
  • The value of media and communications within a discourse of national political and economic development.