[MEDIA] Global Entertainment,and Popular Culture (Gareth CC Chang)
- Global Entertainment and Popular Culture
Special Guest Lecture by Gareth Chang,
with Professor Toby Miller, UC Riverside
By Richard Gunde
Gareth C.C. Chang, Managing Partner of GC3 & Associates
International and former CEO of Star TV, in a lecture delivered in
the International Institute's Global Studies 1 class on May 5,
analyzed the interplay of technology, the globalization of the
media, and cultural identity from a perspective students are rarely--
if ever--exposed to: an extraterrestrial's eye view, looking at the
planet earth from deep in space.
What Chang meant to suggest by this perspective is that to
understand where global entertainment and popular culture are
headed, one should begin by looking afresh at the starting point:
the fundamental cultural, political, and economic landscape of the
earth as it stands today.
An Extraterrestrial Eye's View
To Chang's visitor from space, the earth today basically looks like
It still is haunted by terrorism, border conflicts, and nuclear
Power, in the wake of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet
Union, is being fundamentally "rebalanced," with rising nodes of
regional strength in China, Russia, and the European Union.
Economies are increasingly becoming borderless and wealth is being
redistributed. "The haves and the have-nots are going to average
out," Chang argued.
Huge new markets -- notably China and India -- are emerging and are
providing vigorous competition to traditional producers.
New "human skill sets"-- with less emphasis on specialization and
more on wide-ranging knowledge and adaptability ("the new
renaissance man") -- are required in today's "very complex and
Competition for scare natural resources, especially energy, is going
to reach crisis proportions.
In this sort of world, Chang continued, globalization is
increasingly going to take the form of "clusters or concentrations
Globalization: City-Regions, Economics, and Cultures
Physically speaking, the "clusters" of which Chang spoke will
consist of enormous conurbations, or city-regions, each with a
population exceeding 20 million. By the year 2010, the ten largest
of these city-regions will all be outside the United States -- some
in Asia, some in Latin America. What will be the consequences of
this? "The cultural merging of the front edge of intellectual
trends," Chang declared, "will be outside the United States. . . .
The people of the city-regions will be driving the leading edge
of . . . policy and economics."
These city-regions will be at the forefront of increasing cultural,
technical, and social integration. But at the same time, there will
be a widening of the gap of "wealth and social standing" between
them and the rural areas of the world. In other words, in the years
to come, we can expect a growing economic and cultural divide
between the advanced, urban areas of the world, and the less
advanced rural areas.
Globalization: Media and Content
The growth of global cultural, technological, and social integration
will involve far-reaching changes in the character of the media and
in the content it carries, Chang continued.
First, ours is now a "very wired world," and will become even more
so. The amount of information in circulation and the speed of its
flow is undergoing tremendous growth. Significantly, the areas of
greatest growth are India and China.
Second, although this "very wired world" is very much characterized
by mass media, advertising is actually becoming very targeted.
However, "today, content [of entertainment programming] is still
Third, ownership of media empires can be expected to fall
increasingly into the hands of entrepreneurs in world's city-
regions, which raises the issue of potential foreign censorship of
what Americans see and read.
Fourth, all this will contribute to "identity crisis" in non-Western
areas around the world.
Globalization: Media Empires
In the years to come, Chang said, the traditional media empires,
such as Disney, Viacom, Time Warner/AOL, Universal, Vivendi, and so
on, will yield to companies like Sony, Matsushita, Samsung, GE,
Philips, and Siemens, "equipment manufacturers that are moving into
content." But the real stars, Chang declared, "are companies like
Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google. The three of them together have a far
higher market track than the traditional media empires and the
equipment manufacturers put together."
Moreover, "purely working on their ability to control software . . .
and give you the information you want when you want it, is [what
will make these firms into] the future media empires." Some of what
are usually thought of as "computer companies" are rapidly
transforming themselves into media service providers. Chang
mentioned, for example, Apple, which is "no longer really a computer
company" (it now controls only 2 percent of the market), will soon
be marketing things like i-Video, or i-Phone, which will include
entertainment delivery along with telephony.
Globalization: Future Trends in Technology & Media
Chang described an attractive, even exciting, future for the media,
one where content-rich information will be available at one's
fingertips 24/7. Product innovation and competition to meet
individual enterprise and consumer demand will be fierce. The result
for the consumer will be instantly available information "tailor-
made to each taste and interest." The demand for "breadth, localized
and in-depth content" will increase the pace of development of "non-
Westernized programming." The result will make the twenty-first
century a truly "multi-cultural world."
Implications: "What's in it for me?"
"The convergence of technology and media," Chang argued, "will open
up unlimited career [pathways] and life adventures for the young and
the old." Opportunities will abound "to learn and expand one's
understanding of the world." In this environment, "the undergraduate
degree is not as important as it used to be. The very education,
however, is crucially important. You could be a trained technical
person and a [college] graduate and move in almost any direction or
you could be [for instance] a sociology major and also move in
almost any direction. Today we are talking about overlap. . .
Because the amount of information that is available to you is so
vast and deep, you can adapt very quickly if you are willing to
In addition, opportunities for entrepreneurship will expand
exponentially. Chang contended that today to launch a media venture
requires so little capital that "start-up cost is no longer a major
In short, Chang concluded, the twenty-first century will be the
century of the "renaissance person."
Toby Miller (professor of English, Sociology, and Women's Studies at
UC Riverside), who commented on Gareth Chang's talk, balanced
Chang's extraterrestrial eye's view, which emphasized broad trends,
with an almost microscopic examination of some of the seamy aspects
of globalization. Miller's object was not merely to point out that
globalization has its downside, but to argue that globalization is
not necessarily a foreordained, automatic process. Rather,
globalization happens through human mediation.
Miller asked the class to consider, for example, what happens to our
computers once they reach the end of their useful life, a useful
life that nowadays is very short indeed. Discarded computers are
mostly sent back to their country of origin: China.
This is in large part because computers are horribly polluting, and
the very strict environmental-protection laws of most Western
countries make recycling them very expensive. Hence, they are
shipped back to China.
There, the computers are broken down and stripped by child labor,
wearing no protective gear at all. The safe, useful parts of the
computer are recycled; the useless parts -- full of pollution -- are
dumped, thus contaminating the air and soil. Of course, in the
process the child workers are exposed to huge doses of harmful
Or, Miller continued, consider the spread across the globe of
Hollywood films. This is not simply the result of consumer
preference -- of the "fact" that Hollywood produces movies and TV
programs people like, and therefore sell well. Or, to put it another
way, consumer preference is not the complete picture behind the
success of Hollywood.
In Miller's words, some people believe Hollywood produces films that
are popular "because it has an unfettered, free-enterprise hand,
unlike national broadcasters like the BBC or CBC, or national
cinemas, like the Mexican national cinema. [Hollywood is free of ]
government purse strings or government control. Thus there is [in
this view] a magical operation the market such that the hopes,
desires, and dreams that consumers have get reflected in the stories
that are told, most effectively and efficiently by Hollywood."
However, Miller continued, "there is another side to the
story. . . . It is a side that suggests this notion of the private
sector simply responding to consumer demand . . . is a little bit
simple. In fact, the federal government, state governments, and city
governments throughout the United States are crucial players in the
success of Hollywood. This is not a laissez-faire system, and never
For example, Miller pointed out that after World War I, the United
States banned the import of movies as well as celluloid from the
defeated Central Powers (mainly Germany and Austria). Up to that
point, the United States had imported movie-making technology from
these and other European countries.
Now, through the intervention of the U.S. government, the roles were
reversed. "In the 1920s, the U.S. government paid for Hollywood
movies to go all over the world, in order to advertise the U.S.
style of life.
In the 1940s, when Walt Disney was going bust . . . , the federal
government gave him a massive subsidy and paid him to make anti-Nazi
films for screening in Latin America. In the 1950s, many front
organizations for the CIA and the FBI were paid money to buy various
properties -- books, plays, and so on -- and have them made into
movies that told a story that suited the United States."
* * *
Gareth Chang was formerly chairman and chief executive of STAR TV
Group, a multichannel satellite television network that reaches more
than 300 million viewers across Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and
the Middle East.
Before that, he was corporate senior vice president of Hughes
Electronics and president of Hughes International, responsible for
worldwide operations in Europe, Canada, Middle East, Latin America
In addition, Chang was president of DirecTV International, executive
chairman of DirecTV Japan and chairman of Hughes-JVC Technology.
Prior to joining Hughes in 1993, Chang held the positions of
corporate vice president of McDonnell Douglas and president of
McDonnell Douglas Pacific and Asia.
He also served as the founding executive chairman of the Joint
McDonnell Douglas-Shanghai Aviation Executive Board for the
production and sales of commercial jets; senior vice president of
McDonnell Douglas Information Systems Company; divisional vice
president of engineering and director of design and technology for
McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Company.
He is also a member of the Committee of 100, Pacific Council,
Atlantic Council, and the Council on Foreign Relations. A strong
patron and supporter of the arts, Chang is also on the Council of
Governors of the East West Players.
Toby Miller, Professor in the Departments of English, Sociology, and
Women's Studies at UC Riverside and director of the UC Riverside
Program in Film and Visual Culture, studies the media, sport, labor,
gender, race, citizenship, politics, and cultural policy via
political economy, textual analysis, archival research, and
He is the editor of Television & New Media and editor and coeditor
of the book series Popular Culture and Everyday Life (Lang) and
Sport and Culture (Minnesota), he was also chair of the
International Communication Association Philosophy of Communication
Division, editor of the Journal of Sport & Social Issues, and
coeditor of Social Text, the Blackwell Cultural Theory Resource
Centre, and the book series Film Guidebooks (Routledge) and Cultural
He has recently become the coeditor of Social Identities. After
working in broadcasting, banking, and civil service, Miller became
an academic in the late 1980s, when cultural studies was starting
its boom, and was able to parlay a combination of his work
experience, theoretical interests, and political commitments into a
new career, since which time he has taught media and cultural
studies across the humanities and social sciences.