Transnational Television

1 Dec

In the essay “Television and Digital Media,” Lynn Spigel and Max Dawson claim that television – and media in general – can no longer be called “American” but that instead it has become a part of a “transnational global culture” (285).  In what seems to be a rather uncontroversial argument, Spigel and Dawson write: “The media environment has now escaped its national borders, and that, despite momentary calls to patriotism, the media are no longer really ‘American’” (285).  This statement reminded me of Newton Minnow’s “Television and the Public Interest” speech that we read at the very beginning of class.  Only a little over a year before the Telstar satellite was launched into orbit (allowing for live transatlantic broadcasts for the first time), Minnow warned: “International television will be with us soon.  No one knows how long it will be until a broadcast from a studio in New York will be viewed in India as well as Indiana, will be seen in the Congo as it is seen in Chicago.  But as surely as we are meeting here today, that day will come; and once again our world will shrink.”  Less than fifty years later, Spigel and Dawson announced that the day of transnational or global television had arrived.

            Despite these claims, however, I don’t know that I would agree with them.  In class someone offered shows such as The Office and Homeland as examples of American and non-American television coming together, but these adaptations only minimally acknowledge their foreign origin.  A similar argument could be made for the rise of channels like BBC America or Al Jazeera English, but these channels are not as mainstream or easily accessible as others.  Outside of the US, however, American television and film are wildly popular.  Does transnational television truly exist in the US?  Has American television truly disappeared as Spigel and Dawson claim?  What is the future of American television?  Moreover, what does it mean for television to be transnational? 

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