North America: Multiplying media in a dynamic landscape
Perhaps no region on earth has been as affected by the dramatic pace and extent of media development since 1990 as North America, where most have ready access to new media, such as the Internet and the latest telecommunications devices, as well as the traditional newspapers, radio and television. Even traditional media have undergone profound change as convergence and cross–ownership brought them together in vast media conglomerates dominated by a handful of global corporations. Digitization has taken hold in the United States and Canada, increasing commodification and cross–ownership of all forms of communication, from movies and music to the written word, and bringing together once separate domains of print, broadcasting, telecommunications and computer technology. Yet all is not monolithic on the North American scene. This increasing concentration of ownership has evolved at the same time as increasing fragmentation of media markets and outlets. Explosive growth in cable and satellite television channels, musical variety and the Internet, have given citizens many more choices and in some cases easier access to outlets for their own creative and political expression. Throughout North America, increasing cultural diversity has also led to products and policies serving multicultural needs in an information society. As a less powerful, less populous neighbor with close economic and cultural ties to the United States, Canada’s history has been one of resisting cultural and economic domination. This theme continues in the current era, in the face of evolving trade agreements attempting to drop restrictions and barriers.
At the risk of becoming irrelevant in the Internet era, North American media have been quick to establish their online presence, with virtually all mainstream newspapers and broadcasters now posting news on Internet sites, and an increasing number of community newspapers and local broadcasters joining the trend. The accessibility and effectiveness of those Web sites vary greatly. Media whose primary goals are to inform and educate, such as public broadcasters, have used the Web to enhance that mandate, with some of the most accessible interactive sites. Those who simply aim to generate revenue post a bare minimum of news content, and charge fees for access to their most valuable online resources, such as archival databases. The digital age has also changed the way journalists work, with significant cost savings and staff reductions as large media organizations pool resources and share material. Reporters use satellite phones and internet hookups to file stories from off–site, including abroad, and at times the same reporter writes stories and shoots television footage. In some cases the changes have eliminated locally based correspondents; instead “parachute reporters” travel to the scene with little knowledge of the region and situation. While these reporters may serve to entertain and persuade those back home, they can be ill equipped to educate and inform.
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