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'Indian media growing, US media declining'

The American media is in decline worldwide and this phenomenon is most visible in India, says British media expert Jeremy Tunstall.

india Updated: Sep 28, 2006 19:16 IST

The American media is in decline worldwide and India is one of the countries where this decline is the most visible, according to reputed British media expert Jeremy Tunstall.

Tunstall has been a key figure in media research for more than three decades and is mainly known for his seminal book, 'The Media Are American', published in 1977.

Noting the changes wrought over the world since its publication, his forthcoming book to be published by the Oxford University Press later this year is titled 'The Media Were American: US Mass Media in Decline'.

Delivering a widely acclaimed paper at a conference at the University of Westminster on 'Internationalising Media Studies: Imperatives and Impediments', Tunstall highlighted the growing strengths of the media in India to substantiate his thesis that the American media were now in a '50-year decline'.

According to Tunstall, "The US mass media peaked on the world scene during 1944-58. The last five decades have seen a big decline in the share of total world audience time achieved by the American media.

"During the 'sole superpower' era since 1990, American media have experienced a further decline in world audience market share and a big decline in moral authority. While the US media have continued to grow, the media output of the world in general - and of Asia in particular - has grown much faster.

"The US media now reach a small percentage slice of a rapidly growing world audience cake", Tunstall said at the conference.

The decline of the American media, he added, was most visible in the 11 nations (six of them Asian) where 60.9 per cent of the world's people live. India, China, Brazil and Japan had media exports that equal, or exceed, their media imports, he noted.

The American media's decline, Tunstall said, included losing the leadership of the world's news agenda. Recalling that in 1950 the US dominated the world news flow and news agenda outside the Communist countries, Tunstall said.

In that age, of the world's five leading news agencies, three were American - Associated Press, United Press and International News Service (INS). The only other strong world agency in 1950 was the British Reuters.

Tunstall said: "Around 1950, the US had considerable moral authority; the US (and its media) had triumphed against the axis power...Today, the US has only one remaining full-service international news agency, lone AP, which is out-gunned outside the United States by the remarkable strength of the European news agencies - not only Reuters and AFP but also German DPA, Italian ANSA and Spanish EFE (especially strong in Latin America).

"American network TV news operations now have radically reduced reputations and CNN's best years seem to be behind it...United States media are widely seen around the world as having been too friendly with the Pentagon".

Noting that India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh together had 41.8 per cent of world population, Tunstall said that American movies and music and British news peaked in all of these countries during the 1920s and 1930s.

He said: "But after the silent movie period, big domestic movie industries emerged in both China and India. The Communist regime ended all Chinese media imports from the west; the Indian film industry, also, from 1947 managed to shut out Hollywood.

"Today there is some (mainly Japanese and US) foreign production finance, but the Chinese and Indian media are overwhelmingly produced by local nationals in the local languages".

Tunstall, who pioneered the teaching of media studies at City University, London, since 1974, said that today in India commercially strong media (movies, TV, radio, press) in 10 regional languages (such as Tamil, Telugu and Bengali) played a 'big part' in regional politics and in Delhi coalition governments.

The American media now probably had their strongest share of audience hours in Africa, but here too they faced stiff competition from Indian, French and UK media exports.

"American media exporters achieve their highest market share in the one hundred smallest population countries (median population: four million), where, however, only seven per cent of the world's people live", Tunstall said.