All Change 

14 June 2001

Public opinion in the United States is changing. Slowly, but it is changing. It’s been changing as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001. The American people are beginning to realise that they live in a global community, where what they do has an impact on what happens to them.

They are realising they can’t afford to be insular anymore; they have to be outward looking. US sites no longer dominate the Internet anymore. Sites from Canada, Australia, South Africa, Japan, Europe, the UK, and many other countries are beginning to make an impact in the US, and that’s not all.

Broadcasters from around the world are beginning, slowly, to infiltrate American broadcasting. But these processes are taking time, and American broadcasting is falling behind its global counterparts.

In each area, whether it is a town, city, district or county, there are a certain number of media outlets, whether they be audio broadcasting only or audio/visual broadcasting. You find this in most corners of the world.

In the US, in particular, because TV and Radio are made up of lots of local stations, sometimes combined into networks, both national and regional, the focus is not surprisingly a lot more localised than in the UK which is made up lots of national stations, with only 1 network of regional stations, and 1 channel that has regional opt-outs. Local TV in the UK is still a rare commodity, but is slowly growing in strength.

However, the internet has done more to globalise the media than anything else before. There are now over 2500 live radio streams on the web, several live video feeds, including BBC World and BBC Parliament, and there is plenty of live and recorded audio and video material as well.

Stations from Canada, Ireland, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and many other countries are now infiltrating the US via the internet and the American public are choosing what they want to listen to, and more Americans are discovering the world outside their own country via domestic radio services that before the internet wouldn’t have reached outside of their home countries, and now, they are getting international audiences.

What kind of effect has this internet phenomenon had on broadcasting? It has had 2 main effects. The first is that it has globalised the news agenda much more now than ever before, even to the point where a US domestic news service, Fox News Channel, is now retransmitted around the world by various broadcast providers.

Even on the main US networks, their signature newscasts contain more world news now than ever before, except perhaps for ABC’s World News Tonight, who have restored their coverage to levels not seen since Peter Jennings time as a co-anchor of the programme at ABC’s London bureau.

The second effect is that formats of successful shows suddenly start appearing in other countries a lot quicker now, than they ever used to before. Look at how fast shows like Big Brother, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, The Weakest Link and Survivor were exported from their home countries to become massive global phenomenons.

It used to be said that if one person knew something, it would take 24 hours to spread round the world. These days, it would nearer 24 seconds!

With the internet growing to explore more of broadcasting’s global past, and also to shape its future, it is becoming ever clearer that the days of being insular are numbered.

American audiences have many more choices now than ever before, and not just from within their own country, but the American media are slowly catching on that their audiences are not just tuning away to cable and satellite, but tuning away to services that have never been considered competition before, because of the internet.

It’s getting tougher for all broadcasters worldwide, it’s just the American ones need to catch up with the rest of us, or they could lose out in the ever more fragmented world of viewing and listening.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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Liverpool, Saturday 24 February 2024