The Influence Of Globalisation On British Television

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Globalisation is the connection process made between countries around the world through means of trade, entertainment, advertisement, education or awareness. Organisations and businesses become global when they develop international influence or start operating on an international scale. In this essay, I will be discussing the impact of globalisation on and of British television, British and foreign content and the globalisation we, the audience, see on our screens.

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The definition of audience according to the Oxford English dictionary is an individual or collective group of people who read/consume a media text. Without audiences, there would be no media, as media texts are produced to make a profit; no audience results in no money. Mass media is becoming more competitive than ever to attract more audience in different ways and stay profitable; television is a form of media which is not exempt from this. The British television industry attracts viewers through the exportation of their shows to a foreign market, or British broadcasters importing foreign shows which have success in terms of viewers and ad revenue to either be screened on British television, or producing their own version of a foreign programme, tailored to our British tastes.

Content created for television can go global in several ways, such as via the internet and through marketers and distributors. Thanks to streaming sites such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer, content can be viewed worldwide on any device with an online connection, on-demand. Technological innovation (i.e. more affordable home computers, laptops, on-demand films and programmes, games machines, mobile phones, personalised video recorders (e.g. Sky+) and the internet as a visual archive) may have led to predictions that television as we had known it was likely to find itself obsolete; however there is a counter-argument suggesting that television is in an extremely healthy place and that these ‘competitors’ have become its most significant benefactors. What we watch on our televisions is often not broadcasted programming screened to a schedule and, paradoxically, the use of personalised video recorders (Sky+) actually increases the amount of television we watch.

The globalisation of television means the international screening of a programme and the re-creation of a popular programme in foreign countries, produced in the interest of their culture is screened, or shown as it was presented originally. Programmes such as the original The Office and The Office US, show an adaptation of an already popular programme but with an American twist to suit an American audience. It may be argued that this may be considered to be a process made at the expense of national identity, however, in an interview to The Guardian, ITV Studios’s director of global TV distribution Tobi de Graaff, said: “It is a little like McDonald’s or Starbucks. Take what’s successful about the show but don’t ignore that you are dealing with different cultures and make the right twists to make it feel extremely home-grown and natural.” An example of this ‘twisting’ is Strictly Come Dancing, a show where a group of celebrities are coupled with a professional dance partner and compete with each other. This is a show which derived from the BBC and is aired alongside 40+ other replicas adapted for their own home audience. Strictly Come Dancing, or Dancing with the Stars, as it is also known as, has proven quite popular everywhere, as the series became the world’s most popular television programme among all genres in 2006 and 2007, reaching the top 10 in 17 countries, according to the magazine Television Business International. This proves that British show formats can be global not just to English speaking countries, but worldwide, and if they are entertaining enough for broadcasters to import, these formats go beyond the language barrier. For example, according to Stephen Brook of The Guardian news: “Come Dine With Me, the dinner party contest that won a Royal Television Society award, has generated 4,000 episodes in 20 countries, including Croatia, Estonia, Slovakia, Turkey and Germany. In Australia, the Lifestyle Channel commissioned a second series before season one had aired. Its global sales have earned ITV Studios – which created the format, seen on Channel 4 – more than £57 million. Come Dine With Me helped ITV Studios’ international production revenue to increase by 41% (in its first year)”

Not only is British television global, but globalisation has impacted our screens here in Britain. There are consistently programmes and advertisements screened in Britain produced by foreign programme-makers that have been imported by British broadcasters. Popular foreign programmes are run on our screens often, mainly to fill empty time slots in the 24-hour scheduled broadcasting, a subject which brought a need with it for new programmes when introduced in the eighties; creating a demand for new programmes, which companies met by importing shows which have been proven successful in other countries, such as the popular cartoon series The Simpsons. This is more cost effective for the channel which is screening it than it would be for them to fund the production of a new show altogether. These programmes are usually shown during off-peak hours and include, most-notoriously sitcoms and light comedies, such as Friends, Neighbours and Modern Family.

Television’s globalisation not only impacts the inside of a screen but can impact on one’s personal life as well. Besides broadcasters putting their programmes on the market at an international scale, advertisements can lead to a foreign companys ‘invasion’ into new land also, i.e. Cadburys. Cadburys is a company first established in Birmingham, England in 1884, which has become a successful business in India. Their ‘after dinner, have something sweet (Meethe Mein Kuch Meetha Ho Jaaye)’ advertisement campaign challenges Indias’ cultural norms of an after-dinner treat/dessert by encouraging them to eat chocolate, rather than traditional Indian sweets. The campaign features adverts of families and couples gathered around a dinner table, with the central theme of giving (each other chocolate) as a gesture of goodwill and love for each other, e.g. a woman, clearly in a relationship with the man on screen, asks the man if he loves her, and instead of replying he gets up out of his chair to get a Cadburys chocolate bar from the fridge for her, and then asks “how about now?”

On a negative note, this can be viewed as cultural imperialism as chocolate is a normal treat in Britain. Here it is widespread and is eaten at all times, whereas sweets are auspicious within Indian culture. Chocolate and other treats are consumed on a very rare occasion, and this campaign had introduced British values into India, and chocolate has been a very popular purchase since; according to CNN News, chocolate sales, particularly Cadburys, were 24.3% higher in India in 2016 than the much more populated country of China, and sales of Cadburys have tripled each decade since its introduction in 1984 (with a 70% market share in 2011). This is globalisation which Cadburys had taken in a different route, with the aim of the journey still being profit, while impacting Indian ideals along the way.

In conclusion, globalisation has been impactful on not only British television, but television wordwide, as it has been influential on broadcasting and on-demand programme distribution when viewing the British television industry as both importers and exporters of show formats internationally. By importing foreign programmes, television is creating an enigma towards the cultures of those in other countries, while also educating an audience about the different types of people around the globe. The globalisation of television is also used by companies and broadcasters for profit, by importing and screening popular shows which have a successful track record for viewing figures and ad revenue, and by bringing awareness to what is popular in other cultures to cultures which may be unfamiliar with them, such as Cadburys chocolate. Globalisation in the television industry has not only taken affect on British TVs, but on every device connected to the World Wide Web, and has opened our eyes to other ways to see the digital world. 

16 August 2021

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