The Mass Media TNCs: An Overall Review of their Operations and of Control Options

Publication Date01 Nov 1978
DOI10.1177/001083677801300302
AuthorTapio Varis
SubjectArticles
The
Mass
Media
TNCs:
An
Overall
Review
of
their
Operations
and
of
Control
Options
1
TAPIO
VARIS
University
of
Tampere
and
Academy
of
Finland
Varis,
Tapio.
The
Mass
Media
TNCs:
An
Overall
Review
of
their
Operations
and
of
Control
Options.
Cooperation
and
Conflict,
XIII
,
1978
193-213.
Recent
discussions
on
transnational
corporations
(TNCs),
especially
in
the
UN,
have
been
extended
to
include
global
communications
and
the
mass
media.
An
effort
is
made
here
to
approach
a
definition
of
the
mass
media
TNCs,
as
well
as
to
describe
the
actual
operations
of
these
enterprises.
The
main
focus
is
on
the
information
media,
al-
though
some
observations
on
the
entertainment
media
are
also
made.
The
control
options
of
these
TNCs
are
discussed
with
particular
attention
to
the
problems
connected
with
the
introduction
of
an
international
code
of
conduct.
The
general
conclusions
are
that
a
more
systematic
collection
of
data
is
needed,
and
that
more
preparatory
research
on
the
definitional
aspects
must
be
carried
out.
The
paper
suggests
that
institutions,
unions,
and
other
groupings
active
in
international
communication
could
give
continuous
input
to
the
work
of
the
code
of
conduct
for
the
media,
and
should
strengthen
and
use
the
existing
alternative
sources
of
information.
A
carefully
planned
national
and
inter-
national
communication
policy
is
of
vital
importance
for
progress
in
this
field.
I.
INTRODUC7ION
In
recent
years
it
has
become
increasing-
ly
clear
that
the
transnational
communi-
cation
system
has
developed
with
the
support
and
at
the
service
of
the
trans-
national
power
structure,
which
itself
is
dominated
by
the
rise
of
transnational
corporations
(TNC).
Some
scholars
say
the
rise
in
globally
operating
TNCs
and
global
banks
would
not
have
been
pos-
sible
without
the
development
of
global
communications
using
the
technology
of
market
manipulation
to
shape
the
tastes,
goals,
and
values
of
the
workers,
suppli-
ers,
government
officials,
and
customers.
In
underdeveloped
societies,
in
particular,
the
three
essential
structures
of
power
are
in
the
hands
of
TNCs:
the
control
of
technology,
the
control
of
finance
capital,
and
the
control
of
marketing
and
dissemination
of
ideas.2
However,
al-
though
many
scholars
agree
that
the
TNCs
have
become
the
chief
organizers
and
manufacturers
of
the
transnational
flow
of
communication,
there
is
very
little
research
on
the
nature
and
extent
of
this
influence.
The
business
of
international
commu-
nication
has
created
a
number
of
mass
media
TNCs
whose
characteristics,
ope-
rations,
and
type
of
services
often
differ
fundamentally
from
other
1’NCs.
The
giant
global
TNCs
(like
Exxon,
Unilever,
etc.)
are
not
primarily
nor
even
directly
related
to
the
mass
communication
in-
dustry,
although
they
do
influence
the
mass
media
in
several
ways.
The
mass
media
TNCs
appear
in
the
category
of
~~ middle
sized
or
even
small
companies,
although
their
direct
and
indirect
impact
on
the
home
and
host
societies
may
be
of
high
significance.
One
fundamental
characteristic
of
the
transnational
system
of
market
economy
is
the
export
of
capital.
During
recent
decades,
the
process
of
transnationali-
zation
has
been
increasing,
coinciding
with
the
global
spread
of
new
communi-
cations
technology.3
Before
the
1950s,
most
transnational
investments
were
in
transportation,
oil,
mining,
etc.,
but
during
the
1950s
there
was
a
shift
towards
manufacturing
and
related
areas
such
as
banking,
advertis-
ing,
and
the
media
industries.
This
was
facilitated
by
technological
innovations
in
industrial
production
and
international
communication.
Air
travel,
telephone,
194
telex,
and
satellite
made
it
possible
to
have
production
units
in
many
countries
and
still
control
the
whole
network
with
a
global
strategy
directed
from
a
cen-
tral
headquarters.
The
development
of
telecommunica-
tions
and
communication
infrastructure
has
been
essential
for
the
creation
of
modem
transnational
corporations.
Cer-
tain
corporations
are
principally
con-
cerned
with
the
international
flow
of
information
and
personnel
rather
than
goods.
Such
service
industries
include
ad-
vertising,
management
consultancy,
data
processing,
film
production,
hotel
man-
agement,
and
department
stores.
This
type
of
international
operation
is
not
sub-
ject
to
restrictions
on
the
movement
of
capital.
Within
the
major
transnational
businesses,
TNCs
are
providing
some
of
their
own
services:
the
British
Steel
Cor-
poration
owns
the
largest
private
air
fleet
in
Britain,
Ford
Europe
has
the
lar-
gest
internal
telephone
system
in
Europe
etc.
As
far
as
the
media
are
concerned,
the
film
companies
were
the
first
transnatio-
nal
corporations.
Long
film
production
began
in
the
years
before
World
War
I,
and
some
of
the
countries
of
Europe
be-
came
exporter
nations.
Financial
and
other
difficulties
stemming
from
the
war
changed
the
principal
direction
of
flow,
and
the
United
States
emerged
as
a
world
cinematic
power
which
has
dominated
the
field
since
then.
Beginning
in
the
1920s,
radio
became
an
ideal
vehicle
for
reaching
foreign
au-
diences,
especially
those
of
high
illiter-
acy.
As
early
as
1927
in
the
United
States,
the
National
Broadcasting
Com-
pany
distributed
regular
program
series
to
Latin
America,
which
were
financed
by
a
transnational
conglomerate,
the
United
Fruit
Co.
The
large-scale
production
and
export
of
programs
did
not
start,
how-
ever,
until
the
era
of
television
in
the
1950s.
The
history
of
broadcasting
has
been
very
closely
connected
with
the
develop-
ment
of
the
record
industry,
which
star-
ted
to
flourish
before
World
War
I
in
many
countries.
Most
of
the
world’s
re-
cords
were
produced
by
a
few
American,
British,
and
German
companies
or
their
affiliates
and
agents
abroad.
The
massive
production
of
records
is
still
in
the
hands
of
some
few
major
companies,
although
there
are
a
great
number
of
smaller
com-
panies
in
the
field.
The
transnational
character
of
hard-
ware
industries,
equipment
made
for
pro-
ducers
of
mass
media
messages
(i.e.
radio
and
television
station
equipment,
movie
equipment,
recording
equipment)
as
well
as
for
the
home
(radio
and
TV
receiving
sets,
phonographs,
etc.),
has
a
long
tra-
dition.
As
early
as
1883
the
Edison
Cor-
poration
(later
AEG)
was
founded
in
Germany
for
the
manufacture
of
electri-
cal
equipment
using
American
patents.
1.
Approaching
a
Definition
of
Mass
Media
TNCs
According
to
the
United
Nations
defini-
tions,
a
TNC
is a
corporation
that
owns
or
controls
production
or
service
facili-
ties
outside
the
country
in
which
it
is
based.
Such
corporations
are
not
always
incorporated
or
private;
they
can
also
be
co-operatives
or
state
owned
entities.4
4
The
United
Nations
definitions
are,
of
course,
primarily
designed
for
the
giant
TNCs
in
basic
industries
and
services
and
the
several
UN
documents
hardly
men-
tion
the
field
of
mass
communications
as
relevant
in
the
present
context.
Trans-
national
mass
media
institutions
have
been
brought
into
focus
through
the
sub-
sequent
discussions
and
action
by
such
organized
movements
as,
for
example,
the
Non-Aligned
Countries.
As
demonstrated
by
some
recent
UN
documents,5
the
definitional
issue
of
TNCs
has
not
yet
been
solved.
One
still

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