The Cultural Imperialism
Origin and Evolution
Michael G. Elasmar
In the field of international communication, concept of cultural imperialism (Schiller, 1976, 1991) has fueled many debates. When it comes to conceptualizing the impact of international television messages, cultural imperialism (CI) has been the theoretical framework of choice for most researchers. For this chapter, international television is defined as entertainment television programs originally produced for an audience in country A then exported to B. The term international television is used interchangeably with the terms imported TV and foreign TV. We are interested in international TV regardless of how this foreign TV content reaches its audience (e.g., traditional broadcast, cable, satellite, etc. ).
CI has been described as “a verifiable process of social influence by which a nation imposes on other countries its set of beliefs, values, knowledge and behavioral norms as well its overall style of life” (Beltran, 1978, p. 184). The prominence this theoretical framework in the literature leads us to conclude that, by far, it is the dominant paradigm when it comes to explaining and predicting the impact of international television (Elasmar & Hunter, 1996).
This chapter traces the roots of the CI paradigm in order to gain a better understanding of its contentions concerning the role and effects international TV. We first identify and review the building blocks of the underlying rationale CI. We then focus on the mindset of CI proponents and use an interpretive approach for understanding how CI advocates have framed and linked historical events in order to generate their