The Impact of International Television: A Paradigm Shift

By Michael G. Elasmar | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Cultural Proximity On the Air
in Ecuador: National, Regional
Television Outperforms Imported
U. S. Programming
Linda Lee Davis
University of Kansas

Ecuador exports hats, oil, and bananas, but when it comes to television programming, Ecuador imports—about twice as much it produces. When UNESCO sponsored studies of worldwide sources programming in the 1970s and 1980s, Ecuador, New Zealand, and Iceland topped the list for importing largest percentage of television programming. In 1983, 66% of Ecuadorian television came from outside the country (Varis, 1984, p. 146). This 1995 case study of a successful Ecuadorian network, Ecuavisa, confirms the same high level of imported programming 12 years later. Predictably, the United States leads list of programming sources, as it does in so many countries around the world (Varis, 1984, p. 150).

During the 1970s, a debate about role of U. S. television abroad began within the United Nations. Third World officials and some scholars, beginning with Herbert Schiller, took the view that dominance of U. S. programming in developing nations constituted media-delivered “cultural imperialism, ” which should be restricted.1 The international debate took place under various related theory areas:“… dependence as related to imported media, media imperialism, international media

____________________
1
The notion of cultural imperialism emerged in the late 1960s with the work Schiller and expanded in the 1970s with the contributions from Wells, Nordenstreng, Varis, Somavia, Beltran and others. Proponents of this theory held that U. S. Television dominated third world markets, constituted a form of colonialism, destroyed cultural heritage and autonomy needed to be limited. On the other side, some advocates from developed (continued on next page) nations argued that information flow among countries should be free and open. Throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, often heated debate continued in United Nations forums, especially UNESCO. The issue led to the 1980 McBride Report calling for a New World Information Order and contributed to the mid-1980s U. S. withdrawal from UNESCO (summarized in Wert 6–15; Dominick, Sherman, Copeland 252–53; Stevenson 35–54, 75–94).

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