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Media and National Cultures
The following is based upon an article written by Silvio R.Waisbord. The full article can be found
Table of Contents
The following examines a conceptual overview and assessment of
Silvio R. Waisbord’s
The Ties that Still Bind: Media and National Cultures in Latin America
.” The inquisitive title implies exactly what the author Silvio Waisbord sets out to show the intended audience. It will present points concerning the impacts and influences of global media, governments, nationality and most significantly; Latin America’s cultural identity. As observed, the media in its various shapes and sizes has enabled people and nations on a global scale to adapt or withdraw from the overwhelming flows of the information world; specifically those of the United States. Explored will be the consideration of culture as an element of national identity, factors influencing the ties between media and culture through the means of language, television, ethnicity and last but not least, Americanization. It can also be observed that the evidence he demonstrates on the decrease of fears is considerably questionable. Waisbord has also engaged the issue with some persuasive analyses even though the research seems one-sided, some opposing perspectives could have strengthen his stance. Not surprisingly he targets his paper towards the upper elite class and those with political knowledge. This is evident when he uses the analogy that the government acted like a big brother and wanted to control everything that would influence Latin American societies to give up on their own culture and take up other cultures.
is the root of humanity. It is the basis of human interaction, values, traditions, and thoughts. Without further ado, it is noted that perhaps this so called “culture” is disintegrating. That is, for the purpose of this article, in Latin American regions. However, in later sections, Waisbord states interesting points regarding the fact that unlike suspicions of how it appears dead, their culture is still very much alive. Acknowledging historical movements throughout Latin America’s past (i.e. NAFTA and MERCOSUR), it was through the governmental and national policies and debates that boosted the country’s resistance against fears of culture being abandoned. “The ebbing of concerns about global media flows is partially a reflection of the history of the cultural industries in Latin America” (Waisbord 1998). That is a significant aspect of the article since most of Waisbord’s central statements surround the idea of progress through the means of several government and global implications. It is an important matter to stress as cultural identity is just as essential as understanding the relationship between media and national cultures, including the rest of South America for that matter. But with that said, Waisbord’s stand on Latin American identity is similar to any other, “cultures have never been truly isolated” (Straubhaar and La Rose 2004, 488).
As observed throughout literature and media exposure itself, television has a huge impact on society and individuals within it. In Waisbord’s words, “Local and regional shows regularly command popular preferences. Latin America is not different from what has been observed elsewhere: build local programming and audiences will come and choose domestic/regional over Hollywood productions” (Waisbord 1998).Waisbord’s statement is defended by examples such as
, presumably the most popular Latin-genre show which in this case flows perfectly with his statements about establishing local audiences. Hence, this creates a sense of cultural identity also. Similarly, “identifying with a particular culture gives people feelings of belonging and security” (Ministry of Social Development 2004). Some reasons for the high demand, just to mention a few are: the familiarity of their mother language and receiving news that is applicable to them. One other important aspect of cultural identity through media is where else it is distributed. For example, while he was mentioning the fact that telenovelas are common and considered a part of culture, it could have also been mentioned that these types of cultures are spreading to other parts of the world more and more, sometimes even in high demand.
Waisbord believes that there is a cultural aspect in the Latin American programming and television is the link that binds this national identity. It is very evident that in Latin American entertainment there are many cultural aspects incorporated. A good example of this would be Brazil, with there telenovelas which promote its Latin American culture through the television. This escalation of domestic production has opened new possibilities for television to endorse cultural imagery and political realties within Latin American societies. There is an appeal to local viewers for telenovelas because they are influenced by the news. Here is it shown that media and national culture work together to promote national identity through the telenovelas that deal with problematic issues such as, drug trafficking and political corruption and are also view globally as well. Social issues such as the Corpo Santo dealt with AIDS in 1987 (Waisbord 1998). In dealing with real issues which are relatable and reflective of Latin American culture, these Brazilian telenovelas are a good vehicle in promoting and distribution of national identity in Latin America. “Telenovelas offer narrative and characters that are shared by millions and that are referenced in other media forms. This form of intertextuality further reinforces the sense of a national story and identity, a sort of living history of the nation in which everyone, via television, can take part” (Radcliffe). Television not only helps to retain its cultural identity but also builds upon its identity through the telenovelas. “Television places our cultural identities in an important place” (Marques de Melo).
Another element present in the article which can be appraised is Waisbord’s mention of globalization. This also is the presence of American culture, also known as Americanization; “to make American in form, style, or character” (American Heritage Dictionary 2003). It is very difficult nowadays to think of a culture as specifically “one or the other” (Waisbord 1998). With the amount of people relocating, being introduced to new media, witnessing the growth of other countries and taking on new types of roles in society, it is no doubt that purity no longer exists. The size and influence of the United States has not necessarily “taken over” completely or “empowered” Latin America since it is still evident that their cultural exists, but in more of a “local and global, city and country, folklore and industry” type way. All of them adding to their culture. As the world grows, so does the population and media, allowing for interactions on global and national levels. Regardless of what country it may be, or where on this earth it is located, every nation has an identity and that identity is both individual and a cultural one.
Another important point that is raised in Waisbord article is that in becoming a strong nation is not only depending on one’s own resources but to incorporate others as well. The Latin America people do not just watch there own television programming but watching programming from the United Sates. Many of the smaller Latin American countries, “feed off regional and U.S programming” (Waisbord), in the other countries were the domestic production of programming is higher; they use the U.S shows as filters. Waisbord asserts that it is important in maintaining one’s own national identity within one’s own country, however smaller Latin American countries are dependant on regional programming from larger Latin American countries. The Latin American government cannot fund all the genres of television. The government lacks funding for children’s programming and cannot relay on domestic production so they must look else where. This genre is dominated by the Japanese and the U.S fare. Even though the Latin American government can not afford funding for children’s programming they have it available to them foreign production. The Latin Americans actually end up benefiting from this in mainly two ways. First they spend less buying the programming as apposed to producing it themselves, secondly their culture becomes more diverse ad enriched with the help of foreign content.
Marques de Melo, Jose. (1995). Development of the audiovisual industry in Brazil from importer to exporter of television programming.
Canadian Journal of Communication
Ministry of Social Development (2004). Cultural Identity. Online at:
Radcliffe, Sarah, & Westwood, Sallie. (1996).
Remaking the nation: Place, identity and politics in Latin America
. London: Routledge.
STRAUBHAAR, Joseph and Robert LaROSE (2004).
Media in the Information Age
. 4th Edition. Belmont: Wadsworth/Thomson
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (2000).
Houghton Mifflin Company
. Online at:
WAISBORD, Silvio R (1998). “The Ties that Still Bind: Media and National Cultures in
Latin America”, Canadian Journal of Communication, vol. 23, n3. Online at: <
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