In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Global Television Industry

  • Introduction
  • Handbooks
  • Audiences
  • Global Labor in Media Work

Cinema and Media Studies Global Television Industry
Denise Bielby, Kristen Bryant
  • LAST REVIEWED: 17 November 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0244


Television was introduced as an experimental technology in the 1920s and 1930s in Europe, Asia, the former Soviet Union, and the Americas, but it was not until after World War II that it was widely adopted as a form of mass communication around the globe. Although television’s innovation and diffusion as a novel technology, establishment and growth as a communications industry, maturation and popularity, and specialization and diversification took decades to unfold, once it became widely publicly available, it quickly materialized as an essential venue for news, information, and entertainment. Television originated as a domestic industry overseen through a variety of national regulatory arrangements, making its transformation from a medium focused on local interests and concerns into an industry with a global reach all the more compelling. This transformation, which was enhanced by the introduction of cable, satellite, and Internet technology, was, in retrospect, influenced by the accomplishments of radio broadcasting, with its ability to transcend national borders and reach unanticipated audiences, and the expansiveness of the film industry, which from the earliest days of the studio system had cultivated an international export market to enhance revenue. In the case of the television industry, export was led by production companies seeking to recoup the costs of production under deficit financing arrangements with the networks and program sponsors. Early global exports were driven mainly by US production companies, and although the United States remains dominant in the sale of finished products, a vast number of nations, production companies, and networks now provide the United States with stiff competition within regional markets and program genres. Deficit financing has been adopted more recently by wealthier non-US nations like the United Kingdom, while less affluent and/or smaller markets rely on other approaches. Ever-emerging technologies, penetrable national borders, remote markets, and viewer interest in programs from other countries are foundational concerns alongside the political economy of regulation that make up the study of the global television industry.


The study of the global television industry is a multidisciplinary field informed by analysis of the cultures and cultural contexts of the production, distribution, and consumption of the medium of television. Parks and Kumar 2003 (film and media studies); Ouellette 2013 (communication studies); Hall, et al. 2010 and Grindstaff, et al. 2019 (sociology); and Mansell and Raboy 2011 (communication policy) are all handbooks that serve as primary contributions to this vast field that also includes research by scholars in economics and business who address the commerce of culture-producing industries; political scientists who attend to the delineations of nation, state, and national identity by media institutions; and geographers who analyze the relationship of interconnected trade among cities and regions to globalization. Volkmer 2012 is a handbook that addresses the diverse methodological approaches that reflect the multidisciplinarity of the field. Although scholarly analysis of television’s global presence was launched in the early 1970s, following the publication of Nordenstreng and Varis 1974, the UNESCO report (cited under Theorizing Global Television: Media Flows) on international patterns of “television traffic,” the field remained a relatively specialized topic of concern until the study of globalization, per se, became established as a field in its own right and was recognized and accepted as integral to understanding the cultural contexts of the societal, institutional, and technological infrastructures of the television industry. Because the study of the global television industry remained largely nascent until the early 1990s, and draws upon a broad range of disciplinary backgrounds and perspectives, handbooks and associated reference works were slow to emerge even as important work pertinent to understanding the industry was being published. However, the field is now sufficiently established that there are very useful edited collections with contributions from a substantial number of well-known scholars who populate the field. These handbooks tend to reflect the disciplinary roots and perspectives of their editors, even as individual scholars from vastly different disciplines share interest in particular subjects.

  • Grindstaff, Laura, Ming-Cheng Lo, and John Hall, eds. Handbook of Cultural Sociology. 2d ed. New York: Routledge, 2019.

    The second edition of Hall, et al. 2010. It contains updated material on global culture and global processes, and new entries on cultural policy, cultural consumption, and media ownership.

  • Hall, John R., Laura Grindstaff, and Ming-Cheng Lo, eds. Handbook of Cultural Sociology. New York: Routledge, 2010.

    A comprehensive overview of contemporary scholarship in sociology, communication, media studies, ethnic studies, gender studies, and international studies that focuses on the complex relations of culture to social structures in a global era. Contributions include cultural and social theory and developments central to the constitution and reproduction of culture, including media culture, such as power, technology, and the organization of work. The book’s second edition, Grindstaff, et al. 2019, contains new entries and updated material.

  • Mansell, Robin, and Marc Raboy, eds. The Handbook of Global Media and Communication Policy. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

    Edited collection that explores conceptual frameworks and new methodologies for mapping the contours of emergent global media and communication policy. Examines the local, national, regional, and global forums in which policy debate occurs.

  • Ouellette, Laurie, ed. The Media Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2013.

    A collection of foundational essays and new writings that cover major theories and debates that have shaped domestic and global critical media studies from the 1940s to the early 21st century. Topics include culture, technology, representation, industry, identity, audience, and citizenship.

  • Parks, Lisa, and Shanti Kumar, eds. Planet TV: A Global Television Reader. New York: New York University Press, 2003.

    An edited collection that provides a comprehensive overview of the rapidly changing landscape of global television through contributions that explore cultural imperialism, nationalism, postcolonialism, transnationalism, ethnicity, and cultural hybridity. Its embrace of the history of television cultures counters the assumption that global television is merely a result of the current dominance of the West in world affairs.

  • Volkmer, Ingrid, ed. The Handbook of Global Media Research. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.

    An edited collection that explores competing methodologies in the field of transnational media and communications in order to provide insight into the challenges of research practice in a globalized media landscape.

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