Ongoing Competition with Imported US Television Programs and Channels

Even though the growth of national television producers and regional producers/exporters may have actualized a sense of cultural proximity by appealing to aspects of identity and history, they have to contend with the continued export power of the US. The US had been exporting television worldwide since the early 1950s (Bielby & Harrington, 2008), building on films, many produced by the same companies, widely exported since the 1920s (Miller et aL, 2005). Thus, there has been a long cultivation of a kind of cultural familiarity with the US, particularly in Western Europe and Latin America, which has led some to call the US “everyone’s second culture” (Gitlin, 1998). Buonanno (1999) found that while European countries were producing and consuming more of their own national dramas and other programming, their second preferences were US programs and channels, not regional ones; cultural proximity only applied at the national level (Buonanno, 2004).

While US television programs had receded to the margins of television schedules for the largest television networks in Brazil and Mexico, for competing stations in those countries and for many smaller networks around Latin America US programs were always a widely and cheaply available resource to fall back on. A new stream of US programs and entire cable channels flowed into Latin America and the rest of the world in the late 1980s—early 1990s with the growth of pay TV (Duarte, 2001). While the uptake of cable or satellite pay TV was initially low in most of Latin America (Reis,

1999) , it was higher in Argentina (Park, 2002) and Colombia (Forero et al., 2009) due to government limits on the development of commercial broadcast television networks. Pay TV and television over the internet began to grow, as we note below, as more Latin Americans moved into the lower middle and middle classes in the 2000s.

Cultural Capital and Cultural Proximity

This chapter will use cultural capital as a concept to sum up a series of identifiable sets of knowledge and disposition that people tend to use when deciding what they want to watch on television. Earlier work by Straubhaar (1991,2003) tried to define and demonstrate a number of the cultural factors that also define audiences’ cultural capital in terms of specific things like humor, gender images, dress, style, lifestyle, knowledge about other lifestyles, ethnic types, religion, and values. Those factors emerged from in-depth interviews from 1989 to the present. Cultural groups defined by their differences on these kinds of factors often overlap greatly with language groups, which has been emphasized by economists studying the definition of television and film markets (Wildman & Siwek, 1988).

According to Bourdieu (1986), cultural capital exists in the institutionalized state, objectified as educational and academic qualifications. As such, it can be acquired with educational gains but is, however, connected with other forms of capital. Cultural capital can be learned from parents, from peers, from work, but tends to be heavily linked to things learned in formal or informal education (Bourdieu, 1984). Cultural capital is established with an understanding and navigability of the dominant culture, norms, and, indeed, social language in a society (Sullivan, 2001). It can thus vary by social class (Sullivan, 2001).

Television can be understood as a cultural good, or the objectified state of cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1986). Certain types of televised content, and origin of television (national, regional, and international) will be more accessible culturally, linguistically, and economically to certain groups and not to others. International foreign television consumption would thus require a material appropriation (assuming economic capital) and symbolic appropriation (assuming cultural capital), which are two forms of cultural goods appropriation described by Bourdieu (1986).This chapter states that linguistic capital would also be necessary for seeking, understanding, and enjoying this particular form of cultural good.

Economic Capital

Economic capital then, is “money or assets that can be turned into money” (Benson, 2006, p. 189) necessary to access a particular cultural good, such as television and, specifically in the case of this study, foreign television. Bourdieu stated that economic capital is at the root of other types of capital (1986), such as cultural and linguistic capitals.They can, however, act independently. In Latin America, the past couple of decades have brought a substantial growth in the economy of many of its nations and, with that, a particular fluctuation of social class, marked mainly by increased purchasing power of the lower middle class.

After a decade with marginal middle class fluctuations in the 1990s, Latin Americas middle class grew exponentially, from 100 million people in 2000 to around 150 million by 2010 (Ferreira, Messina, & Rigolini, 2012, xi) .This growth has allowed a whole new segment of the Latin American population to have the economic capital necessary to subscribe to and access multichannel television, and with that more televised cultural goods, including international television. Although this new-found economic capital by a large group of individuals in Latin America does enable them to have considerable new purchasing power, they may not have as much cultural capital or social capital as previous middle classes (Bourdieu, 1986). And indeed, as Benson stated, “the social world is structured around the opposition between two forms of power: economic and cultural capital” (2006, p. 189).

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