Multinational Corporations and Global Production

Media and cultural studies built largely on theories from the US and UK broadcast model are entering a stage of transition where a complex mediascape of vigorous changes and uneven context of local, national, transnational and regional media environments vary significantly (Tay & Turner 2008). No longer should our focus be on dominant monopolies in the West, rather, the minorities in the East must be viewed as an influential power in present and future media studies.

Globalisation refers to two related but separate processes that have implications for the media (Khorana 2014):

1. They ways in which technologies can overcome global distances, so that some people live in a world that seems borderless

2. They ways that one particular economic system – ‘the free market’ or global capitalism – now permeates most of the globe.

Whilst technological convergence has created what is called a global village, overcoming distance and removing boarders, conversely global production and circulation of communication technologies has resulted in controversies about the working conditions in Apple factories in china, the mounting problem of e-waste and the use of conflict minerals.

Apple has an incredibly fast refresh rate of new products and gadgets with technologies being out of date within 12 months of purchase. This is Apple’s business model for the entire consumer electronics industry and it’s unsustainable (Rees 2011). This ever-increasing consumption rate leads to problems regarding e-waste. There is a booming e-waste trade in Africa where thousands of vendors repair and sell imported used electronics. However beyond the thriving storefront and piles of refurbished wares, a darker picture emerges. A staggering 75% of electronics are irreparable junk, a capacity that thriving repair market cannot safely deal with, leading to landfill and ultimately resulting in toxic e-waste (Schmidt 2006).

Ralph Litzinger (2013) writes an excellent article detailing the consequence of the working conditions in the Chinese factory Foxconn and the workers fight against multinational corporations. In 2010 eighteen workers between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five attempted suicide, fourteen of which died. Within days the Chinese media dubbed the incidents “suicide express” and it soon caught momentum in blogosphere and Western media. Apple and other multinational corporation, including Dell and HP play a central role in the Foxconn factories. What amazed me the most was Foxconn’s response to the situation, the video below will explain…

A concentration of land in Congo’s eastern providence lies the Killing Fields, a region full of the worlds richest sources of gold, diamonds, timber and more recently, minerals such as tin and coltan, both critical to the high-tech circuitry found in popular electronics (Eichstaedt 2011). Due to its wealth a state of war has raged since 1996, marking the extensive and frequently illicit exploitation of mineral wealth in the region. Unfortunately for Apple, the brand was associated with the use of these minerals and the conflict in the Congo.

On a brighter note, in February 2014 Apple announced its plans to cease using conflict minerals, only sourcing supplies of cobalt, tin and gold from conflict-free smelters. For further information view Alex Hern’s article.

By exploiting workers in developing countries, multinational corporations are increasing the global divide. The irony here is, technology brings the Global west closer but pushes away the minoritised East.


Eichstaedt, P 2011, Consuming the Congo: War and Conflict Minerals in the World’s Deadliest Place, published by Lawrence Hill Books, Chicago,

Khorana, S 2014, Globalisaiton and the Media, BCM310 Emerging Issues in Communication and Media, Lecture, 12 May 2014, accessed via UOW Moodle

Litzinger, R 2013, The Labor Question in China: Apple and Beyond, The South Atlantic Quarterly, Volume 112, Issue 1, p. 172, accessed via UOW Summon

Rees, E 2011, Apple: The Hidden Cost of your Ipad and Iphone, 4 April, viewed 13 May 2014,

Schmidt, C 2006, Unfair Trade e-Waste in Africa, Environ Health Perspect, viewed 13 May 2014

Tay J, Turner G, 2008, What is television? Comparing media systems in the post-broadcast era, Vol no 126, February 2008, accessed via UOW Moodle.



About Nicola Salter

Nicola. 21. UOW Graduate
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