The media industry is on the verge of another revolution. The media and tech giants are developing with intense speed and the separating line between the two is becoming almost invisible. It is important to view these two industries in a global context in order to better understand their impact on each other, and on people.
In the near future, there will be a lot of changes and developments in the industry. The audio will take a more important place in media content. Investment in AI is predicted to rise. Facebook may lose its monopoly amongst the newsmakers and advertisers, as they are seeking alternative platforms. The battle against misinformation will be one of the top priorities of the industry and, yes, there is also the controversial 5G.
According to the 2019 Forbes The World’s Most Valuable Brands Ranking, the top 5 world leaders are tech companies. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, with a total brand value of $685 billion, are breaking all the possible barriers, presenting innovations one after another and making people in every corner of the world more and more dependent on their technology and content. That is how the term GAFAM(N) was put into use by presenting the world’s most influential American tech giants – Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, or newcomer Netflix.
On the other side of the world, another media-tech cluster is thriving. The Chinese tech giants BATX (Baidu (search engine), Alibaba (e-commerce), Tencent (messaging app) and Xiaomi (smartphones)) are developing with insane speed. One of the biggest advantages of BATX is the perspective of the enormous market that they have.
All the companies in GAFAN(M) and BATX are engaged tirelessly in the diversification of their businesses, trying to beat their local and international competitors by enlarging their portfolios, doing M&As, as well as by investing significantly in research and innovation. Their sphere of influence covers not only tech and media industries, but also the financial markets.
Squeezed between the American and Chinese tech behemoths that symbolize Washington and Beijing’s technological power, Europe has become a battleground of their never-ending rivalry to conquer people’s time, attention and data. The first ever company to produce a mobile phone in 1998 was the Finnish Nokia. It was around a decade before the first iPhone was produced by Apple.
But now, Europe has lost most of its tech companies, including Nokia, the Swedish Ericsson and the French Alcatel. Or, in a more optimistic scenario, they are just not competitive anymore . There’re no competitive hardware, software, phone or game producing European companies either. Back in 2018, the Guardian published an article claimed that young people are spending more time on media products and services provided by Netflix, Youtube, Spotify and Apple, than on those of the BBC.
In fact, Netflix is taking over the TV sector with a target of 57 million subscribers by 2023. According to 2016 reports, from 13-strong groups dominating in the European TV landscape, nine are American. What are the reasons for this drought in tech and media industries? High taxes, strict labour and privacy laws, or all of them together?
In this war of leviathans, Europe has chosen to be an observer, a watchdog, by enforcing strict laws and regulations on tech companies and intending to implement tough tax policies. The adoption of the GDPR in 2016 has partially contributed to that mission.
This technological and media polarisation and the US-China trade war may be harmful if Europe does not position itself strategically. Consequently, other important questions arise. Is it in Europe’s interests to revitalize its tech production and make the media industry more competitive? Is Europe capable to do so at all? Or it is better to preserve its unique role of the watchdog and undertake nothing more ambitious?
For now, I don’t have any answers to these questions. But one thing is certain: the European tech and media sovereignty is a vital condition in the creation of an independent, innovative and economically persistent digital zone.