Effects of Technological Convergence and the comparable influence of Religion and the Music industry on Policy Making in Ireland.

On May 20, 2012

Members of the modern diaspora are generally well educated and better connected than those before (O’Donovan 2009, p. 97). With a vastly improved education system now in place, the current generation of school leavers does not suffer the same issues of illiteracy and widespread poverty which many generations before them would have experienced. However, as the Celtic Tiger boom has now become a crisis, a new peak of emigration is once again happening in Ireland (Ghosh 2012). With a very different technological landscape than previous emigration peaks of the 1960s and 1970s, the new diaspora have a vast array of tools to smooth their move to a foreign land. So how has technology effected the diaspora? And how does technology such as the internet and file-sharing services have an effect on policy within Ireland?

A convergence of technology and the interconnectivity of the public through internet and mobile phones, combined with cheap and easily accessible modes of transport, has meant the Irish diaspora has never been more connected to Ireland as it is today. For example, the SeventyMillion project launched in 2008 aims to use the internet to track down and record the 70 million members of the diapora. It also serves as a social network, allowing people to get more involved with their local community and the project itself (SeventyMillion 2008). 

Apart from social networking, the internet plays another part in influencing policy. The ability to easily share media has been a major issue for international music industries, but it allows the diaspora to hurdle previous problems in physical format distribution (such as the need to import media to and from Ireland). The restrictions of locality are removed (Wall 2003 p.227), exposing Ireland to much more media while also allowing Ireland to share aspects on culture easily online. 

However the internet has also had a negative influence on the musical charts in Ireland. The Irish Music Rights Association (IMRA – equivalent to RIAA or PRS in Ireland) charts are heavily loaded with British and American artists, given the obvious effects of globalisation through the internet. Also, Ireland’s music industry has suffered heavily with illegal filesharing causing large reductions in sales. The economics which the music industry centres around were being attacked (Wall 2003 p.201);  CD sales in Ireland fell from €146 million in 2006 to €56 million last year (O’Halloran 2011), forcing the industry to push for laws to police online piracy, similar to proposed SOPA laws in the US. In January 2012, the IMRA filed suit against the government for not implementing ISP blocking to prevent file sharing (Madden 2012). After several months of pressure, the government signed into law a SOPA-like bill despite strong opposition (McDonald 2012). Protection of intellectual property is crucial for the industry to remain profitable (Henry 2007 p.37) 

Ireland is familiar with censorship policies being implemented without public support; for many years the Catholic church held powers to censor any media it felt was immoral or in any way un-Catholic. The Anti-Jazz movement banned the broadcast of Jazz music on Radio Éireann (Issue 1) was an early example of such censorship. In the 1990s, similar examples were still appearing; the popular rock band REM had the music video for their song “Losing My Religion” banned from broadcast due to a sequence with a crucifix and what the church believed was other homoerotic content (Bowler and Dray 1999).  

However, now it seems that the power of the music industry influences government policy, and the church less so. The threat of large scale lawsuits from multinationals like EMI who are being represented by IMRA are enough to make a government go against the protest of the public and sign in highly controversial ISP blocking laws. Where previous censorship stood for morality and controlling national identity, today we see big business pushing for policies to protect their profits.

Who is to say one is less worrying than the other.

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Bowler, D. and Dray, B. (1999) R.E.M Documental. Boxtree publishing

Ghosh, P. (2012) St. Patrick’s Day 2012: Irish Economic Crisis Drives New Emigration Wave. International Business Times [online] Available at <http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/315352/20120316/ireland-econpmic-crisis-debt-… (accessed May 13 2012).

Madden, C. (2012) IRMA launches action against State over anti-piracy order. Irish Times [online] Available at <http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/finance/2012/0112/1224310141468.html> (accessed 13 May 2012).

McDonald, H. (2012) ‘Irish Sopa’ legislation passed despite robust opposition. The Guardian [online] Available at <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/01/irish-sopa-legislation-passed> (accessed 13 May 2012).

O’Donovan, F. (2009) Irish Identity is Far From ‘Ideal’. Socheolas: Limerick Student Journal of Sociology. Vol. 2(1) Limerick: University of Limerick.

O’Halloran, B. (2011) Illegal downloading to be curbed by Government order. The Irish Times [online] Available at <http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/frontpage/2011/1219/1224309259318.html> (accessed 30 April 2012)

SeventyMillion 2008 Available at <http://www.seventymillion.org/> (accessed 13 May 2012)

Wall, T. (2003) Studying Popular Music. London: Hodder Arnold

 

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