The population of the United States is five times that of the United Kingdom. No surprise therefore that the two countries media output tends to see American output pushing the envelope on big budget Hollywood blockbusters and seasons of highly produced television shows while Britain has been a source of more nuanced, less common denominator film and original auteur television.
Market size, funding dynamics, audience demographics… There’s plenty of reason for these distinct media ecosystems. There’s more money to be made in Hollywood. There’s often better quality, more individualistic freeform creativity to be pursued in London but talent, especially quantifiable technical brilliance, tends to gravitate to highest pay biggest audience reach. Hollywood.
Britain’s long-standing living tradition of stagecraft, the cadence of Shakespeare imbibed early in dramatic training, cross-pollinates with American media exchange between all the English-speaking nations, Canada and Australia included.
In the gene pool of best actors (especially in non-contemporary commercial pastiche), best directors, virtuoso editors, writers, etc. Britain punches above its weight, individually and creatively. America punches above its weight, globally, in production excellence. Between them Anglo-American content reaches every national market on Earth, playing alongside local output and driving up entertainment ambitions across the world.
The best American and British auteurs are always au fait with European and world cinema so there’s a healthy reciprocity of ideas and output, albeit weighted in favour of English-speaking content simply by dint of the language being ubiquitous across more of the general public. Undoubtedly European and Asian filmmakers themselves are on a par with exposure to the Anglosphere’s cultural output. Smaller markets, less opportunities, however.
Bottom line: American and British cultural output in the 21st-century is one of the hallmarks of the rude health of the mongrel Anglosphere’s continuing progression of creativity and cultural depth. The art, literary, academic, movie and media industries reflected this standing.
In the past decade, however, the dynamics have changed. Perhaps reflecting the relative shifts in economic weltpolitik. But while pragmatic ‘bleed the masses’ populism was always a component of Hollywood studio thinking, the degradation of Anglosphere cultural wealth isn’t entirely about money or foreign media business practice catching up to the “West”.
To the detriment of American film and, to an extent, television but far more noticeable is the degradation in creativity media in the United Kingdom.
Nowhere is this more starkly evident than in podcasting – the newest and in some ways most independent, auteur-nuanced media evolution since the advent of the blockbuster in the late 1970s muscled the artist-director off the mainstream stage.
American podcasting is a vibrant space, full of energy and relevance; a genuine threat to corporate homogeneity and influential in the national conversation.
British podcasting is mostly a comfortable cakewalk pastime for a radio-or-television celebrity. It’s not vibrant. It’s more moribund than relevant, which is quite an achievement for such a young medium. Where the UK used to be at the forefront of creative communication, it has completely missed the zeitgeist of autonomous, independent personal content.
Perhaps because the British civility was always a facade, a period piece carried through into a trained confidence trickery. Not so much a lack of capacity as an absence of care. Going through the motions, performing; and making it look good. Podcasting crosses into real-life connections. Maybe real-life connection is incompatible – even abhorrent – to British professional creatives.