Monday, February 11, 2008

Who Owns The Media?


Well, it is obvious that through the years the media has had it's share of critics. The thing that has become more troubling over time is that the media now is controlled by a smaller number of hands. The chart above attests to that, and so does this chart. The people who ultimately have control over what we see and hear have become very powerful because what we see and hear ultimately shapes our views of the world, both locally and globally.

In the US that equates to people like:
Vivendi/Universal - Jean-Bernard Levy
AOL/Time/Warner - Jeffrey Bewkes
Disney - Bob Iger
Viacom - Sumner Redstone
News Corporation - Rupert Murdoch

The extent that these people "own the media" have led some critics to make comments like this:
The mainstream media is completely co-opted by its corporate ownership, unwilling to report the news, check the facts, and simply tell the truth. The only way for Americans to know what's really going on is to access the European press, or the independent press, or to spend a lot of time reading trustworthy weblogs. Your average American doesn't have time in the day to do that kind of research. So it's taken five years for average Americans to notice the horse manure than now covers the country.
Here is an incredibly interesting post regarding the media and the 2008 elections. While there are laws in place that are supposed to insure equal time of candidates they have seemed to have gone completely ignored as candidates are purposefully left out of debates and not given equal coverage. I am of course referring to the FCC's political broadcasting rules, particularly the equal opportunity doctrine.(Broadcast Law, by the way, is a hot area these days). The post that I mentioned points out how candidates placement on stage and the amount of time they are given to answer questions are purposefully manipulated. We have even seen plants put into "audience feedback sessions". So it is plainly clear that the media cannot be trusted to really give us "fair and balanced news". Therefore we have to be savvy and educated consumers of the media. Consider what they are trying to "sell you", or even what they are neglecting to tell you. For example, the next few weeks it'll be all about McCain's Conservatism, next week it'll be something else.

We all understand that there is commentary and opinion. There are pundits and people who will skew their reports using biased language too. Many have been elevated to the status of "expert" such that we hang on every word. We have become dependent on their analysis of every issue. They therefore make it easy for the everyday person utilize pre-formed opinions, especially if they are in short, easy to repeat sound bites. Therein lies the power that the 5 media giants have over millions of people everyday. This is of course nothing new, the problem is that so many fewer people have our attention now then there were even 10 or 15 years ago!

Just seeing how the TV and printed media has content sharing agreements means that the same messages are shared and passed along. That includes mis-information and disinformation as well. Remember Dan Rather, CBS and the Bush memo? and the New York Times and Jayson Blair?

The popularity and usefulness of the Internet is that it is not controlled entirely by the media moguls - although some news content is still shared and disseminated. People have been able to use the Internet to make their own media via blogs and other independent websites. That is a very powerful thing which we should fight like mad to keep uncensored and unregulated. Still, just like any other reading material and visuals we all must be discriminating consumers.

But as I pointed out before - this isn't anything new:

Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.- Thomas Jefferson
It has become a sarcastic proverb that a thing must be true if you saw it in a newspaper. That is the opinion intelligent people have of that lying vehicle in a nutshell. But the trouble is that the stupid people--who constitute the grand overwhelming majority of this and all other nations--do believe and are moulded and convinced by what they get out of a newspaper, and there is where the harm lies.
- "License of the Press" speech - Mark Twain