The media works as an integral mouth piece for a perpetual amount of social issues. It is a powerful communication tool which aims to inform people about current affairs, give air time to particular issues and political events, aid justice by recruited the publics help and in most cases provide a source of entertainment. The public trusts the media to provide them with objective information that is not intended to sway them in any direction but rather to be informative. However, an alarming issue that is frequently overlooked is the concentration of media ownership, which greatly effects the variety and diversity of the information we are being fed. Media Concentration is the process whereby progressively fewer individuals or organisations control progressively increasing shares of the mass media. “It refers to the concentration of ownership of news, information and entertainment sources in the hands of fewer and larger corporations as well as cross ownership of multiple media outlets in a single market” (Breshears, p1). Consequently, despite the plethora of different titles and media channels the number of media owners have been steadily dwindling since the 1950s.
At this point in time the vast majority of the Western world’s media is being run by very few large media conglomerates. Referred to as the Big Six, Disney, General Electrics, News-Corp, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS control 90% of American Media, which greatly effects Australian media and countless other countries which consume American media. For example News Corporation, run by Australian Rupert Murdoch, owns more than ten Filmed Entertainment Companies, fourty five television channels and over fifteen online websites in the US alone, not to mention countless newspapers and magazines including the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal. In Australia his list of assets include 20 Metropolitan Newspapers, over 100 Community Suburban Newspapers, 25 regional and rural Newspapers and 25% of Cable Television Company Foxtel (Newscorp, 2012).
“The Big 6″ Media Conglomerates
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This concentration of media ownership can not be overlooked as just one mans astronomic success. Rather we must look deeper to understand the consequences of such Monopolistic Control. The List of Rupert Murdoch’s assets is just a small glimpse in to the incomprehensible number of media companies that one man or organisation can own. Referred to as oligopoly, where few firms dominate a market, this happens when large scale media companies buy out smaller scaled or local companies and as a result become even more powerful through their sheer size and through the elimination of other business competition. (Shah, 2011)
Consequently this can lead to the political views, personal morals and values, opinions and beliefs of one man or one organisation being filtered down through different channels to hundreds of millions of people believing they are consuming information from many different companies and expecting to be presented with many different points of view. With this Monopolistic control we face a limit in the diversity of interests and information that is available to us. A person can read 5 different magazines, watch 10 different T.V channels and listen multiple radio shows in order to gather their news and not realise that they are all coming from the one Media organisation.
Media concentration effects the publics right to know in a number of different ways. “To serve the publics right to know, competition must exist in the marketplace of ideas. That belief is at the heart of the case against media concentration” (McManus). Diverse media ownership is needed in order to create debate that allows the best ideas to prevail. Media Consolidation, on the other hand, constricts the number of information providers and cuts down the debate needed to maintain a successful democracy. (McManus). Secondly, Media concentration provides media owners with the ability to push their own political agenda. In 1973, when Rupert Murdoch took over The Sun Newspaper, he changed the paper’s political orientation from Labour to Conservative. As a result readers of The Sun were presented with countless pages of anti labour articles in the days leading up to an election.
For centuries media has been referred to as the fourth estate, which can be defined as a societal and political force or institution. Its role has often been to hold the government accountable for its actions (Breashers). It is consider a powerful source which can be investigative and successfully aid democracy by revealing government policies, actions and secrets to the public. However media consolidation can drastically hinder this process, especially when a company has a vested interested in a political party or politician. In fact in the ‘American Government and the Vision of the Democrats’ report, Mark Louis LaTour stated “Media consolidation can undermine democracy, as the media has the power to define (or slant) what political candidates stand for; can determine which candidates get air time; and can determine who participates in widely viewed debates on important issues” (LaTour, 2007).
“Today the chief executive officers of the 23 corporations that control most of what Americans read and see can fit into an ordinary living room. Almost without exception they are economic conservatives. They can, if they wish, use control of their newspapers, broadcast stations, magazines, books, and movies to promote their own corporate values to the exclusion of others. When their corporate interest is at stake – in taxes, regulation, and anti-trust action – they use that power in their selection of news and in the private lobbying power peculiar to those who control the media image – or non-image – of politicians.” (Bagdikian, 1992)
Media Consolidation – Who Owns Mass Media?
Unfortunately the chances that media consolidation will change anytime soon, if ever, is very unlikely. Therefore the public must decide what they are able to do in order avoid the negative effects that Media concentration can produce. People must make an active decision to stay alert and be very aware of the media they choose to consume. Audiences must constantly challenge the reality that is presented to them and understand that in most cases the media has and agenda that they are trying to push. Opting for independent publisher, deciding to look for more information and evidence from other sources are both things that ca benefit our understand gin of social issues and current affairs. We must make a concerted effort to venture further for new sources of information and actively seek secondary sources of evidence before settling on what has been provided to us through mainstream media.
Bagdikian, B.H, 2004, “The New Media Monopoly”, 4th ed, Beacon Press, Boston
Breshears. D, eHow Contributor, “Media Consolidation Definition”, http://www.ehow.com/about_6691283_media-consolidation-definition.html#ixzz286hMqGsY
LaTour. M, 2007, American Government and the Vision of the Democrats, University Press of America
McManus. J, 1996, “Merger Mania in the Media: Can We Still Get All the News We Need?”, http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/iie/v7n1/mediacon.html
O.Evan, “The Media Monopoly”, http://www.teenink.com/opinion/all/article/9982/The-Media-Monopoly/
Shah.A, 2009, “Media Conglomerates, Mergers, Concentration of Ownership” Global Issues, http://www.globalissues.org/article/159/media-conglomerates-mergers-concentration-of-ownership
William. S, eHow Contributor, “Define Media Consolidation”, http://www.ehow.com/about_6582479_define-media-consolidation.html#ixzz286faF2vH
News Corporation, 2012, “Corporate Governance”, http://www.newscorp.com