A Term Paper Submitted for CMNS-110 D111
TA: Anis Rahman
Brendan Ken Seppala
Word count: 2176
Date Submitted: 05/04/13
Many jokingly refer to news and informational media as “the fourth estate”. This is referring to the idea that media is a central part of democracy, along with the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. Thomas Jefferson once said, “If I had to choose between a free government and a free press I would choose the later” (Freidheim, 2005). From this it becomes very clear that news media has a tremendous responsibility in delivering un-biased information in order to inform the public of important issues and events. In today’s age we have a vast array of news sources available to us, such as television, internet, newspaper, and social media. One would think that with so many resources there would be much competition and fact checking between various sources in order to ensure unbiased information. However this idea of choice and unbiased information is an illusion, most news media is divided into large conglomerates that have tremendous power and control over vast media empires, these conglomerates often use their power for their own purposes and frequently deliver biased information to the general public. Examples of these conglomerates include, Disney, News Corp, Viacom, and NBC Universal. This leads us to three questions, how much power do conglomerates have? How do they use their power? And how do we as consumers sort out useable information?
As mentioned above, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is a titan in the financial world, pulling in revenues of 30 billion dollars annually (Aaron, 2009). While Murdoch may be the most well-known example of a conglomerate, he is not the only one. Bain Capital has revenues exceeding 6.2 billion dollars annually and owns the Premiere Radio Network which attracts 213 million listeners weekly, along with some 886 other radio stations across the country (Aaron, 2009). The CBS Corporation has revenues exceeding 13 billion dollars and has stakes in broadcast television, radio, and the Simon & Schuster publishing house (Aaron, 2009). Viacom with revenues of 14.9 billion dollars and control of over 100 cable networks and access to 600 million people across the globe (Aaron, 2009). Although revenue and earnings are not directly related to power, the two are correlated and these numbers give you a rough picture of the amount of power held by these major corporations.
These companies account for over 20 billion dollars in revenue each year, it is also important to point out that the majority of this revenue comes primarily from television and radio. One should also take into consideration conglomerates involvement in web based media, Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, and Apple account for over 220 billion dollars in revenue annually (Aaron, 2009). In a world where money is power, the level of influence these conglomerates poses is astounding. Not only are they able to influence the general public, they also have incredible influence in lobbying governments due to their financial resources. In this sense conglomerates have legal, political and social influence and this can often have negative implications for the general public. For example, this can lead to indoctrination of children and adolescents, causing them to grow up with the beliefs and values presented by these conglomerates.
Initially the concept that information is power is a strange one, one typically thinks of power in terms of military might, financial resources, or political office. This tendency makes it difficult to accept information as power, information does not pass laws, it does not launch missiles, and by itself it has zero financial worth. One cannot go to the market and pay with information. So how then did information, Superman, and the heir to a hat fortune destroy the revival of the Ku Klux Klan?
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