The Effects of Corporate Ownership On Media Content
“We are here to serve advertisers. That is our raison d’etre,” said the CEO of CBS. Since the 1980s, there have been a lot of corporate mergers and buyouts in the media and entertainment industry. As a result, mainstream media has become more concentrated due to ownership and influence from advertisers.
According to Mother Jones magazine, there were eight giant media companies dominating the US media. Most people get their information from these few sources, making it difficult to hear fresh and untainted news. These companies include: -Disney (market value: $72.8 billion)
-AOL-Time Warner (market value: $90.7 billion)
-Viacom (market value: $53.9 billion)
-General Electric (owner of NBC, market value: $390.6 billion) -News Corporation (market value: $56.7 billion)
-Yahoo! (market value: $40.1 billion)
-Microsoft (market value: $306.8 billion)
-Google (market value: $154.6 billion)
These companies listed above are the “first tier” companies that make billions of dollars as they control the media. Robert McChesney said that there are then about 50 “second tier” companies that follow in the footsteps of the larger, first tier companies. However, compared to our past, our sources of news in the media are limited.
“In 1983, fifty corporations dominated most of every mass medium and the biggest media merger in history was a $340 million deal…In 1987, the fifty companies had shrunk to twenty-nine…In 1990, the twenty-nine had shrunk to twenty-three…In 1997, the biggest firms numbered ten and involved the $19 billion Disney-ABC deal, at the time the biggest media merger ever…In 2000, AOL Time Warner’s $350 billion merged corporation was more than 1,000 times larger than the biggest deal of 1983.” (Ben H. Bagdikian, The Media Monopoly, Sixth Edition)
Based on the characteristics of the public sphere model, Croteau and Hoynes see the public sphere on a macro level as a social discourse than enables the circulation of ideas and knowledge, thereby ensuring the successful socialization of individuals into society. Mass media are seen as capable of affecting people’s behavior. Having an effect on publics media organizations should “promote active citizenship, education, and social integration” through their messages.
The major problem with the media today is that the corporations that fund the media are seeking to make the largest possible profits and in turn, the satisfaction of viewers is compromised. And, since there are so few corporations now, as a result of either mergers or weeding out, diversity has become an issue. While some may think they can change the channel and find a new source, the same corporations own many of the other stations. Also, those eight corporations that were listed earlier are all competing with one another, which you would think might lead to diversity in subjects and reporting so that they can stand out, has actually had the opposite effect. The competing corporations often report the same news in order to keep up with one another and not fall behind.
According to Croteau and Hoynes, media in the public sphere model should be characterized by diversity, innovation, substance, and independence. Innovation means creative and fresh content rather than the presence of new technologies. Substantial media messages are those that address significant issues, educate audiences, and promote participation in social life. Content should be independent from corporate and governmental interests. Government and other organizations should not limit the range of presented perspectives on issues.
As McChesney discussed in his book The Problem of the Media, “Ownership does matter, especially in media, where control over ideas, news, and culture rates as a unique power even among powerful corporations. Private ownership of media, in nonegalitarian societies, is not content-neutral or viewpoint-neutral; the best ideas do not automatically rise...
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