It is indisputable that people are now living in a perilous time, where an affluent person can buy even the very essence of mass communication. Monopolizing media insinuates the danger in most sectors of the economy because it hinders the natural flow of competition and certainly leads to costly but cheap quality of news not worthy of reading, hearing, or seeing.
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“The media was envisioned by our country’s founders as the Fourth Estate, next to the Legislative, Judicial and Executive branches in power. Without a balanced and thorough media, we can not function as a true government of the people, because the public will be ignorant and manipulated by a selective presentation of biased information (Palmeri, 2004).”
Facts and Figures
- AOL/Time Warner, Walt Disney Co./ABC, Viacom, News Corp., and Bertelsmann, the renowned five giants in the field of mass communication controls the equivalent of almost 50 corporations that dominated 20 years ago, according to The New Media Monopoly, the latest edition of renowned media critic Ben Bagdikian’s book. Those five already control more than 80 percent of prime-time programming.
- The vast majority of Americans of at least 54 percent still rely on television for their news. Only 8 percent look to the Internet as their primary news reference and half of those sites are owned by the top media giants, according to media watchdog group Free Press.
- Corporate control of cable and satellite TV is even more striking, with monopolies representing 98 percent of all cable markets nationwide, and two companies controlling satellite TV.
- The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) heavily influenced by corporate lobbyists and narrow-minded free marketeers has consistently reinforced the power enjoyed by media conglomerates on what Americans see, hear, and read with moves such as handing the digital spectrum to current TV station owners for free five years ago (a gift worth $80 billion at the time) and fighting low-power FM radio stations.
- Today 29 corporations control most of the business in daily newspapers, magazines, television, books, and motion pictures. The movie industry is controlled by four firms. The nation’s newspapers are dominated by 15 firms. Six control magazines and a handful dominate the book publishing business. Three networks control the television airwaves (Bagdikian, 2004).
It gives the impression that the main concern of mass media in today’s society is to mobilize support for the interests of the government. Noam Chomsky also expresses his concern for the trend in mass, corporate-based media which recognizes the main function of the media to make people follow orders and not think for themselves.
It seizes the rights of the citizens to seek information from as many sources as possible (preferably small presses and alternative radio) and to use these alternative viewpoints as a weapon in the war for information. The mass media tell us, how to think and what to think about the events of the world. Alternative Media, on the other hand, is citizen, not state, controlled (Chomsky, 1988).
It is undoubtedly true that in almost all American cities, there is only one major daily newspaper. And this results in a different type of journalism from the early days when many competing newspapers existed in each major market.
The Decline in Quality of News
The Writers Guild of America East publicly announced a report showing the quality of broadcast news is on the decline, according to a survey of 184 of its members.
“The declining quality of news is staggering and disturbing,” said WGA East president Chris Albers in a statement. “This paper details what our members have been telling us for a long time — that corporate pressures to cut costs are negatively impacting their ability to bring the public objective, high-quality news.”
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Major contributory factors of the decline of quality in news are: recycling of news is becoming more commonplace, increased job responsibilities have made research and fact-checking low-priority tasks and a shift is underway from hard news to more lifestyle and entertainment news (Dave, 2007).
The influence of advertisers may soon be dominated by the influence of owners. Today, media outlets are owned more often than not by Fortune 500 corporations than by news people. Consequently, cutting the size of a news staff meets with less administrative resistance and may shape the news and increase profits for the parent company at the same time.
If information is the currency of democracy, then by the year 2000, democracy in the United States may well be owned by six corporations and controlled by about 90 white middle-aged men (Bagdikian, 2004).
Freedom of the press and the rights to information must not be monopolized by lame peddlers in a liberated institution. Doing the opposite disintegrates the minds and perspectives of today’s people. Unfortunately, no further remedies are available to oppose the effects of media concentration but to effectually voice out the rights of billions of people and to reinstitute the core meaning of fairness and freedom to information.
- BlogCritics. “From Invasion of the Media Snatchers.” 2004.
- Palmeri, Tony. “Northeast Wisconsin’s Media Monopoly” 2004. Web.
- Mcnary, Dave. “Broadcast news on the decline.” WGAE releases quality report. 2007.
- The Multinational Monitor. “All the News.” Editorial September 1987, Volume 8, Number 9.