American Media Ownership Model and Impact on Policies
The same way most governments across the world can control the media content, corporations in the United States exert their influence on the conventional media. A critical study of Media in America reveals that close to all media content originates from the common six sources (Eli 50). The fact that media is owned by few six companies means that Americans live under an illusion of having a choice when it comes to accessing news and entertainment. The reason is that despite having many channels to choose from, they end up consuming the same content. It has emerged that 90% of what people living in the United States of America listen to, read or watch all come from six giant companies that control the media. The six giant companies that own media in the US include NEWS CORP that owns Fox, Wall Street Journal and New York Post (Eli 70). Another giant company is DISNEY that controls ABC, ESPN, PIXAR, MIRAMAX and Marvel Studios. VIACOM is also part of the six giant companies controlling the media in the US. VIACOM has many properties that include MTV, BET, CMT and Paramount Pictures. Among the giant companies, there is also TIME WARNER that owns a major player in the media industry CNN, HBO, TIME and WARNER BROS (Eli 75). The final company is Comcast because GE no longer owns any media.
Just like a government controlled media can undermine democracy and people’s freedom of expression, media that are controlled by few companies can also undermine the freedom of expression because the media houses are profit driven. Big companies have the advantage of not airing news, opinions or programs that could weaken their financial interests and therefore disadvantage the ordinary citizens because they do not have free access to information (Eli 110). For example, subscribers of the Medford Mail Tribune usually express their frustration since it was acquired to be part of NEWSCORP property. The newspaper has changed since the buyout, and it seized being an independent paper. Before the buyout the articles from Mail Tribune would cover a story on all angles, performing an in-depth analysis, but in recent times it very rare to find articles with such analysis. The subscriber’s dissatisfaction is evident through their letters to the editor. Another disadvantage of the corporates owned media in America is that because they are profit driven, instead of using their resources to improve the accuracy and coverage of local news, they will focus more on national news. For the big companies, it is convenient to lay of the local reporters and concentrate more on the national news to reach their target audience for profits. For example, it is common to find people are much aware of what is happening nationally but clueless on the events in their local area.
The media that is controlled by private companies may set the agenda for the country and influence the policy decisions made by the government (Eli 111). For example, if a company that does not favor the business interests of the six major companies controlling the media is involved in a scandal, the companies can use their influence to completely push it out of the market by forcing the government to act on public pressure. If the public repetitively listens to the news that a certain company is corrupt for a whole week, people might start calling for action from the government, and in the attempt to please the public the company might get a severe punishment than ordinarily expected. Since America has been involved in several wars on foreign soil, the six private companies may use the coverage on the wars to their advantage. For example, they may build a narrative on why America must act in a certain way when dealing with the war in Syria by broadcasting one side of the story to the public and avoiding certain dimensions of the same story. The public can, in turn, buy the media narrative and support more airstrikes by the American government, therefore, influencing the way the operation is carried out.
Noam, Eli. Media ownership and concentration in America. Oxford University Press on Demand, 2009.