Media ownership is becoming more and more concentrated these days as multi-billion dollar companies such as News corporation, Time warner and Disney company control almost all the shares of the mass media. A total of six corporations control almost 90% of the mainstream media nowadays. That means that out of all the TV channels we watch, the radio stations we listen to and the movies we see are owned by one of these six main corporations. Is this a good or a bad situation? Is the fact that almost the whole media is owned by a very few a positive or a negative aspect? Some argue that this brings benefits to the free market, the multi-billion companies and ultimately, the viewers. On the other hand, others say that this concentration of media ownership has a negative effect on the market and on society as a whole (articleworld.org).
People are almost “forced” to wonder if the media controls as well our public taste and interest. They control the information we receive, but not only that, they control exactly what we receive and the way we do, therefore they control what we think. Media companies do not care about how they can be more objective and provide people news and information with a neutral point of view (even thought it sounds contradictory). We could say that they “unintentionally” or “indirectly” tell us what to think and what to believe. A newspaper finds some news and automatically interprets them, even though journalists try to focus on the facts, as many claim, they subconsciously have and opinion about whatever subject they are reporting about. This takes us to the point of “lack of diversity” that is a reality nowadays and that so many criticize. Danny Schechter, a television producer, independent filmmaker, blogger, and media critic states that “we have many channels and a tremendous lack of diversity.” It wouldn’t be strange to think that a news broadcast would withhold information if it had a negative effect on the company.
From an international perspective, this situation of media merging is also beneficial for the big conglomerates. For instance, News Corporation owns the top newspaper on 3 continents, that is the Wall Street Journal in the U.S, The Sun in Europe and The Australian in Australia (Lutz, Jason, 2012). The positive aspect of this, is that the spreading of this “influence” is good for the company, and at the same time, readers get what they want, which is reading that newspaper. However, the bad aspect is that big conglomerates are big companies, and big companies main priority is always money, above everything else. Getting more readers, viewers and listeners is for the one and only purpose that matters to them: Money. That is what brings bad or “controversial” consequences, and one of them is that in 2012, they avoided $875 million in U.S taxes (Lutz, Jason, 2012). That would have been enough to double FEMA’s budget, or to fund NPR for 40 years. Nonetheless, technically this cannot be criticized since they are a private corporation after all. Another issue that is a big concern in the European Union is the media transparency and plurality. Transparency is an essential component of pluralism (Stolte & Smith, 2010). Although the Council of Europe and the European Parliament have brought out recommendations regarding media transparency in the last few years, these have not been acted on. It is left to Member States to implement legislation regarding media ownership transparency, and there is by no means a unified or standard approach to be found across Europe (Stolte & Smith, 2010). This is a big issue in the European Union. The media’s duty is to provide objective information to the public through newspapers, television and radio, in order for the public to make public as well as personal decisions in the diverse fields.
It may sound scary -and it does to a lot of people- the fact that all our media is controlled by a few big conglomerates, forming an oligopoly, with the power of doing -almost- whatever they want. Also, it is true that this situation implies a very few and personal points of view, and the opportunity for those big conglomerates to “control” in a way what gets out, and how it does. Making the audience think in a certain way. This Infographic shows the media ownership in the U.S currently.