The media is a source of news and knowledge for the entire country. However, when ownership can be attributed to a small handful of companies, whose interests are truly being shared? In 1983, 50 corporations controlled the majority of the American news media. This includes television, movies, radio, newspapers, books, magazines, and newsfeed. Today, that number is at five…a mere 10 percent of what it used to be.
These five companies are Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom. They control what Americans see and don’t see. They dictate the agenda that supports lobbyists and their corporate interests. They define social values and have the power to change U.S. politics based on the coverage of the events. Where media is knowledge and power, they wield it all.
The problem of media consolidation
While you may have the illusion of choice with a cable package with over 600 channels, countless news apps and newspapers, radio, podcasts, and the internet at your disposal, your information diet has never been more controlled. Just take Disney for example. They own ABC, ESPN, Touchstone Pictures, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, A&E, The History Channel, Lifetime, Pixar, Miramax, Hollywood Records, Vice Media (10% stake), and Core Publishing. Although you didn’t realize, you may be consuming information crafted by Disney executives at every turn. These 13 companies may not be the same in name, but they’re the same in ideology and message. The information they dispel is decided by the same executives.
So, in a world of supposed “free thought,” you can see how large of an issue this can turn out to be. Your thoughts and opinions are formed based on the information you have access to, and these five companies have undue influence over that information. They have their own agendas that support their lobbyists and corporate interests. They can choose how to frame issues to the public at large. Without even realizing that you’re obtaining media from a biased source, all of your consumption is suddenly derived from there.
The solution of citizen journalism
The solution to the handful of media conglomerates is a diversification of the media sphere. While it’s difficult to rival companies like Disney (which is exactly how the conglomerate grew to this size), citizen journalists can do their part. A citizen journalist is a person who reports on current events even if they are not specifically trained in journalism or affiliated with a news outlet. Social media has played a strong role in the rise of citizen journalism because it’s easier than ever to gain access to news. It provides a channel for anyone and everyone to share stories.
Now, remember, this isn’t a free license to share fake news. Citizen journalism should still be well-researched and factual. Your goal as a journalist is to fill in the gaps that the media giants are missing. Citizenship journalism should be encouraged as long as you substantiate your stories to give the public new voices and perspectives to hear from.
The five media giants that have taken over the American media are doing a disservice to citizens. However, citizen journalists can help solve this problem by reporting on issues and providing new perspectives.