News Media: A free, competitive and diverse enterprise?

John McCain said on Meet the Press:  “We need a free press….”  He’s right.  The role of the press is, or should be, to protect citizens from a corrupt government.  To do so, freedom of the press must remain a constitutionally protected right under the first amendment. Free and easy access to information is a necessary component of public welfare.  The best press is one that’s not only free, but is also competitive and diverse.  But just how competitive and diverse is the press really?  Over recent years, the FCC, leaning toward a more market-orientated agenda, has been relaxing many of its public interest rules.  Since then, media consolidation has risen dramatically.   Today, the biggest news companies are owned by a small, handful of mass media corporations.  These same corporations also own the “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”and “how” of everything that you see and hear.

Making competition and diversity matters more complex, “each media corporation has a Board of Directors upon which sit representatives from other large corporations, many of which are non-media, non-news, oriented.”

Ever wonder why certain public heath and welfare related issues are largely ignored by media?

Perhaps there’s an Exxon executive sitting on the board of directors at FOX News.  Perhaps there’s a director from Philip Morris board of directors sitting on NBC’s board of directors.

The Boards of Directors of print and broadcast news organizations are populated by representatives of Ford, G.E, G.M, General Dynamic, Coke, ITT, IBM, Dow-Corning, Philip Morris, AT&T, and others. Given that distribution of ownership it’s not surprising that the concerns of labor are downplayed in the media” (Peoples V., 1997). ”

There’s been very limited coverage on links between fracking and earthquakes.

And, little coverage on oil spills.

When most major media is in the hands of a few, it leaves little room for diversity.  Without diversity you have no culture.  Culture cannot grow, creativity cannot thrive and innovation cannot be inspired when perspectives are confined to the same sources of information.

Ted Turner talked about the dangers of media conglomerates and protecting small business news media.

“Media companies have grown so large and powerful, and their dominance has become so detrimental to the survival of small, emerging companies, that there remains only one alternative: bust up the big conglomerates.”

How fast things have changed since he wrote the essay.

Unfortunately, Media is less a public guard-dog and more a marketer for government and corporate interests.  Well, that is until this new administration came along—an administration whose interests don’t seem to align much with We, the people.  Media, as the government watch-dog is back in full force, or so it seems.

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