As examined in Part I, we delved into the ownership inequalities that exist in the Australian media landscape. Now, in Part II, I will examine that same inequality though in a more global context, specifically that in the United States, thus drawing both parts together into the revised case study.
Perhaps the greatest issue with media ownership is the ideological debate between public and private ownership and the advantages & disadvantages these bring. Whilst Australia has 3 free-to-air private networks, plus those within Foxtel, it also has two public owned broadcasters; the ABC and SBS, of which both free-to-air and public broadcasting raise issues of bias and for-profit priorities with the formers. In the United States, there once was an array of ownership, so much so that conflicts of interest were relatively low. Take 1983 for example, that year 90% of US media was owned by 50 companies, including many that focused on local issues and were rather independent by today’s standards. By 2011, that same 90% had reduced from 50 owners, down to not 40,or 30, not even 20: but to a mere 6.
This 6 control such as vast network of the information, freedoms and values that we hold, we could see great dangers if there were to be more consolidation within each other. Below are the 6 with some of their main properties;
General Electric- NBC, Universal Studios
Disney- ABC, ESPN, Marvel Studios
Viacom- MTV, Paramount Pictures
Time Warner- CNN, TIME, Warner Bros
CBS- Showtime, NFL.com
And who could forget our friend;
News Corp- Fox, Wall Street Journal, New York Post
In 2010, the combined revenue of these 6 was $275.9 Billion, which was $36 billion more than Finland’s GDP. General Electric, with it’s control of NBC and Comcast, owns 1 out of every 5 hours of television, which grants it major control of audiences in markets such as Chicago and New York.
As put by William Melody,
“The greatest threat to freedom of expression in the United States or elsewhere is the possibility that private entrepreneurs will always tend to monopolise the marketplace of ideas in the name of economic efficiency and private profit” (Zayani 2011)
However, it is worthy noting that media in the United States is more forefront with who supports who politically. Channels such as CNN and ABC aim more into the political centre, with coverage of both sides, however Fox News and The New York Post are more aligned with right-wing politics, much like The Australian, which funnily enough are all owned by News Corp. News Corp owns two of the world’s largest newspapers, the Wall Street Journal (largest newspaper in the United States by circulation, with 2.3 million as of March 2015) and The Sun (with The Sun printing 1.8 million papers a day.)
In the United States, the Federal Communications Commision (FCC) is the regulatory body established by Congress to monitor and regulate the communication and media industries. These include the radio, cable, television and film mediums to ensure that there are constant updates to support both technology and innovation, and to ensure that healthy competition exists and do not broadcast threats to national security. You may have noticed that there is no mention of print media, such as newspapers or magazines, and that is precisely due to the First Amendment in the Constitution; as print media is regarded as a freedom of speech act, and that the only regulations that can be placed on this industry is whether the papers sell enough for them to continue.
On August 10th, 2016, the FCC voted to maintain the current level of regulations of media ownership, that is that companies cannot own a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same market, and visa versa. So for example, General Electric, with its dominance with its television stations in New York, cannot own or have a relationship with papers such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times or New York Post.
So where does this lead us to? What does the future hold for traditional industries such as radio and print media, who are owned by the same corporations that own the new wave of media such as streaming services and online film? Let me know what you think about who owns what and where the future may lie in the comments below.
Zayani, M., 2011. Media, cultural diversity and globalization: Challenges and opportunities. Journal of cultural diversity, 18(2), p.48.
Shepherdson, D August 11th 2016 “FCC votes to keep most media ownership rules”, Reuters, accessed 17th August 2016 http://www.reuters.com/article/us-fcc-media-idUSKCN10L2M8
Shah, A 2009 “Media conglomerates, mergers, concentration of ownership”, globalissues.org, accessed 21st August 2016 http://www.globalissues.org/article/159/media-conglomerates-mergers-concentration-of-ownership
Lutz, A June 14th 2012, “These 6 corporations control 90% of the media in America”, businessinsider.com.au, accessed 21st August 2016 http://www.businessinsider.com.au/these-6-corporations-control-90-of-the-media-in-america-2012-6