Let me tell you about the USA first, because their figures are a little more concrete, I have more research under my belt and well – they are the biggest exporter of media on the planet. Here’s a simple fact to get you started: In 1983, 50 companies controlled 90% of the media between them. In 2012, just 6 companies control that same 90%.
This means, there are 6 CEO’s out there who control 90% of everything Americans see, hear or read. There are 232 media executives controlling the information diet of 277 MILLION Americans. That’s 850,000 people each. Here’s a graphic, for those of you who like to see things looking all pretty.
So what does this mean for us? Well it means that our media is controlled by an oligopoly. There is no way on earth I can find to justify such a small number controlling the information received by so many. It’s madness. How can we exist in a supposedly democratic country (that’s a topic for another time) when the political bias of capitalist giants is force fed to us on a daily basis? The media would argue that it is pluralistic, meaning that the people “vote with their feet” and we only buy what we like. Therefore, it is us that influence the media and not the other way around. Well excuse my French but that is bollocks. How do we have choice? Where is the choice? Yes there might be 1,000 publications on the wall in W.H.Smith but if they all effectively come from the same group of people, then what is the difference?
Another argument that is churned out to support the idea of media pluralism is that media bosses and CEO’s don’t control the output. They can’t possibly be in all places at once, so it’s not up to them what is and what isn’t published or broadcast. Well that too is complete falsehood. The big bosses set the editorial guidelines, they hire and fire the editors and producers that deal with the day to day. Ruport Murdoch (one of the behemoths of the media industry) calls his editors on a daily basis to make sure his ideologies are being adhered to.
The laws have been changed to allow this. There used to be rules to protect us, back before your opinion was a commodity and freedom of thoughts and speech were still respected. Governments imposed rules to stop this from happening, as the media grew more powerful and the governments more corrupt however, this soon changed. Against the advice of experts and contrary to popular opinion the laws have been systematically relaxed. The media giants get richer and the governments? Well what do you think they get out of all of this? Propaganda.
Here’s an interesting fact – Rupert Murdoch’s media empire in the UK has never backed a losing candidate from the UK general elections. He had always back the Tories and they had always got in. Until he struck a deal with Tony Blair. You see Mr. Blair was willing to relax UK cross-ownership laws to allow Murdoch to buy out BSkyB and effectively take over our media. In return Murdoch’s empire backed Blair. The rest is history. They don’t even attempt to make their “special relationship” secret. Blair is even godfather to one of Murdoch’s daughters, you couldn’t make it up.
One of the last bastions of free speech and free media available to us is the internet. Not in all parts of the world, granted. In communist China the government limit internet usage and block social networking sites for fear of popular uprisings. Social media facilitated the Arab uprisings of last year, so it is no small wonder that governments are fearful of it’s globalised, unifying power. Ok, so the internet isn’t completely free. It has been hypercommercialised since its inception and they are constantly finding ways to make more and more money from it. It isn’t yet censored though. The internet has been the biggest revolution is publishing your opinion since the Gutenberg press and we should be eternally grateful it exists. Although technically a U.S Military invention, it was created by research scientists as a method of sharing information. An egalitarian platform for knowledge to be distributed. It was created for what you are reading now, for what you read on twitter, on blogs, Facebook and all other non-commercial sites around the world. I just hope they don’t find a way to take it from us.
I’ve written about this in a lot more depth in an essay regarding ownership & control of the media. You can access it here, if you want to see the full version.