CONTROLLED MASS MEDIA
By Brandon and Jeffrey
Warner Brothers Pictures, Morgan Creek, New Regency, Warner Brothers Animation, a partial stake in Savoy Pictures, Little Brown & Co., Bullfinch, Back Bay, Time-Life Books, Oxmoor House, Sunset Books, Warner Books, the Book of the Month Club, Warner/Chappell Music, Atlantic Records, Warner Audio Books, Electra, Warner Brothers Records, Time-Life Music, Columbia House, a 40 percent stake in Seattle's Sub-Pop Records, Time Magazine, In Style, Martha Stewart Living, Sunset, Asia Week, Parenting, Weight Watchers, Cooking Light, DC Comics, 49 percent of Six Flags Theme Parks, Movie World and Warner Brothers parks, HBO, Cinemax, Warner Brothers Television, partial ownership of Comedy Central, E!, Black Entertainment Television, Court TV, the Sega Channel, the Home Shopping Network, Turner Broadcasting, the Atlanta Braves andAtlanta Hawks, World Championship Wrestling, Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, New Line Cinema, Fine Line Cinema, Turner Classic Movies, Turner Pictures, Castle Rock Productions, CNN, CNN Headline News, CNN International, CNN/SI, CNN airport Network, CNNfi, CNN radio, TNT, WTBS, and the Cartoon Network:Those, according to Eric Alterman, in his 2003 book, What Liberal Media, are companies which were acquired by AOL when it acquired Time Warner.
Between AOL-Time Warner and the likes of Disney, Bertelsmann, the News Corporation, General Electric, Viacom, and Disney, the vast majority of everything we see and hear n the supposedly "liberal" mass media comes from only six--that's right, six--mega media corporations.As I have suggested in previous posts and comments, this is why the media should be independently owned. All too often liberals believe that conservative media owners directly order journalists to cover or not to cover certain stories, when, in fact, the truth is a little more complicated than all that.
In the first place we need to understand that journalists have very little in common with your typical welfare recipient or elderly person who may need energy assistance to survive a northern state winter. According to sociologist David Croteau, "95 percent of elite journalists earned more than $50,000 a year, and 31 percent earned more than $150,000." On other words, this often puts journalists in the same economic class as the right wing free market politicians who they are supposed to be covering.
In the second place, journalists, have a tendency to not report on their friends, and when your top of the line journalists are rubbing elbows with Corporate America you can understand very easily why it is so difficult to properly investigate allegations of corporate corruption--and governmental coprruption. In other words, journalists are reluctant to tattle on their friends-- their friends in this case being the wealthy and powerful individuals who have been eating up our broadcast media since the early 1980s.And there's even more.
When a single, Parent Corporation owns as many smaller companies as the one I listed above, the chances are that the journalists will, at one time or another, face a conflict of interest. If a journalist is actually ambitious and discovers wrong-doing on the part of a given company the journalist may well find him or herself in a position where snitching on the activities of another corporation might actually harm the financial situation of the Parent Corporation for which he ultimately works. In a time when corporations are only interested in the bottom line, that means journalists will think twice about causing trouble for their corporate masters. It isn't so much that journalists receive their marching orders from the top down. That would be too obvious. The American people would never tolerate the idea of corporations openly telling their journalists what they can and cannot cover.
In the end it's a little more subtle and a lot more Machiavellian than that.
Journalists understand that their jobs depend on not offending the Powers That Be. This means that journalists have become very adept at the art of self-censorship. They know that there are very definite lines which they should never cross. ( Indeed, there was a Pew Project in Excellence in Journalism study from 2000 which showed that nearly a third of TV news directors had been pressured to either avoid negative stories about an advertiser or to write a positive story about an advertiser) Moreover, journalists will do very little in the way of serious reporting if it means biting the hand that feeds them--or, worse yet, biting the hand of the advertisers which feed the companies they work for. (Another 2000 Pew Research Study revealed that 40 percent of journalists openly admit that they feel pressured to self-censor.)
The results have not been beneficial: not for journalists, not for our government, and certainly not for the American people. When news becomes another business, the only thing that matters is the bottom line. Money becomes the ultimate goal, not detailed, accurate reporting. Liberals are frequently blamed for the lousy programming and superficial reporting that we see in our media today but that is a direct result of the ultimate conservative value--the free market run amok.
Prior to media conglomeration, news outlets were actually allowed to report on serious issues. Journalists were actually allowed to engage in investigative reporting. But now, with money as the only real motive, even our news broadcasts must pander to the lowest common denominator. Again, the final outcome is less than desirable: Sloppy situation comedies, over the top dramas, reality based hogwash, and, more to the point-- news coverage which marries entertainment and legitimate journalism.
As angry as I was about the Michael Jackson verdict, I was even more angered by the disproportionate amount of airtime that it consumed. Just who did this story concern? That's easy: the victims, Jackson, the immediate legal system, and the communities in which the abuse and trial took place; and that's where it should have ended. It did not merit all the coverage that we saw. But we're living in an age of celebrity journalism.
Considerthe runaway bride. Friends would tell me about this "fascinating" story that they were following, and (surprise, surprise), it was about this bubble-headed ditz who left her groom at the altar. Each time someone wasted my time with this menutia I would think: "And this is important because?..."Of course it wasn't important. The only reason it becomes an important issue was because it consumed valuable air and page space which could have been filled with more important issues.
This , of course, brings us to the tragic, but again, local story, about the girl who disappeared in Aruba. This one actually is important because it raises a somewhat important issue about our celebrity-obsessed media. Do we really think a disappearance such as this would receive so much national coverage if the center of attention weren't a young, attractive, blonde Christian? Ask yourself this: "Do we really think that the story would have had such long legs if this were an unattractive, 45-year-old man named Sol Greenberg?" Probably not. The fact that the girl vanished is genuinely tragic, but it should only be an issue to the family, the perpetrators, and the local law enforcement agencies. It should not be a national obsession and it does not deserve the national attention that it has been getting.BUT, the bottom line must be served. Profit must triumph over serious reporting.
The American people can no longer tell the difference between real news and fluff. Indeed, they actually become irritated when faced with real news that challenges or disproves their belief systems. (I for one was actually amused by a friend who flipped out because the live coverage in the Jackson coverage interrupted his afternoon viewing of Doctor Phil. How low can you go?) The question then becomes: "Just how is this good for Representative government?" The answer, again, is obvious. It is not.
You cannot elect intelligent leaders when the people are fed a steady diet of fluff and drivel.Our media are in a shambles, our government is in a shambles, our society is in a shambles, and yet we find ourselves in a self-feeding cycle of journalistic irrelevancy. The American people want their fluff and entertainment; the media want to make money and to that end they program fluff and entertainment. The people are deprived of their informational vitamins and minerals, the corporate masters become increasingly richer, and the American people are the ones who keep getting the short end of the stick.
And the final outcome has been tragic.
Investigative reporting is virtually nonexistent. It costs money to conduct a thorough, ongoing investigation: least of all one that might prove controversial and upset viewers--who, by the way, are now considered "consumers."
The same holds true in the area of overseas reporting.
After 911 we all heard the new saying. "EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED."And for awhile, it did. We actually started to get legitimate, even substantial foreign reporting; but as time dragged on, the situation devolved back to where it had been. The TV networks have pulling away from oveseas coverage.
As expected, the American people get shafted while corporate overlords reap huge profits at the expense of legitmiate journalism. But this doesn't mean that there aren't winners. There are. The winners are Corporate America and their paid, Republican lap dogs to whom the corporations donate hefty campaign contributions. It's a nice arrangement--for the reactionary politicians and fiscally conservative corporations who benefit when the former are kept in power.Why if you didn't know better you'd thing that the so-called liberal media weren't as liberal as some people mistakenly believe they are.
What Liberal Media: The Truth About Bias and The News
by Eric Alterman
Publsihed 2003 by Basic Books, a member of Perseus Books
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