Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More on Media Consolidation

[It's been far too long since I put up a post, and in the process of answering a comment on my Blackwater topic, I realized that I had practically written another post. And since it clarifies my views on the issue of media consolidation, I figured I'd just put it up on the main page.]

Mr. Williams,

I'm not sure how you came to the conclusion that I think "Bush controls the media and told them not to run a story about Blackwater," since that's not at all what my post was about.

I specifically said, "Of course, we don't need an official policy of censorship like North Korea or Saudi Arabia."

I went on to explain that all of our major media outlets are owned by six, count them SIX, corporations. I even went so far as to include a handy-dandy link so you could see the actual six corporations that own our news outlets.

See, the thing about corporations is that they exist to make money. Let me give you a really simplified but true example of how the bottom line can come into conflict with delivering important information to the public:

One of my professors at the University of Cincinnati was chosen to host a local weekly television program about health and sexuality issues. One of his proposed show topics was about why women should not use douches. He was told that he could not do a show on that particular topic because one of the sponsors of the show was a company who makes douches. Long story short; the program didn't air, but the point is that an advertizer's money was more important to the production of the program than giving important health information on a show that's purpose was to give health information. That's not to say that the producers were evil people who were willing to misinform women for a quick buck; as a matter of fact, it was a non-profit project, so the issue was that they simply couldn't afford to make the show without their sponsors.

But back to the for-profit sector:

You can buy a newspaper for $1, but that paper cost $5 to make. Granted, the newspaper company has to have readers if it's going to sell add space, but readers are a smaller factor in their equation to turn a profit than advertisers.

Now, if there are twenty other newspapers in town, the companies are going to have to work a lot harder to get people to buy their paper, and consequently, they are going to care a lot more about what you think and where you're going to spend your dollar.

But if there are TWO papers in town, or as in many cities these days, ONE paper, you and your dollar are significantly less important to them, since you have so few options, you're very likely to buy their paper no matter what they do.

Now, take that same scenario and play it out over ALL our media outlets. SIX for-profit corporations owning all our major news outlets is a HUGE problem. Providing you with information is not their primary objective; their primary objective is to make money. When the goal of informing the public about important issues clashes with the goal of turning a profit; turning a profit wins hands down.