Media Power and Ownership

Does who control the media really control what is seen or heard in the media? Are the owners of media outlets able to influence their newspapers, magazine or TV & Radio station’s output.

Yes, according to scholars and commentators such as Herman and Chomsky. Their studies have concluded that a problem exists concerning impartiality and balance in the press.

In their 1988 book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media they discuss how media outlets cannot sustain themselves. And “advertising as the primary income source of the mass media (Herman and Chomsky, 1988) is the only way that any journalism can . be done. After all, media outlets have to be able to pay their bills therefore pure journalism cannot be sustained. Advertising must pay for the infrastructure that allows any sort of journalism to be done. After all, writing and airing a story, doesn’t in itself create income.

Because of this, journalists then become embroiled in an impossible conundrum. How can they avoid becoming “churnalists” and end up “Working in a news factory, without the time to check, without the chance to go out and make contacts and find leads, reporters are reduced to churnalism, to the passive processing of material which overwhelmingly tends to be supplied for them by outsiders, particularly wire agencies and PR agencies. (Davies, 2011)

It’s not only profit that effects journalism. Herman & Chomsky’s five news filters stated that  the fear of “flak” (or being ostracised from the news makers) discourages any sort of journalism that goes against the current hegemony. So, again, profit and power can manipulate the truth.

But, this situation is not new. Advertising revenue has always paid the bills. It has kept the lights on in the offices and in the journalist’s homes.

 In order to generate revenue newspaper owners have long influenced their paper’s editorial stance and content. Primarily to engage with as large an audience as possible. Preferably an audience that companies will pay to advertise their wares to.

Revenue isn’t the only way newspaper output can be manipulated.

American newspaper man William Hearst, one of the most notorious and influential, profit motivated newspaper barons of the early 1900s, understood that owning your own media outlets could be advantageous.

Especially when campaigning for political office.

Printing your own stories and airing your discourse was very helpful… “Hearst used his newspapers as a platform and pursued the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in 1904.” (Campbell, 2017).

He also was accused of creating fake news or ‘yellow journalism’ when he“used melodrama, romance, and hyperbole to sell millions of newspapers” (Pbs.org, 2018

)

Recently, the proposed purchase by the Murdoch family of the remaining shares in BSkyB that they do not already own has caused questions to be asked about media plurality. News Corporation’s Chairman Rupert Murdoch’s “opponents claimed, he manipulated governments, lowered standards and sidestepped regulations,” (BBC News, 2012).

So, yes. It seems that there is a real fear that media owners influence the news.

 

 

References

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