Six Media Conglomerates: Mainstream Media’s Sensational Quest for Attention- Part 1
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.First Amendment adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the Ten Amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.
Mainstream Media and American Society
The United States of America and its Constitution stand at the forefront of global democracy, self-government, human rights, and as a leader in economic, social, environmental and racial progress. The freedoms that Americans enjoy allow for the population to grow, thrive, and flourish in the modern, technological world, away from the archaic social and political systems of the past. The freedom of speech to express an opinion without the threat of arrest or punishment stood as radical and relatively untested upon their proposal during the inception of America; but today, these rights represent fundamental principles for any industrial, Western, democratic society.
The freedom of religion and the right of the population to peaceably assemble against the government or corporate corruption, provide the foundation for American citizens to live freely and express themselves in their own unique and individual way. Without these core freedoms, and without a strong Constitution, the United States sits as a nation susceptible to despots and authoritarians that rule by force and aggression, as logic, reason, rationality, and democracy carry little weight in a society that values conformity and dissemination of ignorance over individual freedom, knowledge, and truth.
In addition to these democratic rights of a free and open society established within the First Amendment, the freedom of the press provides for the checks and balances against authority; against those in positions of power; against organizations and institutions with a vested interest in misleading the public for their own private profit; against a government that attempts to control the nation, our culture, and society through lies, dissemination of ignorance, manipulation of public opinions and ideas.
A free press, challenging powerful governments and dominant figureheads- unencumbered by corruption, hidden agendas, or ulterior motives- stands as a nation’s best defense against the foreign and, more importantly, the domestic threats and propaganda that eat away at the core of democratic society and freedom.
For a democracy to exist, for the United States of America to function as the free, democratic-republic established within the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the press must remain independent. Not beholden to the interests and ideas from those that pay the most to censor and silence unwanted opinions, or those who express certain positions that contradict the pre-selected narrative of advertisers or the government. Advertisers steer the public discussion away from uncomfortable truths that may interfere with their profits and towards the more politically charged and emotional topics that excite the news media viewer’s mood and alters their behavior towards one of consumption in order to satisfy their excited minds.
In today’s society, the old mainstream media, as well as the new social media, business model and marketing message, favors sensationalism and extremism, half-truths and lies, distortion and manipulation of the truth, and profits from advertising revenue, over the original press freedom, authority-checking and public informing purpose of the press established within the First Amendment. This private revenue-generating, press conformity to the status quo, submission to the established corporate or government agenda, drives a wedge between members of society, bottles up the publics anger, resentments and fears, and then sells that emotion back to them through conveniently placed advertisements intertwined with socially and politically charged news stories that often turn out to be inaccurate or false.
The modern news media favors stories with emotional appeals rather than objective facts in order to solidify their viewer’s ideological beliefs- and their disbeliefs- which allows advertisers to carefully select the types of audiences that will generate the most profit. This type of news media viewer selection by advertisers, and propaganda by news organizations that craft a partisan and ideological narrative through stories with an established set of beliefs, allow confirmation bias to form and echo chambers to develop, where incorrect ideas and false stories are no longer challenged from journalists or the public, but rather, allowed to grow, mislead, and distort public opinion, which leads to a loss of diversity of opinion, and, more subtly, the loss of freedom of speech.
Is the United States more dangerous than a totalitarian state in the sense that we allow dissenting opinions in the public mainstream media sphere of influence, so long as these dissenting opinions do not interfere with the opinions of the corporate executives and government elites that control the media, in order to give the illusion of First Amendment protected free speech?
The mainstream media functions as a disinformation machine that takes away the publics’ ability to observe and make their own objective judgments about the world. The media’s agenda obscures the truth so that individuals must choose between two ideas that appear in opposition to each other, but upon further review. are just two ends of the same government and corporate-approved message.
The mainstream media gladly does the bidding of the American government and the deep state that lies underneath the veil of public democracy. Any attempts by dissidents, rebels, and free-thinkers to subvert or challenge the bureaucratic machine- that is the American government- or any other institutions that represent the underlying foundation of American society, are quickly criticized and condemned by mainstream media executives and talking-heads, who are unwilling to challenge the government overlords that view people as expendable pieces of profit on the chessboard of American democracy.
There is no such thing as freedom of speech without diversity of opinion. When freedom exists within static, concrete, ideological, dogmatic, and pre-defined confines of socially and politically accepted opinion, then there can be no freedom of speech nor of self-expression. But as the United States government and society-at-large continually attempt to monetize every aspect of life in this free democracy, the rights and freedoms of American citizens takes secondhand significance to the profits of powerful industries that pollute the environment and exploit the ignorance of the public on matters that affect us all on a fundamental, societal, and cultural level.
Freedom of conscience, of education, of speech, of assembly are among the very fundamentals of democracy and all of them would be nullified should freedom of the press ever be successfully challenged.Franklin D. Roosevelt
The rapid devolution of the American media over the last 50 years from a news gathering, knowledge disseminating, population informing, and authority checking organization, into a corrupt, profit-driven, corporate advertising revenue reliant, arm of the federal government, where journalistic integrity gives way to powerful corporate executive and advertising interests, shows that the freedom of the press and the freedom of speech established within the First Amendment plays a secondary role to the greed of corporations that monetize lies for profit.
The mainstream media press corps require government access in order to receive profit. This creates a symbiotic- rather than a combative and authority checking- relationship between the government and the press. The government gains a free marketing platform through the media, while the press receives access to government officials. This relationship exists as long as the press does not overstep its boundaries with questions and stories that threaten or challenge the official government narrative. Even in today’s chaotic media environment, the press must remain dormant and docile on issues of national importance in order to prolong their cozy relationship with the government, which represents a large source of revenue for the media, as issues of national importance attract national viewership.
Modern America lives in a post-truth era of deception, ignorance, and disinformation (differs from misinformation, which is inaccurate. The purpose of disinformation is to purposely misinform and mislead). When subjective opinion carries greater importance than objective fact, public integrity, virtue, and knowledge diminish in favor of groupthink, tribal ideology, and ignorance.
Those Americans that fall victim to social and political ideology, and to the lies of mainstream and social media, wear a veneer of knowledge, a mask of intelligence, to hide their ignorance. Staunch confidence in false ideas and outright lies does not make them any more or less true; but under the current media business model of profit and revenue over public knowledge, information and truth, one individual’s opinion of reality can manipulate the minds of an entire segment of society, as long as that distortion and manipulation are financially lucrative.
Without an independent media, without journalistic integrity to challenge lies and confront power and authority, American democracy and freedom diminish, while the general public finds themselves blown around in the boisterous winds of a profit-seeking, incompetent, restricted, and censored press, beholden to their advertisers.
Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press and that cannot be limited without being lost.Thomas Jefferson
WHO CONTROLS THE MEDIA
Media Oligopoly: When a market/industry is dominated by a small number of corporations.
A conglomerate is a large company composed of a number of smaller companies (subsidiaries). A media conglomerate is a company that owns numerous smaller companies involved in mass media enterprises, such as television, radio, newspaper, movies, internet.
Whoever controls the media, controls the message; whoever controls the message, controls the publics’ thoughts and beliefs; whoever controls the publics’ thoughts and beliefs, controls society and culture. When the publics’ media consumption comes from a variety of different sources, each providing a unique point of view, then individuals are better equipped with critical thinking and reasoning skills to decipher the information from the different sources to decide their position. But when the publics’ media consumption comes from just a few sources, from just a few large media corporations that select the news that benefits their bottom line and their advertisers, then the public may find themselves unable to decipher the difference between reality and fantasy, between news and entertainment, between fact and fiction. The mainstream media industry in the United States, today, finds itself under the control of fewer corporations than at any other time in American history.
In 1983, 90 percent of all American media was owned by 50 companies; today, 90 percent of all American media is controlled by just six media conglomerates after a series of deregulations of the communications industry, which lead to mergers, buyouts, and acquisitions of smaller media companies by these six large media corporations. This level of media consolidation and concentration to just six multinational corporations leads to:
- A liquidation of diverse opinions.
- Content filter bubbles that elevate false stories for their profit potential, while ignoring true stories that may impact advertising revenue, and ignoring marginalized and fringe ideas and opinions due to their threat against the media’s corporate and pro-government message.
- Regressive mental states in the public, while acting as a subtle form of propaganda and brainwashing; people lose critical thinking, observation, judgment and reasoning skills when they are told the news rather than deciding the facts for themselves.
- Loss of media integrity. The purpose of modern news media transformed from public interest and democratic reasoning to a profit and advertising revenue machine.
Freedom of speech exists in the United States today, but so does the freedom of powerful governments and corporations to punish free speech that does not conform to their standards or their rigid ideological bias. Modern freedom of the press exists within a pre-defined corporate and government-approved structure. Debates on important social and political issues within the structured confines of mainstream media are set up to appear as diverse and objective from a wide variety of sources, but actually all stem from a pre-selected corporate and poll-tested base of media conglomerate ideas supported by their advertisers.
If a mainstream media hires a contributor, and that contributors idea challenges the news organizations advertisers and, therefore, the media corporations profit margin, then that opinion is left out and the contributor that provided the radical or marginalized opinion will find it difficult to make their ideas heard on cable news shows again. That individual’s freedom of speech is ignored for its threatening potential of contradicting the corporate advertiser’s narrative.
Media Size Rank: Total Revenue in 2010 for all six corps. $275 billion.
- AT&T ( bought Time Warner)
- NewsCorp (Fox)
Media companies do not have to explicitly lie to be deceptive, but they do not have to tell you the whole truth, nor part of the truth; they may even dress up the truth with incorrect or outright lies to sensationalize the story to attract more viewers. Political cable news companies like CNN, Fox News, MSNBC show a clear editorial bias toward one political ideology, but all major news networks favor the status quo, the establishment, corporate bias, pro-government, pro-military, pro-conflict agenda, as this method of news dissemination attracts the most viewers, which leads to an increase in advertising revenue. The mainstream media either takes a left-wing democratic or a right-wing republican approach; and leaves out any subtlety or nuance of opinion.
Mainstream media organizations are playing a higher profit, propaganda, and power game than the sociopolitical one that they espouse and that the average American citizen is controlled by. News organizations exist to play the profit game. Partisanship, anger, hatred, resentment, fear, left vs. right, republican vs. democrat, is good for business. The population is easier for the government to control when the media argument is framed around conservative/republican vs. liberal/democrat. Any diversity or nuance interferes with the media’s profit-power game, as this might fracture and dilute their viewer’s beliefs.
Those members of the public that fall for the ideological and political game of mainstream media may decry of liberal or conservative bias from particular news organizations, but this is just the advertising revenue game that these corporations play. An observation of the news as too liberal, too conservative, too corporate, or too status quo is evidence of your own subjective cognitive bias, rather than the bias of the media organization. Your concepts, ideas, attitudes, and beliefs shape your worldview, the media channels that you select often confirm and reinforce that worldview.
Liberal vs. Conservative media is a business; mainstream media liberal bias is a subjective business decision, an ideological marketing tool intended to attract a large portion of the population. People that watch CNN differ from those that watch Fox. Advertisers know this and market their products accordingly; media corporations know this and shape their message around their viewer’s biases, proclivities, and prejudices. Media corporations and news organizations leave out facts and information that may discredit, contradict, challenge or threaten their viewer’s beliefs so that their illusions may continue to govern and control their outlook on society and culture.
Mainstream news, created for the lowest common denominator, does not require complex thought or in-depth understanding. While the public lives on the small sliver of political ideology, the corporations that provide the news use the publics’ ignorance, terrors, and fears against them in order to sell them a particular corporate or government-approved message. Terror equals fear, which engages our primal instincts and leads to a loss of self-control when viewing the partisan and ideological stories from news organizations. Mainstream media viewers fall into their baser, more primal and emotional, aggressive and territorial instincts while watching the news, which increases their desire for material consumption out of aversion to fear and desire for comfort. When news viewers fall into their baser, more primal instincts, they lose control of their executive functioning, critical thinking, reasoning and problem-solving brains. This gives news organizations greater power and control over our thoughts and behavior.
The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.Thomas Jefferson
Trust in the Media
- Gallup: 68 percent of Americans had a great deal of trust in the media in 1972 (first reported response); 72 percent trust in media in 1976; 53 percent trust in 1997; 44 percent in 2004; 32 percent in 2016; 41 percent in 2017; 45 percent in 2018. Older Americans are more likely to trust mainstream media than younger generations (their only source of news).
- 65 percent of voters believe mainstream media is filled with fake news, including 80 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of independents and 53 percent of democrats.
- 2012 Gallop Poll: 60 percent of Americans have little to no trust in the mainstream media to report on the news fairly and accurately.
- 2016 Gallop Poll: Americans with a great deal of confidence in the media- 8 percent, which is lower than the despise people feel for Congress (Congress approval rating: 20 percent approve, 75 percent disapprove, 5 percent no opinion)
- June 2018: 72 percent of Americans believe mainstream media knowingly reports false or misleading stories at least sometimes. Part 2