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Six Media Conglomerates: Mainstream Media’s Sensational Quest for Attention- Part 3

February 23, 2019

Six Media Conglomerates: Mainstream Media’s Sensational Quest for Attention- Part 3

ADVERTISING IN MAINSTREAM MEDIA

The mainstream media industry in particular, and the larger telecommunications sector in general, are in the profit business during an era of vast and rapid change in the United States. But unfortunately for American society, culture, and democracy, that private profit comes at the cost of journalistic integrity; and is to the detriment of the public’s knowledge, to our overall understanding of the world around us, and of our nation as a functioning economic, social and political machine.

Like the campaign finance corruption and the influence of private corporations on the public American political system, the media finds itself in a war of attrition amongst each other as each news organization must find increasingly complex ways to tell the truth while making a profit and competing against new and emerging technologies that continue to cut into the audiences and profit margins of the old and established media industries.

Truth and profit are not mutually exclusive, but when the importance of the profits of private industries supersede the publics health, happiness, and wellbeing, then the dissemination of lies and ignorance becomes the primary operating system for news-gathering organizations, whose original purpose was to educate and enlighten the public generally so that the population may escape from the darkness of ignorance from the control and persistent oversight of a corrupt government, from social oppression, and from cultural suppression. The media has transformed into the very thing that the First Amendment protected them against.

The mainstream media offers a contained, restrained, linear, shortsighted view of the world that often lacks subtlety or diversity of opinion; any nuanced ideas may threaten the advertising revenue that represents the last source of viable income for many of these news organizations operating on an outdated business model.

A study conducted by Pew Research found that two-thirds (69%) of domestic news revenue is derived from advertising, which amounts to $43 billion of the $63 billion reported in the study. This significant reliance on advertising revenue by news organizations interferes with and interrupts the flow of information that they provide to the public, as their message morphs and conforms to the demands of these advertisers rather than to the demands of truth.

The modern mainstream media is as much a salesman as a news providing organization; media companies sell their audiences to advertisers, who then, in turn, sell their products back to these audiences. The audience, the media viewer, represents the primary bargaining tool for media companies in their effort to control the minds of the population with propaganda and government-approved messages.

The influence of advertisers and corporate money in the mainstream media exacerbates social and intellectual inequality by reducing complex issues into sound bites that fit in between short news segments that fail to provide concrete and objective information to advance the social, cultural, and political conversation forward, away from the incorrect thinking and behavior of our past experiences.

The human organism acts out of greed and self-preservation if threatened from an external force; corporations are no different. Established media corporations that find themselves threatened by new internet technologies will act irrationally out of desperation in order to sustain their profits and prolong their control over the sociocultural landscape. To remain as the watchdogs and information providers of American democracy, these mainstream media organizations have had to accept a certain level of lies, ignorance, and corruption in their reporting, as a means of straining the last bits of profit from their government-sanctioned propaganda.

Combined Annual Profit (from the graph above)

YearFox News, CNN, and MSNBCCNBC, Fox Business and Bloomberg
2012$1,581,800,000$402,000,000
2013$1,665,200,000$429,500,000
2014$1,678,000,000$477,500,000
2015$1,896,500,000$524,900,000
2016$2,381,200,000$542,400,000
2017$2,700,000,000$549,700,000

Trumpathon

Donald Trump is a quick answer to a long and difficult problem. His sudden rise to power, though, is not indicative of his skill, or lack thereof, as a speaker, dealmaker or businessman, insomuch as it is the countries anger at the Washington establishment, at the entire corporate American government and all of its institutions across the country and the world that prioritize the profits of corporations over the health, safety, and wellbeing of the public and the institution of democracy.

The branches of the American government’s power and influence include the $700 billion a year military-industrial complex; the intelligence community; the pharmaceutical industry; the big banks and lenders of Wall Street; the fossil fuel industry; and the prison industrial complex, among other established industries. Each of these organizations represents a cog in the larger machine of domestic and global American dominance; a machine that functions through the propaganda arm of the federal government, the mainstream media.

The mainstream media, in turn, provides a platform for this entrenched, corporate American government to exert cultural, social, environmental, and economic domination- often at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable among us- by propping up and disseminating lies to uncritical audiences that lack the time and energy to challenge the deceitful governments hidden agenda.

The mainstream media ignites the public’s anger through ignorance by disseminating lies. The people, organizations, and institutions that represent the majority of mainstream media’s news stories gain prominence, reputation, and infamous brand recognition of the constant 24-hour news cycle; and the corporations that control the media receive the profit. This constitutes the entirety of the vicious news-media-profit cycle; and perpetuates the modern myth of mainstream media press freedom behind the reality of government propaganda and corporate profits over public, democratic truth.

Donald Trump’s attacks on the mainstream media are dangerous to the First Amendment rights of all Americans; but his ignorant rhetoric is challenging a deeper truth hidden beneath the veil of objective and unbiased media, a media that is corrupted and driven by the pursuit of profit at any and all costs, including the cost of First Amendment protected freedom of speech that news journalists swear to uphold.

The heavier the vitriol, disdain, and hatred of Donald Trumps attacks on the mainstream media in general, and on the First Amendment in specific, the larger the audience that tunes in to catch what looks like a massive dumpster fire consuming the First Amendment, investigative journalism and even, at times, American democracy in its entirety. This tactic represents a clever sleight-of-hand, a subtle misdirection, and distraction from the actual reason and purpose for Trump’s verbal attacks against journalists and democratic institutions: Profit. Not just the profits of mainstream media- which were suffering through several years of lost advertising revenue from dwindling viewing audiences before Trump arrived into the political game- but profit for Donald Trump himself, the fraudulent businessman, who is surely capitalizing financially, behind the scenes, off of his position as the mainstream media’s primary marketing tool.

When it comes to politics in the modern era, Americans demand entertainment, rather than dry and mundane political talking points regurgitated by puppets and parrots that speak on behalf of the powerful industries that make up the hidden foundation of the American government. With the introduction of Donald Trump into the political climate in 2015, a reality tv figure consumed by egomania with an established persona and a dedicated social and pop-culture following- aside from a political one- the mainstream media possess a tool in its relentless pursuit of profit. Donald Trump and the mainstream media form a symbiotic and parasitic relationship; the popularity and attraction of one contributes to the growth of profits of the other. This is by design. And with Trump spending a lifetime as the epitome of the fraudulent con-man, and reality TV businessman, he is willing to stand as and pretend to represent the mainstream media’s enemy, as long as he receives a part of the record profits that cable news companies are pulling in.

What Donald Trump lacks in ethics, morals, and integrity, he makes up for in his relentless and unapologetic pursuit of profit. Think of the anti-Trump books that former members of Trump’s administration write after he fires them. The author sells a decent amount, until Trump tweets his disapproval; then the entire country hears about and purchases the book to spite him. He is the book’s biggest promoter. Even if the book defames him, does he allow that profit to slip away?

Whether cable news loves Trump or hates him, he is the train-wreck and political tornado that viewers cannot look away from; and under the profit-driven advertising model of mainstream media, more viewers equals more profit for the media conglomerates that pretend to despise Trump in public, but are grateful for his verbal attacks against the First Amendment and journalists in private, as he represents a major source of growth and profit for cable news media companies that were struggling to compete against social media sites and online publications before the 2016 election.

Trump gives the appearance of an ignorant racist in order to appeal to his base of voters; this represents a marketing and branding position to attract a particular demographic to conservative news and radio shows like Fox News, which sell a pro-Trump message. But the opposite holds true as well, for ‘the liberal media’, with anti-Trump news networks like ABC, CNN, MSNBC, and newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post, which sell an anti-Trump message to their audiences.

For the big three political cable news networks, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, in particular, 2017 was the most-watched year ever; with revenues increasing by 62 percent for MSNBC, 32 percent for CNN, and 17 percent for Fox News. Some studies estimate that Trump’s biggest public enemy, CNN, provides over $3 billion of free advertising for the Trump brand; a brand that understands that any press is good press, regardless if that press contains defamatory content or Fake News.

The mainstream media, the American government, and the corporations that dictate the direction of the United States through the manipulation of the political and economic system live on the corporate-government level; while the American population lives on the socio-cultural and political level that puppets in Congress and parrots in mainstream media espouse daily to convince the public of their feigned attempt at solving one of the many problems facing the United States.

Problems exist for poor and middle-class Americans, but the government and corporations that allow the problems to develop find themselves in control of the safety and pressure release valve; they possess the power and authority within the areas of American democracy that matter. The mainstream media provides this platform and remains financially lucrative so long as poor and middle-class Americans tune in to the sociopolitical sideshow distraction that is Donald Trump. Social, environmental, political, and economic problems continue to threaten the United States; but at least we are entertained in the process.

Lobbying Money Spent by Telecommunications Corporations

  • 2018- $92.67 million
  • 2017- $86.90 million
  • 2016- $84.87 million
  • 2015- $90.1 million
  • 2014- $99.4 million
  • 2013- $108.15 million
  • 2012- $97.93 million
  • 2011- $104.83 million
  • 2010- $89.55 million
  • 2009- $91.69 million
  • 2008- $91.89 million

LAWS AND REGULATIONS

Communications Act of 1934

President Franklin D. Roosevelt replaced (consolidated) the Federal Radio Commission with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1934 to
to regulate all broadcast media under one public organization. The FCC was the first comprehensive United States government organization to recognize the power of communication, the telecommunications industry and the necessity of overseeing its growth.

Laws and provisions for the newly created FCC established: Public ownership of the airwaves to discourage centralized control in order to prevent telecommunication monopolies from forming; transferred regulation of interstate telephone services from Interstate Commerce Commission to the FCC; created rules and standards for the different types of communication; consolidated wired and wireless communication (radio, telegraph, telephone), now under the control of the FCC; established penalties for media that is profane, obscene, indecent (FCC regulates).

ROLE OF THE FCC

  • Directed by five commissioners, selected by the president. Both republican and democrats must be selected on the commission.
  • Comprised of seven bureaus: Consumer and government affairs; enforcement; international; media; wireless telecommunications; public safety and homeland security; and wireline competition
  • Regulates and sets rules, laws, standards for the telecommunications sector.
  • Regulates interstate communication by radio, tv, satellite, wire, cable services, internet.
  • Serves the public in areas of broadband access, fair competition, radio frequency use, media responsibility, public safety, and homeland security.
  • Prevents monopolies from forming; educates and informs the public about telecommunications goods and services; enforces regulations in accordance with the public interest.
  • Promotes competition, innovation, and investment in broadband services and facilities; encourages the highest and best use of spectrum frequency domestically and internationally; revises media regulations so that new technology flourishes alongside diversity.

MEDIA DEREGULATION

Telecommunications Act of 1996

The public United States government, paid for by public American tax dollars, establishes regulations on various areas of the private sector in order to protect American citizens from the dangerous, reckless, and shortsighted profit-seeking behavior of powerful industries that often disregards moral, ethical, logical or humane conduct in the pursuit of money.

The primary operating system of a government is to protect those individuals without the financial means or the sociopolitical voice to challenge powerful industries against actions that harm the planet, the environment, and the people; regulations provide that protection for the public. Some regulations place an unnecessary burden on particular industries, but regulations placed upon the fossil fuel industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the agricultural and food industry and the telecommunications industry, among others, represent strong pieces of legislation that establish rules and standards to protect the planet and its people from dangerous corporate actions.

As with all powerful, profit-driven American industries, the telecommunications industry feels that their business is subjected to what they view as unnecessary, burdensome, and costly regulations that prevent growth and competition within the industry from too much government involvement; and, as with all powerful, profit-driven corporations in a country with a parasitic government that relies on the profits of powerful industries in order to sustain its growth and control over the population, the American government is happy to oblige these industries by removing the regulations put in place to protect consumers and regular American citizens- as long as politicians and the federal government receive a portion of corporate profits through lobbying, corporate tax payments and bribes to political campaigns.

Deregulation removes government barriers to allow for the commercial exploitation of the media; news becomes entertainment/infotainment for corporate profit rather than news as an educational or informational tool for the public. The first steps towards the deregulation of the telecommunications industry began in the early 1980s. From that period forward, the telecommunications industry has seized a majority of the power from the public in all levels of communication within the United States.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996, signed by neoliberal democratic, President Bill Clinton, represents the first significant overhaul of the telecommunications industry since the Communications Act of 1934. The bill was marketed and sold as a benefit to the American public- all deregulatory proposals are packaged with lies and sold as a benefit to the public- but, under the surface of the bill, behind the government propaganda, and behind the obvious deceit coming out of the media during that period (the mainstream media and their corporate owners would be the biggest beneficiaries of deregulation), the Telecommunications Act represents the greatest power grab from the largest multinational media corporations in the history of the United States and the catalyst for the chaotic, partisan, ideological, corrupt media environment that Americans find themselves fighting within in today’s society.

The Act of 1996 is less technologically based and offered less regulation than the Act of 1934. The new telecommunications regulations are determined by the contents of the media, not regulation of the technological medium (method of communication) itself. The main purpose of the Act was the deregulation of converging telecommunications markets i.e. telephone, radio, newspapers, television, internet; and also to move away from regulation of monopolies and towards the encouragement of competition within the telephone industry.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 dramatically raised the cap on the total number of newspapers and television stations that a corporation could own, which means one media conglomerate could buy up thousands of smaller stations and newspapers, or merge with local television stations and newspapers to create a monopoly of news coming from that area of the country. When this level of media consolidation occurs, the flow and diversity of information decrease and force the population to conform to a ridged and ideological base of beliefs and attitudes about the world and society around us.

The Act of 1996 eliminated barriers between local telephone and long-distance markets and opened telecommunications markets to all competition to prevent monopolies, like AT&T, from forming (AT&T developed a monopoly after Telecommunications Act of 1934 until the 1980s); however, the adopted method of deregulation to prevent telecommunications monopolies from forming had the opposite effect in the Act of 1996.

The Title 3 Clause, Cable Services, within the Act, allows for media cross-ownership to let anyone enter into communications business and compete in any market against others. This lead to a level of media consolidation unprecedented in American society, where, in 2019, 90 percent of all media that American citizens consume comes from one of only six multinational media conglomerates that decide, what, when, where, why, and how the news should be determined, as well as the news that should not be considered, with news that contains content that threatens the profits of advertisers, impugns the power and control of the government, or interferes with the operations and profits of the media conglomerate itself.

News becomes whatever one of six corporation says it is. Imagine these six media conglomerates as individuals. That means that just six individuals control the beliefs, thoughts, ideas in a country of over 330 million people. The hyper-partisan politics and social polarization in American society is a result of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, of deregulation of media corporations and, also, the result of a dramatic increase in television viewing by the American population, who spend an inordinate amount of their free time-consuming television content.

STATISTICS and OBSERVATIONS

  • Americans watch, on average, 5 hours and 40 minutes of television per day according to Nielsen Ratings. Imagine if television was classified as a drug: What other drug consumes 5 hours and 40 minutes of your day, every single day of your life? Many television viewers exhibit signs of drug addiction while viewing incendiary news media and advertising content.
  • Nielsen: Americans in 1949-1950 watched 4 hours and 35 minutes of TV per day. Peaked in 2009-2010 at 8 hours and 55 minutes of TV per day.
  • Americans spend, on average, 10 hours and 39 minutes consuming digital media every day: TV, surfing the web, social media, radio, etc;
  • People over age 50 watch the most cable TV at over 50 hours per week, seven hours per day (Nielsen).
  • The United States ranked 37 of 199 countries and territories for press freedom in 2017.
  • People will ignore information that is true if that truth contradicts their beliefs (i.e. A CNN viewer ignoring factual information from Fox News, and vice versa).
  • People will ignore factual information from certain sources if that source goes against their pre-defined set of beliefs (An ideological democrat ignoring beneficial information from an ideological republican, and vice versa).
Pew Research Center

Nielsen Average Weekly TV Viewing for Age Groups

  • 2-11: 24 hours and 16 minutes
  • 12-17: 20 hours and 41 minutes
  • 18-24: 22 hours and 27 minutes
  • 25-34: 27 hours and 36 minutes
  • 35-49: 33 hours and 40 minutes
  • 50-64: 43 hours and 56 minutes
  • 65 and up: 50 hours and 34 minutes

HOW TO FIX

To escape from the clutches of the old mainstream media, the public must be willing to accept a greater level of personal responsibility and public ownership of the information from news organizations. For this to occur, a subscription-based revenue business model must be adopted by media companies so that news is funded by the public rather than by advertisers. A publicly-funded, subscription-based business model requires engaged and dedicated followers; but in pursuing this method of news gathering and dissemination, journalistic integrity may begin to reestablish itself, as reporters and journalists will find themselves beholden to their paying, public supporters rather than their private advertisers.

Capitalism has gone too far in a democracy when people’s livelihoods are controlled and dictated in accordance with who donates the most to politicians and who contributes to the advertising revenue of news gathering organizations. Biases inevitably occur when money takes place of American freedom of the press and of a democratic government.

Special interest money must be removed from politics, as well as from journalism so that reporters identify the facts of a story without distorting them to please their editors, executives, and advertisers.

Publicly funded elections and journalism would increase the chances that politicians and journalists remain beholden to the public rather than corporations and wealthy special interests. Americans cannot expect a reasonable government or a free press that cannot escape the control of advertisers and powerful industries that infect the systems with money and corruption. Like politicians, journalists, and news organizations struggle to remain unbiased when their corporate donors pay to have a particular stance, opinion or bias taken.

Can Americans expect media corporations to report on the harmful and deadly effects of opioids when the pharmaceutical industry pays millions of dollars a year towards those very same media organizations advertising revenues? How about investigative reporting on the dangerous and deadly long-term health effects of sugar when the soda industry pays millions to have their ads appear on mainstream media commercials? These industries, among many others, benefit from the financial corruption that rules over modern politics and journalism, two fundamental principles of a free democracy.

Media consolidation creates sycophantic, mindless zealots that renounce critical thinking and objective analysis, and sacrifice their own unique individuality, in order to gain acceptance into their selected ideological social or political tribe. To move forward as one nation, a united nation, away from our aggressive primal emotions, away from our ego dominance, away from our closed-minded and subjective beliefs, Americans must adapt to the progress made by the complex, digital, internet world and adopt a new way of interacting with one another that does not immediately attack those with opposing beliefs and ideas as if they represent an enemy wishing to do our ideas, concepts, and outlook on reality harm.

Ideas are intangible, mere words, arbitrary mouth noises that carry no meaning other than the one that we attach to it without our own internal minds, our subjective dictionaries and encyclopedias. Another persons mouth noises may cut and harm us if we allow them to, or we may develop a higher level of thought that escapes from the linear confines of language and moves towards a greater understanding of the reality that exists around us.

Disagreement is necessary in a democracy, in a free country with a diversity of opinion and freedom of speech. This disagreement signifies a healthy relationship with the world, with others around us, and allows ourselves to challenge and confront our own ideas from an objective perspective rather than the groupthink, tribal and ideological one that we adopt for comfort and protection against potential threatening, external forces. Threatening forces will always exist, it is in our DNA to seek them out and eliminate them for our survival in this physical world; but by learning to think and act from our higher, human levels of consciousness, we may escape from the lower, primitive, emotional, aggressive, and territorial animal consciousness that so many Americans allow themselves to be controlled by in our chaotic society. For this to occur, the United States requires a nation of individuals capable of critical thinking, objective analysis, in-depth questioning, and problem-solving skills. This process of conscious awareness takes time to develop, but the power to evolve exists inherently within each and every one of us.

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