on media

There are many people who see the proliferation of new media as a protection from the deleterious effects of the concentration of media outlet ownership into the hands of a few conglomerates.  I feel that that this argument misses the mark.  

Anyone who has read Ben Bagdikian’s seminal book The Media Monopoly knows that he has been warning us about the declining number of media outlet owners for many years.  The corporations who own the major outlets will tell us that there are so many different types of media today that their concentrated ownership hardly makes any difference.

I look at this as a smoke screen.  Yes, anyone can write a blog from their bedroom and publish whatever comes to their mind.  Does that diminish the power of a company like News Corporation that has control over many of the films and television shows that we watch, the books, newspapers and magazines that we read the radio shows that we listen to and the internet sites that we use?box

Rather than just focusing on the ability of the individual to create and choose their media, we should never lose site of the power of someone like William Randolph Hearst.  He reportedly boasted to his correspondent and illustrator in Spain, in the prelude to the Spanish-American War, “You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war.”

This statement may seem absurd to the media consumers of today.  Could a false war really be started when we have 24 hour cable news bringing us instant images from around the world, not to mention people on the streets with cell phone cameras and armies of bloggers?  Consider the credulity of major media outlets when the Bush administration made the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  All the independent journalists and bloggers in the would could not overshadow the influence of the major media outlets in convincing citizens that the claims were valid.

The press is the only constitutionally protected business for a reason.   Without free, independent media outlets we, the media consumers, have to expend more effort to get reliable information, not less.   The voices that have the greatest power to reach us are owned by companies who are beholden to their stock holders first and they have many interests that can sometimes suffer from the fee flow of information, so information is suppressed.