I have been mostly television free for around two years. The other day (I won’t get into specifics) I was forced into watching Jersey Shore. It is a show where a bunch of people do nothing but argue and have sex for an hour. There is no other purpose to it than to parade these young people in front of a camera so that their jackassery becomes a for-profit public spectacle.
One of the reasons I gave up on the tube is the fact that the entire media is controlled by six megacorporations. This is a brief overview of the media landscape:
Home Box Office (HBO)
Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
CW Network (partial ownership)
New Line Cinema
Time Warner Cable
ABC Television Network
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Buena Vista Theatrical Productions
Buena Vista Records
Walt Disney Pictures
Pixar Animation Studios
Buena Vista Games
Paramount Home Entertainment
Black Entertainment Television (BET)
Country Music Television (CMT)
Nick at Nite
The Movie Channel
Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Fox Television Stations
The New York Post
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Fox Business Network
Fox Kids Europe
Fox News Channel
Fox Sports Net
Fox Television Network
My Network TV
News Limited News
Phoenix InfoNews Channel
Phoenix Movies Channel
STAR TV India
STAR TV Taiwan
Times Higher Education Supplement Magazine
Times Literary Supplement Magazine
Times of London
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox International
20th Century Fox Studios
20th Century Fox Television
The Wall Street Journal
Fox Broadcasting Company
Fox Interactive Media
The National Geographic Channel
National Rugby League
Sky Radio Denmark
Sky Radio Germany
Sky Radio Netherlands
CBS Television Network
CBS Radio Inc. (130 stations)
CBS Consumer Products
CW Network (50% ownership)
Simon & Schuster (Pocket Books, Scribner)
Westwood One Radio Network
NBC Television Network
Syfy (Sci Fi Channel)
NBC Universal Television Distribution
NBC Universal Television Studio
Paxson Communications (partial ownership)
Universal Parks & Resorts
Universal Studio Home Video
I believe NBC belongs to General Electric.
That means that whatever gets on the television, movie screen and radio must be filtered through a corporate bureaucracy whose sole purpose is to turn a profit.
As recently as the 1990s, the actual airwaves that carried television broadcasts were owned by the federal government. At certain points, the government was able take hold of the airwaves to provide coverage of events like presidential debates and speeches. The thinking was that there were certain things that needed to be shown in the interests of having an informed democratic citizenry.
Thanks to the privatization wave of the 1990s, the rights to the airwaves were sold to corporate interests for a song. The media is now fully privatized and corporate-run. This means that everything that passes as news in the media gets filtered through a corporate bureaucracy first. There is never any bad press about Disney or General Electric because it would never make it on to the air.
There is no longer any pretense of the media helping cultivate an informed democratic citizenry.
In this clip, Bill Maher mentions something very telling about this media-opoly:
He says 2/3 of Americans cannot name the economic system under which we operate. That seems about right. And if you cannot name the system, how can you analyze it or fight against its injustices?
Media helps shape the boundaries of public discourse. There are very few places one can turn for serious discussion about our economic system. Sure, there are discussions about economic policy, but those policies might as well take place in a vacuum. Without an overall context for those policies, the media tacitly portrays the economic system under which we live as natural.
This is why Occupy Wall Street was evicted. It was drawing too much attention to the economic system as a whole, connecting too many dots and pointing out too many damning truths.
The history textbooks do the same thing as the media. This is why I don’t use them.
Here is a fun video about the media-opoly:
And this documentary, Orwell Rolls in his Grave, is well worth a few watches. It is a much more in-depth look at corporate media and its implications for our democracy. Watch for the cameos by Bernie Sanders: