The danger is not that this single controller would necessarily be evil, though this kind of extravagant power has a grim history. Whether evil or benevolent, centralized control over information, whether governmental or private, is incompatible with freedom. Modem democracies need a choice of politics and ideas, and that choice requires access to truly diverse and competing sources of news, literature, entertainment, and popular culture. Fortunately, no single corporation controls all the mass media in the United States. But something is happening that points in that direction.
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Of special interest are the complications that the ownership of NBC by General Electric brings to the picture. For GE is not your typical media company. This can lead to a lot of conflict of interest situations. How does he or she choose between the best interests of Company A or Company B? Huge corporations. Half of them are members of the Fortune Many have heavy foreign investments that are affected by American foreign policy. Sarnoff wanted to know whether this was going to be another Pentagon Papers case that might embarrass the firm.
Claude McCaleb, president of Warner Modular said no, that it was an analysis of public material by two established academics. Two hours later, Sarnoff called McCaleb again and demanded that he personally fly to New York that night with a copy of the book. McCaleb delivered the book the next morning and went to the New York Hilton to be present when the first copies of the book, hot off the press, would be presented to a sociological convention later in the day.
While working the Warner Modular Booth at the convention, he received a call from Sarnoff to report at once to his office. He said that he had not seen anything like it in 19 years of publishing.
Sarnoff canceled the ads for Counter-Revolutionary Violence and had the Warner catalogue listing the Chomsky-Herman book destroyed and a new one printed without the book being mentioned.
McCaleb and his staff resigned in protest. People were telling others not to purchase the book until it was older and much cheaper. In the old Soviet Union, a state publishing house would impose a political test on anything getting published. And it is very easy to conceal a corporate viewpoint under other apparent good reasons.
For instance, in , Walter Cronkite and Ed Asner, both very popular at the time, had their programs canceled after each had made liberal speeches criticizing certain aspects of American foreign policy.
The network stated that the reason for the cancellations was low ratings. But what could they do? There are numerous reports every year about reporters, editors, television producers and writers who are either fired or demoted because they stepped on the corporate toes of their owners, But the worst damage is not in the initial incident as much as it is in the long-lasting effects of the incident. Do corporations influence the media they own?
You bet they do! When striking Marshall Fields store employees tried to buy Chicago Sun advertisement space to explain why they were picketing the stores, they were refused. Marshall Fields owned the paper. In he ran a huge publishing empire. He and Henry Luce, chief of Time, Inc.
What do two powerful people do in this kind of situation? Well, why not create a media personality who will have an international impact? Someone who will carry the anti-communist message burned in his forehead to peoples everywhere. Hearst and Luce started searching for this individual. They did — in Hearst newspapers, magazines, movies, and newsreels.
Within two months, this unknown backwoods preacher was preaching to crowds of , people! In , Luce lent his support to the Hearst publicity. They gave me a tremendous push. The Hearst media empire was used to create Joe McCarthy also. In his historic speech in Wheeling, VA. The rest is history. In recent years, William Randolph Hearst, Jr. And you know what? The very size of the Hearst and Luce media empires allowed them to virtually create a national atmosphere of distrust and fear, and then perpetuate it.
One result of wielding the vast power of some relatively narrow corporate idealogies has been the creation over time, of some very widely established political and economic illusions in the United States, with very little visible contradiction seen in the media to which the majority of the public is exclusively exposed. The illusions supported by these media corporations are not minor ones. Often, they go to the heart of crucial public policy. For instance, the general public is largely unaware that from to corporations reduced their share of federal revenues from 25 percent to 8 percent.
This shift, if reported at all, usually is depicted as a necessary move to improve the economy and decrease unemployment. However, in reality it is very doubtful that it improved the economy. Of course, this point was missed in the news. Another myth quite popular is the one concerning union wages and productivity. In fact, a true perspective about union wages is seldom reported in news stories about unions and national productivity.
It has fallen in the non-unionized sectors that include white-collar and administrative workers. This was due in part to incidents like the Ford Pinto. A report got out that Ford had done a study regarding the danger of their car, the Pinto. It had this nasty habit of exploding into flames whenever it was rear-ended. The study determined that it would be less costly to not fix the car and pay death benefits than it would be to fix the gas tank! When word got out, Ford was incensed over the treatment it got in the press.
And in general, corporations felt they were getting bad press. When the oil industry released its profit numbers used to impress foreign investors , people who usually ignore these types of things took notice. It put ads in hundreds of newspapers deriding the news agencies for biased reporting, economic ignorance, and lack of devotion to the First Amendment.
In Mobil agreed — under threat of official penalty — to repair the inaccuracy of an ad Mobil was running which stated that a particular product would save up to 25 percent in oil consumption, when in fact, it actually increased oil consumption. Any policy that restricts flow of information or ideas is potentially harmful. Many of the ads Mobil pays for praise the company for its sensitive attention to pollution.
The profits gathered by the oil industry are not going into searching for new energy resources. Hall, one of the largest commercial printing plants in the world. Mobil also used its power to attack an economics reporter for UPI. But, he also believes in printing the truth. He noticed that the effective tax rate for the 26 largest energy firms, including Mobil, Exxon, and Gulf, was surprisingly low for their adjusted gross income.
The twenty-six largest energy companies, according to the report, paid even less — The foreign income taxes are then credited against according to US law their foreign income to make sure that corporations avoid double taxation on the same income.
Roby and the UPI article were correct. Way back in , the Saudis announced that they were going to increase the price of its oil to its partners. Knowing the truth about the way the oil companies operate, it should be no surprise to anyone that when the oil companies started dealing with China which has no income tax for oil, they actually asked the Chinese to exact an income tax!
The article by Roby simply restated what had already been reported by the Wall Street Journal and industry trade papers. You may remember that around the same time, James Watt announced that a vast area of the oceanic continental shelf was going to be opened for oil exploration.
They never mentioned what Roby said or what their communication stated. All they said is that Roby misrepresented their position. Yet, with truth or accuracy of no interest, the assault against Roby worked. So why did Exxon attack Roby about an article that contained the same information that had already been printed by papers like the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other news organizations?
You can make a case for the fact that Roby, due to his expose about oil and taxes, had become a target. They are their employers. Newspapers now get 75 percent of their revenue from ads, general circulation magazines 50 percent, and broadcasting almost percent. Is the audience too young, or too old? Or perhaps, not affluent enough?
As the pressure increases on newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters to become more and more profitable, so too does the incessant push for — not just larger audiences — but higher-quality audiences. And each newspaper, each magazine, each broadcast station is out there insisting to the major advertisers that it has the highest-quality audience and is therefore worthy of their business.
The methods used by advertisers to determine the demographics of their ad carriers leave nothing to speculation. What kinds of articles surround their ads in newspapers and magazines? What type of broadcast program is their ad inserted in? To display an ad for a Mercedes Benz next to an article about world poverty does not make an effective association for making a sale.
Needless to say, as a result these things have become very important to the owners of newspapers, magazines and broadcast stations. Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the country, owns ninety-three daily papers. A study by William B. The good fairy? How can they actually sell their raw material for less than they pay for it and make huge profits? The answer is advertising. Americans do not get their newspapers and magazines at less than cost. We do not get our radio and television free.
Advertisers would have occupied 40 percent of these pages, or twelve and a half pages, to be exact.
The Media Monopoly
A robust economy and social equity have always been intertwined, and government played an intricate role in the relationship. The media do not speak in total unison. Some occasionally present arguments and proposals for a more balanced view. But all are wedded to the ultimate need to satisfy the major source of their income, corporate advertising. Consequently, corporate decision making is the most powerful single force in socializing and politicizing the American public. Leading corporations own the leading news media and their advertisers subsidize most of the rest. This inevitably raises suspicions of overt conspiracy.
The Media Brokers
Of special interest are the complications that the ownership of NBC by General Electric brings to the picture. For GE is not your typical media company. This can lead to a lot of conflict of interest situations. How does he or she choose between the best interests of Company A or Company B? Huge corporations. Half of them are members of the Fortune
A Summary of Ben Bagdikian’s “The Media Monopoly”
It was rather disconcerting to find out my chosen profession was a bullshit PR function of the corporate world when I was nearing the end of my degree. I gave up reading this the first time but returned to it with energy and enthusiasm. Though readers pay for the pages of advertising, the high volume of pages printed in a newspaper plant because of ad pages reduces the production cost per page. It is the enormous increase in ad pages that makes for a net increase in the cost of the whole paper. So eliminating these pages would mean smaller printing runs, which would be cheaper in total but higher per page by 70 percent. A paper with level ads, twelve and a half pages, would cost, at most 14 cents, instead of the 20 cents for the present  level of ads, forty three pages.
(Bagdikian 2004) The new media monopoly