Monday, June 28, 2004

Conglomerates and Safe News

How safe is any democracy where a few control our information?

The New York Times for June 24, along with many newspapers in the United States, reported that “A federal appeals court on Thursday dealt a setback to the nation's largest media companies by ordering the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider the rules it issued last summer, easing the way for them to grow and enter new markets.

The Bush administration, with its “what’s good for business is good for the nationĂ‚” philosophy had hoped to make ownership of broadcast facilities even easier than it is now. So the New York Times reporter suggested “The decision was also a setback for the Bush administration, which supported easing the ownership limitations, and for Michael K. Powell, the chairman of the commission and the main architect of the new rules.” This trend toward fewer owners of communications media have “allowed companies to own as many as three television stations, eight radio stations and a cable operator, as well as a newspaper.

My concern continues to be the concentration of ownership of all media, but in particular, the electronic media. Almost everyone in the United States listens to the radio at least once each week. The same thing is true about watching TV. If just a few corporations own a bulk of the electronic media, the temptation to present lopsided information may be too great to resist. These owners are already adept at presenting what the audience wants to see and wants hear. If, for any reason, the owners want to present politics, law, current events and world affairs in the same "unworrisome" packaging . . . presenting programming that is desirable to very large audiences, an unaware audience might be deceived. If the people of the nation believe that they really know what is going on in the world and they are not aware of how a few owners control a bulk of the mass media, they may be in for a rude surprise.

It is clear that we must use every resource to provide ourselves with a balanced view of the world we live in and avoid being swept along by those more interested in profits than accurate and balanced information or freedoms.

1 comment:

J Michael said...

It seems in order to maximize their market share and so their profit, businessmen have hit on the idea that it's possible to have things exactly as you like them, whether you know what that is or not, and wholly without unforeseen consequences.

On the contrary, I say, it is not possible to give every customer exactly what he wants the way he wants it when he wants it, even were you to grant his knowing what he wants. It is not even a desirable thing. The infinite number of variables and conflicts and disappointments and surprise joys that one experiences in every hour of every day are an indispensable part of the fabric of life, and as much as we sometimes fantasize about ridding ourselves of them, our lives would be much diminished were we to succeed. This applies to the temperature in the movie theatre the same as to the content of the nightly news. What we want to see, and what we should see are sometimes different, but it is the job of the news to tell us what we should see, just as it's everyone's responsibility to perform his task as he should, not as each and every simultaneous customer thinks he wants at the moment.

This means, Mr. MBA, taking a position, sticking to your guns as the authority in your niche, being an authority, and letting some portion, greater or lesser, of the buying population take their business elsewhere. Businesses do us all a disservice when they adhere to "whatever the customer wants" in all situations.