Free Press Mourns the History of US Media Consolidation. As Major Corporations Absorb Outlets of Public Information, Media Becomes a Tool of Control by Elites.
There is a long history of US media consolidation that has turned one of our most valuable assets into a tool for the elite to manipulate and control Americans. One of the pillars of our democracy is free speech–the ability to disseminate varied opinions.
For all of its great intentions, media in this country is an oligarchy at best. Newspaper, radio stations and TV stations are by law, technology and logistics relegated to a defined area.
If you happen to live in a less populated area your media options may be limited to one outlet. The owners of these media outlets have full editorial control on what information is passed on the audience.
The history of US media consolidation is full of examples of owners manipulating information to influence the audience to suit their own needs. Whether the causes are political, racial or economically motivated, the power to edit the input we receive has a vast opportunity to change the way people think and see the world.
With help from friends in government, large media conglomerates were able to expand their control over media in land rush never before seen in the history of US media consolidation. Giant conglomerates now control wide swaths of television, print, radio, music, motion pictures and online media as part of their huge corporate holdings.
Firms like General Electric, Time Warner, Walt Disney, News Corp, CBS and Viacom have gained immense media holdings through acquisitions and mergers. These major, international companies only exist to increase their bottom lines.
To do so they must constantly appease advertisers and the government in the form of the FCC, which grants them licenses to broadcast. Issues such as diversity or free speech are not of concern to these media conglomerates.
Mark Cella on Consolidation of US Media Companies
One of the most prominent examples of abuses in US media consolidation is the Hearst newspaper empire. In the late 19th century William Randolph Hearst began his media empire by acquiring multiple newspapers, the most talented writers and newest technology.
His media purchases went hand in hand with his political activism and aspirations. In order to out sell his competitors and drum up support for causes he supported Hearst had his writers use yellow journalism; sensationalized, trumped up and exaggerated stories in lieu of fact and news.
Hearst used his papers to gain support for war mongers in the government during their military actions in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.
Hearst also pushed his writers to promote stories linking minorities and their crimes to marijuana use. His motivation was two fold; the pulp of the marijuana plant, hemp, could be grown faster and harvested cheaper than his vast tracks of forests and he held Hispanic minorities in contempt.
His manipulation of the truth and spreading of lies helped anti-drug supporters pass the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937.
Mark Cella on Consolidation of US Media Companies
Even in its infancy the American motion picture industry played a defining role in the history of US media consolidation. It served as a template for future abuses.
The Motion Pictures Parents Company, also known as the Edison trust, was a trust that controlled the American movie business in the early 20th century. It included all of the major American movie companies, the biggest distributor in the country and the biggest supplier of film.
Through patents, litigation and limiting distribution channels they affectively controlled the new media of motion pictures in the country. Film options were limited to what they produced and competition was squashed.
US media consolidation reached its height in the motion picture industry with the Golden Age of Hollywood and the studio system. The studio system was put in place by the largest conglomerate film studios and would control the media of motion pictures with a vertically integrated oligarchy.
The studios would produce movies on their own lots and soundstages with personnel under long term contracts. Then the movies would be distributed through studio owned channels and played in studio owned movie theatres.
Both cases of media consolidation are prime examples of how a small but powerful group can effectively control the media available to the public. While both the Edison trust and the studio system were eventually stopped by court rulings their effect on the history of media consolidation was long lasting.
These vertically integrated systems would serve as models for modern conglomerates to consolidate media and power in the late 20th century. While we often tout our free speech to others around the world, like many of our other liberties is a shell of what it should be. Giant conglomerates control the media by limiting access by creating huge capital barriers to entrance.
The history of US media consolidation is full of these monopolies and oligarchies taking advantage of the American public to suit their own needs. When will it stop?