Big Media 101
Beginning series on the startling consolidation of corporate media in America and abroad.
by Jill Westerholm
An intense grassroots movement seems to finally be afoot as Americans head into what is arguably the most critical Presidential election in U.S. history. It's great to see the voices swelling following the Media Reform conference...and for good reason! I mean what isn't at stake here? The Economy and U.S. dollar are weakening, gas prices are skyrocketing while Oil company profits continue to sore, several wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) continue to drain American families of loved ones and the U.S. budget of trillions yes, TRILLIONS of dollars. I could go on and on with a patriotic ramble about our constitional right to a free press by and for the people but let's just say it's well over due that Americans wake up and speak up to reclaim their soveriegnty starting right smack dab in the middle of this issue.
Maybe you are like me and have stopped watching or reading the junk news infotainment aside from a few favorite shows. Maybe you are like a few of my friends that simply do not have TIME to sit down and watch TV or listen to anything aside from your boss or your children's needs. I'm so glad you too have saved yourself from needless misinformation! But it's no longer enough to save yourself, you and everyone else involved in the movement now realizes we must save others from being misinformed as well. Why? Well, because our democracy hangs in the balance that's why. But I hate to be an alarmist so more mildly put- a train filled with harmful chemicals could spill over in YOUR neighborhood and you might not find out about it soon enough. A story could run that moves you to tears that you find out is a hoax. False news conferences will continue to be held at the convenience of the networks and government to pass along information in state of crisis. All these things have already happened!
So are you with me more passionately now? American citizens can no longer plead "innocence is bliss" on this issue. Sure it can be overwhelming once you open your eyes to the vast array of misinformation, disinformation and outright lies that are pouring out of the tube regarding what is happening in Washington and regarding our Presidential candidates. Not to mention their sheer ability to reach consumers via the tube, movies, radio, billboards, newspapers,magazines and yes, the internet. But we can affect change. We do have strong voices on our side including my Senator, the honorable Byron Dorgan of N.D. and a few bold FCC commissioners! The movement is making some great strides through millions of voices like yours to say enough is enough! It's time to get engaged and informed at what is happening as these 6 companies currently lobby for MORE control as they push hard to gate the last bastion of free press- the internet.
So, I'm here to help with a crash course. Let's start from scratch, by showing you just how consolidated your News and Information stream truly is after a century of calculated consolidation. Thanks to the folks at Stopbigmedia.com. This initial overview of the big 6 will be followed by the specific holdings of each in the coming days as it is the best way to open your eyes to the power and reach of these few companies and their agendas. The comments are open so feel free to give your opinions & insight. And your questions- I'll do my best to answer them.
The media landscape is dominated by massive corporations that, through a history of mergers and acquisitions, have concentrated too much control in too few hands. This leads to a lack of diversity of voices, programming that is out of touch with local concerns and increasingly commercial and homogenized news and entertainment. Further consolidation will produce media in which only the powerful few will be heard.
The chart below maps out the control the six most concentrated giants exert over all forms of news, entertainment and information.
* GENERAL ELECTRIC: 2006 revenues: $163.4 billion
General Electric media-related holdings include television networks NBC and Telemundo, Universal Pictures, Focus Features, 26 television stations in the United States, and cable networks MSNBC, Bravo and the Sci Fi Channel.
* TIME WARNER: 2006 revenues: $44.2 billion
Time Warner is the largest media conglomerate in the world, with holdings including: CNN, the CW (a joint venture with CBS), HBO, Cinemax, Cartoon Network, TBS, TNT, America Online, MapQuest, Moviefone, Netscape, Warner Bros. Pictures, Castle Rock, and New Line Cinema, over 150 magazines such as Time, Cooking Light, Marie Claire and People. Time Warner services 17.9% of all cable subscribers, gaining 3.5 million subscribers from its joint aquisition of Adelphia with Comcast. Time Warner now has 14.4 million cable customers (plus 1.5 million held in partnership with Comcast).
*WALT DISNEY COMPANY: 2006 revenues: $34.3 billion
The Walt Disney Company owns the ABC Television Network, cable networks including ESPN, the Disney Channel, SOAPnet, A&E and Lifetime, 227 radio stations, music and book publishing companies, production companies Touchstone, Miramax and Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios, the cellular service Disney Mobile, and theme parks around the world.
*NEWS CORPORATION: 2006 revenues: $25.3 billion
News Corporation's media holdings include: the Fox Broadcasting Company, television and cable networks such as Fox, Fox Business Channel, National Geographic and FX, 35 television stations, print publications including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, TVGuide, the magazines Barron's and SmartMoney, book publisher HarperCollins, film production companies 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Blue Sky Studios, numerous Web sites including MarketWatch.com, and non-media holdings including the National Rugby League
*CBS CORPORATION: 2006 revenues: $14.3 billion
CBS Corporation owns the CBS Television Network, CBS Television Distribution Group, the CW (a joint venture with Time Warner), Showtime, book publisher Simon & Schuster, 27 television stations, and CBS Radio, Inc, which has 140 stations. CBS is now the leading supplier of video to Google's new Video Marketplace.
VIACOM 2006 revenues: $11.5 billion
Viacom holdings include: Music Television, Nickelodeon, VH1, BET, Comedy Central, Paramount Pictures, Paramount Home Entertainment, Atom Entertainment, publishing company Famous Music and music game developer Harmonix. Viacom 18 is a joint venture with the Indian media company Global Broadcast news