Media ownership greatly determines how the news is reported.
Just as a farmer who raised cattle to be consumed wouldn’t likely invest in a restaurant that served only vegan and vegetarian-geared meals and whose menus educated diners on the dangers of eating red meat, it is highly unlikely that any large corporation would invest in or support a media source that could possibly harm their profitability in another venture. Obviously, media ownership does matter. It dictates not only how and what a media source will report, but is responsible for favoritism and blackballing in the political arena and the blatant lack of diversity in today’s media.
Who owns a media source is directly linked to how that source will report the news, if they report it at all. Amy and David Goodman of the Seattle Times reported that.
"George Bush must have been delighted to learn from a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll that 56 percent of Americans still think Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the start of the war, while six in 10 said they believe Iraq provided direct support to the al-Qaida terrorist network — notions that have long since been thoroughly debunked by everyone from the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee to both of Bush's handpicked weapons inspectors, Charles Duelfer and David Kay. Americans believe these lies not because they are stupid, but because they are good media consumers. Our media have become an echo chamber for those in power. Rather than challenge the fraudulent claims of the Bush administration, we've had a media acting as a conveyor belt for the government's lies."
The media has become such a powerful device of political propaganda not because of government influence, but because of corporations watering down and censoring news sources for private gain. Their concern is not with accurately reporting the news, but with manipulating the media consumers in their favor.
This is also true regarding political elections and any major political debate. To whom the news source gives the most attention, positive or negative, depends on which corporation owns that source. A corporation that, in addition to owning a news station, owns a weapon manufacturing company wouldn’t be too likely to allow positive reporting about a candidate who wanted to push through legislation that would make selling weapons abroad illegal. From a business standpoint, it makes perfect sense. However, as media consumers we should be outraged that what is in the news is being handpicked by a few large corporations.
Lack of diversity in the media can be greatly attributed to the lack of diversity in media ownership. There is such a small fluctuation in opinions expressed in the larger news sources because a few large corporations are controlling what is reported. These corporations aren’t concerned with serving us as a nation of people who deserve to have a diversity of views and opinions expressed in order to shape our own ideals. Knowledge and information is power. These conglomerates do not want to put the consumers in a position of power. It is much better for their businesses if they keep us in a position of inferiority while we wait for them to decide how, when, and where we get whatever news they determine relevant.
Unfortunately, unless media consumers become more active and aware of the implications of conglomerates owning media sources, change is unlikely to happen. The next best thing is to try to be as media literate as we can and understand what and who our news is coming from.
In 2018, the problem has become even worse. The media is continuing to be owned by fewer media conglomerates. In November 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) relaxed the laws concerning how many media outlets a company can own in one market.
On a party line vote, the FCC increased the number of television stations a company could own in a local market, now able to own two of the four largest stations in a market, instead of only one. This vote overturned a decades old law cross-ownership law, which “limited cross-ownership by a single entity of a daily newspaper and television or radio broadcast station operating in the same local market.” This law was specifically put into place to prevent any individual or company from having too much power over local coverage.
There was a time that a company could only own one station in a market. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 deregulated the industry and unleashed a wave of consolidations, and now it has gotten even worse.
Right after this vote, Sinclair Broadcasting, a very conservative company, reached a deal with Tribune Media for a $3.9 billion merger that would allow Sinclair to reach 70 percent of American households. Sinclair owns 194 television stations in the United States. This sale between Tribune and Sinclair is still pending as of March 2018.
President Trump continues to criticize most the television networks in the U.S., blaming them for bad reports of his presidency. The owner of Sinclair Broadcasting is very friendly with the president.
Unfortunately in 2018, it appears that television news has become more opinion than actual news reports, and that is a shame for all Americans. With so few companies owning the television stations, it is hard to get reliable and honest news without their own slant. This situation should be watched as it continues to evolve.