How long has it been since you’ve actually relied on the mainstream media for accurate and factual information? I can’t remember the last time I did. Early in this decade, I remember watching the movie Live From Baghdad. It basically told the story of the birth of CNN. It was set during Daddy Bush’s first Iraq war, when CNN was just a fledgling news outlet. The gist of the story is that the CNN crew in Baghdad defied the media blackout that George H.W. Bush’s administration imposed prior to the blanket bombing in order to stick around and report on the war. It was a great movie, to say the least, and the courage displayed by the head honchos and the reporters on the scene in Iraq was impressive. I used to watch CNN religiously because I indeed thought they were fair and balanced (just like Fox, right?). Not anymore. Since CNN moved to the right in order to compete with Fox, I don’t even go near it. It’s no longer on my “favorites” channel lineup, and hasn’t been for several years. Apparently, I’m not the only person who feels that way. Since moving to the right, CNN has been in a free fall, losing 52% of its viewers. I’m strictly an alternative media client these days, which means I’m on the Internet and not the television.
Here’s what Thomas Jefferson had to say about the news back in the day:
“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
The importance of the role the media plays in a democracy cannot be minimized. It was once a watchdog, ensuring government transparency and accountability, it was a forum for political debate, and it was used to set the agenda for policymakers. Does any outlet in what is now called the “mainstream media” function in any way like this? Absolutely not. That’s because the mainstream media has one goal now. It is not to impart the truth, keep our politicians honest and keep its finger on the pulse of the American public. Its primary goal is to make money for the corporations that own it. Period. Back in 1983 — not all that long ago — 50 companies controlled the vast majority of the media in the United States, and that was bad enough. By 1987, that number had shrunk to 29. By 1997, it was down to 10. Today, six corporate conglomerates own 90% of what Americans read, watch or listen to. This has come about by FCC deregulation and years of gluttonous corporate mergers.
There are a number of ways to look at the breakdown. This graphic shows five of the six biggest owners across a broad range of media types. However, no matter how you look at it, it’s disturbing. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp owns the top newspapers on three continents (and he also managed to avoid paying $875 million in taxes in 2010). In 1995, the FCC forbade companies to own more than 40 stations. Today, Clear Channel owns 1,200 stations, including every station in Minot, North Dakota. About 232 media executives control the information fed to roughly 300 million Americans.
Corporations have infiltrated every avenue of our government — they buy elections, dictate legislation, and influence Supreme Court decisions. How do you think the Citizens United decision came about? Do you think you’re being told the truth when you watch the new on mainstream channels? You are not. You are being fed corporate programming. Today, mainstream reporting on the White House amounts to regurgitating information to the public that is fed to the news outlets from the government. It doesn’t matter whether the inhabitant of the Oval Office is George W. Bush or Barack Obama. One report estimated that George W. Bush spent $1.6 billion generating ‘good press’ from 2003 through the second quarter of 2005. Another report from PR Week reports that the Obama administration signed a $20 million contract with the PR firm Porter Novelli to educate the public on the Affordable Care Act. Either way, the powers that be in DC are “educating” you on what they want you to hear. The larger question is: Is anybody in the mainstream media digging around for information beyond what they’re being spoon fed? Hardly. There’s too much corporate influence and control for that.
There is no such thing as investigative journalism in America. It’s dead on arrival. Nothing gets by the gatekeepers of the corporate media that they don’t want you to hear. If Watergate were to happen today, we would never know the truth. Why? Because today, journalists like Woodward and Bernstein no longer exist. Even more troubling, if they did exist, they would never have the support of their immediate supervisors or the owners of their newspaper. When the atrocities at Abu Ghraib were exposed, we were fed the crap that it was rogue officers. It wasn’t. There’s no way the decision makers in the Bush administration were blind to what was going on. Yet nobody above the grunt level ever paid the price. Do you think you’re being told the truth about Iran? What you’re being told by the mainstream media is that Iran is intent on seeking a nuclear weapon, or that they have a nuclear weapon, or that an attack on Israel is imminent and the U.S. supports its right to defend itself. We’ve been dumbed down and mind numbed, and are careening headlong into yet another war because there are no diggers or truth seekers in the mainstream media.
Neilson statistics from 2011 show that the average American watches about 159 hours of television per month. Have you seen the programming we’re fed? American television is a vast wasteland of what is called “reality” television. Frankly, these shows reflect everything but reality. Yet, the sad fact is that Americans would choose being ill informed about their government as long as they can watch Dancing With the Stars or American Idol. Better still, they can turn to cable — which used to be a refuge from this crap — and watch hoarders clutter their houses with junk, the Duggar family try to squeeze out a 20th child, or Sarah Palin shoot unarmed wildlife in Alaska. Luckily for us, Bristol Palin’s Lifetime reality show, Life’s a Tripp, is a massive failure so far. Maybe it will go away.
This is what concentrated corporate ownership of the mainstream media has done for us. Now, corporations are trying to do the same thing with the Internet which, as I said earlier, is the only place to find unadulterated news. Al Franken warned the public about the takeover of the Internet back in 2010 at the Netroots Nation Conference:
It doesn’t matter who you are or what your political leanings are. It is incumbent on every one of us to protect our First Amendment rights. We cannot allow corporations to control the Internet.