This week, my topic covers the ownership of the media, and why it is (or isn’t) an issue. There’s plenty of Murdoch hate going around, so I’m instead going to focus more on why the idea of media consolidation worries us so much in comparison to other high-concentrated ownerships in society.
But first, what is media consolidation? It is the way in which fewer and fewer people are owning (controlling) the media and
thus those who do control it are gaining exponential power. The video at the top of the page states that the world’s media supply is being controlled by five or six main companies that help each other out and share board directors. The woman talking also made the point that the media uses our space and therefore owes us the provision of “diversity of opinion” and should give us unobstructed, unbiased truth. I’m not saying the media is corrupt or feeds us lies and deceit, but with so few holding so much power, the possibilities for those injustices to occur are too great for comfort. Some people support media consolidation, reasoning that it enhances quality, however others resist it because it can be seen as a danger to democracy.
Rupert Murdoch, for example, is the owner of News Limited, which includes:
* The Telegraph
* The Australian
* And more.
Murdoch is not the only media-guzzler. Kerry Stokes has financial interest in Prime, Sky News and several WA newspapers. Gina Rinehart is one of the biggest shareholders in Channel Ten and until recently, the biggest shareholder in Fairfax Media.
In 2011, News Limited accounted for 65% of circulation. The closest competitor, Fairfax Media, accounted for just 25% in comparison. Here’s where the issues begin. One man – no matter how big, rich or powerful – is the equivalent of one ideology; one way of thinking. And when this one man is feeding 65% of a population with information backed by his ideals and
opinions, making the headlines, so to speak – well, let’s look at it in reverse. Picture a society with one hundred different newspapers in circulation. Each paper is owned by a different person, with a different religious, cultural and ideological background, with different beliefs, knowledge and life experiences.
The people in that society are exposed to so many new ideas and different ways of looking at an issue. They process information rather than drink it. Conversely, in a media-consolidated universe (in which Australia has one of the highest media concentrations globally), we as consumers are less exposed to new ideas. The effect of this on society could be compared (loosely!) to the scene in Divergent where the Dauntless population
are transformed into mindless soldiers, unable to think for themselves and only doing the bidding of those who hide behind power. And we don’t have the science yet to build up a divergent population, so we’ve got to stay proactive on this one. Media consolidation is dangerous because of its limitations on, and potential to corrupt society. Anytime a large portion of something is owned by a small number, there’s trouble – right?
owns more than half of all soft drinks sold worldwide. Microsoft Windows runs an estimated 80% of the world’s computer systems (year unknown). This is a danger because those in power have the means to raise prices and lower quality standards, as seen in the above diagram on the quality of stocks. However, consolidation can be a convenience in that a consumer can potentially have a phone, internet and television service all one one bill. This pyramid on global wealth distribution demonstrates how in 2011, 8.7% of the world
population owned 82.1% of the world’s wealth. Concentrated ownership is nothing new – it can be found in all forms. Is it always bad? Kind of . . . obviously the wealth distribution is a massive injustice – it gives us, as residents of a developed country, unwarranted power against those in less fortunate nations. As for Telstra, Microsoft and Coca Cola, there’s no huge problem yet (though Microsoft is unnervingly close), but if the gap in market share in those industries continues to grow, we face the danger of a monopoly; one business having absolute power in a particular industry. But we aren’t there yet – nor are we there with the ownership of media.
So obviously the saturation of media ownership is not a positive thing, but it happens in other areas of society too, so I guess we’ll just deal with it. What else can we do, turn to communism? In saying that, if media consolidation continues to grow, Australia faces the possibility of a monopoly media, and that’s a really terrifying thought. So if it comes to vote, don’t privatise the ABC!! It’s important for consumers to know where their news is coming from. Once they realise the potential of the media to corrupt and manipulate their views, I think people will be less harmed by the effects of a consolidated media.