Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Media Consolidation

How do you like your news? Fluffy? Do you subscribe to other people's opinions or do you still think for yourself?

Perception is based on consumption. He who controls the media can manipulate a population's perception of world and local events.

This isn't some sort of conspiracy theorist BS. It's a basic fact. More media outlets fosters independent thought and analysis. The opposite creates an environment of sloppy journalism and pre-packaged opinions, which are widely distributed.

The best analogy would be music. Imagine a world where only 4 bands were allowed to produce and sell their work. Since there's only 4 bands, you would hear their music all the time. Maybe, at first these bands would make decent music. Some of which you might like. After awhile though, they would wise up and start producing shit. Hell, it doesn't need to be very good if your competition is limited to 3 bands and they are all doing the same thing. After awhile, all 4 bands sound the same and make the same flavorless crap. It's almost like they decided it would be easier that way.

This is more or less what has happened to television news. It's crap. There is rarely anything useful you can gain by watching it. Newspapers are a little bit better, but they are disappearing. This brings us to the latest media strategy.

Why not let broadcast networks own newspapers too? Hell, they can save newspapers and make money at the same time. It's win-win strategy right?

Yes for them, but no to the public. It is downright dangerous. Such an allowance would further erode journalism and independent thought.

How can a small time newspaper compete with a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch or Ted Turner? Especially when their newspapers are promoted substantially by their networks?

How can a opinion endlessly promoted on CNN and it's respective newspaper be challenged? How will we know if the facts presented in a story are true? Can a widely distributed falsehood become accepted as truth? What is the truth? Are you a follower or a thinker? How do you even know?

Hopefully these questions create more questions and a sense of unease. Most people do not like being manipulated. Yet, we have been manipulated our whole lives.

We've been tricked into believing that possessions brings happiness, the American Dream is our dream too, great wealth is possible, and the list goes on. It may not be in our best interests to believe any of these things.

Think about it for a moment. We are a consumer society. If we believe a new car will make us happy; Honda, Ford, GM, etc... gets some of our cash. If we get a home; The banks and insurance companies win out. If we actually believe that we'll be wealthy some day, then we might decide to give millionaires a tax break.

Following these beliefs does not secure happiness, but attempting to follow them does fuel big business and our economy. Which brings me to the point: Follow the money trail.

Media consolidation may be more about money than control for the media outlets. But it is easier for a government to control a handful of outlets then it is to control several hundred.

There lies the problem. In order to have a successful democracy, we need to know what our government is doing. The only way this is possible is through an independent media. Fewer media outlets means fewer reporters, which means fewer investigations.

Sooner or later, the news outlets will just take an administration and Congress for their word. It's easier and cheaper that way.

As it is, it is nearly impossible to know what our government is up to. More media consolidation will make this task even harder. Maybe 1984 wasn't so far fetched after all.

Yesterday the FCC relaxed a rule banning corporate ownership of a newspaper and broadcast station in the same city. Hurray! I am sure the corporations will use this new right responsibly.

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