In 1983 there were 50 corporations that controlled the media in the U.S. Today that number is down to 5. What does that portend for democracy and the information needs of the citizenry? The 1996 Telecommunications Act had a lot to do with the acceleration in monopolies. Its enthusiastic advocates promised more media diversity. The results? A Niagara-like torrent of mergers and takeovers. On the surface it seems that America is blessed with lots of media choices. But is it? Bruce Springsteen sings of "57 channels and nothing on." Maybe he should add a zero. Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister said, "The purpose of Nazi propaganda was to present an ostensible diversity behind which is an actual uniformity."
Renowned Indian writer Arundhati Roy once assured an American audience that the United States might enjoy a collective sigh of relief when it finally gives up on being an empire. But empires die hard. In response to eroding economic predominance, military spending in the U.S. has skyrocketed. Simultaneously, as if in response to legal matters that encircle the U.S. president, we see a more and more bellicose foreign policy. The "winds of war" is a terrible term. As if war were as natural as the wind. In fact, wars are trumped up, sold, hook-line-and-sinker.
Mass media are owned by huge corporations that have a definite ideological agenda. Yet it is a staple verging on dogma that the mass media are independent, objective and liberal. This is repeated like a mantra and never challenged. Detailed studies and documentation refute the liberal label. Nevertheless, the charge of liberal bias persists and has become part of the political culture.
Abby Martin is an investigative reporter and television host of The Empire Files on TeleSUR.
Ben Bagdikian was the winner of almost every top prize in American journalism, including the Pulitzer. He was the former dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. He was one of the most respected media critics in the country and was a reporter and editor for more than thirty years. The New York Times called him “an exemplar to a generation of journalists.” His landmark book The Media Monopoly was revised and updated with seven new chapters and retitled The New Media Monopoly. His autobiography is entitled Double Vision. He passed away in March 2016.
Michael Parenti is one of this country’s foremost independent political analysts. Cornel West calls him, “a towering prophetic voice.” He has taught at major colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad. He is the author of numerous books including the classic Democracy for the Few, Power and the Powerless, The Face of Imperialism, and The Assassination of Julius Caesar.