The New Media Monopoly

The New Media Monopoly describes the cartel of five giant media conglomerates who now control the media on which a majority of Americans say they most rely. These five are not just large — though they are all among the 325 largest corporations in the world — they are unique among all huge corporations: they are a major factor in changing the politics of the United States and they condition the social values of children and adults alike.

These five huge corporations — Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) — own most of the newspapers, magazines, books, radio and TV stations, and movie studios of the United States.

These Big Five (with General Electric’s NBC a close sixth) do not manufacture automobiles, or clothing, or nuts and bolts. They manufacture politics and social values. The media conglomerates have been a major force in creating conservative and far right politics in the country. They have almost single-handedly as a group, in their radio and television dominance, produced a coarse and vulgar culture that celebrates the most demeaning characteristics in the human psyche — greed, deceit, and cheating as a legitimate way to win (as in the various “reality” shows).

It is not just national economics that is at stake — though their power has led to the government’s somnolence of anti-trust action. Nor is it just the neglect of broadcast media giantism by the government agencies that by law are still required to operate “in the public interest.” The public interest is to have the country’s largest broadcasting system in the world provide diversity in news, opinion, and commentary that serves all Americans, right, left, and independent, as well as access to their local stations as well as true choices in national programs.

What is at stake is American democracy itself. A country without all the significant news, points of view, and information its citizens need to be informed voters is risking the loss of democratic rights. Voters without genuine choices and without the information they need to choose what meets their own needs and wishes has produced something alarming: on Election Day our voters are forced to vote for what is the narrowest political choices among all industrial democracies of the world.

The New Media Monopoly, by Ben Bagdikian, describes these dominant media giants, how they cooperate with each other in the manner of a cartel, who runs them, and how this all came to pass in such insidious ways. It reminds a whole generation that has forgotten, for example, that the public owns the air waves, not the broadcasters. The book describes how all our media grew, including the Internet (and intriguing information like the first time in history that a computer crashed).

This book is designed to inform, to raise the alarm, and at the same time be readable in the living room and classroom.