We’re media whores.
Comcast, News Corp,. Viacom, Disney, Time Warner (NOT the cable company) and CBS are our pimps.
According to a report by Nielsen (hardly a reliable source, but seemingly the only one we have) we spend about five hours a day watching television. Not your laptop, desktop or tablet, the good old-fashioned talking box.
The analogy between the media and us and the pimp and whore is striking at first, I know. But think about it.
As media consumers, we give both time and money to the media and get little in return.
While I am no expert on the sex trade, I think we can presume that a prostitute gives a fair amount of time (five hours a day maybe) to the street and then gives her pimp the money while she gets very little in return.
The problem is that 90% of all the media we consume comes from these six companies. By way of comparison, 30 years ago 90% of all media came from 50 companies. I’ll let that sink in.
What does that mean exactly? It means ALL the information we get is coming from a very small group of people. Now to think there is no agenda present, be it in scripted, non-scripted or news programming is to ignore human nature.
Complicating things is all six companies are publicly traded companies who are beholden to one thing and one thing only, the bottom line…and presenting good quarterly numbers to the ass monkey’s on Wall Street.
This sort of business practice is beneficial to shareholders (I own Comcast stock) but not so much to the public. I wrestle with being a shareholder, I do, but isn’t part of capitalism and democracy having the freedom to profit AND question? I believe they call it an activist shareholder (admittedly, all I can really do at this point is vote against the board because I’m po’).
From where I sit, media should serve to inform first, educate second and entertain third. All three should be in the best interest of the public. I’ve watched A LOT of television and I don’t think these companies have an interest in ANY of the three.
The largest offender of all? Comcast. After they acquire Time Warner Cable (not the media company, they’re separate entities), Comcast will then be responsible for a little more than 30% of ALL media in this country, from creation to consumption. Even the other five companies don’t own a distribution channel like Comcast.
“Control the media, control the message” indeed.
Monopolistic and Net Neutrality arguments aside, this should scare the shit out of you. I get Net Neutrality is arcane and having an understanding of monopolies is boring, but it doesn’t take a genius to tell you that having six companies pumping all the information that you consume is just not good. Well, it shouldn’t take a genius to tell you that…and I am no genius.
Maybe you don’t think there is anything you can do, maybe you think it’s gonna play out to the advantage of the corporations anyway, maybe you think having media controlled by a few people is a good thing. On the first two, you’re just wrong. On the third one, you are not only wrong but horribly uninformed and it might be best for you to step away from the television.
There are things you can do, I do them. Does it help? I dunno. At least I can say I am trying. But I get it. Until you understand, for yourself, what is at stake and how you are being manipulated and abused, no, there really is nothing that you can do. A good place to start is simply taking ten minutes and informing yourself. That’s all it takes.
I know, I know, you may be thinking “Jesus Keith, I’ve read elsewhere where people are saying we live in a golden age of television.” I think that is mostly true…from a creative side. That is the show in show business. This is about the business. Frankly, that speaks more to the creativity of the people involved than the idiots behind the desks.
“Doesn’t that money help provide budgets for news programs and those shows?” Yea. But budgets are shrinking while profits are growing. For example CNN (owned by Time Warner), while still profitable, are in the middle of downsizing to point where chief moron Jeff Zucker quipped, “You’re just gonna have to do less with less.”
It’s a complicated issue on a variety of levels because media speaks to a lot of things; like sociological concerns, economic disparity and education to name but three. A blog is hardly the place to tackle that shit…and God knows I ain’t smart enough.
And because it’s the Internet era and looking up and reading things requires more energy than most people are willing to provide, I am including a little graph here. This is from 2012 before Comcast completed its purchase of NBCUniversal, so it lists GE as the owner.
Other than that, this chart is accurate and should seriously scare you.