News Corp: Is it warped?
By: Holly Murphy
As U.S. journalists to be, we tend to pride ourselves on diversifying our daily media outlets. For example, this morning I read an article from The Wall Street Journal about the ongoing Gaza conflict between Israel and Palestine. Several weeks ago I saw a reference to this mess in the New York Post. Months ago I saw coverage of the issue featured on the Fox News Channel. While it may seem as if my media outlets are widely spread, it is not the case. In fact, News Corporation, the world’s second largest media conglomerate, owns each of these outlets.
The point? Media consolidation has become the premise of U.S. news and entertainment in current day society, and it is time for rigorous review.
News Corp was founded by Rupert Murdoch in 1979 as a holding company for News Limited—an Australian newspaper publisher bequeathed to Murdoch upon the death of his father in 1952. So began the global media conglomerate powerhouse that it is today. News Corp first entered the U.S. upon the acquisition of the San Antonio Express News in 1973. Shortly after, it purchased other low-grade publications such as the National Star and a supermarket tabloid. Perhaps the turning point of success was when Murdoch bought out half of the movie studio 20th Century Fox in 1981, which soon followed the launch of the Fox Broadcasting Company. By 1995, News Corp, along with several other conglomerates, had amassed an obscene portion of the media.
Thus was born the media oligopoly that persists today.
News Corp’s global ownership is far extended into newspapers, books, magazines, radio, TV, cable, Internet, studios, music, radio and broadcast. Among the many, a few well-known outlets include HarperCollins, The Wall Street Journal, MySpace Records, 20th Century Fox Television, Fox News Channel and many, many others. News Corp operates in nine different media on six continents. Notorious media critic Robert McChesney gathered that in 1995, News Corp earned 70 percent of its income in the U.S., and the rate has continued to increase. As of 2009, News Corp’s overall revenue amounted to US$30.423 billion. Murdoch, who owns 30 percent of the company, has distributed this revenue relatively evenly amongst the “filmed entertainment (26 percent), newspapers (24 percent), television (21 percent), magazines (14 percent) and book publishing (12 percent).”
As critics of the media, it is our job to question the overwhelming ownership and control of News Corp. It especially calls great attention to the issue of horizontal integration, which embodies the consolidation of holdings across multiple industries. The current trend within the entertainment industry has swayed toward the increased concentration of media ownership into the hands of conglomerates such as News Corp. In theory, the idea of acquiring many media outlets is actually quite productive, given that it requires minor changes of format and information to use in multiple forms of media.
However, in the case of massive conglomerates like News Corp, the strategy has spun out of control because of wealthy individuals like Rupert Murdoch, who consistently continue to purchase more and more assets, resulting in the consolidation of power over media. This relationship between ownership and control dictates ideas, money, price, content, messages and information—thus limiting independent and diverse journalism.
With News Corp’s horizontal integration underway, it has become clear that the content used in, for example, an online newspaper is the same content that will be used in broadcasting radio, and hard copy newspaper, and so forth. Now, what have emerged are new, innovative strategies of development and allocation of content to enhance the synergy between the differing subdivisions of News Corp. In fact, Murdoch purchases as many mediums as possible to move similar content fluidly across diverse media outlets.
This, again, has perpetuated media consolidation and limited news coverage.
In the wake of this media mayhem, News Corp continues to contribute to the consolidation of media by monopolizing media outlets. One possible solution to this skewed system is perhaps a more democratic media (or journalism), where politically neutral, nonpartisan, professional or objective journalists must begin to take hold of communication, and embrace their independence. Additionally, smaller organizations should maintain their independence as well. Too often do they allow their organization to be bought out by larger conglomerates (such as in the case of MySpace).
The political economy of the media should be committed to enhancing democracy. But that is not the case today. Instead, media remains in absolute disrepair and corruption. It is controlled and regulated by big money, and unconditionally supported by Democrats and Republicans who seek state and capital welfare. The pursuit of democracy and “the people” is nowhere in sight, and this must change.