How did they come to power, anyway?

Posted on May 13, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

By: Holly Murphy

So the cat is out of the bag: The American media is so convoluted and askew that we are not sure where truth begins and where manipulation ends. One thing that has become commonplace, however, is the incessant dispute over who owns the media. Is it the loose-minded, idealistic liberals? Or is it the right-wing, traditionalist conservatives? Either way, it appears as though both parties have found refuge in opposition of one another. But the truth of the matter is, in fact, that neither party necessarily dominates over the other; rather, the U.S. is governed by a corporate media. As discussed before, the American media is suffering from serious conditions of media consolidation, and it is time to examine how this problem has developed into the pervasive standard that it is today.

Media Consolidation

In the last 50 years or so, there has been a serious consolidation of media ownership, and now nine select giant firms dominate the global media system—five of the largest include Time Warner ($24 billion), Disney ($22 billion), Bertelsmann ($15 billion), Viacom ($13 billion) and News Corp ($11 billion). In addition to needing global opportunity to compete, the staple etiquette forum for global media giants to compete are twofold: first and foremost, consistently increase size to dominate markets to prevent competition from buying the company out; secondly, spread interest in multiple media outlets and industries, such as music, film production, television broadcast, book publishing and such. In other words, integrate—integrate vertically, horizontally, diagonally, zig-zaggingly—whatever it takes to extend the company all over the global media spectrum. This is what has become second nature for the giant media conglomerates, and therein lies the problem.

Vertical Integration and Horizontal Integration

As discussed in the previous post, News Corp has become quite well-versed in the language of horizontal integration. On a broader scale, it is also a language fluently spoken by all of the media giants. Similar in concept is the all-pervasive conglomerate method that we have come to know as vertical integration. Vertical integration is the process in which several steps in the production and distribution processes of certain commodities are controlled by a single company or entity. A common misconception between horizontal and vertical integration is that they are opposite of one another. That is not necessarily true. In fact, they have a quite cozy, symbiotic relationship that, put together, has captured the essence of total media control.

For instance, let’s consider Fox News Channel (owned by News Corp). Bill O’Reilly has written several books including Pinhead and Patriots, Kids Are American Tooand The O’Reilly Factor. Counterpart and FNC coworker Sean Hannity has also written several books, which include Conservative Victory and Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty over Liberalism. One thing that these books have in common, conservative style aside, is that they were all published by HarperCollins, a publishing company owned and regulated by News Corp. This is vertical integration. The content and analytical material used in these books is spread through other FNC corporately owned media outlets such as broadcast cable shows (Hannity and The O’Reilly Factor), internet websites ( and BillO’, shopping stores (The O’Reilly Store) and much, much more. This is horizontal integration. The two together, though not interchangeable, are a collapsing mechanism of total media control.   

Interlocking Directorates 

 The concept of interlocking directorates refers to the idea of a corporate board of directors serving on the boards of multiple media corporations and outlets. Though this practice may be technically lawful and widespread, it certainly addresses questions about the quality and independence of board decisions. To put this in perspective, it follows as such: News Corp has seventeen members on its board of directors, some of which include Rupert Murdoch, son James Murdoch, Natalie Bancroft, Arthur M. Siskind and several more. These members share ownership in many companies including Allen & Company, Gateway, Worldcom, PMP Communications, and many more. This means that these seventeen members are in cross-control of enormous companies—thus limiting ownership even more. With all of this limited control, media critic guru Robert McChesney also notes that the “gravest loss is in the self-serving censorship of political and social ideas, in news, magazine articles, books, broadcasting and movies.”


The problem now is not just that the overall global media is consolidated to five major firms, but also that these firms are consolidated within themselves. A small board of directors is in control of overwhelmingly large companies that are simply too big to be managed by such a limited group. Taking on the issue of the global consolidation of media is a difficult and incredibly dense feat—the answer of course would be to promote more independent journalism. But there are several large steps that need to be taken before that even becomes a possibility. For one, major media conglomerates (Disney, Time Warner, News Corp, etc.) need to at least appoint more officials among their subdivisions in order to further a variation of opinion, which will hopefully reflect in the media outlets. Having such a limited amount of employees in high positions of power is simply too broad, and thus perpetuates a media oligopoly

Media Oligopoly

Mainstream Media

Global Media Giants


Interlocking Directorates

Media Reform

Large Media Corporations

Horizontal Integration

Media Relationship to Power



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