Uncategorized

Corporate Advertising

Posted on June 11, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

By: Holly Murphy

In the last few blog posts, it has been made abundantly clear that media consolidation has become a pervasive issue that has plagued the U.S. with limited viewpoints and overwhelming control. However, we have not explored how this problem has affected other industries involved—such as advertising. Ever since large corporations, for instance News Corp, began to take control over the mass media, advertising agencies have naturally partnered with them to use this means of mass communication to sell their product. In theory, there is nothing wrong with that, as it propagates the spread of innovative ideas and concepts. However, the sophistication of advertising methods and techniques has progressed significantly with time, creating consumerism and needs where there has been none before. Furthermore, the line between advertising and corporate media has been profoundly blurred, and both have become oddly interlinked. While advertising agencies may be independently owned, large, consolidated corporations are still responsible for the overwhelming effects of advertising in society.

Media and Advertising            

Though it may appear as if large corporations and the advertising industry are separate entities, they actually have quite an interlocked relationship. In other words, the big media’s primary function is selling audiences to advertisers. Corporations such as News Corp do not directly make money when viewers turn on the television. Rather, they earn a profit when advertisers pay them to air their content. An unrelenting pressure has been placed on big media companies to change and shape viewer content based on the demographics of the audiences. Therefore, the quality content of the media is not nearly as important as the audience that is being targeted by the ads. Thus, it becomes important to note that the success of large corporations is highly dependent on the success of the advertising industry. 

The Audience As The Product

As Noam Chomsky asserts, for a company such as the New York Times, “it too has to sell products to its customers.” According to Chomsky, for the New York Times and companies alike, the product is the audience and the customers are the corporate advertisers. Though the readers purchase the paper, they fit a certain demographic that becomes vital to the paper’s success. It is this demography that becomes the valuable information that can be used by advertisers to ultimately filter more money into large corporations. Unsurprisingly, the actual product that the New York Times and other such companies bring to the advertisers is the audience itself. Naturally, it becomes clear that the advertisers then bring the money to large media corporations, as they pay these corporations large sums to use their media outlets.

Product Placement            

Another issue that advertising industries and media corporations graciously embrace is product placement—embedded marketing where branded goods or services are placed in a context usually devoid of actual ads. This advertising tactic is becoming more and more prevalent with time, as advertisers have found that people utilize ways to skip over commercials (TiVo, OnDemand channels, etc.). In fact, research has shown that two-thirds to 80% of ads are skipped. Clearly, people do not want to watch advertising—hence the increased use of product placement. For instance, the highly acclaimed television series Modern Family has recently received unwanted attention for an episode that featured a storyline entirely devoted to the geeky father Phil who wanted nothing more for his birthday than an iPad, with scenes set in Apple Store lines and numerous characters raving about the product. The show is produced by Fox Entertainment Studios, and is aired on Disney’s ABC television network. No coincidence, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is on the board of directors at Walt Disney Co. Thus, it becomes clear that both the advertising industry and big media corporations are conveniently intertwined, and even quite dependent on each other for profit.  

Solution?            

The issue concerning the relationship between the advertising industry and big corporations is one of many layers—therefore, it is difficult to analyze it without breaking down the individual parts. First and foremost, the advertising industry needs to remain independent of large corporations so they can function autonomously, and without the influence of large corporations. Similarly, big corporations need to be less fixated on selling audiences, and be more concerned with delivering quality content. That way, television and other corporately owned media outlets will attract quality and informed audiences. In turn, advertisers will market their products more frankly, and less deceptively.

Corporate Media

Media and Advertising

Media Monopoly

Modern Family iPad Controversy

Product Placement

Media Reform

Advertising & Corporations 

Global Marketing & Advertising

Media Manipulation

Corporate Influence on Media

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(Un)fair and (Un)balanced?

Posted on May 31, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

By: Holly Murphy

Interesting fact: the United States has the strongest free speech protection in the world. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states this position quite clearly. This amendment, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, was passed in 1791, and we have been debating its efficacy ever since. Although it is most likely true that the free speech component of the First Amendment was originally directed toward the protection of political expression, it has been much more widely interpreted over the intervening years. Today, free speech protection has been extended not only to advertising and public relations, but also to media outlets and broadcast networks alike.

So, if clearly biased programs want to make trademarked claims that they are “Fair and Balanced,” they may have the right to do so, but should they? Lo and behold, these are the issues of concern today.

History/Context

Again, the notion of free speech is a coveted principle ingrained in the American media, and perhaps this gift of burden has spun out of control. This is not a newfound belief. Thus was born independent protection agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to regulate this right. In reference to the media, the FCC serves to promote competition, truthfulness and diversity, while facilitating the transition to digital modes of delivery. Similarly, the FTC supports the promotion of consumer protection and the eradication and prevention of harmfully “anti-competitive” business practices, such as a coercive monopoly. These agencies (namely the FTC) have constructively come into play with issues concerning false advertising. This is why the FTC must take action in reevaluating the truthfulness with Fox News’ trademarked slogan “Fair and Balanced.”

“Fair and Balanced” Trademark

By the network’s own account, Fox News has regularly and consistently used the catchphrase “Fair and Balanced” to endorse FNC’s television programming, despite frequent complaints that claim otherwise. In fact, Fox News has registered the phrase “Fair and Balanced” as their own official trademark for television news and merchandise. While this may be technically legal, it is also quite absurd as it is for 1) not accurate, and 2) unfair—not to mention that it is misleading too. In 2003, Fox News filed suit for trademark infringement against Minnesota Senator Al Franken for the title of his book: Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. The title was clearly a play on words for the FNC slogan, as the book reveals the consistent and frequent biases of Fox News.

The Reality

By any sane, objective measure, the Fox News Channel is far from living up to “fair and balanced” standards. In fact, research and studies of the network’s programming have demonstrated otherwise. During the Bush Administration, for example, former Fox News employees came out and said that the FNC network management instructed line producers and correspondents to structure their coverage of events in a manner that supported and promoted the positions of the Republican Party.

Furthermore, FNC makes zero effort to reach any semblance of balance in conducting diverse interviews. For instance, in 2005, the interview show “Special Report with Brit Hume” was monitored to detect the balance of party representation during a six month period. The study concluded that conservative guests outnumbered progressive guests five to one. A similar study was conducted two years prior and found that conservative guests outnumbered progressive ones 14 to one. The FNC’s news coverage of current events in our world and out country is grossly distorted, and must be monitored under a much more critical eye.

FTC Involvement

One of the provisions of the FTC is to find advertising to be deceptive if a claim made was likely to mislead a reasonable consumer, and if the claim was material. In the case of the Fox News Channel, neutral, nonpartisan network television viewers seeking objective and balanced information, are subject to believe that the FNC is relaying accurate information by reason of the claim that the show is “Fair and Balanced.” And as a neutral participant, why should they have reason to believe otherwise?

According section 5 of the FTC’s policy, a “material” claim is one that involves “information that is important to consumers and likely to affect their choice of a product or service.” What is more material to a viewer’s choice of news coverage than a claim that such coverage is “Fair and Balanced”? It is paramount that the FTC takes these considerations into account when evaluating the candor and efficacy of FNC’s slogan, “Fair and Balanced.”

Solution

To be fair, the Fox News Channel is bound by no law or regulation to deliver the news in a wholly objective manner. In fact, the First Amendment grants the FNC the luxury to present news, commentary, entertainment and any other content in any way it prefers. What Fox News is not free to do is falsely advertise its program in a manner that is blatantly untrue and misleading. In other words, FNC is free to do and say whatever it prefers, so long as it acts with transparency and accurate representation. According to the Supreme Court’s “commercial speech” rulings, the government (and the FTC) are inclined to prohibit any form of advertising that will sooner deceive the public than actually inform it. That is certainly the case of FNC’s use of the slogan “Fair and Balanced.” For these reasons, it is clear that the FTC must intervene in order to secure the public’s right to a “fair and balanced” look of news media outlets. 

False Advertising

Federal Trade Commission

Free Speech

Fair and Balanced

FTC and Fox News

Statistics

FNC Bias

Section 5 of FTC

Anti-Fox News

Transparency

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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 (FoxNews.com and BillO’Reilly.com), 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.”


Solution?

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

Conglomerates

Interlocking Directorates

Media Reform

Large Media Corporations

Horizontal Integration

Media Relationship to Power

Consolidation

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News Corp: Is it warped?

Posted on May 3, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

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. 

History/Context

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. 

Ownership/Holdings

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).” 

Horizontal Integration

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

Synergism

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. 

Solution?

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. 

News Corporation

Media Giants

Television–Faces of Horizontal Integration

Political Economy

News Corp with MySpace

Media Consolidation

Rupert Murdoch

Robert McChesney on death of journalism

Fox News Channel

Free Press

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The O’Reilly Fact_or_Opinion?

Posted on April 22, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

By: Holly Murphy

In the last two years, the United States has faced drastic political and economic changes—some for the better, others for the worse.

But amidst it all, one problem has remained unmoving: The O’Reilly Factor continues to be the number one most-watched cable news show in the U.S. Naturally, this prompts the inevitable question: Are U.S. news watchers receiving “adequate” information? Where are the values in proper, diverse news coverage these days? It goes without saying that autonomous, aggressive and, hell, even critical media are fundamental to a well-versed public. But perhaps mainstream media, namely The O’Reilly Factor, are a bit too smug with the economic and political powers that they should be protecting. Mergers in the haughty news industry have clawed and scratched towards public support and absolute coverage, further constricting the continuum of viewpoints that have access to mass media.

And now, conglomerates such as News Corporation have compromised independent journalism and diverse coverage

These claims, though partial, should be taken with a grain of salt because after all, The O’Reilly Factor (and Fox News Channel in general) is committed to being “fair and balanced.” 

History/Context

For those who may not know, The O’Reilly Factor is an American talk show featured on the Fox News Channel. The show has been blessed for fourteen years with political commentator Bill O’Reilly, who often discusses (berates) current hot political and social issues with various guests. The producers will often times conduct “pre-interviews” with these guests, only, of course, to predetermine their specific stance on the issue. The O’Reilly Factor first premiered in 1996, along with the FNC—that’s almost fifteen years! Since then, the show has been commonly denoted with a conservative, right-wing bias. FNC is owned by the Fox Entertainment Group—a subsidiary of News Corporation, the word’s second-largest media conglomerate. News Corporation, to no surprise at all, was founded by far-right partisan Rupert Murdoch

Production

The O’Reilly Factor is written and produced by David Tabacoff, who previously worked for ABC News. The show is aired for exactly 43 minutes, continuing on its 11th season this year and is now 4,321 episodes deep. In 2001, the ratings grew exponentially high, and since then, the show has become the number one most frequently watched show on cable network—just barely surpassing Larry King Live. The show itself is not a parody (unless you want to argue that it parodies biased journalism), but it has become increasingly popular to spoof The O’Reilly Factor in recent years. In fact, Stephen Colbert makes a living off of the absurdities and blunders of Bill O’Reilly. 

The show has featured several infamous guests, which includes Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Tanya Acker and of course his nemesis, Jon Stewart.

Distribution

The O’Reilly Factor is distributed through FNC, but is also accessible through audio podcasts available on iTunes for free downloading. Episode clips are also distributed on the FNC website, and are accompanied by Fox News advertisements. Clips and viewings are also accessible through YouTube. In 2000, O’Reilly wrote The O’Reilly Factor—a book which narrates similar thoughts and views as the show does. The book can also be purchased in an Audio CD version, which Bill narrates himself. 

Synergism

The O’Reilly Factor has progressed into a rather vast commodity, extending to quite a large audience—even to kids, in his 2004 book titled The O’Reilly Factor for Kids. Most importantly, the show has commoditized O’Reilly into a social icon himself: he is fierce, ruthless and “unafraid to speak the harsh truth.” He is the voice of reason for far too many and has embodied the conservative ideology into a social norm.

However, it does not begin to stop there. 

In fact, there is an entire Bill O’Reilly online store dedicated to selling merchandise such as mugs, clothing, hats, home decor, pens, lanyards, pencils, doormats, pins, books and bumper stickers available to consumers worldwide. The irony of it all is that the products read “American Patriot,” as if what Bill O’Reilly says is what it means to be a patriotic American. Additionally, FNC has franchised its’ own online shop that too sells Fox News merchandise. Shouldn’t presenting the news be enough?

Clearly The O’Reilly Factor—or on a broader scale, the Fox News Channel—has become a synthesized commodity that is much more than presenting news: it is an ideology, a philosophy and a lifestyle. 

Consumption

Despite the fact that the show clearly possesses conservative undertones, it still seems to rock the charts in comparison to its counterparts and less-conservative competitors. In the last year, the audience has increased almost 37% and is now averaging around three million viewers. In fact, the show’s consistently high ratings have grown significantly stronger since the White House’s alleged feud with Fox News. Nonetheless, the audience demographics have remained unswerving with an age range of between 25-54, with mostly male viewership. Though the show is committed to informing the public, its’ high ratings and consistent viewership are also representative of the entertainment and interest factor.

The O’Reilly Factor

Mainstream Media

Bill O’Reilly in book format

“unafraid to speak the truth”

White House’s alleged feud

25-54, with mostly male viewership

Mergers

Fox News Channel

Jon Stewart

Rupert Murdoch 

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Hello world!

Posted on April 21, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

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    This blog explores the political and economic factors involved with The O'Reilly Factor for J412

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