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The Big 6 Media Conglomerates Essay

The holdings of the Big 6 Giants clearly prove that the media industry is dominated by a few firms in oligopoly. I am sure that most people are unaware of the fact that only a few conglomerates dominate mainstream media. Nonetheless, it is clearly true—the nine current media conglomerates together own more than 90% of the media market. In determining how oligopoly in the media industry affects the messages that people receive, its necessary not only to look at the market share controlled by conglomerates in aggregate, but rather by each conglomerate. I contend that if a single conglomerate controls a substantial portion of the media market, it carries huge control over peoples perceptions and values as a whole.

When a single conglomeration controls a variety of media, it avoids antitrust law through the use of synergy. The problem with synergy is that a major company has the capacity to use the same pieces of information and alter them slightly to fit the audiences of different networks and media. Because there is less competition over media space, and because the use of a single perspective might be considered more cost effective, audience members are unable to witness as many unique perspectives when watching television or listening to the radio. Instead, we hear the same stories over and over again, but altered slightly to sustain an illusion of choice.

Michael Eisner claims that synergy doesnt hurt society as long as the quality of programs remains high. Eisners argument thus seems to be a restatement of the skyscraper model—as long as television conglomerates promote high culture, we have nothing to fear. The unfortunate problem is that quality is subjective. One countrys quality is another countrys low culture. In addition, the idea of broadcasting on the basis of quality in and of itself seems to demand that we pander to the preferences of mainstream America. We can not guarantee that a program is accurate or valuable, but we can certainly guarantee that it furthers the goals of Americas elite. As a result, we see fewer and fewer stories and perspectives, and those that especially threaten mainstream America, such as the promotion of solidarity amongst the lower class—fall by the wayside.

General Electric seems to carry the largest share out of all the other conglomerations. The rest of the Big 6 carry smaller but comparable sizes of market share. I think that if any company poses a threat to the democratization of information and culture, General Electric is it. Controlling networks such as NBC, USA, A&E, and the Sci-Fi Channel, General Electric has the capacity to influence audiences understandings of American culture, history, and science. Not only that, General Electrics stakes in military production and consumer products throw into question its capacity to provide fair and unbiased stories to the public. Could it be that the diversity of GEs product line lends itself to conflicts of interest?


Media & Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communications vol.6 (Campbell, Martin, Fabos)Text book used as a guideline, no direct quotes are taken

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