I n this era of political division, tribalism and deafening pettiness, it is hard to see the bigger picture, especially when discussing the media. The media, which is an often vilified and hated institution, is something that we just can’t seem to ignore. One can’t go two seconds in American politics without somebody lambasting a source as biased for being too liberal or conservative, all the while the true destruction of journalistic integrity is happening right under their noses, unseen and unopposed. That destruction coming from one simple thing, corporate interest. Most of the media is consolidated to just six companies, with media moguls in control of what gets covered, not intrepid on the ground reporters, as investigative reporting is less desired by said moguls. Even in the age of the internet, this consolidation is important as the wide web provides a vast array of opportunities for contemporary media sources to expand into.
In 2016, the media conglomerate, Group Nine Media, took control of four media companies and received a $100 million investment from Discovery Communications through internet sources like Seeker, NowThis, The Dodo and Thrilllist. This consolidation of media companies and the interest in online media sources can only mean one thing, the independent internet is the next target for media consolidation. Vice, which was worth $4 billion in 2017 and is now valued at $5.7 billion has been building up funds for gathering shares in the bustling digital industry for years now, intending to expand as wide as it can much like many other media conglomerates have planned to do.
The massive opportunity for these companies to expand is too much to resist and as such, these media companies will do everything they can to ensure that expansion takes place. When Sinclair Broadcasting Group attempted to merge with the Tribune Media, it set off a panic storm across the U.S. as the media conglomerate could have direct access to nearly 45 percent of all television channels in the United States if the merger had passed through the FCC, but thankfully it didn’t. The FCC currently restricts media consolidation to 35 percent of all television channels in the U.S., but while the internet has expanded, the rules about consolidation only have not and with that, comes the problem.
With various print and TV sources struggling for ad revenue, online media is flourishing in that regard and they have the largest share of the American populace. About 68 percent of Americans say they get their news from social media and as such, the online world is a perfect target for media conglomerates to eat up. If they do, the internet and TV will both beholden to large scale companies who don’t have to reveal themselves to their captive audiences and hiding behind their local or online brands. With this, the media would become far less informative and more entertainment. They would then begin appealing to the people rather than telling them what they need to hear. Investigative journalists will be considered to just be a waste of resources, effectively rendering objective journalism in media, at least electronically, nonexistent. In the past, media outlets and news organizations appealed to people through their objectivity and were incentivized to maintain that objectivity through competition with other companies, but with increased consolidation, that may no longer be necessary to turn a profit.
While newspapers like the Denver Post still perform their watchdog duties as reporters even in the face of dwindling staff, they can’t keep it up for long. The only way media is going to matter to the American people, the only way we are to remain informed citizens, is to strengthen the anti-trust laws that protected our television and news organizations for so many years.