The Captive Media in the USA

“A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself.” – Joseph Pulitzer

A media system set up to serve the needs of the Financial Institutions will not serve the interests of the majority of the population.

Media ownership, since the Bill Clinton deregulation, has been greatly concentrated and globalized. 1. Its relationship with the Neo-liberal global economy has been solemnized. It is as corrupt as any policy making medium in the West. Public service broadcasting has all but collapsed. The remaining ones are actually in the grip of barely disguised corporate finance. Culture has been commercialized. The first amendment of the US constitution has been perverted to offer the corporations the rank of individuals and corporate leaders would not be held responsible for their acts. The latest US SC ruling, corporations can spend as much as they want in lobbying, reinforces the Multinational Corporate (MNC) power and reach. 2.

The Internet, touted as beyond the reach of MNCs, is being incorporated in the commercial media systems. 3.

Bill Clinton’s deregulation allowed the takeover of CBS by Viacom. AOL swallowed Time Warner in the largest merger in history (valued at $160 billion). Time Warner merged its music operations with EMI, leaving 90% of the music market in the hand of four entities. The Tribune Company bought Times Mirror, making every major newspaper chain a part of a large media monopoly. 4.

With corporate intrusions, the Public system-NPR and PBS- is also now within the ideological confines of advertisement supported, profit-driven systems.

Local commercial media are consistently reluctant to offer critical analysis of powerful local interests, which are the major advertisers. 5.

In the spring of 2000, the Boston Herald suspended its consumer affairs columnist, Robin Washington for a series of articles on Fleet-Boston financial corporation, which not only advertised in the Herald, but also loaned funds to it. He was eventually reinstated because of public protest, but also because he was one of the four African American staffers in the large 235 person editorial staff. 6.

Commercial media tend to provide favorable coverage to politicians, who offer them subsidies and favorable regulations. For his book, “The Media Monopoly,” Ben Bagdilkian used the Freedom of Information Act to unearth the information that major media promised Nixon support in the 1972 reelection campaign if he supported the Newspaper Preservation Act (2).7. Corporations routinely get their local station managers to call on their congressmen to support the corporate position on media legislation. A top executive of the Hearst Corporation, owner of San Francisco Examiner, it was revealed under deposition, had offered editorial support to Mayor Willie Brown of San Francisco, then up for reelection, if Brown would give his official blessing to Hearst’s buying San Francisco Herald. 8.

The death of JFK Jr, his wife and her sister in a plane crash was treated by the media as, “The return of the Messiah or intelligent life on Mars”. 9. The Seattle protest during a meeting of WTO four months later, was virtually ignored till the meetings had to be closed down. 10.Monica Lewinsky and O.J. Simpson got much more coverage.

A few outstanding journalists produce good analytic pieces, but they are published as a token of impartiality and are swamped by pro-capitalist writings. 11.

The issue of military spending does not find adequate coverage as it offers corporate welfare, whereas spending on education and health are vigorously criticized. 12.

The widening gulf between the richest 10% who own 76% of the nation’s net worth , (13) half of which is owned by the richest 1%, whose income went up steeply in 1980’s and 1990’s (14) and the poorest 60% whose income went down in the same period is not mentioned in the commercial press.15.

On the other hand the boom of the 1990’s’ is vociferously lauded. 16.

The prison population in the US has more than doubled since 1980,s; it has five times more prisoners per capita than Canada and seven times more than Western Europe. With 5% of the world’s population, it has 25% of the worlds’ prisoner population. Nearly 90% are held for nonviolent offenses and cannot be tried as the legal system is swamped. 17.

Capitalism has found a new source of income in privatization of jail service. A considerable number are actually innocent of any crime. 18. About 50% are African Americans.

The sentences are class based. In 2000, a Texan got 16 years for stealing a candy bar, while executives of Hoffman-LaRoche, who were found guilty of conspiring to eliminate competition in the vitamin industry, characterized by the Justice Department as the biggest antitrust case in history, causing incalculable billions of dollars of losses to the public, were fined $75,000 to $350,000 and jail terms of three to four months. 19.

Corporations are after the Internet. AOL made a deal with Time Warner to keep the internet from competing with the media.

Thanks to Bill Clinton, we have an oligopoly of five corporations controlling 90% of international media of communications. 20. Vital decisions are made behind closed doors outside the purview of public discourse.

FCC wanted to offer diversity by means of Micro-radio, which could be used to transmit a high quality signal to large metropolitan areas. The Radio lobby went to work at the House of Representatives and got it to scotch the plan in 4/2000. 21.

NY Times May 2000, “…regulators in Clinton years have signed off on big mergers, which would have been unthinkable a generation ago”. Clinton went further than Reagan did and Bush II could. 22.

Corporate capitalism has consistently subverted the liberal tradition, leaving them with little choice between becoming openly anti-capitalist or caving in. Most of them have adopted the latter course. All the so called liberal champions, Carter, Clinton and Gore have built their careers in the service of corporations.

The law Professor Lawrence Lessig, acknowledged authority on the Internet, asserted that it was the right of people to adopt whatever system they liked the best. Since we all dislike government interventionism, we could not demand intervention in the corporate drive to internet domination. 23.

The main faction of conservatives in the U.S (and the West in general) is a proponent of the right of corporations to dominate the World without popular protest. The other is the religious establishment, which works assiduously to link evangelical Christianity to the agenda of the pro-market right. 24.

Before the 1940’s, a substantial number of conservatives were against large military, secret police and intelligence establishments. Today the topic is off limits. 25. They now comprehend the utility of the services for controlling 75% of the physical assets of the world.

Offering invaluable assistance to the capitalist society, the corporate media is indispensable to depoliticization of the society. The coverage NGOs get is just one facet of the scheme. 26.

Jean Kirkpatrick, the arch deaconess of Neo-liberalism justified the US support of brutal totalitarian societies on the ground that they protected capitalism. 27.

We are fortunately entering a new era of politicization. Students unions are being re-energized and protests are exploding. 28.

And it is not just the students who are waking up. Movements against police brutality, racist discrimination, women’s rights, environmental depredation, IMF/WTO/WB machinations on behalf of corporations and sweat shops are gathering strength. 29.

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