Media ownership plays a significant role in shaping the news and information that is presented to the public. In recent years, there has been a growing concern over the concentration of media ownership and its impact on journalism. This essay will explore the relationship between media ownership and journalism and discuss the potential dangers that arise from media consolidation.
Articles Review: the Relationship Between Media Ownership and Journalism
The monetary interests of corporate owners lead media houses to overlook the crucial issues. In their paper, “Corporate Ownership and News Bias, Gilens and Hetzman tired to relate their claim against American news media. Newspaper reporting of the 1996 Telecommunications Act which allowed for loosening of restrictions on television ownership was studied and analysed through this paper. The results gave solid proof that the financial interests of those who won the media do indeed affect newspaper editorials and news reporting. Newspapers that were in favour of the act in order to acquire the monetary benefits of the act showed the Act in positive light, writing about its benefits. While newspapers that did not stand to gain, was critically unfavourable and sceptical of the Act and wrote about its negative consequences repeatedly. The study also prompts the fact that with the increasing number of media outlets coming under the control of the limited corporate owners, the more is the clash of interests. News media that came under large conglomerates reduced or nearly ended reporting issues of public interest that was risky for their owner's financial status.
The progressing shift from responsible journalism to business was avidly leading to a decline in the quality of news content and the study conducted by Pew Research centre in 2004 attributed this decline in the news content quality to pressure from the media owners. A major survey was conducted by ‘Pew Research Centre for the People & The Press and ‘The project for Excellence in Journalism. Though their study was confined to the American news industry, it is beneficial in giving a clear picture about the ongoing problems with news content quality in general. The most obvious observation that came out of this study was the perils of economic pressure on the industry of news. A swelling percentage of journalists claim that the reason for poor quality of news content is business and financial factors. They also argued that bottom line pressures and emergence of the 24-hour news cycle has depilated journalism as a whole. From a bigger picture, the overemphasis on sensational news and the maddening race for ratings are the biggest enemies of this profession. Previously the journalists faced pressure from the media owners on what to say or how to write or say. Nowadays, the journalists also have to face the brunt and pressure of the advertisers. The study clearly states that freedom of editorial decision making is breached.
There are also studies that relates capital theory with media ownership. Balkin, in his study 'Digital Speech and Democratic Culture: A Theory of Freedom of Expression for the Information Society, covered various facets of communication network, claimed that networks for communication are public as it is used by many people and they rely on them for communication, but their technology is privately owned. By regulating network, freedom of speech of the communicator or information giver is regulated, as they express via owner's decision on which content to favour or disfavour. Ownership hinders with the ability of media to produce and send their content to people factually.
Impact of ownership on the content of news is often correlated with democratic values. Media provides a stage for public debate which is very vital for bringing out diverse voices and perspectives in a democracy while simultaneously nurturing an informed citizenry. An informed community harnesses a perfect polity, nevertheless ownership structure of media today is alleged to be abolishing this democratic value. This has been argued by Cho, Kong and Lin in their study 'The effect of ownership on content in newspapers'. Via content analysis of news coverage of California recall election, the paper explored the relationship between the ownership of newspapers and diversity issues in its content. Unlike other researches whose emphasis was on whether the content is biased or not or if one sees the reflection of editor's ideology on it- this study dug into what sources do reporters seek to get news from, the length of news, volume and value. After analysing six newspapers, the study found that there was no discrepancy in number of words or length of a report but there was a difference in source of the story, title and lead of each newspaper. Writers of well financed newspapers are thought of as experts while writers in relatively small newspapers even though well qualified, were not considered as experts. The points that came across clearly in this study was that too much dependence on staff reporter alone for news may elevate problems in terms of diversity, as it is obvious that staff reporters are under the clutch of owner's pressure.
Guyot, on similar lines, explains the impact of corporate ownership and market driven forces on journalism practices. By studying pertinent research and interview responses of journalists of Europe, the study points out that nowadays media is part of a global strategy that aims at profit making. The news content that is produced is merely a short- term financial products or operations of markets like any other industry or organizations. In order to thrive, corporate houses, adapts ways that negatively affect the labour of reporters. They face restrictions from owners and these limitations are expressed in economic, organisational and technical terms. Journalists have to face fiscal and political pressures not directly, as they do not get the called directly but via the editor-in-chief. Instructions are transformed but still the pressure is felt. Person having most impactful effect over the editorial lines today are the middle managers. These middle managers are executives, hired by the owner, that keeps constant eye on what goes to the public.
In conclusion, media ownership plays a crucial role in shaping the news and information that is presented to the public. The concentration of media ownership in the hands of a few large corporations can have significant consequences for journalism and democracy. It is essential to be aware of the potential dangers of media consolidation and to advocate for a diverse and independent media landscape.
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