Media Control Essay, Research Paper
“Man was born free,and everywhere he is in chains.”
Laswell’s Model suggests that communication serves three major purposes. First it must survey the environment and alert the community to change. Second it must interpret the data so the community can respond. Finally communication serves as our history; it transfers down through time our values and ideals. To complete it’s mission, modern media must get and evaluate the information and provide the general people with a clear, full, and unbiased view of the changes in the world, upon which citizens can act. Unfortunately, all too often current-day media fall short.
Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky have defined the reasons that media fall short in their mission to inform. The model they created has four major filters: (1) the size, concentrated ownership, owner wealth, and profit orientation of the dominant mass-media firms; (2) advertising as the primary income source of the mass media; (3) the reliance of the media on information provided by government, business, and “experts” funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power; and (4) “Flak” as a means of disciplining the media.1 Each of these filters takes a bit of the true reality out of the information and eventually leads to a misinformed public.
A recent incident at The San Francisco Examiner illustrated filter two. Nike and the Examiner were co-sponsoring the Bay to Breakers race. At the same time Stephanie Salter, a columnist at the paper, wrote an article about Nike’s inhumane practices in Asian. The story was not published because the paper didn’t want to upset Nike so close to the race. It’s clear that the money Nike has effects the news reported about the company.
Media has turned from informing to entertaining. Entertaining sells and media has become profit oriented. This furthers the dilapidation of the information. If the media show us only what is tantalizing then we miss important issues that are hard to face. The Anchors provides a vivid picture of the media as an entertainment business. Donya Archer is chronicled through acting school, speaking lessons, and has a agent. There is much more emphasis on the reading of the news than on the gathering of it.
Ratings are the key. The more money the networks spend on entertaining and ratings the less they can spend on reporting, but the more they can charge for advertising. The higher the ratings a station receives the higher it can raise it’s advertising rates. It’s a business decision that’s caused stations nationwide to use tricks during sweeps month. Stations have increased sex and violence, aired greater quality entertainment programming, and even given away cash during breaks.
The hiring of “celebrities” is only part of the entertainment problem. Television has turn to “action news” to capture it’s viewers. Action news is news that haves action and must be in the first 15 seconds of the news cast. “If it bleeds it leads”. Violence has been on the decline in the United States in the last three years, yet coverage of violent crime has not declined. This type of journalism does not accurately portray the world around us, and has the potential to cause paranoia.
These are problems caused by filter one. When a large company owns a paper or television station it creates a conflict of interest. Bill Kovatch, who has won numerous Pulitzer prizes as editor of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, resigned under pressure after the paper ran a series of stories about Coca Cola’s misdeeds. One of the Cox sisters, who own the newspaper and Cox Communications, sat on the board of directors at Coke.
In the mid-eighties a law passed that charged a 40% inheritance tax on newspapers that were handed down. This causes independent papers to be bought up more rapidly than before. When small papers are bought up the larger group that buys it almost always downsizes, and uses a new form of media coverage dubbed LCD. Lowest Common Denominator aims at an audience that is the lowest the paper will face. Lowering the standard of there news to the least intelligent person who will read it.
Michael Deaver, Ronald Reagan’s media advisor, is a master at using filter three to his advantage. He allowed the media to see images that he wanted seen. The famous Reagan and jelly-bean shots from the early eighties are a perfect example of relying a official sources.
In May 1995 congress voted to overhaul the laws for virtually every sector of the communications industry. Not long after the bill passed mergers that before were not legal began to happen. Disney and ABC merged to form one of the large conglomerates in the world. Together they now control over $16 billion in annual revenue. CBS was soon to follow suit when it merged with Westinghouse. And NBC is owned by General Electric. These mergers are monopolies, and they compromise the integrity of the news they report.
The American media is the most free in the world. The First Amendment guarantees that newspapers and television stations may print what they choose, yet they choose to print substandard information. Profit margin, big business practices, ratings, and advertising money control the information we receive and alter the decisions we make. Only through careful thought and a large pool of information can we find the truth.
1 Edward S, Herman and Noam Chompsky, Manufacturing Consent:Pantheon Books, NY, 1988