Topic 1 - Trends in the ownership and control of the mass media

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Topic 1: Trends in the ownership and control of the media
The mass media are defined as those agencies of communication that transmit
information, education, news and entertainment to mass audiences.
There are 3 types of media: the print media, the audio-visual media and the
cybermedia/digital media (new types of media)
Ownership and control:
Some sociologists have expressed concern about the recent trends in media ownership &
control. The number of media outlets available to the general public has increased
dramatically, 30 years ago there were only 4 television channels whereas today we have
hundreds of TV channels via digital & satellite services(for example, Sky/Virgin).
Regarding newspapers, the number of newspapers has remained fairly stable over the
last 30 years.
All these changes in the availability of media seem to imply a greater degree of choice,
but sociologists who have examined recent trends in the ownership of such media
suggest that despite this expansion, consumer choice has actually declined.
Concentration of ownership:
Bagdikian points out that in 1983, 50 corporations controlled the vast majority of all news
media in the USA. By 1992, 22 companies owned and operated 90% of the mass media.
Bagdikian argues that if the USA's media were owned by separate individuals, there
would be 25000 owners, but by 2004 media ownership was concentrated in 7 corporations.
Many of these companies started to move into cybermedia.
The British print media:
Curran suggests that concentration of ownership of British newspapers is not a new
1937 ­ 4 men: Lords Beaverbook, Rothermere, Camrose ad Northcliffe owned nearly one
in every 2 national & local daily newspapers in the UK
Today ­ 7 individuals dominate the ownership and content of UK newspapers (News Corp
­ Rupert Murdoch, Associated Newspapers ­ Lord Rothermere, United Newspapers

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Richard Desmond, The Telegraph group ­ Barclay Brothers, The
Independent/Independent on Sunday ­ Tony O'Reilly, Viscount Cowdray ­ Pearson
Only 2 national newspaper groups are controlled by companies rather than individuals
(Trinity Mirror and The Guardian Media Group)
By 2002 just 3 publishers controlled two-thirds of national newspapers sold in the UK. The
top five publishers also controlled 69% of regional evening papers and 75% of free sheets
such as Metro.
The UK magazine market is dominated by 2 major companies.…read more

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`Lateral expansion'
Firms diversify into new businesses areas in order to spread risk. Losses made in one area
may be compensated for by profits in another. Virgin is an example of this, it has major
media interests in music, publishing, internet access and so on. It also runs a train service
as well as an airline.
Global conglomeration:
Transnational corporations with a presence in many countries, operating in a global
market. For example, News Corp owns newspapers in Australia, the US and the UK.…read more

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According to the pluralists, power lies
with the consumer or audience rather than with owners. The media therefore, give the
public what the audience wants rather than what the owner decides.
Pluralists argue that the rational for media concentration is essentially economic rather
than political/ideological. Media products are costly to produce and the concentration of
ownership is aimed at the maximisation of audience size in order to reduce costs and
attract advertising revenue.…read more

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Pluralists note that the power of media owners is also restricted by state/government
controls. Many countries have cross-ownership rules preventing companies from owning
more than one media form in the same area.
Both the BBC and ITV have some formal legal requirements imposed upon them by a
powerful regulator ­ Ofcom. Ofcom's function is to monitor the content and quality of
television and radio output on both the BBC and the commercial channels, and to
investigate viewer/listener complaints.…read more

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The media and ideology:
Marxists believe that media owners aim to transmit a conservative and conformist
ideology in the form of news and entertainment. The main function of the media is to
convince the general public that ruling-class ideology is true.
Miliband argued that the role of the media is to shape how we think about the world we
live in.…read more

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­ 1974
Period seen as the great pluralist phrase in terms of newspaper reporting because there
was a greater delegation by owners to editorial authority and autonomy. It was a period of
investigative reporting. Group consensus emerged among journalists and editors that
proprietorial influence should be resisted. This did not mean that interventionism by the
owners disappeared; most of the newspapers still supported a particular party.
1974 ­ 1992
New type of interventionist proprietorship appeared.…read more

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Economic pressures:
GUMG argues that this journalistic desire not to take on radical views is mainly motivated
by profit. The media is a profit making business and they make their profits by attracting
advertising, and those advertisers are attracted to a specific type of media by the
number of readers/viewers.
Curran agrees with GUMG and argues that journalists are now only a moderating
influence.…read more

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Curran notes the same pressures in the popular press as the rising costs of newsprint in
the 1990s led to a major decrease in serious and political news stories and a
corresponding increase in stories with lowest-common-denominator appeal. This led to a
fall in journalistic standards. There is little choice for audiences in the printed media.
There is no radical alternative to the mainstream newspapers, and the press has failed
to reflect the growing diversity of public opinion on issues.…read more


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