Last updated: Sep 19, 2007
I’ve been perplexed trying to make a decision as to whether media concentration is as pernicious as many claim it is.
In the days before the Internet and the Web, the answer appeared certain: the public was offered ever-decreasingly diverse voices about the affairs of the day, and the impact was less information, less opinion, and fewer opportunities to develop a singular personal perspective on the key issues that affect us all.
I’m strongly inclined to revise my opinion in the current era of the Internet.
The ongoing negative view might be that a small number of Web sites tend to monopolize viewer behavior. It’s like the old media of newspapers and television: we all tend to ingest the same sources. True. But there’s a huge difference today. We no longer have to ingest the same sources. Leaving aside television and newspapers, arguably dying breeds, there has never in the history of media been so many choices available to anyone with Internet access to find alternate viewpoints, whether superficial or in depth. Naysayers will argue that the average Internet users still tend towards the popular sites, and are therefore fed the same old pre-digested garbage. I argue that this is not worth lamenting. The Web inherently encourages exploration, and there are no restrictions (in “democratic” countries) for any and all to venture as far and wide as they are willing to go. Must we see our fellow citizens as sheep led to media slaughter? I see instead an enormous blossoming of information and creativity on the Web, and an ever-increasing proportion of the population moving to take the full and luxurious advantage of the options now offered. For those who don’t, well, we can lament, pity, blame ourselves or big media. Or we can accept that not everyone wants to know what Alternet is reporting about the war in Iraq, and at the same time could care less. No crime there.
Why Media Concentration is Important to the Future of the Internet
- Despite my optimistic summary above, clearly the largest media corporations would love nothing better than to reassert their unassailable control over this new medium. Perhaps they can do so. I think not.
- Corporations like Apple Computer have a disproportionate influence over the music made available for download to the most popular media device of this age. True. But the alternatives abound, and once again there are no technologies enforcing Apple’s dominance. The intelligent and the adventurous are very free to move beyond Apple’s offerings, and many millions do so every day.
- The big if is whether or not the skilled player of media dominance, corporations like Murdoch’s varied enterprises, or Apple’s, or Sumner Redstone’s, will find a way to reassert their dominance in a media age where most of the rules have changed. Certainly it’s not out of the question, nor are they likely to cease trying.
More to follow…
In the meantime, an excellent source for background data on this topic:
Media Reform Information Center: Links and Resources on Media Reform