“Huh” Moments and the Myth of Media Concentration

by on October 20, 2004

The fights over media this year just get more and more bizarre. I got an e-mail the other day from The Nation magazine that began:

“Among media watchdog groups, it’s an article of faith that concentration of power in the hands of massive media conglomerates is dangerous for the public interest. The fear is that these corporate giants could use that power to manipulate the nation’s political process. Sinclair Broadcasting Group is proving these fears well-founded.”

Huh? I repeat: huh? Only hours later, Sinclair bowed to public pressure and cancelled its plans to air an anti-Kerry documentary on its stations. But never mind that. Even if Sinclair had not reversed course, does anyone really that Sinclair or anyone else has undue power over what Americans hear and think? For gosh sakes, most people didn’t even know Sinclair had a news division until a few weeks ago.

I had a similar “huh” moment reading a missive by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (“FAIR”),” claiming that Viacom is using its corporate might to support the GOP this year. Let me repeat: “huh”? This is the company that owns CBS, kids. Somewhere I missed Dan Rather’s pro-Bush bias, which must be very subtle indeed.

In the super-heated atmosphere of the 2003 debate, charges of media manipulation of the news (by conservatives as well as liberals) seem to be flying faster and more furious that ever before. I won’t even mention the somewhat bizare face-off between Jon Stewart of the Daily Show and Tucker Carlson of Crossfire.

Rather than prove a dangerous concentration, however, these media tempests show just the opposite. A world where news and views come from Dan Rather as well as Sinclair, Fox News as well as the New York Times, the Comedy Channel as well as CNN, is nothing if not diverse. And the more controversies about, among, and within the media arise, the more the myth of media concentration is–or should be – shattered.

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