By Alejandro Hincapie
The issue of media ownership is an incredibly pertinent one. The advent of large conglomerates has caused progressively fewer numbers of individuals and organizations to own and control content in an increasingly media-saturated society. A select number of so-called ‘gatekeeprs’ is thus in control of much of the media we all consume, exasperating issues of neutrality, bias, diversity of viewpoints, and the continual misrepresentation of minority groups. Supporting alternate media sources is necessary to combat the influence and power of established ones and ensure that a true diversity of opinions, perspectives, and fair representation is part of our contemporary media landscape.
A look at the current state of media ownership and control reveals that an astonishing small group of corporate entities and individuals dictate media output. The laxation of federal regulations in the 1980s and 1990s concerning the legality of oligopolies (or the blanket domination of a single market by one or a few corporate entities) caused the advent of a select few large conglomerates controlling the far majority of mainstream media content (Lutz). In 1983, some 50 companies owned 90% of American media channels. Today, 6 conglomerates—Comcast, News-Corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, and CBS—control 90% of American media, with holdings in all forms of broadcast, print, and online media, as well as various forms of entertainment (Lutz). On a micro level, the exclusiveness of media ownership becomes more astonishing. 232 media executives, the far majority being whites or male or both, control the information channels of some 277 million Americans, an average of 1 executive for every 850,000 consumers (Lutz). Indeed, a 2011 published study by the FCC reporting on the ownership of television stations crystalizes this issue; whites owned 69.4% of the nation’s 1,348 television stations, with minority ownership steadily decreasing (Flint). Combined, black, Asian, and Latino minority groups owned around 4-5% of stations, at best (Flint). These staggering unproportionate numbers cut across gender as well: Females owned 6.8% of all commercial TV stations in 2011 (Flint).
The reality that far majority of American media is owned by small pool of white males under a few large corporations brings up issues of neutrality, bias, diversity of viewpoints, and the continued misrepresentation of minority groups. Journalistic neutrality is compromised and bias created when these media corporations have the resources and feel the need to attempt to affect political campaigns by financially supporting candidates and allowing their bias to seep through to their media output. A healthy diversity of viewpoints is also compromised when it is ultimately a small pool of gatekeepers dictating media content, from entertainment executives green lighting projects, to broadcast news editors managing expert commentary on controversial issues. The ultimate negative effect of these circumstances created by limited media ownership is the continued misrepresentation and de facto subjugation and oppression of long marginalized groups like woman, and racial and sexual minorities. A cycle is created when largely white male owned media entities release content that continues to effectively undermine the collective economic, political, and social progress of these groups, disallowing them from rising to positions of power where they could change these hegemony for the collective good.
It is here where supporting alternate media sources becomes vital. One example of an alternate media source is Compete Magazine, a publication with a focus on gay athletes, sports events, and related topics. The magazine was founded in 2006 by two members of the Phoenix Storm gay rugby team who noticed a lack of media coverage concerning gay athletes (Compete Magazine). It is published monthly by Temple, Arizona-based Media Out Loud and features photo shoots, sports coverage, health fitness tips, and select columns and features, with an Athlete of the Year Aware handed out every year (Compete Magazine) It is currently the only LGBT-oriented sports magazine published in the US (Compete Magazine).
While publications like Compete Magazine are indeed targeted to a certain facet of affluent gay man who are privileged in their economics status, the importance of the magazine’s focus is important because it carves out a space where an increasingly relevant topic concerning a minority group can be explored by members of said minority group, and not by a publication source with ties to a larger conglomerate whose interest may lie elsewhere. Supporting such publications provides them with exposure and opportunity to grow and take a bigger share of the market, undermining some of the oligopoly that currently exists.
Celebrated writer and activist Bell Hooks Bell Hooks argues that popular culture is a form of pedagogy. She writes, “Whether we’re talking about race or gender or class, popular culture is where the pedagogy is, it’s where the learning is… [it is the] primary pedagogical medium for masses of people globally.” (Hooks) The reality that popular culture exists largely through media output is the primary reason why media ownership is such a critical issue. A true diversity of opinion, perspectives, and viewpoints on pertinent issues concerning long marginalized groups is essential for the advancement of said groups in society.
“Compete Magazine.” Media Out Loud. Accessed April 17, 2014.Web. http://mediaoutloud.com/portfolio/compete-magazine/
Flint, Joe. “FCC media ownership survey reveals lacks of diversity.” Los Angeles Times. Published November 12, 2014. Web. http://articles.latimes.com/2012/nov/14/entertainment/la-et-ct-fcc-diversity-20121114.
Hooks, Bell. “Cultural Criticism and Transformation.” Media Education Transcript(1997): n. pag. ]<https://www.mediaed.org/assets/products/402/transcript_402.pdf>.
Lutz, Ashely. “These 6 Corporations Control 90% of the Media in America.” Buisness Insider. Published June 14, 2012. Web. http://www.businessinsider.com/these-6-corporations-control-90-of-the-media-in-america-2012-6.