Americans turn to various media outlets for news and entertainment, from the Internet to television, radio and newspapers. Generally, we trust the news to keep us informed. We don't expect information to be left out, or major news stories to go unaddressed. Unfortunately, as Ben Bagdikian proves in "The New Media Monopoly," major media monopolies have taken advantage of our ignorance. They affect our everyday lives from the television shows we watch to the political candidates on the ballot in November. The media's role is to inform the public to the best of their ability so Americans can make informed decisions. A democracy is a government for and by the people, with power vested to the people, and carried out through our elected officials. The new media monopolies are censoring the public's information to the point that our decisions become ill informed. Elected officials are influenced greatly by these monopolies as well, and it seems as though one has no chance in politics without some affiliation with these corporations. The media's misinformation to the public, a media greatly owned by one of the Big Five - Time Warner, Disney, News Corporation, Viacom, or Bertelsmann - combined with the growing influence of these corporations on politicians, is compromising American democracy.
Bagdikian refers to the actions of the Big Five as cartel-like. While controlling most of the media we come in contact with daily, from newspapers to movie studios, they often sit one another's board of directors and work with one another because it is mutually helpful in their expansion and continued power. If another corporation begins to grow to mammoth proportions, it most likely still cannot compete with the Big Five, but will probably be bought out by one of them. When Bagdikian first wrote this book 20 years ago, there were 50 dominant media corporations. In his sixth revision, this number has shrunk to five corporations bursting at the
seams with power and wealth. American's are constantly exposed to all five of these corporations, leaving us with "artificially narrowed choices in our media" (7). With the continued support of Americans to these corporations (and how can we not support them? It has become almost impossible not to, but a suggestion will be discussed later), they will continue to grow, and continue to look out for their own interests. Their main interest, of course, is money - how to get more, and how to protect it.
Often corporations will turn to politicians, financing a good portion of their campaign, expecting the politician's support of the corporation in the form of legislation in the future. Also, the cost of political campaigns has increased greatly over the years, causing corporations to give even more money to candidates. "In the 1990s, corporate and trade association political action committees gave Republicans twice as much money as they gave to Democrats" (18). The more corporations give, the greater the power they will have (17). The Securities and Exchange Commission, the "chief watchdog of American corporate life on which capitalism depends for its own protection, became a toothless watchdog unable or unwilling to bark at large corporations, thanks to conservatives who had cut its budget" (103). Also, as Bagdikian points out, oftentimes the political agenda of a corporation will reflect conservative viewpoints, most notorious of the Big Five being Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. This, of course, affects the news Americans see, and thus damages a true democracy. Americans should be given the facts with unwavering neutrality. Once the media has a political bias, American's can no longer trust it. Unfortunately, sometimes consumers are completely unaware that they are being exposed to a biased medium.