Media Consolidation? No, There’s No Media Consolidation. Why Would You Think That?

February 1st, 2014 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media, Video

If a consolidated media system can deliver these kinds of results in reference to holiday gift giving, can you imagine what a concerted effort to sell specific talking points for an agenda regarding, say, the existence of weapons of mass destruction, or the supposed imminent threat that a select Middle Eastern nation would be?

UPDATE: A friend and colleague made some good points in reference to this video compilation, and its relevance to the ongoing issue of media consolidation. They are definitely worth sharing, as the bring more focus upon the depth and nuances of the problems inherent in our media system today…

Not sure media consolidation is exactly the problem here. These stations rely on wire services for “video of national or international stories”… Matthew Weesner, the news director at KHGI in Kearney, Neb., one of the stations O’Brien included in the self gifting montage [said] “We’re doing six and a half hours of live programming a day, and we’ve got a lot of space to fill with a pretty small newsroom.”

I’m not condoning the practice but instead of worrying about consolidation we should look at alternative ownership models. It’s not as if the public interest was much better served when the number of private media owners was significantly higher than it is today.

An article posted on Poynter shed further light on this… Conan’s Comedy Bit Hints at Serious Issues for Local TV News

The points he raises, and the article on Conan’s montage, are both good, and I wholeheartedly agree with the need for new ownership models. It is true that the media consolidation thing is not the exact problem here. However, I do think it has had an effect. With ever-increasing consolidation, resulting in the merging of fewer and fewer resources, including more staffing reductions for less overhead and increased profit, the incentive to get “lazy” about resorting to more “rip and read” among news personnel has increased. It is no longer a matter of stations simply looking to wire services and such to find ideas for content, which they have always done. Today, they simply take fully formed pre-packaged product, including VNR’s (video news releases), and just run them straight off the production line.

As for the point about the number of private owners before, and whether that actually meant better quality coverage, my colleague makes a valid point. But then again, the media terrain was also different then, too. Now with less one-to-many models of media production and distribution, and with more many-to-many, that kind of bottleneck through ownership has the potential to change for the positive. But if this kind of consolidation process continues in regards to not just the sources of production (individual stations, etc…), but now subsumes whole networks (i.e. the internet itself, thanks to all those issues we know well enough these days, especially with net neutrality, SOPA, etc…), then things could really get bad, and quickly. So yes, ownership models are a major key here.

His response to these points was even more lucid and insightful…

Yes I think that’s all true. I just think media consolidation is the logical outcome of a profit-driven news structure. The whole “media consolidation” complaint also seems emotionally wedded to “big = bad” which I think is silly (not that you’re drawing that connection). For instance, my local newspaper, which is financially independent and locally owned, is a bastion of right wing ideologues, and hosts way too much frivolous reporting. And the media consolidation critique can treat media consumers as if we’re all passive vessels who play no role in what we choose to read or watch. I don’t agree with that.

I’m with him on this important point, in that “big = bad” is a correlation that isn’t a causation per se. Big is bad when “big = small,” as in small numbers of people deciding and controlling the content over large swaths of distribution. Again, the issue keeps coming back to ownership.

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  1. on February 7th, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    […] No, There's No Media Consolidation. Why Would You Think That? Go to this article […]

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