As some might be aware, I am not a fan of corporate media. A while ago I wrote about whether the media are biased. The short answer: yes. The media are biased, but probably not because of the reasons you’ve heard touted by far-rightists who bemoan what they see as a leftist bias in the media. A popular way they try to prove this is to look at the voting habits of those who go into journalism, but this proves absolutely nothing about actual output. (It’s akin to saying “the workers on the factory floor decide what the car industry produces,” says Justin Lewis.) Instead, it is more helpful to look at the institutional structure of the media to understand its bias. Borrowing from the propaganda model developed by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, the three most important aspects to look at are ownership, funding, and sources. And what we find is that the media represent center to center-right views that are favorable to corporate interests.
Just a few days ago, I made a post about Bill Maher’s criticism of corporatism and the corporatization of certain social institutions, including the media. As discussed in my last post about the media, the news media are increasingly being controlled by fewer and fewer large multinational corporations such as General Electric, News Corporation, Viacom, Time Warner, etc. (See work done by Ben Bagdikian for more on that.) People often criticize big business and its influence on the news media; in reality, they are one in the same.
Recently, there’s been a good example. The New York Times published an astonishing article just a day earlier about corporate interests and its influence on the media. Never mind that its author, Brian Stelter, completely ignores the pertinent issues that make the story so astonishing.
Essentially, “at an off-the-record summit meeting for” CEOs, Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corporation, and Jeffrey Immelt, chairman of General Electric, came to agreement that the feud between MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly should end. (Note that G.E. is the parent corporation of MSNBC and that News Corp is the parent corporation of FOX News.) For those unfamiliar, Olbermann hosts an 8 P.M. broadcast on MSNBC from which he often launches scathing attacks against O’Reilly and FOX News’ lies. O’Reilly, who also hosts an 8 P.M. broadcast but on FOX News, is a frequent critic of G.E. and their dealings in Iran. The NYT points out that both Immelt and Murdoch agreed this feud was creating “real consequences” and hurting “their parent corporations.” Mind you, this feud boosted the ratings for both MSNBC and FOX News. The real problem was that it was not serving News Corporation’s or G.E.’s corporate interests.
The result has been that Olbermann no longer launches his attacks against O’Reilly or FOX News, and that O’Reilly no longer criticizes G.E or its dealings. Corporate interests have been served, voilà. It had to be done through censorship, but who cares?
Like I stated in my last post about media bias, you should first ask yourself whether the media are free. And by this I mean whether their institutional structure allows for free expression of opinion. That Olbermann might be a member of the Democratic Party or that O’Reilly might be a member of the Republican Party is completely irrelevant if the media are not free. If they’re being censored by their corporate parents, we cannot honestly discuss journalists’ ideologies. The media, as Dr. Herman points out, “represent elite interests,” not public interest.