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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Reason to fear for democracy

The Oregonion regrets that this article is almost 20 years old. If, according to Lord Byron, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," then an update to this article after two decades of consolidation would show the Media Monopoly to be even more powerful and corrupt than indicated here.

The Media Brokers
Concentration and Ownership of the Press

by Ben Bagdikian

If all major media in the United States - every daily newspaper, magazine, broadcasting station, book publishing house, and motion picture studio - were controlled by one "czar," the American public would have reason to fear for its democracy.

The danger is not that this single controller would necessarily be evil, though this kind of extravagant power has a grim history. Whether evil or benevolent, centralized control over information, whether governmental or private, is incompatible with freedom. Modem democracies need a choice of politics and ideas, and that choice requires access to truly diverse and competing sources of news, literature, entertainment, and popular culture.

Today, despite 25,000 media outlets in the United States, 29 corporations control most of the business in daily newspapers, magazines, television, books, and motion pictures. The dominant 29 corporations are:
  • Bertelsmann, A.G. (books)
  • Capital Cities/ABC (newspapers television)
  • CBS, Inc. (television)
  • Central Newspapers
  • Coca-Cola (motion pictures)
  • Cox Communications (newspapers)
  • Dow Jones & Co. (newspapers)
  • Encyclopedia Britannica (books;
  • Freedom Newspapers
  • Gannett Co. (newspapers)
  • General Electric Co. (television)
  • Gulf + Western (books, motion pictures)
  • Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
  • Hearst Corp. (newspapers, magazines)
  • International Thomson Org. (newspapers, magazines, books)
  • Knight-Ridder (newspapers)
  • Macmillan (books)
  • McGraw-Hill (magazines, books)
  • New York Times Co. (newspapers)
  • Newhouse (newspapers, magazines, books)
  • News America (newspapers)
  • Reader's Digest Assn. (books)
  • Scripps Howard (newspapers)
  • Time, Inc. (magazines, books)
  • Times Mirror Co. (newspapers)
  • Triangle Publications (magazines)
  • Tribune Co. (newspapers)
  • Universal-MCA (motion pictures)
  • Warner Communications (motion pictures
The 15 corporations that dominate the daily newspaper industry have all become larger in the last five years. The largest company, Gannett, increased from 88 papers to 93, its total circulation rose from 3,751,000 to 6,101,000. Though in those five years total national circulation for all 1,676 papers has risen slightly from 61 million to 62.8 million, the number of dominant corporations has shrunk from 20 to 15, and the number of daily papers in the country continued to diminish.

The 15 at the end of 1986, in order of their total daily circulation were:
  • Gannett Company - USA Today and 92 other dailies
  • Knight-Ridder, Inc. - Philadelphia Inquirer, Miami Herald and others
  • Newhouse newspapers - Staten Island Advance, Portland Oregonian, and other papers (Newhouse, a private firm, also owns Conde Nast magazines and Random House book publishing)
  • Times Mirror - Los Angeles Times and others
  • Tribune Company - Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, and others
  • Dow Jones & Company - Wall Street Journal and Ottoway newspapers
  • New York Times - New York Times and others
  • Scripps Howard - Pittsburgh Press and others
  • Thomson - 77 dailies
  • Cox - Atlanta Journal and others
Tightening concentration was most dramatic in magazines, which from 1981 to 1986 went from 20 dominant corporations to six. The chief cause was further enlargement of Time, Inc. which, despite some failed attempts at starting new magazines, acquired other magazine groups to give it 40 percent of all U.S. magazine revenues. The six dominant corporations, in order of annual revenues, are:
  • Time, Inc. - Time, People, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, and others
  • Newhouse - New Yorker, Glamour, Vogue, and others
  • McGraw-Hill - Business Week, Byte, and others
  • Triangle - TV Guide, Seventeen, and others
  • Hearst - Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, and others
  • International Thomson - Medical Economics and others

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