Who Owns the Media?

Being an ex-owner of a magazine, I continue to watch where our news comes from. No conspiracy theories here but where your news comes from continues to contract. An article in journalism.org titled News Corp Split, Buffett’s Bet Top Year of Big Media Ownership Changes tells us a lot more than just what Warren Buffet is doing.

According to the investment banking firm of Dirks, Van Essen & Murray, which monitors newspaper transactions, a total of 71 daily newspapers were sold as part of 11 different transactions during 2011, the busiest year for sales since 2007.

And newspapers were not the only media to undergo major changes. The last 18 months also saw local television sales reach new heights, the merging of Newsweek and the Daily Beast, Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal, the Huffington Post's movement into web TV and further reach among U.S. broadcast companies into the Hispanic market.

The article goes on to further detail who owns what. Possibly the best news offered in the article are cases where mergers have actually decreased the audience of the resulting bigger/less diversified media outlets. I expect this is partly because there was significant overlap in the audiences as well as the content.

Where this is all going is, today, no more than a guess, my personal prediction is that as long as the Internet remains relatively free (as in freedom, not price), there will be a continual shift from media conglorarate-based sources to more local and focused sources. That doesn't mean, at least initially, these sources are objective but hopefully they will evolve. For example, in Costa Rica where there used to be only one Gringo-oriented news source, there are at least three.

What is likely to be harder is a shift for world-level sources. That is, sources where substaintial investment is required to offer real investigative journalism rather than 10-second news bites. A good example of what I am talking about is Al Jazeera's recent investigation of What Killed Arafat. While it is a great example of the kind of investigative journalism that we used to see 30-50 years ago, what gets investigated today is generally both financially and politically motivated.

Is there a solution? That is a much harder problem to address. While the Internet has significantly reduced the cost of entering the journalism business, there is a big difference between being on the ground in Estelí Nicaragua or San Ramon Costa Rica and reporting what you observe and having the resources to do real investigative journalism. To offer a huge example, the majority of the usanos don't believe the official story of what happened on 9/11 but as long as the few media sources with the resources to do a real investigation agree not to, it will not happen.

If you are not on board with this concern, here is what I suggest is a good test. If your news source offers a journalist independently reporting on something, you may have real news. On the other hand, if you see a talking head telling you "a representative of X says ..." where X is a government, an international organization, the representative of a company or industry association, or some other vested interest, you are not receiving news.

If you are looking for semi-large, relatively independent news sources, The Thrive Movement offers some suggestions. In a followup comment there, they say something we all need to consider: "follow the money".

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"Follow The Money"! Great Post, Fyl.

The concentration of ownership of the media greatly narrowed the perspectives that the average reader receives. Some 5 or 6 big corporations now own more than 85% of American news. Those big corporations have a financial interest in only reporting what is favorable to their profits. As a result, we have the demonization of Chavez, Ortega, Correa and any other leaders who dare to challenge the primacy of the capitalist economic system.

Truly independent journalism -- and especially in depth investigative reporting -- is becoming a rarity throughout the world. Thankfully, internet bloggers can help expand the perspective, but most bloggers simply don't have the financial resources to invest in in depth research. (Even obtaining documents from the U.S. government via Freedom of Information requests can be a very costly business.) Lack of money obstructs a lot of would be investigators.

In Venezuela too, the vast majority of the media is owned by wealthy corporations or individuals whose financial interests motivate them to attack the Chavez government on every issue they can manufacture. Much of their "reporting" is pure fiction, but this fiction is taken up and amplified by the big corporations' international media and the U.S. State Department.

Thus the world's readers hear nothing at all about Venezuela's wonderful social programs: universal medical care, public education, subsidized food and housing programs, and the like, while hearing only the right wing's false accusations that President Chavez is a "dictator", which he is most certainly not. (Curiously, these same publications don't publish a negative word about the real dictatorships (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc.) where there are no democratic elections of leaders at all.) These countries, of course, support the U.S.'s foreign policy, so they are exempt from any negative press.

You are quite correct in saying that we need to "follow the money" of those who are publishing the news we read and see. We also need to support independent journalists so they can give us non-biased information. Thanks for your article.

Oops

Silly me, when I saw the thread title I was expecting something Nica related?

Perhaps a discussion of the Ortega-Murillo caudillo's rapacious appetite for buying up independent media with funds of unknown provenance (thanks tio Hugo)?

And maybe how this rapaciousness is essential to promoting the F$LN propaganda and limiting/controlling the availability of information opposing same?

Nope. Instead there's this beautiful gem:

...the majority of the [g]usanos[?!] don't believe the official story of what happened on 9/11...

Silly me.

Thinking the same thing

I thought this site and topics pertained to Nicaragua.

The concentration of media ownership here in Nicaragua has me more concerned.

Plenty of other places to whine about world wide media concerns.

Please send the honking geese somewhere else to wring their hands about concerns outside of Nicaragua.

Is that a real issue?

I hear this concern expressed with regular frequency but I am not sure it is anything more than what we are being told by that "outside of Nicaragua media". If I am wrong, fine but how about some facts?

In many countries including the UK, you see broadcast media funded by the government. The relationship is clear -- a tax on receivers -- but it is there. In the US, virtually all the broadcast and print media are controlled by a small number of corporations. Here in Nicaragua, part of the broadcast media is run by/controlled by the government but there are many more independent stations.

For print media, there are two major daily newspapers, La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario. Both are independent of the Nicaraguan government and regularly critical of the government.

I don't see any whining about world media concerns. My concern is that it is hard to objectively put Nicaragua in a world context using world media sources. (This is not unique to Nicaragua. It seems that Ecuador has become the most important target recently, for two rather obvious reasons.)

Thirty three years ago today, a US-created and US-backed dynasty was defeated in Nicaragua. Since then, lots of things -- some good and some bad -- have happened in Nicaragua. During the 1980s we saw the US government finance a war against Nicaragua. During that time the external press clearly was not objective and we know that the major newspaper here, La Prensa, was receiving funding from the CIA. No matter which side of the conflict you were on, it was a bad time for the media.

I suggest that inside Nicaragua, there is more media balance today. On the world scene, while there is a lot of concentration is what we call the mainstream media, other sources are starting to fill the gaps. The most democratic are individuals and small groups on the ground, enabled by the Internet. Other sources such as Al Jazeera are appearing that while government funded are independent of the concentration of media ownership in the West.

On the ground in Nicaragua, I see and hear people speak their mind all the time. Here is a pro-PLC area, the primary news source seems to be the radio and there is a lot of diversity in what you can hear. In Estelí, both La Presna and El Nuevo Diario are available all over town and cable TV offers more news sources.

Are there media freedom concerns in Nicaragua? Sure, just like anywhere there is an independent press. But, if you compare Nicaragua with Honduras, you will see that it is a lot safer being a journalist in Nicaragua.

I want to know

What happened to those 3 who escaped from Alcatraz-if they ever made it to Mexico as was the plan.

I also want to know if DP Cooper survived with the 450K he had when he jumped with that parachute. I read a few years ago that some kid found some of the money in a riverbed.

I also want to know if the Kennedys' had anything to do with Marylin Monroe's death.

A good read

Well put fyl. This is something I have noted for some time, with so much news also being partisan it's also hard to get proper reporting. Each outlet seems to have a "brand" set to a certain demographic, and sadly a little digging tends to show that even opposing "brands" tend to be under the same ownership. What ever happened to the basic tenet of journalism that it be unbiased? Sad to say that there is more real journalism in blogs and websites than traditional outlets any more, or that a journalist has to put it into a book to get real real reporting noticed. The problem with these outlets is that people are too willing to brush them off as kook's or conspiracy nuts, well because these same outlets are full of nuts also. An interesting read regarding the growth of the covert industry has some great chapters on what has become of the media, and no it really isn't nutty conspiracy stuff, but it does open your eyes to what has been happening to western society in the last 65 years. It's called Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon's Secret World,by Trevor Paglen.

Great topics for those who have not yet realized that...

A big part of enjoying Living Like Nica is leaving a lot of that "in depth BS" behind you.

IMO, how to grow raspberries in Nicaragua is a better read than who sunk the MS Whatever!!

However, Does anyone have any real evidence that the good old days of journalism were as independent as you guys think they were?

Or is it just the usual old men comment about how things were so great when they were younger?

Yes and No

As much as I would prefer to put my head in the sand with regard to this, well, BS, it's hard. To take a recent example, there was some stuff about Nicaragua being the agressor in the region in the right-wing press. Their argument was that this was the case because Nicaragua had legal action pending in the World Court against Honduras, Colombia, Costa Rica and, I believe, El Salvador. To me, that did not compute because most of the issues (Costa Rica being the exception) were old, all were issues with territorial boundries and Nicaragua was looking for legal resolution instead of sending in the military.

While none of this changes the lives of most of us already living here, it changes the external perception of Nicaragua. NL's focus is for people living in or considering moving to Nicaragua. With the majority of our readers in North America, external perception needs to be addressed. The good news is that having separate forum topics means growing rasberries is there for those reading the gardening forums and this caca is around for those reading the news forums.

Actually

Many small towns had competing newspapers, each affiliated with a political party. Then tough times caused mergers and, as the newspapers themselves stated, political neutrality.

and not so small towns

The Seattle P-I was the Hearst paper and Seattle Times somewhere away from the Hearst end of the spectrum. But, an effective merger about 20 years ago changed things.

In Nicaragua the newspapers -- all 1.5 of them -- are both anti-Sandinista but they tend to take a different approach or position. So, the good news here is that you can usually look at both and if they happen to say the same thing, it is probably true. If they don't, it is politics.

Nutrality may be the problem, not the solution. It is less work to agree with your competition and divide the rewards than it is to do your own homework.