Friday, September 6, 2013

Inside Story : Who Controls the Media -II


Doctored Media: Changing business of news.

Napoleon feared four hostile newspapers more than a thousand bayonets. Anyone – in the government or private domain – who has the opportunity to allow, disallow or regulate the flow of information can virtually ‘run’ a parallel government and psychologically doctor mind and soul of men, women and children.

By Neeraj Mahajan

90% of what Americans watch read and listen is controlled by these six media conglomerates who also have an impact on the rest of the world. But such media monopolies are not exclusively to be found in U.S.A alone. This trend is global. Almost The all the giant media companies’ have had to reinvent their business model to stay ahead of the economic recession. It’s hardly a surprise that most such top-media groups are in the developed world. And because they control the news and information the developing countries have to depend on them even to know what is happening in their own backyard.

One such media entity is Germany’s Axel Springer corporation AG -- one of Europe’s largest newspaper publishing and multimedia companies, with over 150 newspapers and magazines in 36 countries including Germany, France and Spain. Newspapers all over the world depend on four main news agencies: Associated Press (AP), Reuters, Agency France-Presse (AFP) and China’s Xinhua News Agency. A good chunk of their news comes from them. It may be recalled how Associated Press of India (API) a British-controlled agency was initially reluctant to report about the freedom movement in India hence Free Press of India News Agency came into existence.

Another German business Bertelsmann is one of the world’s largest media companies that owns RTL Group – one of the two major private TV companies in Germany and Netherlands and having assets in Belgium, France, UK, Spain, Czech and Hungary. Apart from this it owns Gruner+Jahr the leading publisher of Stern and investigative news magazine Der Spiegel. Bertelsmann also owns Random House #1 book publisher in the English-speaking world and #2 in Germany.

If that does not shock you, try this: 75% of global expenditure on advertising is consumed by top 20 media companies. Just 5-6 top ad agencies dominate the 350 Billion dollar advertising industry.  

All this definitely has an impact on the global media where conglomerates like Viacom, CBS Corporation, Time Warner, News Corp, Bertelsmann AG, Sony Corporation of America, NBCUniversal, Vivendi, Televisa, Walt Disney Company and Hearst Corporation– earn more profits than most independent country’s GDP. As a result their owners individually as well as jointly wield enough to directly or indirectly veto any government’s policies. The trend in media ownership is not only restricted to exercising  influence over domestic politics but also creation of 'global media empires' that include newspapers, television stations, magazines, movie studios and publishing houses.

It is said that Napoleon feared four hostile newspapers more than a thousand bayonets. As the proverbial fourth estate the media has a huge responsibility and power to disseminate unbiased news and information, fair and impartial comment to inform, inspire, motivate and educate people. Media was supposed to act in public interest – with any fear or favor. The media has a powerful influence on the way the whole society think, act and behave. Not just news, entertainment and books but even cinema has an impact on the mindset of the society and its politics. Anyone – in the government or private domain – who has the opportunity to allow, disallow or regulate the flow of information can virtually ‘run’ a parallel government and psychologically doctor mind and soul of men, women and children.

In a democracy the public needs sufficient information to make informed judgments for the greatest good of the greatest number. As someone said; "A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." That is why "the public's right to know" – is the fundamental principle of journalistic code of ethics. As Gandhi himself a journalist wrote: “an uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy.”

Traditionally Print (books, pamphlets, newspapers and magazines), Recordings (gramophone records, magnetic tapes, cassettes, cartridges, CDs, DVDs), Cinema, Radio and Television were among the five recognized mediums of mass communications. Lately Internet and Mobile phones-- two new mediums have been added to this category. Mobile phone is said to be the most perfect media – which never gets switched off like a TV or Radio and is always within hands reach of its owner – even in the toilet or while sleeping. It supports text, voice, graphic and multimedia– everything that any of the other media can do. The realization that the mobile can be both a personalized means of two way as well as simultaneous communication with a large group is beginning to change the business of news.