The merger of NBC and Comcast is unprecedented in American media. While contrary to President Obama’s campaign pledges to stop corporate conglomeration of American media, the merger delivers to Comcast/NBC ownership of one fifth of the time Americans spend watching television, an alarming proportion. Arguments presented against the merger raise concerns over the diversity of choices for Americans seeking information about their affairs domestic and abroad. The merger was passed by a 4-1 vote of the FCC.The merger is the largest of it’s kind in U.S. media history.
Media conglomeration and the power it wields
Several scholars and authors have raised concerns over the hyper-conglomeration of American media. Among them and perhaps most recognized is Ben Bagdikian author of the book The New Media Monopoly. Bagdikian writes of the conglomeration effect stating that “the awesome power of the contemporary mass media has in one generation been a major factor in reversing the country’s progressive political, social and economic momentum of the twentieth century.” (pg. 11)
Beefing up media bias
Paul Kivel the author of You Call This a Democracy? writes, passionately, that “the media is not neutral, it reflects a clear ruling class agenda.” (pg. 125) Kivel’s concerns along with Bagdikian’s observations have been topics at the core of significant debate over media conglomeration over the past two decades.
There are volumes of quantitative and anecdotal reports that would suggest that Bagdikian and Kivel are on the right track. But let’s suppose for a moment that the research didn’t exist and we look merely at John Milton’s argument for the freedom of expression. The blind poet used an historic notion, the marketplace of ideas, to argue for a vibrant and diverse public forum on issues, with the “cream” essentially rising to the top, that is the opinions shared most by the public.
With that premise, media ownership in the hands of fewer than half a dozen corporations can’t possibly incubate the necessary debate for the marketplace of ideas to succeed.
What is to become of the American media is unknown, but it would be wise of a prudent citizen to at the very least, acknowledge the dangers of a shrinking pool of media owners.