News Corp. owns over 27 television stations and over 150 newspapers. Time Warner has over 100 subsidiaries including CNN, Time Magazine, and The CW.
In a democratic society, the most powerful tool is the media. The media shapes our beliefs, changes our perspectives, and informs us on which choices to make at the ballot box. It can shape public opinion, create heroes, villains, and change elections. The media decides which voices are heard – or silenced, which issues get covered – or ignored, which songs you get to hear and which wars the public will support. Without a free media, a democratic society could not function. This is the reason that the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution focuses on this very issue.
It is a little known fact that in the United States, the media – print media, broadcast media, and film media – are increasingly controlled by fewer and fewer people. And these people have their own views and ideas that they’d like to succeed, like anyone else.
To keep this in check, we have the benefit of having different sources of media to choose from. It’s considered good practice to get your information from as many different sources as possible, to eliminate any bias you may receive from using a single source. However, this is becoming increasingly difficult as time progresses. In the last 30 years, the number of media companies has went from more than 50 independent outlets, down to just six media conglomerates.
What this means for the average citizen is that they are exposed to fewer viewpoints. For example, Clear Channel Communications is the largest radio station group owner in the United States, with over 900 stations operating under their banner. Most of the songs you hear on the radio has been selected and approved by Clear Channel for airplay. In 2001, Clear Channel entered public discourse when they published a list of songs that would be removed from airplay following the 9/11 attacks. 166 songs in total, the list consisted of “all songs” by Rage Against the Machine, and a number of other songs, such as War Pigs by Black Sabbath and Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan. Alien Ant Farm’s Smooth Criminal was listed, however, the version by Michael Jackson with the same lyrics, was not. For many, Clear Channel’s list was indicative of the dangers of one media company having too much control over the industry.
“The Big Six” is a term often used when describing the state of media consolidation in the United States. Virtually everything you see and hear, read and watch, is the product of one of six media companies – General Electric, Walt Disney, News Corp., Time Warner, Viacom, and CBS. They each own a multitude of news stations, film studios, newspapers, internet companies, and more.
For example, if you watch NBC News, A&E and the History channel, you are watching exclusively General Electric content. General Electric also owns Universal Pictures, Crime & Investigation Network, and GE Aviation. GE Aviation produces critical parts for the F-14, F-15, F-16, F/A-18, F-22 and F-35 fighters. General Electric also owns over 3.3 million shares of Corrections Corp of America stock, valued at $84,158,446 as of 2010.
Walt Disney owns ABC (along with all networks operating under the ABC banner), ESPN, Lifetime, part of The History Channel, and over 20 other channels. Touchstone Pictures, Miramax, Pixar, Marvel Studios, and 277 radio stations across the United States are also owned by the Walt Disney corporation.
News Corp owns over 120 channels across the world, including Fox News Channel, FX, National Geographic, Sky News, and ESPN Star Sports. More than 150 newspapers worldwide are owned by News Corp, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, Market Watch and Dow Jones Newswire. 20th Century Fox Pictures, Fox Searchlight, and more than 15 other movie studios are also owned by News Corp.
Time Warner owns CNN, HBO, truTV, TNT, TBS, and over 20 more channels broadcast throughout the world. Time Warner also dominates Hollywood with their ownership of Warner Bros. Pictures, New Line Cinema, Castle Rock, and others.
MTV, Comedy Central, Spike TV, BET and VH1 are subsidiaries of Viacom. Viacom also owns Paramount Pictures, MTV Films, and has a stake in Rhapsody. iFilm.com, XFire, GT.tv, GameTrailers.com, and Neopets are owned by Viacom as well.
CBS operates over 30 television stations and 130 radio stations across the United States. Book publisher Simon & Schuster, CNet.com, GameSpot, Last.fm, NCAAsports.com and NFL.com are also owned by CBS.
- Free Press: The Big Six
- Wikipedia: Concentration of media ownership
- Wikipedia: 2001 Clear Channel memorandum
- Viacom: Our Brands
- News Corp: Cable Network Programming
- Time Warner: Our Brands
- Wikipedia: General Electric
- CBS Interactive: Our Brands
- The Walt Disney Company and Affiliated Companies
- Yahoo Finance: Major holders of Corrections Corporation of America (CXW)