blame can, in part, be laid at the feet of Gary Hart. The lack of imagination and political courage found in most of the candidates is, in part, to blame. The press will even on occasion beat its breast, say a few mea culpas, talk about “herd mentality” or the overeagerness of a few reporters and editors or the demands for new angles, new faces and new information. But these are isolate flecks. They offer no framework for determining what is important. They create no coherent picture of press culpability because they offer no context for understanding. The picture we are given of the media through the media offers no way to measure the vaunted objectivity of the press against its own corporate interests. As with most stories reported in this country, we are given the who, what, how, and where of contemporary journalism, but not the why. For corporate journalism dares not speak its own name. In this second edition of The Media Monopoly \(revised, updated, with three new Bagdikian gives us a political economy of journalism in this country. In examining the increasing concentration of media ownership and the critical role of mass advertising, Bagdikian confronts problems that threaten not only the free enterprise of the media industries but also the proper function of our democracy. Writing in the tradition of A. J. \(“freedom of the press is guaranteed only tells a story that rarely, if ever, appears in the mainstream media. In so doing, he provides a framework for better understanding the world by helping the reader discern the particular convolutions of the media window through which the world enters our collective consciousness. His is a quantum mechanics of journalism. In 1982, when the first edition of The Media Monopoly was published, Bagdikian reported that 50 corporations controlled most of the business of the major media. In this second edition, he reports that, with 1700 daily papers, 11,000 magazines, 9,000 radio stations, 1,000 television stations, 2500 book publishers, and seven major movie studios in this country today, the number of controlling corporations has shrunk to 29. At the end of World War II, over 80 percent of the daily newspapers in the United States were independently owned; by 1986, that number had shrunk to 28 percent. Fifteen corporations now control over 50 percent of the newspaper business. Ninety-eight percent of the U.S. cities with a daily paper are now one-newscorporation towns. The rush to centralize media control began in the early 1960s, when an easing of antitrust restrictions was followed by a waive of mergers in most major industries. At the same time, inheritance taxes which could be forestalled for three generations Remember that Tom Brokaw not only works for NBC, but for RCA, which in 1986 was bought by GE, a financial giant and a major defense contractor. came due in many of the major media empires established in the last years of the 19th century. As a result, many newspapers were sold, while others began to offer shares of stock on public markets. The race was on. It is not a race confined to the big cities, to the William Dean Singletons of the world adding ownership of the Houston Post to the Dallas Times Herald. Texas Business, for example, reports that two former TimesHerald executives have formed the Westward Communications group and are acquiring dailies and weeklies in the region with 30,000-plus circulation. In his first edition, Bagdikian reported that 20 corporations controlled the U.S. magazine business. By 1986, the number was six. In the interim, Time, Inc., alone had acquired enough other magazine groups to give it 40 percent of all U.S. magazine revenues. Of the $10 billion in revenues realized by U.S. book publishers in 1985, ten corporations grossed more than half. Some of these corporations are dominant forces in more than one medium, e.g. , Newhouse, a giant in the world of books, magazines, and newspapers. This concentration is part of the general trend in our economy toward a centralization of wealth and power. It has been accelerated by policies of the Reagan era, including the virtual elimination of a progressive tax structure, relaxed antitrust enforcement, an IRS ruling that a newspaper takeover is part of the “cost of doing business” and therefore deductible, and an FCC decision allowing media corporations to increase the number of broadcast stations and newspapers they own. In 1985 and 1986, money spent in this country on mergers and takeovers amounted to more than all investment in new plants and equipment during that time. Because the American newspaper industry is among the ten most profitable in the nation, newspapers make ripe targets for takeover. According to Mergers and Acquisitions magazine, the media industry accounted for one in eleven mergers and acquisitions and one-seventh of the money spent on such deals in 1986. Many major media corporations themselves are parts of larger conglomerates. The next time you watch Tom Brokaw, it is important to remember that he not only works for NBC, but also for RCA, which in 1986 was bought by GE, among other things a financial empire and a major defense , contractor. The parent companies of many major media entities have significant investments in the course of U.S. domestic and foreign policy. In addition, the boards controlling these entities share directors with other corporate interests. A 1979 study showed that Gannett shared directors with Merrill Lynch, Standard Oil of Ohio, 20th-Century Fox, McDonnell Douglas, McGraw-Hill, Eastern Airlines, Phillips Petroleum, Kellogg Cornpany, and New York Telephone. Conspiracies are not necessary. In the persons of these directors, the interests of the media corporations and U.S. industry are reconciled. “You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I’ll tell you what his ‘pinions is,” wrote Mark Twain, once a journalist himself. The growth of gargantuan media corporations has had a decidedly deleterious effect on the quality of journalism. If the 1700 daily papers were owned by 1700 entities, we would be assured of a much broader spectrum of ‘editorial opinion and news content. Bagdikian cites several studies showing that chain newspapers offer less hard news, poorer quality, and higher prices than independently owned papers. One study found that independent newspapers printed 23 percent more serious news stories than did dailies owned by chains. Chain newspapers are by nature much less responsive than independents to the needs of their communities and much less accountable. “Wall Street didn’t give a damn if we put out a good paper in Niagara Falls. They just wanted to know if our profits would be in the 15 to 20 percent range,” declared Allen Neuharth, chairman of Gannett Company. In 1966, when Gannett owned 26 dailies and six Sunday papers, it averaged 45 news employees per paper. In 1980, with circulation per paper about the same as 14 years earlier, Gannett employed 26 news employees per paper at its then-81 dailies, 53 Sunday, and 23 less-than-daily papers. Reduced employee costs, advertising advantages, and the financial backing of a corporate empire have, in many cases, enabled chains to drive out or buy out competition. According to Bagdikian, in 1920 there were 700 cities with competing dailies. By 1986, while the population had more than doubled, there were only 12 cities with competing papers. Where competition still exists, it is often competition between chains. Once the competition is eliminated, serious news content falls precipitously. “What you have in a one-paper town,” wrote A. J. Leibling, “is a privately owned public utility that is constitutionally exempt THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13
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