CHARLOTTE, N.C., September 1, 2016 – “Mainstream media” or “MSM” as it is affectionately abbreviated is a common term we hear every day, and will continue to hear for a long time to come, because it has become entrenched within the fabric of American life.
Though we hear the words daily, and probably use them ourselves, who or what exactly is this nebulous organization that is so reviled on both sides of the political aisle?
Listeners to FOX News Channel hear the Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Megyn Kelly and others bandy the term about like a volleyball. Bernard Goldberg calls it “lamestream media” to give it an even larger negative connotation.
However, given the ratings at FOX compared to CNN or MSNBC, it would seem that they are as much a part of the “MSM” as anyone else.
Or is it that “mainstream media” only pertains to print journalism and not broadcasting?
Considering that newspapers are a dying industry, it would appear that television and radio generally have more clout than print media. By definition, should that not make broadcasting more “mainstream” than print. There are exceptions, of course, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.
What about the internet? Is that “mainstream.” After all, a large percentage of people get their news from social media and that number is growing.
The Random House College Dictionary defines “mainstream” as “the principal or dominant course, tendency or trend.”
Wikipedia says “mainstream is current thought that is widespread. It includes all popular culture and media culture typically disseminated by mass media.”
Using Wikipedia’s interpretation someone like Rush Limbaugh would then have to be considered “mainstream” though he would likely balk at the concept because of the undertone it represents with the public.
Surprisingly, when you delve into the world of conglomerate control of media purely through their financial influence and business dealings, most people would be shocked at some of the names that represent “mainstream media.”
The reason is because these companies no only represent network broadcast facilities, newspapers and magazines, but also movies and television.
Let’s begin with General Electric. It’s no longer light bulbs and washing machines. GE owns NBC, Telemundo and at least 27 television stations in the U.S. It also owns History Channle, A&E, Sci Fi Channel and the web-based television site Hulu.
How about the Walt Disney Company? Mickey has certainly become “the mouse that roared” since his “Steamboat Willie” days.
Forget about the theme parks and consider that Disney also owns ABC which has more than 200 local affiliates reaching 100% of all U.S. TV markets. And don’t forget the Disney Channel. Kids who grew up with the Mouseketeers still remember having a crush on Annette Funicello.
You’ve probably heard of Viacom, but did you know that it stands for “Video and Audio Communication”? In 2005 the business split from CBS but they both have the same majority owner, multi-billionaire Sumner Redstone. Redstone’s holding company is called National Amusements.
Viacom has MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central among others.
If you include Viacom, then CBS is also in the mix. Currently the network reaches more than 103 million homes and is the most watched television network in the United States.
Perhaps News Corporation doesn’t ring a bell but Rupert Murdoch certainly will. News Corporation is the largest media company in the world by market capitalization at $38 billion.
Murdoch owns FOX, which would certainly make some of its anchors unhappy at being termed “mainstream”, but he also has National Geographic Channel, TV Guide Network, a partnership with General Electric with Hulu as well as the social media network MySpace.
Finally, there’s Time Warner Cable which would probably be the only one of the six in this list that might have been considered as “mainstream” when the question was asked.
Time Warner is the world’s largest media and entertainment company with annual revenue in 2008 that was equivalent to the entire GDP of the country of Luxembourg.
Time Warner owns CNN, Headline News, Turner Classic Movies and the Cartoon Network among others.
As you can see, there are some major players in the real “mainstream media.” Players that most of us don’t even think about when we hear the term. Most of the time we associate MSM with those broadcast networks and newspapers which do not have the same editorial philosophy as our own.
As one website noted, “The mainstream media will probably remain a major force in our society for some time to come. This is especially true when one considers that the mainstream media is dominated by large corporations on all of its fronts. This includes the internet, with companies such as Yahoo! and Google at the forefront.”
Like some massive puppeteer, these are the people who bombard us daily with propaganda by pulling our collective strings.
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Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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