At the root of everything is the money and funds that enable its creation. We often hear “follow the money” in political and election conversations, as if that’s the only realm where money influences power, action, and decisions. Foundations, foreign policy, non-profits, journalism, scientific studies, industry research, universities, corporate-owned mass media, alternative/independent media, medical protocols, lobbyists, mass organized protests, global banks, disease treatments, cure campaigns, fact-checking websites, advertising, underwriting, social media, and endless examples prove if you dig deep enough, wade through the propaganda, and follow the money, you will reveal the purse strings that drive everything.
Money and profit are the spine and epoxy that holds the mass media ecosystems in place for the sponsors, advertisers, and industry stakeholders that rely on these distribution channels to push their narratives, messages, ideologies, agendas, and sell their products. Part of the decoding and deconstructing of messages, scripts, production elements, product placement, facts, opinions, propaganda, and content is understanding who owns the station or media outlet and who controls and edits what’s shared. The accompanying imagery, symbols, video, film, chosen music, and soundtracks are deliberate.
Ownership influences content and it certainly shapes what is shown, spoken, broadcast, transmitted, and published. Don’t be bamboozled by the illusion, contrived authority, precisely crafted messages, and slick and lustrous productions. It is all constructed, designed, and carefully manufactured based on ownership, sponsors, and advertisers, –and ultimately the almighty dollar and the bank accounts they fill.
Who owns the media you consume? Are you aware of who is the driving force behind the information you devour, follow, and seek? Have you noticed how much the content is fabricated and steered by ownership? Learn who owns the media outlet and recognize who wrote, directed, or developed the program, sponsored the ad, printed the article, published the newspaper, wrote an “advertorial”, and why, for clues along the money trail. (Amazon/Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post and a Big Pharma vaccine billionaire recently bought the LA Times, for example.)
On average, 63% of people source some of their news from social media outlets. For social media, understanding who owns the platform, website, or app, which advertisers or sponsors contribute, and who has financial stakes in its success also determines what is allowed according to their proprietary policies, rules, and community standards. FaceBook owns Instagram (purchased for 1 billion) and What’s App (purchased for 19 billion). Five stockholders own Twitter and Twitter owns Periscope (the live-video streaming app). LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Google owns YouTube (purchased for $1.65 billion).
Follow the money.
In an earlier blog post about the rampant and escalated censorship across social media, I wrote about how social media users are regularly being censored and banned from FaceBook, to Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram. Since that blog post, I discovered there is an organization, Online Censorship, (formed in 2015), designed to track users’ censorship where social media users can submit a censorship report. Has anyone heard of this organization? You probably haven’t seen it promoted through traditional social media networks and didn’t even know it existed.
Even assorted search engines generate different results and censor based on ownership. Experiment with Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo to witness how search results are ranked, which key words do not net extensive results, and which results have been scrubbed clean and removed. What implications for censoring content that doesn’t comply with search engines’ or social media platform’s ownership, standards, and policies have on the access and free flow of information? Plenty.
The deregulation of media from the Telecommunications Act of 1996 resulted in US media ownership and consolidation in 1983 from 50 media company owners to six in 2018. Six owners control most of the mainstream media in the US. These six parent companies control much more than content in their extensive spiral of cross-platform subsidiaries, but also book/film distribution, movies/television programs, theme parks, magazines, radio/television broadcasting stations, sports teams, film production companies, cell phone and cable carriers, websites, newspapers, publishing and social media companies, etc.
Editors, writers, directors, producers, executive producers, donors, sponsors, underwriters, and more – all have a hand in the development process and contribute to the content, messages, and images/videos woven within. What is shown, what is omitted, what viewpoints are included or not – all are factors connected to ownership, financial interests, the chain of command, and who truly holds the ultimate editorial and distribution power.
Owners and stakeholders influence editorial, broadcast, and publishing decisions, and guide the direction of what is shared on a mass level. Transparency of deep money pockets is often not clear or disclosed by design. Financial stakes and interests can be revealed if you investigate and submerge below the surface to discover who is really behind the message and how ownership largely affects content.
Concentration of ownership and power is dangerous and not conducive to accessing a variety of viewpoints, diversified representation, or choice. Concentration of ownership reduces media plurality and selection. An overload of 800+ channels and there still isn’t much that is interesting or thought-provoking to watch. All owned by same companies, pushing the same message, with constant repetition, and carbon copies of one another. Mergers and the game of media Pac-Man resulted in our current media oligopoly. Controlling the distribution makes it much easier to manipulate and control the views, beliefs, content, and viewers/users.
How can we truly have a democratic republic without the Fourth Estate (the media) protecting and informing the people? Instead mass media has become the 3rd arm of the government and the military industrial complex, an extension of Big Pharma, and an amplified voice for those in power. When there is a conflict of interest, it challenges and disables production of a balanced report or truthful findings. There is both direct and indirect pressure to regurgitate and parrot media owners’ beliefs, viewpoints, and stances on issues. Internal self-censorship regularly occurs within news agencies. Isn’t this counterproductive for democracy, effective journalism, and freedom of speech?
How about we return the airwaves, publishing freedom, and the social Internet to the people? Where the people drive their communication, their content (both developed and shared), customize how they want to use the platform, and decide what content enhances and adds meaning to their life without it being filtered through the media oligopoly and content gatekeepers? The platform designed to protect your privacy, your content, your freedom of speech — while encouraging the creation and collaboration of ideas and inspired action is unveiling soon! Sign up for updates at Sphir, for the platform launch!
~ Melissa A. Curtin