A critical search into media control and why we should challenge it
Be scared (if you know what’s good for you)
I never really thought deeply about the media I was consuming, who owned it or how they shaped what I was seeing and believing in my everyday world. I woke up in the morning, clicked on MSN (owned and founded by Microsoft) had a scroll until I reached the really juicy part (entertainment and TV, duh!), saw who had been booted from Survivor then dragged myself to the TV to watch channel 7’s ‘Sunrise’ to have the life scared out of me about all the horrible and terrifying things going on in our wonderful world. It was pretty exciting stuff. Then I started to question and challenge this ideology of taking in whatever our media is feeding us and just accepting it because it’s there. Frankfurt School had a point. In week four’s lecture it’s also shown how Adorno and Horkheimer’s theory that mass culture ideology revolved around believing and accepting what they were told, just because it was there (Middlemost, 2020). Let’s delve deeper into why we do this and why it should be challenged.
Why should we care?
Honestly, it’s a good question! Why does it matter who owns the media we consume and why should we care if it’s biased or controlled? I also want to touch on newspaper’s political bias. If we think about China and the media they consume, I think it would be fair to say that their media environment is highly controlled. The Chinese government owns most newspapers, therefore, they have a large say in what is printed, economy and business-wise. Although this obvious form of control in Chinese newspapers is easy enough to find, in contrast, media bias can be extremely hard to pinpoint and measure (Strömberg, 2018, pp 2442). Interest topics may vary across newspapers, language use can change over time (also relating back to the key theory of linear communication models and ‘noise’ or interruptions in the flow) and different media sources have different audiences. However, this theory does not apply to a highly suppressed environment like China or Russia because negative thoughts or comments are blocked and censored (Strömberg, 2018, pp 2442) .
Let’s talk about this in terms of our own personal media usage, shall we?
Lidberg (2019, pp 15) relays that “media studies show that Australia has one of the most concentrated markets in the world”. News Corp Australia, Fairfax Media, Seven West Media and APN News, and Media accounted for more than 90 percent of the revenue in the 2015-2016 financial year (Lidberg, 2019, pp14). This national dominance of news disparages the concept of all news being neutral and fair across the board. We just need to look at David Mcknight’s in-depth research on Rupert Murdoch to see this. Murdoch uses journalism to gain commercial advantages. This is done via hiring editors who think like him, meaning that there is no need for explicit instructions regarding content and editorial direction (Lidberg, 2019, pp14)
We don’t need to be in a highly censored, restrictive country to be a victim of bias and control in the media.
After some deep thinking and reflection (what else is there to do in isolation if not ponder our possible biased and controlled society?!?) I think it’s safe to say we can’t take what we read on our usual news or gossip column as gospel. We, as an intelligent and independent society, need to trust the power of research and questioning and work harder in our search for news, otherwise, what’s stopping us from becoming another website-blocked country or a person unknowingly affected by propaganda. We can and should do better.
Lidberg, J., 2019. The distortion of the Australian public sphere: Media ownership concentration in Australia. AQ: Australian Quarterly, 90(1), pp.12-15.
Middlemost, R 2020 ‘Media Industries and Ownership’ Moodle Slides, BCM110, University of Wollongong, viewed 3rd April 2020
Qin, B., Strömberg, D. and Wu, Y., 2018. Media Bias in China. American Economic Review, 108(9), pp.2442-76.
Youtube, 2012 ‘Talking Point- Jonathan Holmes interviews David McKnight on Rupert Murdoch’ online video, 13th March, Viewed 6th April <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMbrDg3GNsQ>