‘The Media’ is an incredibly powerful way to send information and messages to specific groups of people, a particular society, or just about everyone on the planet.
Any organisation that controls mainstream media has incredible power over what people do and how they perceive and think about the world they live in.
The definition of media as defined in the Business Dictionary:
Communication channels through which news, entertainment, education, data, or promotional messages are disseminated. Media includes every broadcasting and narrowcasting medium such as newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, billboards, direct mail, telephone, fax, and internet. Media is the plural of medium and can take a plural or singular verb, depending on the sense intended.
If you were to think of the media you encounter during your average day, this could encompass TV, radio, internet, email, advertising posters/signs, and even messages in the workplace. A constant bombardment of messages, both conscious and subliminal, enters our brains in an average day.
We may think that we choose to ignore much of the information that enters our conscious mind, but every time we see or hear some form of media our brains register it. So, if we are exposed to something often enough, our subconscious will recognise the message.
The message(s) from those who produce the media could be anything from a ‘public service’ announcement giving us some kind of advice (which may or may not be useful to us) through to telling how great some product is and that we should go and buy it.
With media messages being such an important part of communicating with the masses it is no surprise that a massive amount of money is spent on developing message formats and new ways to deliver messages. Being a ‘PR’ guru in today’s society is a big earner.
Messages can be delivered overtly (such as advertising, news ‘articles’ etc., new programmes) or covertly through television programmes and films (think of the massive market in product placement in film and TV). Press releases, press conferences, spokesmen, spin-doctors, and so on all influence what we see, what we hear, and how we are told we should interpret events.
This is what election campaigns are designed to do. The ‘party’ (or advertiser) want us to think they are the best and do wonderful things for us, and have our best interests at heart. Unfortunately, despite the money spent on these campaigns, very few of the advertisers deliver the promises they make. Perhaps this could be considered false advertising.
A major user of media is government. The government will try and communicate all kinds of messages to us, presenting them as beneficial to our society in some way. Even if the proposal behind the message is formed to control and manipulate us, the PR gurus will get to work trying to deceive us by presenting the subject as being in our best interests. As with political campaigns, the reality of the impact of these messages is often very different from what is promised. A government using media is attempting to control us in some way. Whether this is good for society or not will depend on the motives or agenda of those in power.
If someone controls the distribution of media they may well find that they accumulate a lot of government ‘friends’, because the government want every media message that involves them to portray them in a good (or at least acceptable) light to the public. Bad media coverage can make or break a government, or any other organisation or person.
Let’s look at a hypothetical (perhaps) example. The government has decided that they want every member of society to carry identity cards so they can keep track of who does what and where they do it. To present this to people as it really is would probably meet very strong resistance and could potentially result in public criticism of the government, and could ultimately result in its downfall.
So what could the government do? Wrap the idea up in pretty paper! They could probably start a PR campaign concentrating on ‘benefits’ that the public are more likely to accept, such as security. The government could state that identity cards would prevent terrorists (using societies fear) from infiltrating society (as if that would stop them). They could state that it would make certain transactions more secure (as if they couldn’t be forged like passports, bank cards etc), or stop unauthorised ‘aliens’ from accessing valuable public services.
Even though the government could have another (often long-term) agenda, the media machine could be used to try and convince the majority of the population that the introduction of identity cards is a good thing. All they need is the majority and the objectors will be forced to accept the idea.
The relationship between government and news media is a close one. Though offering incentives or using ‘friendly’ expert sources the government could tell the population anything they wanted them to believe – and keep telling them until the majority believe it.
As the old saying goes ‘If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it’ – and how true this have proven to be.
So who ‘owns’ or controls the media? This will depend on where you live. For example, in China just about every form of media is strictly controlled by the state., while in Western society we tend to look on most media as being free and independent – but is it?
As an example – television in the UK
BBC. The national broadcaster is presented as being independent even though it is financed through public funding. Another potential source of bias is those who control the BBC. The Director General for example, often comes from the ranks of aristocracy (‘Sir’ this and ‘Lord’ that) and has roots in the political system. Other ‘Directors’ may also come from backgrounds that could influence the way the BBC operates, particularly with regard to news broadcasting.
In the UK the main independent broadcasters are ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, and Sky. Taking a look at the ownership chain of these companies is interesting.
ITV channels are owned by ‘ITV plc’ which also own significant shares in other independent broadcaster and franchises. The current chairman is Archie Norman who has previously been employed in government organisations and politics (Conservative party).
This broadcaster (and various offshoots) is owned by ‘Channel Four Television Corporation’. The Chairman of the company is Baron Terence Burns, who was previously employed by various government committees and organisations. Other members of the management of Channel 4 have also been closely involved with government business.
Channel 5 is owned by ‘Northern & Shell’ which does or has owned Express Newspapers, Daily Star and various magazines such as ‘OK!’. The company also owns Portland TV which owns the adult TV channels ‘Television X’, ‘Red Hot TV’, and others. The founder of ‘Northern & Shell’ is Richard Desmond, estimated as having a net worth of £950 million.
All of the Sky channels are brand names owned by ‘British Sky Broadcasting plc’ (BskyB) which also owns several other media related companies and brands. ‘News Corporation’ owns a significant shareholding in ‘BskyB’, as well as having interests in other media, such as books, newspapers, magazines, radio, music, sport, other TV, internet, and others. Rupert Murdoch is Chairman and CEO who has worldwide interests in TV, publishing and other media. Perhaps Murdoch is one of the most well-known names in media, through both his enterprises and various controversies he and his family have been involved in. It is known that Murdoch has very close and long running affiliations with British politics.
Media in your country
If you take a look at media producers and broadcasters in your country you may find that many of the companies (or media brands) you think are independent are in fact owned by larger corporations with links to government and politics.
What does this mean for us?
The very close and cosy relationship between politics/government and the media means that favours can be done, news edited or adjusted to a particular viewpoint, or even downright deceit and lies broadcast or narrowcast to the population. This can be a highly effective tool for information, disinformation, control, and indoctrination, both overtly and covertly.
So is there truly independent media?
There are other news services and media sources around the world which claim to be independent, such as Russia Today (RT) and PressTV. In the case of Russia Today, they receive funding from the state and their independence has been called into question on occasions. The sane has been expressed about PressTV which is Iranian operated. Even so, they should not be dismissed as alternative media sources for a more balanced look at the news. There are many other news services available on the internet. Really it is up to you to determine how valid the information they present is and how credible they are.
There are many independent news sites on the internet (non-video or audio) that could prove good sources, as there are many independent bloggers – especially in areas of conflict. Again, it may be wise to consider any agendas that may influence the information they give.
Even so, when we consider who controls the mainstream media in our area of the world, are they any more credible than any of the independent sources? Just because information is presented by a government or major broadcaster does not mean it is correct, or that there is not some other agenda at play.