The salient issue is the concentration of our media outlets into the hands of a few powerful corporate entities. This is a problem because, according to political analyst Michael Parenti, "the corporate news media more or less reflect the dominant class ideology of their owners both in their reportage and commentary." Most of us have figured that out by now, but these authors show us how it happened, why it matters and what can be done about it.
The scariest thing, as Peter Phillips, Director of Project Censored, points out, is that the more corporate news we watch, the less we actually know. While the US and its global financial institutions play dice with Third World countries, the corporate-owned media waves its pom-poms and refuses to address "the contradictions and hypocrisies of US global politics."
Norman Solomon takes us outside of the box to point out that many news stories glorify entrepreneurs, financiers and CEOs in the guise of human interest stories. Why aren't we getting stories about workers and their triumphs and tribulations, Solomon asks. He concludes that "every priceless moment, as MasterCard commercials have often reminded us, somehow seems to coincide with financial expenditures."
An essay by film producer Len Hill, entitled "The Hijacking of Hollywood: Corporate Control of the Creative Community," alone is worth the price of the book. Hill convincingly explains how the consolidation of media ownership has "led to a tidal wave of self-dealing and other anti-competitive practices among the handful of companies that have come to dominate the marketplace." In essence, the networks have squeezed out the little guys-Hollywood's own version of Wal-Mart coming to town.
Have you noticed how insipid network television shows have become? Sure, it's always been a "vast wasteland," but honestly, are we really better off without the creativity of independent talents such as Norman Lear, Mary Tyler Moore, Aaron Spelling, Steven Bochco and others who were able to create shows in an atmosphere of relative freedom before the networks sabotaged them through manipulation of the FCC? And while we may have many more options on our remote control, those options are increasingly owned by fewer and fewer entities.
Here's another interesting fact Hill mentions: hour-long dramas used to have 48 minutes worth of content. Now, they have 42. No, it wasn't just your imagination that it is nearly impossible to get really involved in a network television show anymore.
As for radio, Dorothy Kidd's article on "Clear Channel and the Public Airwaves" explores how corporations and politicians created a climate that benefited large media conglomerates at the expense of nearly everyone else. She informs us that 10,000 radio-related jobs were cut as companies like Clear Channel replaced local people with syndicated talk-shows and centrally produced music. We all know the effect this has had on political discourse, not to mention what it's done to music.
A couple of the articles here tend to be somewhat dry, but taken as a whole the book provides a base of information that is critical if we are to preserve any semblance of democracy and understand the volatile issues that are endangering it.