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Corporate media is a term which refers to a system of mass media production, distribution, ownership, and funding which is dominated by corporations and their CEOs. It is sometimes used as a pejorative term in place of mainstream media, which tends to also be used as a derisive term, to indicate a media system that does not serve the public interest.
Media critics such as Robert McChesney, Ben Bagdikian, Ralph Nader, Jim Hightower, Noam Chomsky, Thom Hartmann, Edward S. Herman, and Amy Goodman suggest that such a media system, especially when allowed to dominate the mainstream media, inevitably will be manipulated by these same corporations to suit their own interests. These critics point out that the main national networks, NBC, CBS, and ABC, as well as most if not all of the smaller cable channels, are owned, funded, and controlled by an interconnected network of large corporate conglomerates and international banking interests, which may manipulate and filter out news that does not fit their corporate agenda.
Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman have established a propaganda model which purports to explain this bias. The common misinterpretation of this model is that all bias is conscious and centralized. The hypothesis is that the process is decentralized and operates as a confluence of factors, that includes the overt pressure from owners and advertisers, but also by the gradual internalization of the biases and values of the corporate owners, leading to self-censorship.
Other factors include the tendency of journalists to avoid doing original research, instead obtaining news from the same few wire services, such as Reuters and Associated Press, which themselves tend to cover the same news under the same perspective. Due to the desire to reduce operation costs, the mainstream media favor news pieces that are pre-made by these news agencies instead of conducting their own reporting.
Impact of public relations on news and public affairs programming
This same economic pressure makes media susceptible to manipulation by government and other corporate sources through the widespread use of press releases, often created by industry-funded public relations firms.
Impact of the corporate media propaganda model on world events and society
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The point of view and statements made by governments, officials, military, police, national security organizations (such as the FBI and CIA), as well as various other political offices are regularly reported as facts and are published without any (or very little) fact checking by the corporate media. Perhaps the most infamous current example of the impact of the propaganda model on world events and societies was during the two-year period following the 2001 US attacks. During this time, according to a five year in-depth research project conducted by the Centre for Public Integrity; the President of the United States George W. Bush and seven high-ranking officials in his administration made at least 935 false statements about the threat posed to the world and to US national security by Saddam Hussein. These false statements were virtually uncontested by the corporate media and presented as a sound rationale for both the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the "War on Terror".  The result was the "manufacturing of consent" for the invasion of Iraq and "The Global War on Terror/ism" in which hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives to date. As an example, Jessica Yellin on Anderson Cooper 360 admitted being pressured by corporate executives to present positive stories during the run up to the Iraq war.
ANDERSON COOPER 360 Transcript of Jessica Yellin reporting:
COOPER: Jessica, McClellan took press to task for not upholding their reputation. He writes: "The National Press Corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. The 'liberal media' -- in quotes -- didn't live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served." Dan Bartlett, former Bush adviser, called the allegation "total crap." What is your take? Did the press corps drop the ball?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I wouldn't go that far. I think the press corps dropped the ball at the beginning. When the lead-up to the war began, the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings.
And my own experience at the White House was that, the higher the president's approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives—and I was not at this network at the time—but the more pressure I had from news executives to put on positive stories about the president. I think, over time...
COOPER: You had pressure from news executives to put on positive stories about the president?
YELLIN: Not in that exact—they wouldn't say it in that way, but they would edit my pieces. They would push me in different directions. They would turn down stories that were more critical and try to put on pieces that were more positive, yes. That was my experience.
Factcheck.org (Factcheck.org), created by the Annenberg school of Public Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, found hundreds of misrepresentations in political ads that were never corrected by the mainstream media. Studies also show that those who rely on the media for their information have a poor understanding of the issues and are unable to discern misrepresentations in political advertising.
As documented by authors Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, it is becoming increasingly common for video news releases (VNR) to be created by government and corporations, mimicking TV news story-format, to be used straight into broadcasting in a newscast. Other factors include the cost of litigation. Large corporations tend to sue over any news that are against their interests, causing great expense for the news editors. Even if the litigation is lost, the cost of time and pressure will certainly bias a reporter towards avoiding such possibility.
To illustrate the growing problem of monocracy, Bagdikian notes that in the 1980s, "less than 1 percent of all corporations, have 87 percent of all sales. [The corporates] are the aristocrats of the American Industrial economy; the remaining 359,500, in terms of their national power, are the peasantry." This conflict continues to arise as "dominant media companies are further [integrating] into the ruling forces of the economy." The directorates of major companies interlock with others and control the content of multiple dominating media and information distribution (i.e., newspapers, magazines, radio and television companies, book publishers, film industries, and even multinational banking investors). They become directly influenced by still other powerful industry, creating the "Endless Chain" of mass media and economic aristocracy (Wardrip-Fruin, 479).
Several issues arise from the fusion; under law and business ethics, the director of a firm is obligated to act in best interest of the company he or she is involved in, and failure to oblige under some circumstances can be a federal crime. This creates a dilemma in the governance of mass media: the same person may be trapped in a situation where working for the best interest for one may damage the other corporation. Another problem which arises is that the same person can abuse his or her power to get away with injustice as exemplified by Bagdikian: "When Sears was accused by the Federal Trade Commission of dishonest advertising and promotion, the Tribune was one of the major papers that failed to carry a word of it... (Wardrip-Fruin, 481)." Here, a market industry was able to conceal their crime of fraud since it was also interlocked with the news media, one of the main distributors of such significant information.
In summary, the concentration of massive media firms that control American public information is troublesome for the potential for deception misleads the public away from reality. The Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs state that these facts raise fundamental issues as they can bear on social issues and possibly control the shape and direction of the nation's economy. It is further derived that "the summits of American business now control or powerfully influence the major media that create American public opinion" (Wardrip-Fruin, 483).
- Concentration of media ownership
- Citizen media
- Independent World Television
- Media bias in the United States
- Media democracy
- Croteau, David and Hoynes, William (2006). The Business of Media: Corporate Media and the Public Interest Pine Forge Press. ISBN 1412913152 p. 33
- McChesney, Robert. "Rich Media, Poor Democracy", ISBN 0-252-02448-6, University of Illinois Press, 1999; "The Problem with the Media", ISBN 1-58367-105-6, 2004
- Bagdikian, Ben, "Media Monopoly", ISBN 0-8070-6179-4, Beacon Press, 2000
- Hightower, Jim, "What Liberal Media?", "There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road Except Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos", ISBN 0-06-092949-9, Harper Perennial Press, 1998
- Long, Paul and Wall, Tim : Media Studies: Text, Production and Context, Pearson Education, 2009, http://www.doingmediastudies.com/
- CNN Anderson cooper 360 May 2008 Jessica Yellin reporting/The Huffington Post
- Wardrip-Fruin, Noah and Nick Montfort, eds. The New Media Reader. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. ISBN 0-262-23227-8. "The Endless Chain" by Ben Bagdikian, pp. 471–483.
- FAIR: Corporate Ownership
- The Nation: Corporate Media & Consolidation
- 'Media Studies: Text, Production and Context' book by Paul Long and Tim Wall from Birmingham City University
- Fairness Doctrine Vetoed by both Ronald Reagan and G.H.W. Bush