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Mainstream media (MSM) is mass media that influences a large number of people and both reflects and shapes prevailing currents of thought. It may be contrasted with alternative media which may contain content with more dissenting thought.
Large news conglomerates, including newspapers and broadcast media, which underwent successive mergers in the U.S. and elsewhere are often referenced by the term. This concentration of media ownership has raised concerns of a homogenization of viewpoints presented to news consumers. Consequently, the term mainstream media has been widely used in conversation and the blogosphere, often in oppositional, pejorative, or dismissive senses, in discussion of the mass media and media bias.
According to philosopher Noam Chomsky, media organizations with an elite audience such as CBS News and The New York Times, successful corporations with the assets necessary to engage in original reporting, set the tone for other smaller news organizations which lack resources by creating conversations that cascade down to smaller news organizations using the Associated Press and other means of aggregation. An elite mainstream sets the agenda and smaller organizations parrot it.
The advent of the internet has allowed for a more diverse or alternative viewpoint which may contrast to mainstream media, to the point where the term mainstream media is seen in pejorative terms.
Lamestream media, a pun based on replacing the word "main" with "lame" in the word "mainstream," is a common pejorative alternative. Sarah Palin has referred to "lamestream media," notably during her participation in the Tea Party Express, in the context of what she perceives as media misrepresentation of the Tea Party movement.
In the United States, movie production is known to be dominated by major studios since the early 20th Century; before that, there was a period in which Edison's Trust monopolized the industry. The music and television industries recently witnessed cases of media consolidation, with Sony Music Entertainment's parent company merging their music division with Bertelsmann AG's BMG to form Sony BMG and Tribune's The WB and CBS Corp.'s UPN merging to form The CW. In the case of Sony BMG, there existed a "Big Five" (now "Big Four") of major record companies, while The CW's creation was an attempt to consolidate ratings and stand up to the "Big Four" of American network (terrestrial) television (this despite the fact that the CW was, in fact, partially owned by one of the Big Four in CBS). In television, the vast majority of broadcast and basic cable networks, over a hundred in all, are controlled by eight corporations: News Corporation (the Fox family of channels), The Walt Disney Company (which includes the ABC, ESPN and Disney brands), National Amusements (which includes CBS Corporation and Viacom), Comcast (which includes the NBC brands), Time Warner, Discovery Communications, E. W. Scripps Company, Cablevision, or some combination thereof.
There may also be some large-scale owners in an industry that are not the causes of monopoly or oligopoly. Clear Channel Communications, especially since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, acquired many radio stations across the United States, and came to own more than 1,200 stations. However, the radio broadcasting industry in the United States and elsewhere can be regarded as oligopolistic regardless of the existence of such a player. Because radio stations are local in reach, each licensed a specific part of spectrum by the FCC in a specific local area, any local market is served by a limited number of stations. In most countries, this system of licensing makes many markets local oligopolies. The similar market structure exists for television broadcasting, cable systems and newspaper industries, all of which are characterized by the existence of large-scale owners. Concentration of ownership is often found in these industries.
In the United States, data on ownership and market share of media companies is not held in the public domain.
Recent media mergers in the United States
Over time the amount of media merging has increased and the amount of media outlets have increased. That translates to fewer companies owning more media outlets, increasing the concentration of ownership. In 1983, 90% of US media was controlled by fifty companies; today, 90% is controlled by just six companies.
The "Big Six"
|The Big Six||Media Outlets||Revenues (2014)|
|Comcast||NBCUniversal (a joint venture with General Electric from 2011 to 2013), NBC and Telemundo, Universal Pictures, Focus Features, 26 television stations in the United States and cable networks USA Network, Bravo, CNBC, The Weather Channel, MSNBC, Syfy, NBCSN, Golf Channel, Esquire Network, E!, Cloo, Chiller, Universal HD and the Comcast SportsNet regional system. Comcast also owns the Philadelphia Flyers through a separate subsidiary.||$69 billion|
|The Walt Disney Company||Holdings include: ABC Television Network, cable networks ESPN, the Disney Channel, A&E and Lifetime, approximately 30 radio stations, music, video game, and book publishing companies, production companies Touchstone, Marvel Entertainment, Lucasfilm, Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios, the cellular service Disney Mobile, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media, and theme parks in several countries. Also has a longstanding partnership with Hearst Corporation, which owns additional TV stations, newspapers, magazines, and stakes in several Disney television ventures.||$48.8 billion|
|News Corporation*||Holdings include: the Fox Broadcasting Company; cable networks Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, FX, FXX, FX Movie Channel, and the regional Fox Sports Networks; print publications including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post; the magazines Barron's and SmartMoney; book publisher HarperCollins; film production companies 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Blue Sky Studios. As of July 2013, News Corporation was split into two separate companies, with publishing assets and Australian media assets going to News Corp, and broadcasting and media assets going to 21st Century Fox.||$40.5 billion ($8.6 billion News Corp and $31.9 billion 21st Century Fox)|
|Time Warner||Formerly the largest media conglomerate in the world, with holdings including: CNN, the CW (a joint venture with CBS), HBO, Cinemax, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, HLN, NBA TV, TBS, TNT, truTV, Turner Classic Movies, Warner Bros. Pictures, Castle Rock, DC Comics, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and New Line Cinema.||$22.8 billion|
|Viacom||Holdings include: MTV, Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, VH1, BET, Comedy Central, Paramount Pictures, and Paramount Home Entertainment.||$13.7 billion|
|CBS Corporation||Holdings include: CBS Television Network and the CW (a joint venture with Time Warner), cable networks CBS Sports Network, Showtime, TVGN; 30 television stations; CBS Radio, Inc., which has 130 stations; CBS Television Studios; book publisher Simon & Schuster.||$13.8 billion|
Although Viacom and CBS Corporation have been separate companies since 2006, they are both partially owned subsidiaries of the private National Amusements company, headed by Sumner Redstone. As such, Paramount Home Entertainment handles DVD/Blu-ray distribution for most of the CBS Corporation library.
American public distrust in the media
A 2012 Gallup poll found that Americans' distrust in the media had hit a new high, with 60% saying they had little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. Distrust had increased since the previous few years, when Americans were already more negative about the media than they had been in the years before 2004.
- Agenda-setting theory
- Alternative media
- Big Three television networks
- Concentration of media ownership
- Corporate media
- Freedom of speech
- Freedom of the press
- Lists of corporate assets
- Local News Service
- Media bias
- Media conglomerate
- Media cross-ownership in the United States
- Media democracy
- Media imperialism
- Media manipulation
- Media proprietor
- Media transparency
- Monopolies of knowledge
- Network neutrality
- Old media
- Partido da Imprensa Golpista
- Politico-media complex
- Prometheus Radio Project
- Propaganda model
- State controlled media
- Telecommunications Act of 1996
- Western media
- Chomsky, Noam, "What makes mainstream media mainstream", October 1997, Z Magazine, 
- 2013, Olesya Tkacheva, Internet Freedom and Political Space – Page 35
- CBS News (cbsnews.com), "Sarah Palin: Obama's Policies Are 'Un-American'", April 14, 2010, 
- Politico (politico.com), "Sarah Palin trashes 'lamestream media'", 11/18/09, 
- Los Angeles Times,"'Tea party' protesters in Nevada target health law, Reid", March 28, 2010, 
- Steiner, Tobias. "Under the Macroscope: Convergence in the US Television Market between 2000 and 2014". academia.edu. Retrieved 4 Aug 2015.
- Entertainment More: Infographic Media Corporation Mergers And Acquisitions These 6 Corporations Control 90% Of The Media In America - Business Insider, June 14 2012
- Ownership Chart: The Big Six. (2009) Free Press. Retrieved from http://www.freepress.net/ownership/chart/main
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- "News Corp officially splits in two". BBC News. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
- "U.S. Distrust in Media Hits New High". Gallup. September 21, 2012.