The mass media machine in the United States feeds a constant flow of information to the American people. The majority of this information is filtered through various news broadcast stations and easily accessible web pages online. In the US alone there are roughly 32,000 broadcast stations to pick from, which gives Americans a vast selection of digital programming to choose from.
It needs to be known that ninety percent of all media in the United States are owned by six corporations. Compared to the fifty companies that dominated the market in 1983. Ninety percent of what you watch, read, and listen to is controlled by six corporate giants. It is also extremely important to know how these corporations contribute to our great American “political process”. These six companies alone spend billions of dollars lobbying their causes in Washington. They also are involved directly with our leaders and representatives, influencing the political process behind closed doors.
AT&T is one of the largest television and ISP providers in the United States. In 2019 they have spent $7,080,000 on lobbying. They own a slew of media corporations including Hulu, HBO, The CW, TIME magazine, CNN, and The Cartoon Network. Their political reach is limitless compared to the working individual. In fact, 76 out of 94 employed lobbyists used to work for the government.
One week before President Donald Trump was inaugurated, the CEO, Randall Stephenson, met with Trump. Stephenson also happened to be accompanied by a few of his top lobbyists. The AT&T CEO claims that the meeting was to get an idea of “where the administration is going in terms of tax reform”.
A year and a half later AT&T spent $85 billion on a merger with Time Warner. This sparked talk about violations of US antitrust laws. Donald Trump said, “ As an example of the power structure I’m fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much power in the hands of too few”. Yet, the deal passed and AT&T took control of all Time Warner assets.
The same power structure our administration swore to fight is rapidly expanding. In 2018 about $325 billion was spent on corporate mergers. Compared to $210 billion in 2017 and $184 billion in 2016. This administration has started a corporate catalyst that empowers the already massive conglomerates that dominate the free market.
- News Corp.
News Corp. is an American based company and happens to be one of the largest media groups in the world. It was started and currently run by Rupert Murdoch. News Corp owns Fox News, FX, Wireless Group PLC, The Wall Street Journal, and Harper Collins. In 2019 they have spent $370,000 in lobbying, which pales in comparison to the $7 million that AT&T spent.
What is concerning is the owner’s close relationship with Washington. Rupert Murdoch stated that President Donald Trump calls him often. Former White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, told NPR that Trump and Murdoch have been friends for a long time. Murdoch even mentored Jared Kushner. It is clear there are personal ties between Trump and Murdoch.
Additionally, The New York Magazine did report that Murdoch advised Trump on who to elect for FCC chairman. Trump had already planned to elect a chairman that would attempt to repeal net neutrality protections but it should worry Americans that for-profit only institutions and individuals have extreme influence in the White House.
- National Amusements
National Amusements is another US-based company with a heavy hand in the mass media game. They own BET, Paramount Studios, MTV, Comedy Central, CBS, Viacom, Metacritic, and CNET. This is a limited list that can be combined with the millions of dollars they have invested in other assets.
National Amusements is owned by Sumner Redstone and will eventually be taken over by his daughter, Shari. They have spent roughly $4,427,060 on lobbying in 2019. Twenty-eight out of thirty-one employed lobbyists previously worked in government.
Comcast is an extremely familiar name that almost every American recognizes. They own media operations ranging from television broadcasters to internet providers. NBC, Universal Pictures, Vox, CNBC, MSNBC, and Buzzfeed are all media companies owned by Comcast.
They are operated by Brian L. Roberts, who is an openly democratic voter and friend of Barack Obama. It is interesting to mention that the National Review published an article claiming that Comcast “bought the Democratic party”. The article goes on to explain that over the past few years Comcast has spent an unimaginable amount of money on lobbying, fundraisers, and donations all in the name of the Democratic party. The National Review also states that Comcast uses it’s news platforms (CNBC, MSNBC, etc,) to push specific political agendas. It is scary to know that your vote means less and less when one company can hemorrhage millions and get what they want.
In 2013 alone Comcast spent $19 million on lobbying. This year they’ve managed to spend $6,680,000. 109 out of their 126 lobbyists worked in the government previously.
For the past five years, Comcast has refused to disclose the amount they spent lobbying in trade associations and at a state level. In June of 2019, the Friends Fiduciary group filed a proposal that Comcast discloses the amount they spent lobbying with trade associations and at a state level. In return, the board of shareholders at Comcast unanimously voted against disclosing this information.
A proxy for Comcast stated that Comcast discloses “most of our government lobby interactions…our board believes that the requirements in this proposal are burdensome and unproductive uses of our resources”
It seems that Comcast believes it is above the will of the people. Citizens can not allow a conglomerate this large to invest such high power in politics. Then to make matters worse they refuse to disclose all of the lobbying they participate in.
These six corporations control almost every aspect of what we see, hear, and read. Their motives are for-profit, they are run by a gaggle of shareholders that do not worry about the consequences of their decisions tomorrow. But rather the immediate result and how it affects their bottom line.
How can an ordinary citizen like you or I ever hope to break the mold and enter into the political arena? We will be blocked by the current establishment with their corporate backing. Corporate leaders and politicians can lock arms to disillusion Americans. Look at the huge percentage of lobbyists that used to work for the government. They are easily employable within the corporation because they can gain access to the system easier.
Americans are given an established set of ideologies that are propagated through news stations (which are largely dominated by the same people). So how can we fight the corporation when they’ve sewn themselves into the fibers of politics?
The answer; disavow current lobbyists, eliminate super PACs, illegalize lobbying in any form, and break up the media conglomerates. We can never fix the broken political system until these goals are accomplished. The corporation can no longer take priority over the American people.