Media control

Kumail Soomro

The writer is a media studies student with experience in journalism.

Being a Mass Communication graduate made me study, evaluate and understand the power of the media and the control it yields on our lives. The mass media is perhaps the most powerful tool to send information and messages to a large group of people but it also has the ability to shape our opinion. Any organization that controls mainstream media has incredible power over what people do and how they perceive the world we live in.

The foremost objective of journalism is to find the truth and report it but it is clear that journalists don’t just cover the news, but they make it to appease vested interests.

Noam Chomsky, dubbed as arguable the greatest intellectual alive, went a step further when he said the mass media is the primary vehicle for propaganda and focuses on “controlling the public mind” and not on informing it. It is intriguing to know how the mass media, considered a pillar of state, can be an invaluable primer in spreading disinformation even in democratic societies, considered the flag bearers of media freedom.

The answer lies in the concentration of media ownership in which fewer individuals and organizations control the mass media. In authoritarian or less democratic states, the media is either owned by the state or tightly regulated. Media convergence is a problem in contemporary society as it places media integrity at stake and affects editorial judgment. In the United States, just five companies own a whopping 90% of the media – AT&T (world’s largest telecom) also owns WarnerMedia which includes CNN; Comcast (NBC Universal); Disney (ABC News), Viacom (CBS); and recently formed Fox Corporation (Fox News). You may have noticed that news media remains a few hands. So when Fox News focuses on a Chinese panda when a mass shooting takes place involving a white supremacist, or CNN reports on the rockets in Israel rather than atrocities on Palestinians, it is part of the grand plan to set the agenda.

If you say that you do not watch TV or follow the news, the media doesn’t not stop following you. We are all surrounded by media just wherever we go. From watching TV to travelling in our car, we encounter some sort of message that wants our attention. There is a constant bombardment of messages, both conscious and subliminal, entering our brains on an average day. We may choose to ignore it but our subconscious mind will recognize the message. It comes as no surprise that massive amounts of money is spend on delivering the message. The revenue generated by the ‘Big Five’ dwarfs even the economies of many developing countries.

The relationship between government and news media is a close but contentious one. Governments want to control media to show themselves in good light. This leaves a big question mark. Who controls the media? Is the media truly free or is there some agenda at play? 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 has proven to be.

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