Rupert Murdoch, the man behind some of the world’s worst “journalism” (from the News of the World to Fox television), has been linked in recent days to acquisitions that could lead to more troubling consolidation in the industry.
His News Corp. has been linked to a bid for the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and the six other Tribune newspapers. On a much larger scale, there’s talk of Time Warner as a target, which would involve the likes of CNN as well as Warner Bros. and HBO.
The News of the World scandal, only just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the decline in news reporting, cast a pall on the media, particularly large, corporate media.
The voicemail scandal that ultimately led to the demise of the News of the World, tainted Murdoch’s already shaky reputation and tarred a number of politicians and bureaucrats did nothing to make anyone welcome either of these rumoured deals.
There are plenty of people who find unseemly what Murdoch has done to the media, saying his holdings, such as Fox News, dumb down content and promote his corporate ideology.
- Advertisement -
Recent years have seen an accelerated trend towards increased concentration of ownership, and the resultant loss of distinctive voices. We’ve seen moves that put newspapers, television and radio stations and internet companies under one umbrella (Bell Media, for instance).
Commonsense says most of these changes have not been for the better – if the quality of these mega-chains’ offerings were improving, audiences could consider themselves well served. A uniformity has been seeping into the media in recent years, but it used to be separated by genre. Now, it is difficult to differentiate between what you read in print, see on TV, hear on radio or browse online (picture the mess that was AOL Time Warner, ironically).
Closer to home, many of the local newspapers have been part of the changes sweeping through the industry. First came a wave of ownership changes and, now, closures, mergers and layoffs.
Are we being well served? Ultimately, despite all the self-indulgent media speculation, the decision lies with you, the reader/viewer/listener/surfer. Studies over the years suggest such concentration will only serve to erode the quality of the media offerings, reducing both the breadth and depth of reporting. This is especially troubling as it relates to the media’s traditional role as watchdog over political and business self-interest.
Across the country, politicians and businesspeople past and present are coming under increasing suspicion for their often-wayward actions, as we well know here in Ontario.
Is it any wonder, then, that the media continue to dig deeper into the activities of our so-called leaders?
The scrutiny is part of the long-established role of the media as the public watchdog, despite allegations of muckraking from those under investigation and, in an increasingly cynical world, from the public itself.
Often accused of relishing the negative (most commonly from those under examination, see Ford, Rob and Harper, Stephen), the media best serve the public when they challenge leaders on their actions, positions and statements. Yes, we also tell people stories about themselves and do our part to entertain, but the watchdog role is the cornerstone of the free press in a democratic system. ‘Why?’ is a perfectly valid question. Those who would make decisions that affect our lives must justify themselves at every turn.