chapter  9
15 Pages

Ownership

The idea that the market is best placed to provide a diverse and rich media environment is by far the most dominant view in Europe and North America. The free market facilitates freedom of the press and the free market of ideas as it is necessarily unconstrained by government control in the name of the democratic imperative. However, as we have seen the media operates within a range of regulatory frameworks which act to both monitor and control its output and to ensure that the best interests of the public are met. Though the liberal market orientated ‘light touch’ from government approach is favoured, controls and constraints are seen as essential as to ensure diversity and quality of service as well as ensuring that the media do not overstep the mark in relation to taste, decency and offence. Harrison (2006: 81) suggests that in the news media environment in Europe and the United States ‘policy makers and legislators have traditionally attempted to ensure that a range of news providers coexist to provide a diverse variety of news’. This has been primarily achieved via the implementation of policy which places ‘restrictions on the concentration of news media ownership’ (Harrison 2006: 81) in order to ensure that there is sufficient choice within the news media marketplace and to protect against the concentration of ownership. Yet despite the existence of such controls, the market remains dominant and is the driving force behind news media in advanced liberal democracies such as the U.K. and U.S. The chapter begins by briefly examining the growth of news as a corporate entity.

Here it focuses on the rise of the so-called ‘press baron’ in which particular styles of

content adapted to market needs and the drive for circulation resulted in increased concentration of ownership. Given increasing concerns about the impact of newspaper concentration of ownership I go on to examine the Hutchins Commission report in the United States which was an attempt at striking a balance between the commercial imperatives of the market and the imperatives of democracy. As we will see, the summary of the Commission report identifies the particular value of the public service ethos within the context of a free market. I then go on to examine the political economy of media ownership and specifically the concept of market censorship which is exemplified in the media empires of Rupert Murdoch and Silvio Berlusconi, before going on to explore the work of Herman and Chomsky (2008) and Robert McChesney (2000; 2003).