Media Madness – Who Owns the Message?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Wow, that’s impressive. Written a while ago by some smart people who were looking for a new way to do things. They had fled from England, where a King ruled at his whim, taxed them without representation, threw dissenters in prison and generally clamped down upon the populace. So they got together and fought and bickered and argued to hammer out a new government, a better system of governing.

Freedom of speech was a big one. Our founders decided no one should be tossed in the brig because they spoke their mind, even if their mind disagreed with the powers that be. The press would serve a critical role; watching the watchers. The notion was that an unchecked government is a major obstacle to human freedom. Leaders must be challenged internally through a complex system of checks and balances, and externally by a free and energetic press.

So every American should agree a free press is crucial to our system of governing. So why do those in government so frequently rail against the press? Why do so many people say the media has a “liberal bias”? Isn’t it odd that a 24 hour news station should have to label themselves as “Fair and Balanced”? Shouldn’t all press be that way?

Like most things, it comes down to money. Corporations quickly figured out that owning media outlets would be financially beneficial to them. The government has fluctuated on their positions regarding how much media can be owned by a single corporation. Check out this little gem of information:

• Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, News Corp, Bertelsmann AG and General Electric together own more than 90% of the media holdings in the United States.

So you might imagine that these companies, who occasionally might have some business with Washington, might think it advantageous if their news outlets “spin” the news a certain way. Think I’m being too cynical? Here are some factoids:

• In 1997 FOX Broadcasting Co fired two reporters and suppressed a story they had produced about one of FOX Networks major advertisers, Monsanto. The story was about the adverse health effects of Bovine Growth Hormone. Monsanto threatened to sue FOX.
• CBS refused to air an ad criticizing the growing federal budget deficit during Super Bowl 38 but gladly aired a spot celebrating the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Now I’m going to go off a bit on FOX News because they are most blatant of all the media conglomerates in their spin. Rupert Murdoch owns News Corp, which owns FOX News as well as the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Star, 20th Century Fox, DirecTV, and lots and lots of newspapers in communities all across America.

During the run up to the Iraq war, all 175 Murdoch-owned newspapers worldwide editorialized in favor of the war. FOX took a pro-war stance and all their commentators and anchors followed their given agendas. The White House regularly sent talking points to FOX for them to use on their broadcasts. Roger Ailes, the president of FOX was a media consultant for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr. and Rudy Giuliani. And if you don’t just want my opinion (even though it is my blog) here’s the main spin master Rupert Murdoch admitting it himself. Watch him and hear his own words to see what I mean:

So do yourself a favor and find independent news outlets, read and listen to more than one source and look at the BBC once in a while. You’ll get a whole new perspective. Of course don’t forget my friends Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. They will not only make you laugh but they will give you the straight scoop.

I will leave you with the words of one of our best presidents. The 3rd President of the United States Thomas Jefferson. Before you debate with me on his standing among the best of all time, let me wow you with his talents.

• He was the principle author of the Declaration of Independence.
• He was a horticulturist, statesman, architect, archaeologist, paleontologist, author, inventor and founder of the University of Virginia.

When JFK had 49 Nobel Prize winners over to the White House in 1962 he said “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

You know what’s an outrage? He’s on the $2 bill. The $2?! No one even uses the $2! It’s an outrage I tell you.

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.” –Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787.

“The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.” –Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 1823.

“Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.” –Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1786.

“No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.” –Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.


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