Mass media conglomeration has become increasingly more prevalent in the past few decades. Media mergers have expanded to such a degree over the past few years that now the media industry in many countries around the world resembles an oligopoly; where only a handful of large firms dominate the market. This concentration of media and entertainment properties into the hands of just a few firms threatens the very fabric of the existence of public opinion which is increasingly shaped and molded by these massive corporations. Concerns about this practice arise from questions about the biased opinions of the media outlets. If just a few media corporations control most of the opinions in the media outlet then there is a lack of diverse opinions and it is easier to control the public opinion through news selection. The diversity of opinions is of utmost importance to keep media companies as advocates for the people and the watchdog of the government.
The Times They are a Changing....
These mergers are also happening at an alarming rate. Just last year, 21st Century Fox announced its plans to acquire Time Warner, and Comcast laid out its plans to buyout Time Warner Cable. Time Warner Cable had just itself merged with many smaller area cable providers and broken off from Time Warner 4 years earlier. Even though Time Warner lost a large portion of its revenues it is still the largest media conglomerate in the world. However, Time Warner is an anomaly to media conglomeration and the vast majority of concentration happens via ownership of shares. For example, Viacom and CBS corporation are two of the largest conglomerates in the United States media industry. They compete with each other for market share and sales, but they are both mostly owned by National Amusements which is a privately held company headed by Sumner Redstone.
International Threat to Free Press
The examples above are ones that occur in the United States but this phenomena is not limited to the USA and in fact it is far worse in many other countries. Australia's media market is dominated by two main firms which are News Corp, and John Fairfax holdings. These two companies work together to form the Australian Associated Press which sells the majority of national news to other large news firms. News corp also owns a large majority of the newspapers in the United Kingdom as well as Fox News in the United States. Mexico is perhaps one of the worst examples besides authoritarian regimes such as North Korea where all media is state controlled. In Mexico, Televisa and Azteca control over 90% of the market of in cable television with legislation recently passed seriously prohibiting any further competition from entering the market. In the Czech Republic almost 80% of newspapers and magazines are owned by German and Swiss corporations. Italy's former Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi personally owns a sizable portion of Italy's media industry. He owns a majority stake in the country's largest private TV broadcaster as well Italy's biggest publisher and advertising firm while his brother owns one of the country's largest newspapers. Because of his overwhelming victory as a freshman candidate during his run for the office of Prime Minister, he has been widely criticized for using his media assets to advance his political career. These countries are of course just a few of the countries around the world where media ownership is becoming increasingly concentrated. Mass media conglomeration is a problem that is faced by all peoples around the world.