Smith: Mainstream media puts interest of corporations, government before American people

CORRECTION: In a previous version if this column, the title of Al Gore’s new book was misstated. His new book is “The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change.” The Daily Orange regrets this error.

Americans are constantly fed messages via the mainstream media, forming their opinions and shaping their perceptions of the world accordingly.

Rarely, if ever, do they stop to think about who, exactly, is feeding them the information they accept as the truth.

Thirty years ago, 50 corporations controlled almost all of the mass media in the United States.

Today, this number has shrunk to six: Time Warner, Walt Disney, Viacom, News Corp., CBS Corporation and NBC Universal.

While corporate presence is a necessary reality for the media, the staggering concentration of such power is something to worry about, as it threatens the entire purpose of free press.

Our Founding Fathers blessed us with the First Amendment to protect free press as the voice of the people, a great equalizer to keep in check those in power.

Today, this voice lies almost entirely with a powerful few, stifling a crucial wide array of perspectives and protecting corporate interests instead of the interests of the American people.

The truth is being silenced in favor of public relations for the rich and powerful, both in the corporate world andin government.

Many prominent journalists and government officials have admitted to this troubling fact – not surprisingly, only once they were off the payroll.

Just last year, legendary journalist and former CBS anchor Dan Rather warned about the erosion of quality journalism due to the political interests of these large corporations, which he said “have things they need from the power structure in Washington … and of course, people in Washington have things they want to be reported.

“To put it bluntly, very big business is in bed with very big government,” he said, “and has more to do with what the average person sees, hears and reads than most people know.”

Former Vice President Al Gore, who made headlines late last year for selling his news channel to Al Jazeera, expresses grave concern about the state of the media in his new book, “The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change.”  He writes: “The one-way, advertising-dominated conglomerate-controlled television medium has been suffocating the free flow of ideas necessary for genuine self-determination.”

He also likens this fact to a “slow-motion corporate coup d’etat that threatens to destroy the integrity and functioning of American democracy.”

Once you understand who is behind mainstream media, its true nature becomes clear.

The “Big Six” media corporations are run by directors and owners that move back and forth between high-ranking positions in government, including Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Commerce.

These media directors and owners, along with heads of state, are also members of elite corporate think tanks, such as the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution.

The corporations behind these organizations use their collective influence on the government to implement domestic and foreign policies that maximize profit.

Members of these organizations even include media stalwarts such as Barbara Walters, Tom Brokaw and Diane Sawyer, among others.

It is also not uncommon for media directors at these corporations to simultaneously serve as directors for the biggest war-profiteering corporations in the world.

At Walt Disney alone, directors simultaneously served at Boeing, the world’s second leading defense contractor, and Haliburton, the single biggest profiteer of the Iraq War.

Much of the time, the corporate elite isn’t just dictating what messages you receive, they are delivering them to you themselves.

This is true whether it’s CNN’s Erin Burnett, married to one of the highest-ranking executives at Citigroup, or Bill Keller, the previous editor in chief of The New York Times and son of the former Chevron CEO.

If you want the unadulterated truth and not just messages meant to manufacture public consent for corporate and government interests, you are going to have to do some searching.

And these days, the truth is hard to come by.

Nick Smith is a junior broadcast and digital journalism major. His column appears weekly. He can been reached at and followed on Twitter at @Nick_X_Smith.


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