The media and I are engaged in an abusive relationship... When we got hitched, we were both young, idealistic and most importantly naïve. She looked fine to me once, she engaged in hard-hitting/ investigating journalism that looked out for the little guy and rocked my world... Then she was seduced by the glamour of a world that we were not members of and the affairs with her bosses began. Woeth me, I tolerated it because of the woman she once was... But she is unrecognizable to me now, if she is not carrying on about her bosses political philosophies then she prattling on about some vapid celebrity gossip. Needless to say, it has make dinner time intolerable.
Much like religion and government, the media and politics were meant to be separate --in an ideal world-- from the particular political belief system of those who own it. (Or at least make an attempt to hide the bias) In fact, the government went as far as mandating requiring equal representation during election cycles among other requirements. (Admirable but no one adheres to such things.) We live in a completely different media landscape now as six --its really 5... CBS and Viacom are essentially the same company--separate media entities control a vast majority of the media outlets in this country. This was achieved through a series of "mergers and acquisitions, allowing for the concentration of control over what the average citizen sees, hears and reads."
There certainly exists a frightening potential for abuse that is aided by the apathy of the average media consumer. Hark, do I hear the usual criticisms already off in the distance... "Who gives a crap?," "Oy, Chicken Little is the sky falling again?" or "Are some kind of idiot, the concentration/ privatization of industry is what makes America great."
Honestly, it is very unlikely (ever the hopeless optimist) that the six media conglomerates will relinquish their stranglehold on American culture, commercial and ultimately thought. One also has to consider that several of these companies have holdings diverse enough that government interference would be nigh impossible. Now, remember that when you are enjoying that awesome episode of "Heroes," NBC's parent company, GE --General Electric-- is busy building engines for the U2 bomber, Apache attack helicopter and F-16 among many other machines of war.
The point remains the same, you cannot expect a company nor a system to abandon business practices in which they make a profit. (Which is the point of man's existence, naturally) Do they know they are selling tripe to the masses? You bet, that's why there is an obvious reluctance to try anything that goes against a proven formula. Why do you think there are so many "reality" based "talent" competitions/ game shows or poorly scripted medical/ cop dramas on television. The problem is not whether or not you watch copious amounts of television but rather if you are aware that you are being sold the message of a multinational corporation --either for commercial or political purposes-- through the airwaves. (The latter depending on what you watch) The more I think about it, the less convinced I am about a person's ability to delineate between what it sees on television or the opinions read and heard on the radio and the entities that control these media outlets. They called it the Age of Information but easily has become the Age of --Filtered-- Information packaged to specific demographics... It has become a process that promotes complacency in the viewer, with the goal to have said viewer vote a certain way and consume products that one does not really need. This is the unpleasant truth that is buried beneath a deluge of commercials and commentary beamed to millions homes daily.
I came across a quote by Jaron Lanier that summarizes my point exactly: "Without an independent press, composed of heroic voices, the collective becomes stupid and unreliable." He also says that history is full of ample examples that demonstrate this position... I suppose I will leave that to the next installment.