Fretting about media consolidation in the digital age? Are there real alternatives? Maybe the issues come down to news and information.
In 1983, 90% of the U.S. media was controlled by 50 companies. Now, 90% of media is controlled by five companies -- Comcast, Viacom, CBS, Walt Disney, Time Warner and News Corp.
But what about the Internet? Isn't that the alternative we all are looking for -- citizen-TV producing and news reporting? Once central point, some say, is that real news information is still controlled by big media. Sure, bloggers abound. But how much real reporting has come out of the Internet? The bottom line is that real news reporting costs money: You need reporters and editors on the ground, especially locally.
Professional scripted entertainment content? The same equation applies. Few can afford to produce it except the big guys. We may seek user-generated video and other video trailers and clips. But for the big stuff, we still seek what we believe is real big TV and movie entertainment -- and other related content. Over the short history of the Internet, viewers -- and many big time advertisers – have gone to the big content.
Digital providers like Netflix and Hulu have shown us that. For example, Hulu says its revenues will grow to some $700 million this year from $400 million a year ago. That’s big growth. And who owns Hulu? Big media: Walt Disney, Comcast, and News Corp.
Proponents of media de-consolidation say the big issues include fewer women and minority owners. For example, women make up only 7% of TV station owners, and minorities 2.2%. Minorities account for 8% of radio station owners.
Opportunity does abound for the likes of Google, Apple and Amazon. But do we really call these "independent" voices, the big diversity that is needed?
Local media ownership is at issue. The FCC wants to allow cross-media ownership so that TV station owners can now hold majority interests in newspapers. Given the tough business conditions of newspapers, the FCC can make the case that the new rules would help keep alive many news outlets -- though not under separate ownership.
While TV stations have had their problems recently, those with sturdier local news operations would be deemed to fare better in this digital world. Local news Internet efforts like Patch can't really compete unless they have much more financial resources to commit.
That said, you can still be your own TV broadcaster. Load up your Facebook, Twitter and website pages with videos, content and commentary. Feel better?