Corporate Media Control/Spin

The mass media presents itself as an objective, neutral, if occasionally somewhat sensationalistic, chronicler of the news of the day. Right-wing critics charge it with a social or cultural liberal bias but this obscures the true nature of media spin. Mass media is overwhelmingly corporate, embracing and expounding the values of corporate leaders. The major media outlets are links in huge media chains with many of these conglomerates themselves owned by transnational corporations. Corporate control is further solidified by the advertising dollars other corporations spend on the media. Thus it comes as no surprise that mass media consistently supports globalization, neoliberalism, and the politicians that push these corporate agendas along with American military aggression. Editors serve as the day-to-day gatekeepers for corporate media, deciding which stories will be covered and what their spin will be. They may occasionally report ongoing social problems but rarely examine the underlying economic cause. Stories that may be unflattering to corporations or harm the bottom line tend largely to be either ignored or have a business friendly spin placed on them. Capitalism itself is not to be criticized when reporting on the misdeeds of a “few bad apples”. Much of what is presented as "news" actually originates from a public relations firm's press or video release.

Rather than providing in-depth journalism the mass media serve as stenographers to the rich and powerful. “News” consists of context-free sound bites with all the analysis of an infotainment program. Corporate media has been instrumental in propagating the myth that what’s good for big business is good for the rest of us. Canadian mass media, while not as extreme as the American, follows the same general trend.

PBS and CBC television may be considered quasi-corporate since they both derive some of their income from advertising or corporate sponsorship. Broadly, the corporate media may be considered as falling into two general groups. The old-style establishment media is overwhelmingly pro business but maintains some basic journalistic standards. They have been pulled ever more rightward by the rise in recent decades of the more extremist, rabidly neoliberal media, such as the National Post, Fox News, and right-wing talk shows.

Corporate media is a major contributor to the democratic deficit in our society. By reporting on politics as if they were handicapping a horse race, mass media helps to create elections devoid of any real issues. The emphasis is placed on a candidate’s image, charisma, polling numbers, and presentation, resulting in a meaningless beauty contest. Any contender threatening the status quo of entrenched business interests is ignored, marginalized, ridiculed, or demonized. What we are left with is an increasingly narrow spectrum of allowable political discourse, a debate between the right and the far right.

Ultimately the corporate media may be seen as the chief instrument for the advancement of hegemony. In a modern society with democratic trappings rule by an economic elite requires co-opting the support of the exploited majority who must be convinced to vote against their own interests. Gaining their participation in their own exploitation requires selling them an ideology that this is for their own benefit, is the right thing to do, or is unavoidable. Today this is the ideology of neoliberal globalization and corporate media plays its role in disseminating these ideological myths as if they were the natural order of life.

Lies the Media Tell Us    by James Winter (2007)     Describes the distortions Canadian and U.S. corporate media produce, effects of mass media concentration, and the myths bhind the news

What Liberal Media?: The Truth About Bias and the News    by Eric Alterman (2003)     Deconstructs right-wing “liberal bias” claims, reveals effect of “think-tanks”, and exposes pro-corporate news slant.

Trust Us, We’re Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles With Your Future    by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton (2001)     Exposes “neutral third party” techniques and front groups corporations use to manipulate public opinion. Lively and readable account.

Toxic Sludge Is Good For You! Lies, Damn Lies, and the Public Relations Industry    by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton (1995)     Details corporate front groups, spying/infiltration of activist groups by publicrelations firms, “green washing”/co-opting environmental groups, etc. A lively and readable account.

Our Media, Not Theirs: The Democratic Struggle Against Corporate Media    by Robert McChesney and John Nichols (2002)     Brief but insightful look at corporate media concentration in the U.S. and around the world, its deleterious effects on democracy, and the citizen’s movement resisting it.

PR! A Social History of Spin    by Stuart Ewen (1996)     Comprehensive look at a century of corporate public relations propaganda and its role in setting the public agenda. Academically oriented.

Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times    by Robert McChesney (1999)     U.S. broadcast history, conglomerates, and media myths.

The Media Monopoly    6th edition by Ben Bagdikian (2000)     Classic work of U.S. mass media concentration in a few corporate hands and its effects on democracy.

The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media: Decoding Spin and Lies in Mainstream News    by Norman Solomon (1999)     A look at the techniques corporate media uses to ensure a business-friendly news spin.

Blinded By the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative    by David Brock (2002)     A former insider’s behind-the-scenes look at the American right-wing propaganda machine and its political ramifications.