Vertical Exploitation: The Six Companies That Control Your Life

Brace yourselves for a stunning 2-part article on who really decides what all of us see and hear in the media. Well, the Old Media anyway, because TVWriter™ still holds out one Acme Ton O’Hope for New Media’s independence.

Hope being the operative word. Anyway:


by A.J.Simpson

Imagine that you’re 12 years old. You live in New York City with your parents, and you’ve got a pretty good life. You’re a good student and an avid reader – when you were a few years younger, your favorite book was Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s tale Where the Wild Things Are, and now you’re just getting into C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Your favorite movies are the Ice Age and Night at the Museum series, and your parents take you to see every one of them in the theater. Glee is your favorite TV show; you don’t get all of the jokes, but you love the music and listen to the cast’s recordings in your room all the time. And you love video games – you’re always checking out and for the latest tips and tricks.

Now, imagine that you’re the 12-year-old’s mother or father. You work your ass off, but you’ve got a pretty great life too. Owing to your line of work – something in the finance industry – you’re a little on the conservative side. You start your morning each day with the Wall Street Journal, and you usually flip on Fox News when you get home. (Bill O’Reilly. What a character!) You obsessively check the Dow Jones Industrial Average to see how your portfolio’s doing. When you have a minute to relax, your favorite show on TV is House, and you’re an enormous football fan – you particularly love the pre-game show with Terry Bradshaw, Jimmy Johnson and the gang. The best movie you’ve seen lately is The Descendants; you also saw Shame, but it was a little too liberal for your tastes – after all, you’ve got Sarah Palin’s autobiography on your nightstand.

These fictitious individuals seem pretty normal, right? Aside from the fact that they’re perhaps a bit higher up the economic ladder than the general population, there’s nothing much to see here. Not until you look a bit closer, at least.

Read over those descriptions again and take a look at all of the various media properties I mentioned: HouseGleeThe Chronicles of NarniaIce Age, Fox News,Shame, the Dow Jones, Fox TV’s NFL coverage, Sarah Palin’s book, the Wall Street Journal, a couple of web sites… and the list goes on.

Every one of the properties I mentioned is either owned or distributed by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

If real people were to live such seemingly “normal” lives, they’d be giving all of their money to the same company.

Think about that for a second. For the first time in history, it’s now possible for a person to spend virtually all of their disposable income on products or services offered by only one multinational corporation – that’s how varied their assets are. And News Corporation isn’t the only example I could have used. By my count, there are 6 corporations that between them control an unreasonable percentage of major North American media properties, including holdings in film, television, radio, the recording industry, newspapers, magazines, video games, websites, and much more.

Consider this article a meet-and-greet with your benevolent corporate overlords. If you spend any money on personal entertainment, there’s a good chance it’s being deposited into the bank accounts of one of these 6 companies. (Check back later for Part II, which will be an exploration of the consequences of media consolidation.) And without further adieu, I present to you in alphabetical order… Big Media:

Read it all

Read Part II, um, too

This article is a serious look at serious business, showing how narrow our entertainment choices have become and what that means to us not only as consumers but as human beings. It also shows us what that means to the Big 6 Media companies.

Guess who’s coming out better?

EDITED BY MUNCHMAN TO ADD: Support interweb video! Cut your cable today! (Oh how I love the sound of slogans. Mostly because even though I believe what I’m saying I recognize how much spouting any slogan makes me sound like…a whore? Uh-oh…)

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