How Much Power Does Wealth Have In Media Ownership?

With the increasing diversification of media that has gradually occurred throughout ‘Information Age’ the delivery of news and media centralises around the hyper-personalised twenty-four hour cycles of news that is accessible across a myriad of social media platforms. However, that’s not to say traditional forms of media such as newspapers and radio have become obsolete.

Historically, media ownership was dictated by predominantly affluent caucasian males who occupied a rather important political position. In holding political figures as the mouthpiece of news, this ensured citizens were exposed to the content that exaggerated a positive reputation of the state, throwing the importance of accurately and truthfully informing the population out the window. However, society has evidently surpassed kings and queens, princes and princesses holding the responsibility of informing the populus.

Regarding my personal consumption of news, it’s safe to say it does not expand too far past the mainstream collection of outlets that a majority of the world uses to keep informed. When discussing mainstream media, the most appropriate example of mass ownership is Media Mogul Rupert Murdoch who inherits an net worth of $22.8 billion. As the founder of News Corp (the world’s largest media conglomerate) Murdoch’s Australian media empire happens to include The Herald Sun, The Daily Telegraph and The Courier Mail, which is indeed the three main outlets I personally use to keep myself updated on current affairs.

In addition to traditional mainstream mediums, the rise of social media demonstrates another way in which the richest people on Earth are able to control the content we are exposed to. It’s impossible to discuss media ownership without Mark Zuckerberg who is the founder of Facebook where his platform allows it’s 2.80 billion users to share and upload content from anywhere around the world. In purchasing Instagram in 2012 and Whatsapp in 2014 it’s Zuckerburg’s social media monopoly has opened his pockets big enough to fit a networth of $106.1 billion. 

So? What’s The Big Deal?

It’s just as important to understand who owns and controls the media we consume as it is to keep informed of global affairs. When looking at people like Murdoch and Zuckerberg and the extent of wealth that they inherent, it’s ignorant to disregard the possibility that affluent individuals alike are utilizing their money to buy the news they desire to sell to the public.

Funnily enough, they are all still rich, white men. Yes, nothing has changed in that regard.

Considering the Murdoch empire has a tighter grip on the media we consume as a society at large, Senior Managing Editor for McKinsey & Company Rik Kirkland suggests “[Murdoch] has been injecting his personal views into the press and promoting provocative entertainment” as a means of ensuring the news cycles delivered from his outlets perfectly align with his political and ideological worldviews. Kirkland further illuminates Murdoch’s use of wealth to maintain the fact that “most of his news outlets have openly advanced a broadly conservative agenda”, clarifying the notion that wealth is used to manipulate the media as a means of shifting political discourse to satisfy one’s personal and ideological preferences.

Essentially, the alteration of media has the potential to alter the way we interpret and understand global issues as we become knowledgeable of them, because after all it’s all being filtered through the feelings of a super rich, super old white man.

If This is The Case, Should We Trust Our News Sources?

Considering the reality that the media we are exposed to is indeed influenced by the wealthy, As a daily consumer of news, I am still able to maintain faith in the trust I have in my news sources.

Regardless of media manipulation, the expectation that professional journalistic content adheres to the Journalist Code of Ethics (MEAA) allows me to rest assured the content I am being exposed to not only provides me with the sufficient information I need to keep updated, but the validity, reliability and accuracy of my news sources are more than satisfactory. 

With contemporary journalism rooted in the ethical expectation that it is sourced and delivered with ‘honesty, fairness, and independence’ there should be no reason for the anxieties surrounding how much media moguls manipulate content to suit themselves to dictate where and how we consume news.

However, this is not to say the importance of keeping an open mind should be ignored, it’s still up to us as the audience of news to recognise, for ourselves, the biases and inconsistencies that are sometimes intricately embedded indiscriminately of what the medium may be.

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