How a Small Handful of Companies Control 90% of the Media

Written by Sebastian Smith

If you think that a handful of people cant control millions, think again.

As the late singer Jim Morrison once said: whoever controls the media, controls the mind.

Immediately you might think ”ridiculous”, nobody controls the media; there are so many different media outlets. If you disagree with The Times, then you can read The Sun or The Daily Telegraph… wrong, all are owned by Rupert Murdoch. Okay then, so you say goodbye to newspapers, and you switch on the tv and watch Fox News. No difference, Fox is also owned by Murdoch.

Many people don’t like the idea of an ‘elitist’ group, but the truth is that a very small group of people hold an extremely disproportionate amount of influence and power over at least hundreds of millions of people.

Living in the west, you probably perceive Kim Jong Un to be a bad man. Equally, if you live in North Korea, you might perceive him as the ‘supreme leader’. Using the same method of propaganda, many Germans of the 1930s perceived Hitler to be the ‘great fuhrer’ if you said that today you might just end up in prison. 

While you might say that our own experiences form our individual opinions, the more complex topics in life such as politics, science and finance all come from an outside source… the media.

These 5 Corporations control almost all American Media

In 1983, it was estimated that 90% of the media was owned by 50 companies.

In 2012, that estimate was brought down to just 6 companies, often referred to as the ‘big six’. Those ‘big six’ consisted of General Electric, News Corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS.

In 2019, Viacom merged with CBS, creating ViacomCBS, bringing the big six down to five. Additionally, in March 2019, Disney acquired Fox Studios from News Corp for $71.3bn, giving more power to Disney. As of 2020, around 90% of the media is owned by just 5 corporations.

Walt Disney

In 1923, Walt Disney started the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, originally creating cartoon comedies. In 1928, Mickey Mouse came to life, leading to the companies replacement by Walt Disney Productions, Disney Enterprises and the Disney film recording company.

Throughout the 1930s, Disney began its first full-colour feature films, starting with Snow White and the seven dwarfs. The film had success and has become known as one of the first-ever animated films to enter the world.

In 1996, Disney merged with media giant ABC under the name The Walt Disney Co, starting the beginning of what would become Disney’s mass expansion spree.

In 2006, Disney expanded their influence with the acquirement of Pixar Studios from Steve Jobs for $7.6bn. Later in 2009, they acquired Marvel Studios for $4bn. Another 3 years later, they purchased Lucasfilm for $4.05bn, taking in the mega-franchise Star Wars.

More recently, under former CEO Robert Iger, Disney purchased 21’st Century Studios from media mogul Rupert Murdoch at an astounding $71bn. The acquisition also included assets such as National Geographic, Blue Sky and FX networks.

To list every single Disney Company would be ridiculous, considering their portfolio ranges from theme parks to books to television to radio. In terms of media, however, Disneys main powers are the following: (streaming services) Disney Plus, Hulu and Espn+ as well as (Film and TV) Disney Pictures, Disney Channel(s), ABC entertainment, Pixar, Marvel, History Channel, ESPN, Twentieth Century Fox, Searchlight Pictures, National Geographic, Blue Sky Studios, Vice, Lucasfilm, Freeform, FX Channels and Buena Vista Films.

National Amusements

1987, Sumner Redstone, the recently parted media mogul who created National Amusements, acquired Viacom, which at the time owned MTV and Nickelodeon. According to a 1987 archive from the L.A Times, Sumner acquired the company in a $3.23bn bid between some competing groups, including top Viacom executives and investment banks. 

Later, in 1999, Sumner acquired both Paramount pictures, CBS Network and Nickelodeon, for $36bn, bringing the companies influence to a much larger scale.

CBS claims to be the most-watched day time network for the past 33 years and is best known for shows such as the late show with Stephen Colbert, the late late show with James Corden and The Big Bang Theory.

2 decades later, in August 2019, under National Amusement’s new director Shari Redstone, CBS and Viacom performed a merger to create CBS-Viacom. The merger would allow the company to compete against major other media conglomerates such as Disney and Comcast. 

“I am really excited to see these two great companies come together so that they can realise the incredible power of their combined assets,” Chair Shari Redstone said in a statement.

Today CBSViacom’s brand portfolio consists of CBS, CBSN, CBS Sports, Paramount Pictures, MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Nicktoons, Cnet, Bet TV, PlutoTV, Showtime, Channel 5 (UK), Smithsonian Channel, Awesomeness, Bellator, CMT, Colors, Network 10, Simon & Schuster (Book Publishing), Pop TV, Telefe, TV land, The CW, TV Land, VH1 and Vidcon.

Comcast

Comcast was founded in 1963 by Ralph Roberts after the purchase of a small cable system in Mississipi. Over the coming years, the company expanded by acquiring music franchises and eventually incorporating itself under Comcast’s new name: Comcast.

In 2013, Comcast acquired GE’s 49% stake in the NBCUniversal joint venture for approximately $16.7 billion. The acquirement would result in Comcast receiving a major bulk of NBC’s subsidiaries including Univeral Studios and Focus Features.

Three years later, Comcast successfully acquired the popular animation studio DreamWorks for $3.8 billion. DreamWorks is best known for its family films such as Shrek, Madagascar and KungFu Panda and claims to have produced $18.8bn of box office receipts.

Comcast also increased its influence with the 2018 acquirement of major British streaming company Sky. The gain would add over 22 million viewers to the hands of the company, as well as assets such as Sky News and Sky Cinema to its brand portfolio. 

However, concerns have arisen over the years that Comcast’s influence has become near-monopolistic and could be used to influence major decisions such as elections. The company has also been accused of using its size to drive out smaller media companies.

Since 2010, Comcast’s trade name has been under Xfinity. As of today, Xfinity’s main brand portfolio consists of Comcast, NBC, NBC News, Universal Studios, Peacock, Golf Channel, The Olympic Channel, Oxygen, USA Network, SyFy Channel, MSNBC, CNBC, Hayu, DreamWorks, Focus Features, Universal Kids, Big Idea, NOW TV, Sky TV, Sky Cinema and Pick.

AT&T WarnerMedia

WarnerMedia, formally known as TimeWarner, was founded in 1990 after the merger of Warner Communications and Time Inc. 

In 1972, TimeWarner founded HBO, a premium television & film company. Today, HBO’s programming is sold in more than 155 countries worldwide and is best known as one of Netflix’s biggest rivals with their online streaming services HBO Max.

TimeWarner is also responsible for the left-wing media outlet CNN, which they acquired in 1996, formerly known as Turner Broadcasting Systems. Today Cable News Network (CNN) claims to ‘stand for excellence’ in their journalism and are available to more than 2 billion people worldwide.

In 2016, the conglomerate telecommunications company AT&T acquired TimeWarner for $85.4bn. The acquirement is said to be aimed to both expand the business into film and create the capacity to compete against other conglomerates in silicon valley such as Netflix. In the process, AT&T would also inherit the subsidiaries of TimeWarner, including CNN, DC Comics and Cartoon Network.

AT&T/WarnerMedia’s extensive media brand portfolio HBO Max, Warner Bros, HBO, Turner International, TNT, Tru TV, CNN, HLN, Boomerang, Cartoon Network, AdultSwim TV, Cinemax, DC Comics, Tooncast, Turner Classic Movies, Turner Sports, Bleacher Report, Rooster Teeth, Pogo, Mondo TV, Crunchy Roll, Boing, Tabi Channel and Cartoonito.

News Corp

News Corp is arguably one of the biggest printed press corporations in the world. Founded by media mogul Rupert Murdoch in 1979, the company has expanded from being a small Australian paper company to making multi-billion dollar deals with Disney. 

In 1954, Murdoch took control of News Limited, an Australian-based public corporation whose main asset was a number-two daily newspaper in South Australia. Since then, Murdoch has expanded his influence through the acquisition of numerous other global newspaper companies.

According to NewsCorp, Murdoch spent the 1960’s acquiring newspaper companies, including the Daily Mirror and The Australian. Later in 1969, NewsCorp entered the United Kingdom and purchased The Sun newspaper. In the 1980s, NewsCorp purchased the newspapers The Times and The Sunday Times as well as major book publishers HarperCollins.

Murdoch also acquired 21’st Century Fox, which he later split into Fox Corp, Fox’s news subsidiary and Fox Entertainment, making shows such as Family Guy and The Simspons. In 2017, Murdoch sold Fox Entertainment to Disney in a £50bn deal, leaving FoxCorp for himself.

Today, Newscorp and its owner’s assets include News Corp Australia, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, Herald Sun, The Courier-Mail, The Sunday Mail, The Advertiser, NT News, The Cairns Post, Gold Coast Bulletin, Townsville Bulletin, Geelong Advertiser, The Weekly Times, Vogue Australia, Vogue Living, GQ Austalia, Foxtel, Binge, Kayo Sport, Sky News Australia, Puntnet.com, Racenet.com, News UK, The Sun, The Times, The Sunday Times, Wireless, Daw Jones, The Wall Street Journal, Barrons, Financial News, The New York Post, Harper Collins Publishers, Storyful and Fox News… and breathe.

What does this mean?

That is six companies that control almost all of the American news and television media.

To say that a company is non-biased would be dishonest. From the very start, the founders will employ people who think alike, like any other human beings; those employees will have opinions, political interests and certain agenda’s.

More importantly, however, the concern arises if and when the company owners have certain agendas to push.

Take the latter News Corp, owned by Rupert Murdoch. In 2009, GlaxoSmithKline, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, announced that they had a new non-executive director. That new director was non-other than… James Murdoch, who at the time was chairman of News Corp and had been an executive at Sky. According to a GlaxoSmithKline release: ”he has shown particular leadership at BSkyB and News Corporation”. 

Moves like this question whether big pharma and major media corporations working together is an unholy cooperation.

If you’re looking for real perspective of how media centralisation can push a certain narrative, meet the Sinclair Broadcast group. Founded in 1986, the now broadcasting conglomerate company has hundreds of affiliate broadcasting relationships with media companies, including Fox, ABC, CBS, and NBC. In 2018, The group forced its broadcasting stations to deliver a scripted message to millions of Americans.

In April 2018, Deadspin produced the video below presenting news anchors reading the same script side by side to show the scale at which media concentration can happen.

No, that was not a script written by George Orwell. That is real life.

To make matters ironic, the broadcasted message claimed  ‘some members of the media use their own personal bias and agendas to control exactly what people think”…

”This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”

Yes, Sinclair, yes, we can see.

”The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocently guilty and the guilty innocent because they control the minds of the masses”.

– Malcolm X