Murdoch’s empire is an invader species of the media ecosystem

Watch Murdoch’s Scandal on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Frontline’s documentary, Murdoch’s Scandal [video link]

In case you missed it, the UK has been embroiled in an ongoing media scuttlebutt that was sparked by the News of the World scandal. The newspaper’s outrageous and unethical violation of people’s privacy and other alleged criminal activities led to a government inquiry by Lord Justice Leveson, whose report was released yesterday.

The Guardian, which was instrumental in uncovering many of the News of the World’s activities (see the Frontline documentary above), has this excellent overview of the report.

For those who don’t understand the nature and context of the problem, it should be noted that since the days of Thatcher and Reagan there has been an increasing normalization of neoliberal policies which eases government restrictions on media ownership. This has led to increased monopolization of media markets and, not surprisingly, to greater corruption. In the UK Rupert Murdoch’s media empire has been allowed to dominated the newspaper market, giving him the overwhelming power to influence and pervert the political process. In the US we have experienced such an extreme consolidation of media companies that now only a handful of multinationals dominate the majority of media.

The lesson should be clear: private media companies should not be allowed to consolidate and monopolize media markets, and hence the media ecosystem. They become a parasitic invader species that transforms the public sphere into to a monoculture incapable of a resilient response to climate change. It leads to less diversity of views and to a dominant worldview that favors corporate interests. In such an environment we get less news about environmental problems and more gossip and infotainment about celebrities like the Kardashians. Not surprisingly, it was a nonprofit newspaper, The Guardian, that broke the Murdoch scandal.

Of grave concern is Murdoch’s increasing influence in the US media market. Not only does his company News Inc. own one of the most atrocious and scandalous TV news networks in the world, Fox News, but he is gobbling up major newspapers like The Wall St. Journal. He now is making a bid to purchase the LA Times and Chicago Tribune and it looks like Obama’s FCC is ready to let him have at it. Thankfully FreePress.org is waging a campaign to stop this outrageous giveaway (click here to sign their petition).

It is increasingly clear that media monopolization leads to unethical media practices because these massive companies are more accountable to their commercial interests than the public good. We need to genuinely support nonprofit media ventures. One way to do that is to donate to public media, such as a local public media radio station, or to nonprofit activist organizations that are seeking to change the media system so that it is more just and diverse. FreePress.org has these handy guides for taking action.

PS For additional info, The Telegraph’s Leveson Report: the key points at a glance.