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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Mainstream media is ‘wildly flawed’

    This Saturday, protesters in dozens of cities in the U.S. and the United Kingdom banded together to take part in the March Against the Mainstream Media. The march, according to the group’s website, was “an attack against the credibility of the mainstream media in an attempt to steer its viewers away from its lies and towards alternative media sources.”

    While I agreed in principle with the group’s message, I was initially skeptical of the protest’s efficacy. After visiting with a number of the protesters this weekend, however, I came away feeling more dedicated to the cause of spreading awareness about the failings of the mainstream media.
    If we want comprehensive coverage on divisive issues, we’re not going to find it passively. We need to think for ourselves and seek alternative media outlets.

    A little more than an hour before the march from Tucson’s local Fox affiliate to the NBC building, about a dozen protesters had already gathered to spread awareness and elicit honks of approval from passersby. Far from the tinfoil-hatted conspiracy theorists that are stereotypically characterized as attending these sorts of events, I encountered a group of individuals who simply questioned the newsworthiness of Miley Cyrus’s twerking habit and why Fukushima seems to have fallen off the face of the earth in American media.

    The only defining feature that could characterize the group as a whole was its disapproval of the state of the mainstream media.

    “We’ve all come together from different walks of life and different affinities today to educate the public,” said Mike, a protester at the event who wished to remain anonymous. “The corporate media is basically controlling what we see, and in turn controlling what we believe and how we act.”

    The corporate media he is referring to are the six companies — Comcast, News Corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS — that own 90 percent of American media. That’s down from 50 companies in 1983.

    Part of the problem is the aggressive deregulation enacted by the Federal Communications Commission that has proliferated an environment where fewer and fewer companies own the largest slice of the American media pie.

    In radio, for example, Clear Channel owns more than 1,200 radio stations. In 1995, a company could own no more than 40 stations.

    News Corp currently owns some of the top newspapers on three continents: the Wall Street Journal in North America, The Sun in Europe, and The Australian in Australia.

    In 1987, the FCC eliminated the Fairness Doctrine due to the increase in the number of broadcast channels. Unfortunately, while there are more stations than ever before, they are owned by fewer companies — the “big six” own 70 percent of cable stations.

    The issues with television are particularly concerning because a July 2013 Gallup Poll determined that television is still the primary news source for 55 percent of Americans. It used to be that the FCC mandated holders of broadcast licenses to present both sides of controversial issues of public interest, but without the regulations in place, news stations can promote one-sided coverage and focus on stories that are designed to draw large audiences but are lacking in substance.

    Depending on television for news is problematic because it has always been a commercial medium. One protester, who was wearing a mask to keep his identity hidden, said television stations “promote a lot of sensationalism and escapism.”

    The dependence on advertising and large audiences means that complicated and controversial stories will always play second fiddle to celebrity scandals.

    Another damaging decision from the FCC was the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which, in the FCC’s own words, was intended to “provide a pro-competitive, de-regulatory national policy framework.”

    Since this “competitive” atmosphere was established, the industry has seen a 90 percent increase in cable costs and massive mergers between companies like Comcast and NBC.

    The protesters were rightfully skeptical of a legislative solution to the media’s problems.

    Instead, it’s our responsibility as informed citizens to view mainstream media critically, to turn off the television and start doing our own in-depth research on the issues that matter.

    More and more Americans are waking up to the fact that the mainstream media is wildly flawed. Critical thinking and self-determination are the traits that will allow us to turn to alternative sources to get the real information about controversial issues.

    Max Weintraub is a senior studying creative writing and Italian studies. Follow him @mweintra13.

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