US Media Ownership

Recently several friends have mentioned that they watch news on many different stations. By doing that, they think they are getting a well-rounded view of the situation. But are they? Probably not. Most of our TV networks (and radio stations) are owned by giant corporate conglomerates.  It’s been about five years since I looked into media ownership so I did some research.  What follows is a list of owners, stockholders, associated companies, important people and their politic viewpoints.  If you don’t want to read all of this — I’d really like you to read the whole thing because you should know where your news comes from, but I realize it is a lot to ask — you can skip to the section called “Fair and Balanced News” at the end.

ABC

ABC is owned by the Walt Disney Company, the second largest media conglomerate in the world. Major shareholders of Walt Disney include the Disney management, but it is partially owned by Vanguard and four other investment companies (and public shareholders). Disney also owns (fully or partially) a lot of other media companies including ESPN, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Touchstone Pictures, Marvel Comics, and A&E.

Of the companies holding major news networks, Walt Disney Company is probably the most supportive of Democratic incumbents. In the last eighteen years, Disney lobbyists focused on copyright laws, regulation of toxic substances, and lawsuits against public figures.[1] However, as listed below, that does not mean Disney is clean and tidy in its dealings with other media conglomerates.

NBC/MSNBC

NBC and MSNBC are owned by Comcast. Comcast is owned by Liberty Media Corporation.  Comcast also owns DreamWorks Animation studio, The Weather Channel, Universal Studios, Telemundo, [2] and Liberty Media holds many other media stations and the Atlanta Braves.

If you think NBC or MSNBC will give you an opposing viewpoint for Fox News, you would be wrong. John Malone controls Liberty Media and so he has power over NBC/MSNBC. Although Malone calls himself a Libertarian, he is an avid Trump supporter and a foe of the open internet. He’s also the biggest individual US land-owner. [1]  Malone seems to do his lobbying efforts through social events, philanthropy, and other private donations.  Therefore, they are fairly surreptitious.

CBS

CBS is owned by Viacom, and the majority owner of Viacom is National Amusements, which is controlled by Sumner Redstone. Viacom also owns Paramount, Comedy Central, United International Pictures, and Nickelodeon. It previously sold DreamWorks Animation to NBC Universal.

Recently the mental competency of Sumner Redstone was contested; despite some strange testimony from Redstone, the case was dismissed by the court. [3] I surmise the dismissal was based less on testimony and more on the wildness of Redstone’s reputation. He has been known as a cantankerous, opinionated, rough-speaking, philanderer who could act impulsively.

In any case, between 1998 and 2004, Viacom lobbied for the TV/movie industry with actions on behalf of GE (partial owner of NBC, MSNBC, and Universal Studios), Time Warner (owns CNN), Walt Disney Company (owns ABC), Liberty Media (owns NBC/MSNBC and through the latest merger, CNN), ABC, Fox Theater (yes, it’s owned by 21st Century Fox), News Corp (Fox), itself, and many others. [4] It’s starting to look like Celtic knotwork!

CNN

CNN is owned by Turner Broadcasting System which is owned by Time Warner. Time Warner also owns Home Box Office (HBO), and Warner Brothers Studio.

Time Warner used to own Time Warner Cable, but the cable division was split off in 2009. Legally they are two separate companies. However, the separation was achieved by a dividend distribution to current stockholders where Time Warner stockholders received a certain number of shares of Time Warner Cable stock based upon how many shares they owned of Time Warner common stock. Because of that distribution, over 300 million shares of Time Warner Cable stock were handed to people who owned stock in Time Warner, effectively giving the same people interests in both companies.[10]

To further complicate things, Time Warner Cable just merged with Comcast, Charter Communications, and Bright House Networks to create Charter Spectrum. Although the other companies still exist, it looks like the new conglomerate is controlled by Charter Communications. According to Nasdaq, the owners of Charter Communications include Liberty Media Corporation, Liberty Broadband, and five investment companies including Vanguard (and public shareholders).

Once again, as head of both Liberty Media Corporation and Liberty Broadband, John Malone ends up at the top of the pyramid that leads down to CNN. Malone personally owns about 25% of Charter Communications,[5] and he spent $67,000,000,000 (that’s 67 billion) to have Charter Communications buy Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.[6] This is the same Malone that controls NBC/MSNBC. He’s a Trump supporter who advocates tax reductions for the rich and for corporations, deregulation, repealing the Affordable Care Act, and allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the country as long as they continue to be “hard working people.” [7]

FOX

Fox is owned by Fox Entertainment Group; it is a subsidiary of 21st Century Fox, which was previously called News Corp. News Corp owns the Wall Street Journal, New York Post and other print and TV media. News Corp was started by Rupert Murdoch who quit his chairman post due to international phone hacking indictments. After that, News Corp was split into two corporations, but both are still operated by Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan Murdoch, who seem to be following in their father’s footsteps.

Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal owns 6% of 21st Century Fox and part of News Corp. That sounds small, but he is the biggest non-family investor in 21st Century Fox. Since he has maintained shares for more than fifteen years, Talal must consider his money well spent at the conservative pundit’s network. Despite Talal’s public rebuke of Trump’s behavior, he contributed money towards Trump’s presidential election. To be fair, Talal also has (fewer) shares in Disney, Citibank, and Apple.

Until recently, Fox News was headed by Roger Ailes, who used to run MSNBC. Ailes left NBC/MSNBC due to problems with his prejudicial comments. Perhaps it should not be a shock that he left Fox due to his comments and actions that led to sexual harassment charges.

Rupert Murdoch is an anti-tax conservative who supports deregulation, ridicules climate change and global warming, scorns scientific reason, and supports military expansion into the Middle East. He has influenced Australia, Britain and US policy with full-time lobbyists who report directly to him.  Since 1998, lobbying under auspices of 21st Century Fox included actions on behalf of Time Warner (owns CNN), National Amusements (owns CBS), Walt Disney Company (owns ABC), Sirius Radio (owned by Liberty Media), the Weather Channel (owned by NBC), and many others.[8]  What a delightful mess this is!

Fair and Balanced News

Getting back to the topic at hand, if people watch several news networks, will they get balanced and unbiased news? Simply put, it seems unlikely, but it could depend on which news sources you select.

The major news networks do business with each other, buy and sell divisions to each other, and lobby for each other; therefore, watching several major news networks may not help. US media is an oligopoly, that is, a few companies control the supply of a commodity, in this case, the supply of the news. Because of the oligopoly, you may not get the truth or even the entire news story.  In fact, GE, News Corp (21st Century Fox), Disney, Viacom, Time Warner (now merged with Charter Communications), and CBS own 90% of US news media.[9] Since the major companies have divided up the markets, we don’t really have competition. Therefore the viewer can be fooled into thinking they are getting balanced news from competing news sources when they are not.

Fair and balanced news? I think not.

 

 

Update on 2/8/2017: thank you, Kurt Hohmann, for bringing to my attention errors in the original blog. I have updated the information concerning Time Warner and Time Warner Cable for clarification. In addition, I included a correction about Comcast. Originally I wrote that Comcast was part of the merger completed in Summer 2016, but Comcast was not a partner to that merger.

 

— Footnotes —

[1] “Walt Disney Co.”  OpenSecrets.org: Center for Responsive Politics  (2016)   https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=d000000128&cycle=2016  (accessed 2/5/2017)

[2] Madeline Johnson “Your Complete Guide to Everything Owned by Comcast” Nasdaq (2016) http://www.nasdaq.com/article/your-complete-guide-to-everything-owned-by-comcast-cm615010 (accessed 2/5/2017).

[3] Maria Bustillos “Sumnerdämmerung” New Yorker (2016) http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/sumner-redstones-sad-angry-decline  (accessed 2/5/2017).

[4] “ Viacom, Inc.” OpenSecrets.org: Center for Responsive Politics  (2016)  https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/clientsum.php?id=D000000190&year=2001  (accessed 2/5/2017).

[5] Cynthia Littleton “John Malone Talks TV Biz, Presidential Politics and His TCI Regret in Candid Q&A” Variety  http://variety.com/2016/biz/news/john-malone-brian-roberts-charter-time-warner-cable-merger-comcast-1201778366/  (accessed 2/5/2017).

[6] Cynthia Littleton “John Malone: ‘Cable Cowboy’ Faces the Test in Rounding Up the Right Mix of Assets” Variety  (2016) http://variety.com/2016/tv/features/john-malone-liberty-media-charter-communications-1201729414/  (accessed 2/5/2017).

[7] Liberty Media Chairman John Malone On Donald Trump, AT&T-Time Warner, Media  CNBC (2016) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jt6mmH25s74 (accessed 2/5/2017).

[8] “21st Century Fox” OpenSecrets.org: Center for Responsive Politics  (2016) https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/clientsum.php?id=D000000227 (accessed 2/5/2017).

[9] Ashley Lutz “These 6 Corporations Control 90% Of The Media In America” Business Insider  (2012) http://www.businessinsider.com/these-6-corporations-control-90-of-the-media-in-america-2012-6 (accessed 2/5/2017).

[10]  It was a 1-for-3 reverse stock split. For more information, please refer to Time Warner’s website at  http://ir.timewarner.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=70972&p=irol-twcseparation (2/8/2017).

Advertisements

About Lillith ThreeFeathers

Lillith ThreeFeathers is a shamanic healer, author, medium, and priestess.
This entry was posted in Media Thoughts, Politics, Society and Civilization and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to US Media Ownership

  1. Kurt Hohmann says:

    There’s a lot to consider here – obviously people can be easily manipulated, else there’d be no such thing as marketing. It’s interesting (and frightening) how well the process of setting up an ‘us vs them’ mentality has worked out for these power brokers. In the end, we all turn against the wrong enemy, but at the same time we keep right on buying more corn flakes and cheetos and iPhones.

    One correction: you stated that “…Time Warner just merged with Comcast, Charter Communications, and Bright House Networks to create Charter Spectrum.” First, Time Warner Cable is a separate company spun off of Time Warner in 2009. Second, the Comcast deal fell completely apart in 2015 – they are not a part of the current conglomerate. But in light of your theme of hidden alliances and control, I think it’s notable that the independent entities Time Warner and Time Warner Cable continue to occupy the same Manhattan high rise, and also that one month after that 2015 Comcast deal collapsed, the Charter/BrightHouse merger was announced.

    Like

    • Hello Kurt. Thanks for your thoughtful response. You are correct that Time Warner Cable and Time Warner became two separate companies in 2009. Thank you for the correction. Due to the many hidden alliances (good words!) and complicated linkages of corporations, I missed that. I will do some more research on ownership so I can properly update the blog. By the way, to continue highlighting the intertwining loyalties: Allan Singer, Charter’s Sr VP of programming for the last few years, used to be VP at Comcast.

      I think you missed a merger. Yes, there were several failed attempts at mergers (notably the one you mentioned with Comcast), but in 2016, one was completed that included Time Warner Cable, Bright House, and Charter. The new company uses Spectrum as its brand.

      Thanks again for your comments!

      Like

Share your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s