What corporate take over of media groups mean

What corporate take over of media groups mean

In one of the biggest deals in the media industry, India’s largest privately-owned corporate entity, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has recently taken over the country’s biggest media group, the Network18 Group. Mukesh Ambani formally launches into the media industry. 

What does it mean for the media? Does it signify for the freedom of press? Is the Fourth Estate pillar strong enough withstand such powerful ‘influence?’ Does a man who owns a huge business really need media to influence anything? Does it sound any alarm? Can anybody have an effective monopoly in a country with so much media presence? Does it stare at media’s credibility? Too few people are calling too many shots? Or a mere hype and non-story? A section of the press cited a few employees who described the situation as “hostile” takeover. Some analysts say it is natural for corporate bosses to exercise control over policy. 

Back in 1983, about 50 corporates controlled the majority news media in United States. Today, the concentration is in the hands of six powerful media corporations. These corporate behemoths control most of what we see, watch, hear and read every day. They also have the authority to pull programmes from circulation if they do not fulfill their criteria or promote a viewpoint.Most media brands have a perspective. There are pro-political party channels, and even the regional parties have their own organs. It is a case of corporate ownership of media and media ownership of RIL. Big business conglomerates get into the media business. Their influence would specify what and how people are informed. When we watch the news, we are passively receiving information delivered to us in the comfort of our living rooms. The news presented to us implies a version of the truth that may not be accurate. 

Ambani has as much right as anyone else to own a media house. The worry is about the conflict of interest. In recent elections, Ambani was angered due to the attacks made on him by Arvind Kejriwal. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had captured the public mood and even formed a 49-day Delhi-government. Kejriwal had gone all guns blazing for Ambani. 

Threatened freedom

Often, many media institutions survive on advertisement revenue, which can lead to the media outlet being influenced by various corporate interests. The ability to make formed decisions is crucial for a fair and functional democracy, but now becomes threatened by such concentration of ownership. The hold on commercial and political power is vulnerable for any democracy if media moghuls control media content.

 A major concern that arises from such concentration is very few media owners in the mainstream reach out to the masses and seldom the public hears of editorial muzzle. While it is not easy to document the implicit influence of corporate bosses, most do not have to apprise their subordinates their penchant. The real loss is in the self-serving censorship of political and social ideas in news, articles, magazines, broadcasting and telecasting. But most screening will be subtle, as subordinates learn by habit to conform to owners’ ideas. Subtle or not, the ultimate result is distorted reality. 

Corporates can have big budgets to dissect and attack news reports they desire. As the mainstream media is largely corporate-owned, they are largely driven by market forces. 

For example, it is very much noticeable how competitive the media companies are among themselves. Competition can be healthy aspect of news reporting and pushing for better quality. The concerned approach has meant that the competition, if not rivalry, has reduced itself to attracting viewers through sensationalism, rather than professional ethics. Many channels report on the same stories and air even commercial breaks at the same time. This type of competition affects the ability to provide quality news and impacts the depth and analysis. 

Today’s concentration of media ownership and editorial freedom brings into sharp focus not only the immense responsibility, but also the freedom of the editors. Yet it is the owners and their hand-picked editors, who decide what the vast majority receive. Is it acceptable in a democracy? In the absence of freedom or protection from the owners, the people’s media information interests are jeopardised, if not ruined. Censorship creeps in, not from the government, but from the protection of conglomerate interests.

The public is disenfranchised as there is no effective democracy in the media realm. Sadly, objectivity is replaced by prerogatives. 

However, when we actively seek to learn new things and take it upon ourselves to find new sources of information about what is going on in the society or the world-at-large, we find ourselves able to form our opinions without there being the presence of a corporate agenda in our thought process. 

While more people are able to produce, and share information widely, within and across borders, this is a blessing for creativity, new threats arising at the same time. If the quality of news and entertainment is concentrated in the hands of the conglomerates, aren’t we suffering both as media consumers and citizens?

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