In early 15th century Europe, news used to be political, economic, military and diplomatic messages of the ruling classes. There was no mass media. It was often the voices of the businessmen and ruling elites circulated within their own networks. The revolutionary upheavals and democratisation of society during 19th century led to the growth of mass media. People used mass media to fight against all forms of exploitation, injustices and inequalities. The mass media has also played momentous role during the struggle against feudalism, colonialism and apartheid. Mass media is vital in the growth of liberal, secular, democratic, progressive and scientific ideals in the society. Therefore, it is the historic responsibility of mass media to report on realities of everyday life and consider fact as sacred in professional journalism. Yellow journalism is no journalism. But idealism and principles are dead within mainstream capitalist media.
From the early 20th century onwards, the mass media is not only manufacturing consent but also works as an agency of the ruling and non-ruling elites to hide alternatives from the masses. The old world of yellow journalism is transformed into news and opinions for sale in a post truth world. It spreads fake news, misrepresents everyday realities, twists facts and shapes opinions like a marketing or advertisement industry. The mainstream media works as a propaganda machine for the people with money and power. The uncritical reporting and ruling class biases are obsequious. There is limited space for debates and disagreements in the media today. The editorial pages and opinion pieces are sponsored by the market forces that is concomitant with the requirements of neoliberal capitalism and its governance models. The essence of neoliberal capitalism and its affiliated media is to create domesticated and uncritical mass audience and destroy critical voices representing people. The idea is to create mass produce social, cultural and political values that accepts the dominance of illegitimate authority and power. It is the market monopoly that controls the media today. The market monopolies are controlled by oligarchs of mass media. There are six companies (Comcast, Disney, Time Warner, Fox, CBS and Viacom), which control almost all 90% media in USA and other parts of the world.
The National Amusements is a multinational media conglomerate owned by Sumner Redstone and Shari Redstone. These two people control more than 170 networks, reaching out to more than 700 million people in more than 160 countries with the help of a company called the Viacom. It is one of the largest media conglomerates in the world. It controls print, electronics and internet media outlets. It also controls movies, video games, TV shows, and many other creative industries like music. These companies shape public taste in culture, consumption and voting behaviour.
The Walt Disney Company is known as Disney, which controls hundreds of media and entertainment outlets. It is one of the leading multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate which played a major role in shaping capitalism with American dreams. It helped to transform the need-based society into a desire-based society with the help of its advertisement and animation industry. It has promoted a culture of self-gratifying fantasies of individualism. It is also responsible for producing popular cultural narratives for the naturalisation and normalisation of American and global capitalism.
The Time Warner is known as the Warner Media LLC, which is another largest mass media and entertainment conglomerate. This conglomerate has used individual privacy data for its financial gain and played a major role in destroying net neutrality. The Comcast is another largest media and entertainment conglomerate, which played a major role in shaping American and world politics. It has huge budget for political lobbing and it funds electoral campaigns in the name of universal political action. It traps consumers with its political projects and propaganda. This media corporation is opposed to universal media access. The News Corporation is owned by media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, who controls media and publication outlets in five continents. The News Corporation is known as the predatory capitalist media, which destroys media diversity and democracy. It upholds the power of the capitalist market. Similarly, the Sony Corporation is another leading multinational conglomerate which controls largest music, entertainment and video game business. These media corporations uphold the voices of the capitalist class and supress the interests of the working-class masses.
The large media corporations are threat to the democratic and liberal values of the societies across the globe. In pursuit for profit, the mainstream mass media has formed its alliances with reactionary religious, nationalist, undemocratic, illiberal and fascist forces across the globe. It negates every founding principles of mass media. These media corporations and their affiliates promote a culture of no alternative to capitalism in politics, economy, society and culture. These forces hide the economic, social and cultural realities of everyday lives within capitalism and promotes capitalist myth. Facts are no longer the foundation of journalistic analysis. It all about spreading falsehood of market forces by spreading consumer culture as only culture where individuals can realise their free choices. These media houses are responsible for transforming citizens as mere customers in a society driven by profit. In this way, mass media destroys the society based on solidarity, love, share and care by celebrating unabashed hedonistic individualism. Mass alienation is the net outcome of capitalism led corporate mass media.
It is imperative for people to detox themselves from the propaganda machines of the governing elites and find their own alternatives. It is time to reclaim the founding principles of mass media by representing the predicaments of the masses. The masses can organise themselves to create cooperative media organisations to uphold their voices and represent their interests while promoting liberal, democratic, secular and scientific ethos in the society. This is only possible when people can control their own narratives by establishing people’s media free from corporate cultures. Vox Populi, Vox Dei is the only alternative to defeat the toxic culture of capitalism and its mass media, which destroys lives, livelihoods of the masses. It serves power and tame voices of people. The powerful mass movement can crumble the palaces of media moguls and their oligarchic empire of propaganda and profit. The cooperative media owned by people is the only alternative to uphold Vox Populi.
Bhabani Shankar Nayak, Coventry University, UK.