General Electric, Walt Disney Corp, and the 6 Big Corporations Which Influence Media in U.S.

ByEviya Ivanovska

ABC News' senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper recently suggested that the Obama administration has been aggressively trying to stop qualitative journalism in U.S. by using the Espionage Act to take whistleblowers to court.

One may agree with this thesis, especially, being aware of changes that occurred during the last three decades.

When Ben Bagdikian, a former editor of the Washington Post, published the first edition of the book The Media Monopoly in 1983, he estimated that ownership of most of the major media was consolidated in 50 national and multinational conglomerates. When he published The New Media Monopoly two decades later, Bagdikian concluded that the number had dwindled to just five. According to 2009 data, we can speak about the Big Six. The U.S. media landscape is dominated by massive corporations that, through a history of mergers and acquisitions, have concentrated their control over what we see, hear and read.

1) General Electric (GE) is chief among these (with 2009 revenues standing at $157 billion). GE media-related holdings include a minority share in television networks NBC and Telemundo, Universal Pictures, Focus Features, and 26 television stations in the U.S. including cable networks MSNBC, Bravo and the SyFy Channel. Apart from consumer appliances market, it is also characterized by huge involvement in banking, insurance, and defense industries.

2) The Walt Disney Corporation is another one of these six major players, with the second biggest income ($36.1 billion in 2009). 

3) News Corporation follows with $30.4 billion revenue, gained from television and cable networks such as Fox and Fox Business Channel, and print publications including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and TV Guide

4) The largest media conglomerate in the world is Time Warner (although according to revenues it takes the fourth place, with $25.8 billion in 2009). 

5) Viacom is the fifth point on this list (2009 revenues come in at $13.6 billion). About nine years ago, this company bought CBS.

Media also has business interests in other sectors. CBS and NBC have holdings in the nuclear power industry and technology for electric power generation through nuclear plants. Its 2009 revenues were $13 billion. They own the CBS Television Network, the huge publishing company Simon & Schuster, and CBS Radio. Besides, CBS is also the leading supplier of videos to Google.

In 1996, under the Clinton administration, the Telecommunications Act was passed. It had more impact on media landscape than anything that has come before or since. It effectively ended meaningful controls on how much of media anyone organization could own (more specifically - in anyone area). Before this law was passed, Murdoch, for example, could not possibly have owned a TV station and a newspaper in the same city.

As we can see, this structural problem is created by the U.S. government acting hand in hand with private corporations.