Editor’s note: America and Britain have long been considered two of the most liberty-minded nations on earth, and a free press is one of the core tenets of the free society. At first glance, it would appear that this pillar of our society is still upheld. But when you scratch the surface, you discover that the mainstream media is far from fulfilling its role to inform the public about vital issues. Liberty Nation presents this multi-part series examining the bias at the heart of the establishment press. In part 1, we examined Britain. In this concluding part, we look at the United States.
With the presidency of Donald Trump, the public spotlight has fallen on the overall bias of the media and the phenomenon of “fake news,” but what is driving this? Much of the media may be driven by an agenda – but whose? Despite a projected image of diversity, media centralization is a real problem in the U.S., with seemingly disparate outlets owned only by a few individuals or umbrella corporations.Credit: Photo by Andrew Harnik
The First Amendment of the Constitution enshrines into law freedom of speech, but according to Reporters Sans Frontieres’ (RSF) World Press Freedom Index, it isn’t doing too well. The organization has placed the U.S. at position 45, down two places from 2017.
The Government Vs. The Media
They lay some of the blame at the feet of President Trump for his verbal attacks on major media outlets. While many can sympathize with his criticism of the biased leftists in media who may be getting their come-uppance after decades of poor reporting, such an attitude could entrench a dangerous precedent whereby any future president may feel free to denigrate any news outlet that gives them negative coverage. That’s hardly a great pattern for press freedom. This is not new, however; similar antagonism occurred between the state and the press during former President Obama’s “war” with conservative outlet, Fox News.
According the RSF, much of the negative press freedom climate predates the current administration, with roots extending back to the Espionage Act.
Left vs. Right Divide
It has long been accepted among liberal circles that Fox News has a right-wing bias, while you would be hard pressed to find a conservative these days who doesn’t think that CNN is biased to the left.
The Media Research Center (MRC) found that during the 2016 presidential campaign, CBS, NBC, and ABC “broadcasts included more than three times as many opinionated statements about Trump, 91 percent of which (623) were negative vs. just nine percent positive (63).” The MRC also noted that when negative statements were made about candidate Clinton, they were done so in a “respectful tone.”
With this data, we can establish that there is indeed a bias. While major media outlets are often accused of having a liberal bias, it is more accurate to say that they have a globalist bias. This can be seen when supposedly liberal outlets are increasingly happy to support neo-con policies, such as interventionist military action, broadcasting lenient coverage of Obama’s military intervention in Libya, and even of air strikes in Syria during the Trump administration. The recent downplaying by the media of potential peace with North Korea, detailed by LN’s Jeff Charles, is but one recent example of a globalist, interventionist agenda overriding the traditionally liberal ideal of peace between different cultures and peoples.
Supposedly left-wing outlets continued to support Hillary Clinton after it was revealed that she had “stolen” the Democratic Party nomination from the more left-wing alternative, Bernie Sanders. Apparently the far-left alternative was not their desired outcome any more so than a right-wing one.
Centralization of Media Ownership
During the ‘80s and ‘90s, the U.S. media was concentrated into fewer and fewer hands – a trend that continues to this day. In 2017, the FCC decided to further relax media ownership limits, allowing for an even higher degree of consolidation. Today, only a few companies own much of the U.S. media, including outlets that many assume are unrelated. This creates the delusion of diverse choice, when in reality, these information sources are being controlled by only a few.
Conglomerates Comcast, Disney, AT&T, 21st Century Fox, CBS, and Viacom each own dozens upon dozens of media outlets that at first glance appear disparate. Even two of these huge corporations, CBS and Viacom, are both partially owned by the parent company National Amusements. Comcast and Disney have each recently placed bids to take over 21st Century Fox; either possible acquisition would further centralize the U.S. media into an ever tinier group of hands.
Media centralization at Fox News and a number of its affiliates was recently highlighted by an online video that revealed apparently separate news programs spouting the same script. One disturbing thing about the video, however, was that some news programs that are not owned by 21st Century Fox were following that exact same script, including presenters of NBC (owned by Comcast), ABC (owned by Disney) and CBS. Is this just an example of clever editing and a common speech pattern among broadcasters? Or is it a sign that decisions in the U.S. media are made at a far more concentrated level than many of us would imagine?
According to Pew Research, 47% of consistent conservatives name Fox News as their “go to” site for information, and consistent liberals are more varied in their chosen sources. However, the fact is that if the same companies own all of these outlets, it makes no difference which ones consumers visit. The information is not, in most cases, presented based on the beliefs of the individual hosts, but is handed down from on high by the owners of the media corporations.
It’s not always easy to distinguish fact from fiction in today’s media landscape, but while fake news and bias have become standard, perhaps it is the hidden hand that presents the real issue — a problem that many of us don’t even realize exists. As the U.S. news media continues on its current trajectory of centralized ownership, how can the public trust that they have a free and truthful press?