The Corporatization of the Media

In the earlier decades of the 20th century, there was a clear distinction between the corporates and the media houses with each existing in a symbiotic relationship with other. In other words, corporate houses were content with advertising in the newspapers and the TV channels and the media houses were happy with the advertising revenues as long as they retained editorial autonomy. However, things began to change from the 1970s onwards wherein the media houses started to resemble corporate entities both in the way they were managed and run and in the way, they added spin to their stories. It was no longer the case that media houses would criticize the corporates and still get advertising revenue. On the other hand, most media houses entered into partnerships with leading corporates wherein they published stories that were friendly to the advertisers.

The other parallel trend from this period to the present is that media houses became corporates themselves in the way they approached the business of news reporting.

Each media house aligned themselves to a particular corporate among the leading companies and thus, competition between the media houses ensured that the different groupings among industry in all countries could find sympathetic reporting from each media house. Moreover, the revenues of the media houses started to grow by leaps and bounds and in this trend, media houses were no longer the independent entities that they were earlier. This can be seen in the way media conglomerates like NewsCorp (owned by Rupert Murdoch) and other companies transformed themselves from being mere reporting of the news to agenda setting behavior. No wonder that many leading media house owners are more powerful than many politicians are as the old adage that the pen is mightier than the sword became a truism.

In India, media conglomerates like the Times Group have risen in prominence in the last few decades thanks to the corporatization of the media. In the UK and the US, NewsCorp and Time Warner have come to symbolize big business and corporate media in all its glory. The point here is that the media is no longer content with just reporting the news but instead, it has morphed into entities that set the agenda and entities that play a prominent role in shaping the public discourse. In addition, the media houses entered into strategic partnerships with the leading corporates so that they get friendly press coverage. While the ethics of these trends can be debated, it is clear that media, the conception of what makes news has been altered, and the current media landscape is symbolic of corporatization of the industry.

Finally, media houses in these times are not just purveyors of news but more importantly, they have become entities, which are solely concerned with making money. Even this can be debated and as we shall discuss in subsequent articles, this has a bearing on their behavior and whether this trend is good for society. It would suffice here to state that the corporatization of the media is now complete and it would be a trend that would accelerate in the coming years.


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