25 Years Ago in Utne: The Information Monopoly



Corporate media ownership is every bit as serious today as it was in 1988.

In 1988, media ownership and consolidation was a new concept for many Americans. Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s Manufacturing Consent had just appeared in print, and Extra!, by now perhaps the most important source of media criticism in the country, was barely a year old. Yet corporate ownership of local and national media was just ramping up—it just wasn’t front page news.

Maybe that’s why Lynette Lamb’s story about media ownership topped Project Censored’s list of the “Top 12 Censored Stories” that year (reprinted in Utne’s Sept./Oct. 1988 issue). “The rapidly increasing concentration of media ownership in the U.S. raises critical questions about whether the public has access to diverse opinion,” wrote Lamb. “And not surprisingly, the impact of this information monopoly continues to be ignored by the mass media.”

“Just 29 corporations control half or more of all media (including book publishers, TV, radio, newspapers, and movie production companies),” she wrote. “Six months later… the number was down to 26.” Exacerbating the problem, Lamb added, was the interlocking boards of directors between media giants and major corporations. Top executives at the New York Times, she said, also sat on boards for American Express, IBM, Merck, and several other large companies.

“A shrinking number of large media corporations now regard monopoly and historic levels of profit as not only normal, but as their earned right,” she added, quoting media expert Ben Bagdikian. “In the process the usual democratic expectations for the media—diversity of ownership and ideas—have disappeared.”

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