Rich [Irresponsible] Media, Poor Democracy

Robert McChesney argues in his book, “Rich Media, Poor Democracy”that the media, far from providing bedrock for freedom and democracy, have become a significant antidemocratic force in the United States and, to varying degrees, worldwide.

Rich Media, Poor Democracy addresses the corporate media explosion and the corresponding implosion of public life that characterizes our times. Challenging the assumption that a society drenched in commercial information “choices” is ipso facto a democratic one, McChesney argues that the major beneficiaries of the so-called Information Age are wealthy investors, advertisers, and a handful of enormous media, computer, and telecommunications corporations. This concentrated corporate control, McChesney maintains, is disastrous for any notion of participatory democracy.

Rich Media, Poor Democracy exposes several myths about the media—in particular, that the market compels media firms to “give the people what they want”— that limit the ability of citizens to grasp the real nature and logic of the media system. If we value our democracy, McChesney warns, we must organize politically to restructure the media in order to affirm their connection to democracy.

American writers and intellectuals blame media for present economic mess: Barack Obama’s failure to focus on the economy is being rightfully blamed for the resounding repudiation he suffered in the mid-term elections, but the national press deserves a whack upside the head for helping to let it happen.

According to a recent survey by Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, a non-partisan and non-profit media watchdog. When fat and happy people interview other fat and happy people, they get the idea that everyone is fat and happy.

Amy Goodman writes in her article,” As the 2010 elections come to a close, the biggest winner of all remains undeclared: the broadcasters. The biggest loser: democracy.” Below, is her article about” Rich Media and Poor Democracy.”

Rich Media, Poor Democracy -by Amy Goodman

As the 2010 elections come to a close, the biggest winner of all remains undeclared: the broadcasters. The biggest loser: democracy. These were the most expensive midterm elections in U.S. history, costing close to $4 billion, $3 billion of which went to advertising. What if ad time were free? We hear no debate about this, because the media corporations are making such a killing by selling campaign ads. Yet the broadcasters are using public airwaves.

I am reminded of the 1999 book by media scholar Robert McChesney, “Rich Media, Poor Democracy.” In it, he writes, “Broadcasters have little incentive to cover candidates, because it is in their interest to force them to publicize their campaigns.”

The Wesleyan Media Project, at Wesleyan University, tracks political advertising. Following the recent Supreme Court ruling, Citizens United v. FEC, the project notes, “The airwaves are being saturated with more House and Senate advertising, up 20 percent and 79 percent respectively in total airings.” Evan Tracey, the founder and president of Campaign Media Analysis Group, predicted in USA Today in July, “There is going to be more money than there is airtime to buy.” John Nichols of The Nation commented that in the genteel, earlier days of television political advertising, the broadcasters would never juxtapose an ad for a candidate with an ad opposed to that candidate. But they are running out of broadcast real estate. Welcome to the brave, new world of the multibillion dollar campaigns.

There have been efforts in the past to regulate the airwaves to better serve the public during elections. The most ambitious in recent years was what became known as McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform. During the debate on that landmark legislation, the problem of exorbitant television advertising rates was brought up, by Democrats and Republicans alike. Nevada Sen. John Ensign, a Republican, lamented: “The broadcasters used to dread campaigns because that was the time of year they made the least amount of money because of this lowest unit rate. Now it is one of their favorite times of the year because it is actually one of their highest profit-margin times of the year.” Ultimately, to get the bill passed, the public airtime provisions were dropped.

The Citizens United ruling effectively neutralizes McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform. One can only imagine what the cost of the 2012 presidential election will be. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., lost his re-election bid to the largely self-financed multimillionaire Ron Johnson. The Wall Street Journal editorial page celebrated Feingold’s expected loss. The Journal is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which also owns the Fox television network and which gave close to $2 million to Republican campaign efforts.


“The elections have become a commodity, a profit center for these radio and TV stations,” Ralph Nader, consumer advocate and former presidential candidate, told me on Election Day. He went on: “The public airwaves, as we know, belong to the people, and they’re the landlords, and the radio and TV stations are the licensees. They’re the tenants, so to speak. They pay no money to the FCC for their annual license. And therefore, it’s really quite persuasive, were we to have a public policy to condition modestly the license to this enormously lucrative control of the public airwaves 24 hours a day by these TV and radio stations and say, as part of the reciprocity for controlling this commons, so to speak, you have to allow a certain amount of time, free time, on radio and TV for ballot-qualified candidates.”

The place where we should debate this is in the major media, where most Americans get their news. But the television and radio broadcasters have a profound conflict of interest. Their profits take precedence over our democratic process. You very likely won’t hear this discussed on the Sunday-morning talk shows.

Circumstances may be different but our case is not different , here media persons are also  more focused on increasing viewership than reporting the news in a reasonable and objective fashion and their priorities within the news networks is commercially driven, primarily they focused on  maximum viewership resulting in maximum advertising revenue. Today Pakistan nation is going through an economic crises and[ irresponsible] media, it’s breaking news syndrome & bias news commentary plus so-called judicial activism[suo motu notices] knee jerk reaction on false media reports, these are the probably the main reasons of present economic mess-and in our reckon civilian govt’s performance is not the main reason.

If I’m not mistaken I think no more than five major media groups control the majority of the mainstream media in Pakistan. They enjoy monopoly over information, as there is no ban on cross-ownership of television and newspapers, so you know only what they want you to know. At least one positive development has come from it all: now, media watch groups, media monitors and  concerned citizens especially on the blogsphere, are rightly pointing out and asking that they  are  reporting what the world “want to hear” or are they reporting what they believe is most to their commercial advantage?  Today, there is almost consensus among media experts and monitors that in Pakistan, the media power is too often used to promote reporting violence, anger[against civilian elected government]Zardardi bashing and sensationalism. Corporate manipulation, greed, and irresponsible misconduct, media monopoly and cartelization, the mark of elite ownership and control over information, these trends and contours are extremely detrimental to our democracy and freedoms.

We fully endorse the freedom of the press to report all the news without any state censorship. However, with this freedom comes responsibility to exercise that freedom in a acceptable and justifiable manner and it is here we believe the media have overstepped the bounds of moderateness, reason and rationality,  both with regard to hype as well as fear-mongering. The major media networks have failed to distinguish between news reporting, [bias]opinion and preconceived commentary, This sort of diagonal trend in media industry undermines Pakistan’s already fragile democracy.

We once again emphasized, the  democratic process barely doesn’t work because unabashed private media corporatism, using public airways, undermines democracy. The common citizen not only has no voice, as well as a concerted effort is made by big media corporations to scare and intentionally mislead people and much news reporting has become confused with news commentary. The media should desist from acting as policy maker or political advisor & commentator, and should instead focus on reporting news and events objectively.

My American friend Andria Blackwood’s comment on my FaceBook link:

” I’ll have to read this book. It is said here in the States, that the media is run by the Liberals. However, when I look at the owners of media organizations, I see that they are predominantly conservative. Conservatism favors unregulated capitalism. Media draws big money. Hence, it is not too difficult to see which story threads will get the most play. When a country continually chooses profit over its people, the people invariable lose.”



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