Who Controls the Corporate Media Message?
Who Controls the Corporate Media Message?
By SUE WILSON / bradblog.com

The question I hear time and time again from audiences who see my documentary film, Broadcast Blues is, "Why did you leave your lucrative career in broadcasting to become a media reform activist?"

The truth is that, once upon a time, I worked in a newsroom where a corporate owner ordered me, a reporter, to skew my reporting to purposely make a man on trial for murder --- look guilty.

In an instant, my entire life changed. The trust I'd had in my news organization vanished. And the deeper I looked into the way corporate owners manage the message they want the public to hear, the more disillusioned I became.

There is more to that story --- so much more --- but you'll have to wait for me to finish my book to get all the chilling details on it.

But this is the kind of story that many reporters could tell, if only they dared. But when they dare, as Jane Akre and Steve Wilson did, they can get fired for telling the truth. (Who can forget the story of these Fox affiliate investigative reporters who tried to report on Monsanto Bovine Growth Hormone being injected into cattle, only for it to then be found in the milk supply, which experts said could cause cancer? WTVT fired them after Monsanto complained to Fox "News" chief Roger Ailes.) The reporters filed a whistleblower suit, and Akre won. But Fox won in the end, by getting a court order that, legally, news does not have to be true. Akre and Wilson lost not only their jobs, but ended up having to pay Fox' attorney fees. (See my story from Broadcast Blues on this case, including courtroom footage here.)

This is the kind of information I suspect the FCC was hoping to tease out in their planned "Multi-market Study of Critical Information Needs" [PDF] which, as I wrote last week at The BRAD BLOG, sparked a right wing firestorm in recent weeks when Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai went public with a Wall Street Journal op-ed accusing his colleagues of "meddling with the news" by simply asking voluntary questions of newsrooms. The study was part of the FCC's statutory requirement to report to Congress every three years, as they have for decades, on identifying"barriers to entry into the communications marketplace faced by entrepreneurs and other small businesses."

The question for reporters from the CIN study that was most disturbing to Pai: "Have you ever suggested coverage of what you consider a story with critical information for your customers that was rejected by management?"...

From a purely journalistic point of view, having a government agency intrude on the autonomy of a news organization by asking questions about how they decide what to cover does seem improper. But from the reality of corporate driven news agendas, where truth is often obfuscated for reasons of profit or politics, the question is spot on.

Every news organization does have some kind of bias, and it can be found in the stories they choose (or don't choose) to cover. In response to my earlier piece on this topic, BRAD BLOG commenter "karenfromillinois" asked about a recent Guardianstory on the NSA helping "their British counter parts spy on private video chats and capture naked pics of Americans which were then run thru some NSA program....creepy huh?" She noted that she'd only seen MSNBC's Chris Hayes pick up the story briefly, and asked "does a memo go out to ignore something that damaging to the government, or do all reporters just 'know' the msm rules?"

You have to realize there is a unique culture in every newsroom. Some news organizations, even in the corporate "MSM", work hard to hold government accountable to the public. And most reporters deeply value integrity in journalism. But for every reporter you see on TV, there are hundreds who would love to take that job --- and for less pay. So it's very difficult for reporters to openly challenge management decisions.

I note that in the two very dramatic cases I cited --- both my own and the Monsanto/Fox story --- the news directors were not at fault; in both cases, they stood up to upper management to defend their reporters. But in both cases, they crumbled under corporate pressure (and, I believe, the need to keep their own jobs.) But many news directors steer their staffs away from stories that reflect poorly on stations' advertisers. And it is not unusual for news managers to make an entire subject off limits for coverage by their reporters.

As to some memo going out to all news organizations, as issued from somewhere on high, presumably the government (or some other dark force), warning journalists to stay away from a particular story, I'm unaware of any such practice.

That, of course, doesn't mean they are serving the public interests well. As we learned from the corporate media's response to the CIN study kerfuffle, they would simply prefer not to answer any questions that reveal how poorly they are serving the public interest. And they won't have to. Late last Friday, an FCC spokesperson said the study "will not move forward," and that the agency will "reassess the best way to fulfill its obligation to Congress."

Score another round for right wing corporate media controlling the message.

While the government may seek to influence coverage by the media, there is no evidence the FCC was hoping to do so in this case. This was yet another case of the corporate media looking out for its own interests, rather than that of the public.

* * *

Sue Wilson is a media activist, director of Public Interest Pictures' Broadcast Blues, and a 22 year veteran of broadcast journalism. Her numerous awards include Emmy, AP, RTNDA, and PRNDI for work at CBS, PBS, FOX, and NPR. She is the editor of the media criticism blog, Sue Wilson Reports and founder of the Media Action Center.

3.5 ·
1
What's Next
Trending Today
93 Documentaries to Expand Your Consciousness
Films For Action · 8,240 views today · There are over 800 documentaries now cataloged in our library of social change films. That's probably way too many for any mortal to ever watch in a lifetime, let alone a few...
Why Are Media Outlets Still Citing Discredited 'Fake News' Blacklist?
Adam Johnson · 7,027 views today · The Washington Post (11/24/16) last week published a front-page blockbuster that quickly went viral: Russia-promoted “fake news” had infiltrated the newsfeeds of 213 million...
The Orwellian War on Skepticism
Robert Parry · 5,350 views today · Official Washington’s rush into an Orwellian future is well underway as political and media bigwigs move to silence Internet voices of independence and dissent, reports Robert...
Where Do You Draw the Line? (2016)
60 min · 4,195 views today · Why is the Ecuadorian government proposing to extract oil in an area frequently classified by ecologists as one of the most bio-diverse rainforest regions left intact on earth?...
90 Inspiring and Visionary Films That Will Change How You See the World in Profound Ways
Tim Hjersted · 3,975 views today · The world today is in crisis. Everybody knows that. But what is driving this crisis? It's a story, a story that is destroying the world. It's a story about our relationship to...
Projext X: Using Leaked Documents to Reveal the NSA's New York Spy Hub, Hidden in Plain Sight
10 min · 3,532 views today · A top-secret handbook takes viewers on an undercover journey to Titanpointe, the site of a hidden partnership. Narrated by Rami Malek and Michelle Williams, and based on...
Social Media Echo Chambers: Here's How Most of Us are Living in One
2 min · 2,239 views today · Americans are blocking out the friends and news sites that won't confirm their views.
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 2,185 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Twelve Things To Remember After The US Election, From Front Line Organizers
Bill Quigley · 1,854 views today · When you find yourself in a suddenly darkened room, what do you do?   Some rush blindly to where they think the door might be.  Others stand still, let their eyes get...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,547 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Law Professor's Epic Response to Black Lives Matter Shirt Complaint
Social Design Notes · 1,281 views today · A first year law school student wrote a complaint about her professor having worn a Black Lives Matter T-shirt during class. The professor’s response is priceless. Scans of...
This Short Film Plays Out Like an Epic Movie That Will Shake Your Soul - But the Movie Is Real, and We are The Actors
6 min · 986 views today · For next year, we need a resolution capable of confronting the crisis we face, and making a future worth fighting for. This short film looks back on the crisis and confusion...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 952 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Why We Need Big Picture Activism
Helena Norberg-Hodge · 832 views today · Despite the countless grassroots projects already under way, the global economic juggernaut can seem too powerful to stop. But because more and more of us are becoming aware of...
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 815 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
How a Land High in the Western Himalayas Can Help Us Understand The Crisis of The Modern World
9 min · 510 views today · This is a clip from The Economics of Happiness. Watch it here. It's a brilliant film that was easy to put at the top of our list of the top 100 documentaries we can use to...
The 6 Grand Illusions That Keep Us Enslaved
Sigmund Fraud · 404 views today · For a magician to fool his audience his deceit must go unseen, and to this end he crafts an illusion to avert attention from reality. While the audience is entranced, the...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 366 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Escape! From the Cult of Materialism (2016)
50 min · 350 views today · Does the philosophy of materialism work to destroy our identities, experience, and environment? Join narrator Daphne Ellis on a radical romp through the evidence and decide for...
Dreaming Beyond Capitalism: a Culture Without Fear
Martin Winiecki · 346 views today · In the 1990s an unusual encounter took place in the Ecuadorian Amazon. In plant rituals, shamans of the Achuar, a tribe living in pristine forest that had never been in touch...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Who Controls the Corporate Media Message?