Our Unconsolidated Media

The liberal opposition to media consolidation has always struck me as puzzling. The ACLU, for example, worries that "Six major companies control most of the media in the country, including the most popular sites on the Internet." But that list of six companies doesn't include Google, Microsoft, or Yahoo -- surely influential internet players. And if the concern here is about the health of our democracy (which I take it it is) then I don't think one would one want to deny that The New York Times (owned by the New York Times, Co.) or The Washington Post and Newsweek (owned by the Washington Post Company) are significant media outlets that remain outside the grasp of the Big Six. And, of course, other, lesser newspaper companies like the Tribune Company (Chicago Tribune, LA Times) and Gannett (USA Today) are also outside the Big Six.

But if you ignore newspapers in favor of a single-minded focus on television, then you'll find that things are, indeed, pretty consolidated but they're a good deal less consolidated than they were when NBC, ABC, and CBS were the only players in town. Meanwhile, there are the public broadcasters (NPR and PBS) and thanks to the internet the opportunity to enjoy foreign media outlets, etc. In terms of reasons people might not be all that well-informed, the fact that folks are too busy to follow the news closely or otherwise disinclined to do so strikes me as a way larger factor than any alleged consolidation problem. A person with cable and an internet connection in 2008 has access to a far more diverse set of information sources than did a person in 1988 or 1968.

The ACLU is, however, totally right about torture so they still bat a good average.