More and more Media is becoming a prevalent issue in public discourse. The biggest reason for this is the increase in the sheer amount of media that people are exposed to every day. One area of Media that often resists public critique are News Corporations. Only a handful of people control the steady influx of information into the homes of Americans. It would make more sense that a greater diversity of producers would lead to higher quality and more informative news with little bias. However we see few perspectives and fairly low quality news. The ideas of Conflict theory best explain why so few people are controlling massive amounts of information as well as the quality of the news.
One important idea in Conflict theory is that mass media is a way that the ruling class maintains control of the working class. Mass Media “simply disseminate(s) the ideas and world views of the ruling class, and deny or defuse alternative ideas” ( Chandler, 3). If this is true then we would expect to see power over mass media concentrated in the hands of a few individuals that are very wealthy and powerful (the ruling class in present day society takes the form of those with the most wealth). When ownership of news channels, print news media and internet news media are traced back to the individuals that own them we see a very small group of individuals. We actually see eight main corporations that control a vast majority of the media (Grazian, 53). Those that own the news media control what is seen. They use their perspective and values to decide what news is important, what news is shown and how the news is framed and presented. This lack of perspective not only leads to controlling the knowledge of the working class but the media also serves to reproduce “the viewpoints of dominant institutions not as one among a number of alternative perspectives, but as the central and ‘obvious’ or ‘natural’ perspective” (Chandler, 5). This means that the values of the ruling class are exclusively being communicated to those outside of the ruling class. This leads to the views of the ruling class shaping what those outside the ruling class know of the world and what they understand to be truth.
This is something that is very easily demonstrated through the news corporations. The idea that all news is biased is not the dominant ideology of the culture. When bias in news programming is discussed it is with one specific channel compared to another (i.e. New York Times or FOX news) but the truth is that all news is biased due to the few people that control what news is seen. Since this bias is not properly understood as a unit people take the news as fact. If one does not follow the money it would look like the New York Times and FOX news are showing different perspectives on different situations when in reality all of these news stations are communicating the same fundamental values (the value of democracy, the power of the presidency, that America is a nation that enjoys much freedom etc.). Not only do they show similar values but they are owned by the same person, Rupert Murdoch (Grazian, 54). However, because of the appearance of ‘different perspectives’ those that watch the news do not understand that they are actually getting one perspective.
Since so many ‘different’ sources of information are all saying the same thing it is obviously must be true. This leads to the idea that “Cultural hegemony operates at the level of common sense; it is a soft power that quietly engineers consensus around a set of myths that we have come to take for granted” (Grazian, 2010, 61). The implied values (the value of democracy, the freedom Americans experience) are never explicitly stated. The fact that very few people are communicating and controlling these implicit values is never discussed. Because citizens believe that reading and watching multiple news sources means that you will get an overall unbiased, accurate and total picture of current events when this is not true these implicit values are simply accepted as true, common sense and natural.
One distinct aspect of conflict theory is that “values and ideas are seen as weapons used by different groups to advance their own ends rather than as means of defining a whole society’s identity and goals” (Wallace, 1995, 77). This idea is once again demonstrated through the news media especially when one focuses on the coverage of presidential elections. The ‘liberal’ news media and the ‘conservative’ news media outlets go head to head. They demonize the opposition and show why their chosen candidate is better. More interestingly though is how ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ are completely associated with the two dominant political parties (the democrats and republicans) to the point that the phrases are used interchangeably. This collapses down the entire spectrum of political thought into two camps. The idea that any other political parties, let alone candidates, exist is simply not addressed in mass media news outlets. Clearly the Democrats and Republicans do not define America’s identity or their goals or even show the diversity of Americans on the political spectrum. However when you take a look at those who are donating to candidate, who the political system favors, and who controls the news media you see a disturbing amount of overlap. Those that control the news media have a vested interest in keeping third parties out of power as they challenge the dominant power structure in which the present ruling class enjoy much power.
The more technology grows the more dependent Americans become on Technology and the less we feel we are being controlled by the media corporations. It seems a safe assumption that when you can get your information about current events from multiple sources and have it be accurate and overall without bias. However, this is not the case and conflict theory best explains the reality of the situation. Motivated by power and greed, the ruling class construct a reality aimed at pushing implied values that benefit the ruling class. They do this in a subtle and clever way so that it is very easy to ignore and this communicated ideology simply becomes common sense and the correct interpretation of the world.
I wrote this for my class and I decided to put it up on my blog because I like it.