Who Owns the Media? Competition and Concentration in the Mass Media Industry

By Shaver, Mary Alice | Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Winter 2001 | Go to article overview

Who Owns the Media? Competition and Concentration in the Mass Media Industry


Shaver, Mary Alice, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly


Who Owns the Media? Competition and Concentration in the Mass Media Industry. 3d ed. Benjamin M. Compaine and Douglas Gomery. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000.604 pp. $125 hbk. $39.95 pbk.

Since it was first published in 1979, Who Owns the Media? has been an invaluable reference for those in both academia and industry striving to understand the complexity of the continually shifting parameters of media ownership. With its myriad compilations of relevant data and facts concerning mergers, acquisitions, legal rulings and constraints, franchises, audiences, circulations, groups and structure, the book moves through the categories of media from newspapers to online, mapping its overlay of landscapes.

This is not a book to be read quickly nor without attention. While the fledgling scholar of the area may rush quickly to find facts and corroborating evidence to shore up a hypothesis, one of the very real values of the book is the placement of those facts and evidence in context. This is not a statistical abstract. It is true that it presents 143 tables and thirteen figures. It is true that it covers all of the content media-newspapers, books, magazines, television (including broadcast, cable and satellite), radio, the music industry, film, pay TV, and home video and the online information industry-if not all of the possible advertising media. The sheer volume of numbers and facts is impressive and enormously useful in understanding the breadth of the industries. The comparisons to the earlier editions are very useful to an understanding of growth and change. But to use the book in a superficial or merely reference context would be a waste of the importance of what is really presented.

To quote the preface, there are three objectives for the book. As in the first edition, it is "To bring together as much relevant data as feasible on the nature and degree of competition and ownership in the mass media business." Other objectives are to "specifically to identify the owners of media properties" (the value of this is expanded further on in the review) and to make certain that the "noticeable different voices" of the authors are heard. The latter is the reason for two different concluding chapters with differing viewpoints and interpretations of media ownership today.

Each author brings his own expertise to the volume. Hence, Compaine writes of newspapers, magazines, online information companies, and media ownership. Gomery's chapters are on broadcast, the music industry, film, pay TV, and home video. In the first of the individual concluding chapters, Gomery calls for an economic methodology that goes beyond a business model to incorporate a social context of ownership to determine whether media perform well in our society.

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