Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Media Consolidations: Do They Corrupt News Reporting?

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Media Consolidations: Do They Corrupt News Reporting?

Article excerpt

For critics of the media, Walt Disney's corruption of ABC began two months ago with a show about the cartoon Quasimodo.

ABC, which is now an outpost of the Disney empire, broadcast a special on the making of The Hunchback of Notre Dame to coincide with the release of the animated Disney film.

Several television stations owned by ABC also covered -- as news - - a gala celebration that Disney threw for the movie in New Orleans.

Pretty tacky, but, for now at least, the jury's still out on whether feverish consolidation in the media business corrupts the news in any systematic way.

There is only "some anecdotal evidence that when news organizations have a self-interest at stake, they tend not to behave well," says Robert G. Picard, a professor of communications at California State University at Fullerton.

The more pressing problem, many industry watchers say, is not compromised news but compromised news distribution -- be it over radio, on television or via satellite -- in an era that was supposed to usher in an explosion of media choices.

"The gigantic scale and worldwide reach of these companies inevitably reduce the number of voices," said Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media studies at Johns Hopkins University. "The question one should ask is: What on earth does this have to do with viewer choice?"

Consider cable television, focus of much of the ballyhoo in recent years about 500 channels. Prompted by the success of Cable News Network, NBC and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. are both trying to start 24-hour news channels.

NBC recently introduced its service, MSNBC, which is a joint venture with the Microsoft Corp., while Murdoch plans to roll out his Fox News Channel in October.

They want to be players, but somebody else controls the ball field. Time Warner's pending merger with CNN's parent company, Turner Broadcasting System, would give the new conglomerate effective control over access to 40 percent of American households with cable TV. …

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