Conglomerates and the Media

By Picard, Robert G. | Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Autumn 1998 | Go to article overview

Conglomerates and the Media


Picard, Robert G., Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly


Conglomerates and the Media. Erik Barnouw, et al. Introduction by Todd Gitlin. New York: The New Press, 1997. 191 pp. $23.

The issues raised by the increasing conglomeratization of communications ownership are critical to understanding media, their behavior, and their effects, so this book could be expected to provide significant insight into those issues and problems. Unfortunately, it does not.

Based on a lecture series held at New York University in 1996, this book is a collection of separate presentations on conglomerates and media that are full of rhetoric but offer little except anecdotal evidence whose generalizability is questionable.

The authors, well-known cultural and communication critics and journalists including Todd Gitlin, Patricia Aufderheide, Thomas Frank, Mark Crispin Miller, and Thomas Schatz, revisit the traditional criticisms of commercial and for-profit media firms but add nothing new and little new perspective. This book can serve as a shallow introduction for those not acquainted with that criticism, but it provides little substance to others.

This is not to say that criticism of the cultural effects of conglomerates is unnecessary or inappropriate, only that this presentation misses the mark as a scholarly contribution because of its presentation-based structure and anecdotal approach.

Another difficulty with this book comes from the narrowness of its view of conglomerates and media. Not a single economic or business scholar is among the contributors. The arguments are based primarily on opinion and traditional frames of reference in cultural criticism. The economics, financing, business strategies, and operational policies of media are thus handled with such little understanding that readers walk away with no real perception of the real workings and effects of those pressures on media today.

Although the book tells us that culture and discourse are affected by the views conveyed and omitted by the media, it engages in its own framing of the issues by the same practices. …

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