Opinion: Media conglomerates wield too much influence and reduce diversity

Companies such as Disney and Comcast do more than control the market. They strangle it.


Peyton Downing, Columnist

Whether it’s the newest Netflix special, local news, or the latest blockbuster to hit theaters — everyone watches something. And with current trends, those might be all anyone gets to watch.

Personally, I like smaller media. Things that are at least somewhat niche and have a specific taste in mind when being made. Hereditary was something I absolutely adored watching with my friends in a dark room one night. In the box office, it made a modest $80 million off of its $10 million budget. A well-deserved return, but nothing in the eyes of The Avengers or Star Wars series.

Unfortunately, it may be some time before we see a movie of similar caliber coming out of the studio that made it, A24. It’s an indie studio that signed a contract deal with Apple to produce several movies which may be available only on Apple’s streaming service.

And that’s just not news anymore.

It’s small compared to the scale of other companies that are gobbling up portions of the media industry. The Big Six — Disney, National Amusements, Comcast, Sony, TimeWarner, and NewCorps — have a total $430 billion in assets.

The scariest part? That information isn’t even up to date. These companies have gotten increasingly larger over the years, and continue to expand their hold. Disney recently bought out 21st Century Fox, adding it to its already expansive empire.

These aren’t just TV shows and movies they’re making either. These companies produce everything — news included. Sinclair Broadcasting Group is an incredibly biased news company that owns a massive proportion of local news outlets. While its most recent attempt to merge with Tribune Media fell apart, that doesn’t mean Sinclair will not try to expand further.

The power to shape public opinion has been handed over to a small selection of people.

The obvious concern about these media conglomerates is they’re simply too big. With people consuming up to 12 hours of media per day, these corporations are being handed an inordinate amount of power over how we view our world.

The power to shape public opinion has been handed over to a small selection of people.

If necessary, these outlets could have a blackout on certain information they don’t want in the public eye. They could produce misleading graphics, purposely obfuscate events, and outright lie.

And what would be the answer? Take your viewership somewhere else? Too bad, they own the competition, too.

These corporations are becoming too big to fail. It seems impossible that Comcast, Disney, and their peers could ever go bankrupt. It would take a very long string of idiotic decisions for them to collapse, and even then their subsidiaries would simply be bought out by the other big corporations.

That being said, there is still some consumer choice and action to be taken. Supporting smaller films in theaters, local indie scenes, and online podcasts go a long way.

While Disney might not care about the $5 it gets from you going to see The Avengers for a fourth time, that ticket could mean a lot more to smaller film producers. While a Sinclair station might not care if it loses your viewership, an independent news podcaster can get far on a few viewers.

And maybe, instead of buying all the streaming services out there, pool your money together with your roommates or family. There’s no need to spend $30 when you could spend $5.

It’s a dark time ahead of us as far as our media is concerned. Every dollar we spend means something — it’s up to us to ensure it means an independent and healthy diversity remains instead of surrendering to massive conglomerates.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.