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Media Bias in the World

Updated April 19, 2022
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Media Bias in the World essay

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All over the world, media ownership is a tangled web dominated by a few large media conglomerates who own a variety of mass media enterprises ranging from newspapers to radio stations, television channels and even movie studios. Take the United States for example; here, media ownership is dominated by four players – the Disney Company, Comcast Corp., News Corp, Hearst Corp., Viacom, and CBS Corp. The Disney Company’s portfolio includes the Disney Channel, ABC, ESPN, Marvel Entertainment and Publishing, the movie studios Miramax and Pixar, and more than hundred radio stations. Comcast Corp. portfolio companies include NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, Telemundo, USA Network, Hulu, and Universal Studios. News Corp’s portfolio boasts of Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the Daily News, the New York Post, Harper Collins, and 20TH Century Fox. Hearst Corp. owns the magazines Cosmopolitan and Esquire, and some 31 TV stations. Viacom owns MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, and Paramount Pictures. CBS Corp. owns some 29 TV channels and a 130 radio stations, and 3 book publishers. Between them, these conglomerates decide what is newsworthy, how and when it should be reported, and who gets to read about it. Media acts as a check on political power is what Herman and Chomsky said in their works of the manufacturing consent. Media tells us what the ones in power need them to tell the public. Since the primary motive of the media houses in today’s world is profit, critical journalism is secondary. The company that owns the media firm, is it allowed to have full control over every part of the media system of the firm? How do companies use their domination of ownership on the vertical integration of the companies they own? Does this influence the owning company to create media bias?

The large media houses operate with huge budgets and reach massive audiences. Their impact extends to how their readers and viewers perceive events, and beyond in setting the tone of coverage for outlets with smaller budgets. Because they wield so much influence over such a varied audience, it is but natural that these large media conglomerates present and distribute news in a manner that furthers their own agendas – thus giving rise to media bias. When media bias takes a pollical slant it can have serious consequences. Nowhere was such media bias more pronounced than in the early days of the presidency of Donald Trump. The rest of this essay discusses the media coverage of actions of President Donald Trump to illustrate the impact on the political climate in the United States. Soon after his inauguration, in January of 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order halting refugee admission and temporarily barring people from seven Muslim dominated countries – the ‘Travel Ban’. In subsequent weeks the media coverage of this travel ban by Fox News and MSNBC varied dramatically.

Fox News is one of the major cable news channels in the United States. It was established in 1996, originating in the film and television division of 20TH Century Fox. Fox News is seen to favor a conservative viewpoint on political issues. MSNBC too was formed in 1996 as a collaboration between NBC (National Broadcasting Company) and Microsoft. Overtime, MSNBC grew to be liberal in its views on politics – an antithesis to Fox News. Hannity on Fox News offered extensive coverage of the ‘Travel Ban’. A strong conservative bias influenced how his program presented the travel ban. The program defended the President and presented liberals, democrats, celebrities and Hollywood stars as being out of touch with the real needs of the American people. It argued that the President was within his constitutional jurisdiction in imposing a travel ban aimed at protecting national security. Sean Hannity associated refugees with terrorism, and framed the issue in terms of policies from earlier administrations albeit under vastly different circumstances – specifically President Obama suspending travel for some people from Iraq for a limited time period of six months in the wake of a discovery that two Iraqi refugees living in America at the time were trying to assist Al Qaeda. In so doing, Hannity made it easier for his audience to justify the travel ban. He even went to present officials against the travel ban as ones playing with the safety of the American people. Hannity did not cover the travel ban in an objective manner. However, he is hardly alone in this regard. Other channels had their axe to grind.

Rachel Maddow’s The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC covered the travel ban extensively too, but from a left-wing perspective and contradicting the conservative viewpoint. The program presented this as a “Muslim ban” and not as a travel ban, emphasizing that the ban was based on religion. Where Hannity suggested that the Obama administration was implicated the Obama administration in the creation of the ban, Maddow suggested the opposite – that the ban was not justified especially given the close watch kept on the seven countries by the Obama administration. Hannity made no mention of any public outrage, whereas Maddow spoke about the wide-spread civilian backlash against Trump, and quoted statistics from narrow poll data as if it represented the opinion of the whole country. Maddow argued that executive order was based on a generalization that the Muslim population presented a significant threat to the United States, and labeled it as unconstitutional and discriminatory. She called for an impeachment of President Trump. Much like Hannity, Rachel Maddow too did not present the executive order objectively.

Large media conglomerates reach an enormous and varied audience. Delivering news through a combination of print media, radio stations, television channels and even motion picture studios they dictate what their audience reads and sees. This further sets the tone for what the smaller media outlets then cover. Media conglomerates leverage this multilevel influence to further their agenda, by biasing the preference and presentation of their news in their own favor. Their bias shows up in politics too. The same story can be reported in almost diametrically opposite ways, as shown by the way Fox News and MSNBC reported on President Trump’s executive order. While one anchor presented the story as essential to the security of the people of the United States, another anchor deemed it unconstitutional and went as far as to call for the President to be impeached. Strongly biased reporting from large media houses done by their popular anchors can shape the narrative around a story in a manner far removed from what the main actors might have intended, and this can make or break political careers. Though all this seems like a big conspiracy but it’s just the product of capitalism, there’s no escape. The authority will always hold the power to control and censor. In all of this, how are common people to know what is right and what is not? Only one thing is clear from the current coverage on the news in main stream media – there is a marked decline in the honesty with which newsworthy items are chosen and presented. Media might be engaging democracy in many ways, and viewers and readers should beware.

Media Bias in the World essay

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Media Bias in the World. (2022, Apr 19). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/media-bias-in-the-world/

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