Corporate Ownership of News Sources

Here’s an interesting and very rare story about the problems workers have when trying to organize a union. This story covered a June 20 Senate heading on obstacles workers encounter when trying to organize unions. Rather than get into the specifics of the story, I want to get into why this is a story that you just don’t see on TV, hear about on the radio or read about in your newspaper. (Did you know that the Senate was holding hearings on union organizing? Did you hear even a mention of this anywhere? Did you know that in 1998 24,000 workers were fired for trying to organize unions, even though it is illegal to fire someone for trying to form a union?)

I propose a simple test of how much of what we see and hear as “news” has shifted toward the pro-corporate perspective: How many stories about unions and working people do you see, hear and read in the news media?

We need to recognize just how pervasive corporate control of news issues has become. When discussing the idea that corporations are controlling what you see and hear in the news, ask how many stories cover unions, union organizing, workers rights or other similar topics? Anyone would have to admit that these are very rare stories. Compare the amount of coverage of worker issues with the coverage of business issues in the news, stories about what different companies are doing, their products, etc. Certainly most of the people watching the news are working people, as are most of the people in the country. There are between 16 and 17 million union members in the U.S. That is 14% of all wage and salary workers. How does this compare to the Christian Coalition (2.8M)? The NRA (4M)? U.S. Chamber of Commerce (3M)? But which do you see represented on news shows? Whose spokespeople do you see talking?

The media used to cover these stories. Radio and TV stations used to be required to cover stories of concern to working people in exchange for getting their licenses. Reagan managed to get this requirement pulled, and the Democrats have not worked to restore public control over the public airwaves. As a result there has been a major change in what is discussed. The change has happened gradually so it hasn’t jumped out at us, but if you think back there used to be quite a bit of coverage of stories important to regular working people, and stories about workers and their issues.

It would seem that restoring the Fairness Doctrine would be the #1 issue for Democrats for their own career interests as well as the interest of the working people they say they represent!