In the hands of very few?

In his essay, Global media, neoliberalism & imperialism, McChesney explores how the internet may just be another media system controlled by the very few, as is the case in offline media (explored in this post). He writes:

a word should be said about the Internet, the two-ton gorilla of global media and communication. The Internet is increasingly becoming a part of our media and telecommunication systems, and a genuine technological convergence is taking place. Accordingly, there has been a wave of mergers between traditional media and telecom firms, and by each of these with Internet and computer firms. Already companies like Microsoft, AOL, AT&T and Telefonica have become media players in their own right. It is possible that the global media system is in the process of converging with the telecommunications and computer industries to form an integrated global communication system, where anywhere from six to a dozen supercompanies will rule the roost. The notion that the Internet would “set us free,” and permit anyone to communicate effectively, hence undermining the monopoly power of the corporate media giants, has not transpired. Although the Internet offers extraordinary promise in many regards, it alone cannot slay the power of the media giants. Indeed, no commercially viable media content site has been launched on the Internet, and it would be difficult to find an investor willing to bankroll any additional attempts. To the extent the Internet becomes part of the commercially viable media system, it looks to be under the thumb of the usual corporate suspects.

If McChensy’s analysis holds, if the internet in effect undermines freedom in the pursuit of corporate interests, can it then be said to be neoliberal?

The answer, as always, is complex. Certainly, if independent online media cannot profit then, according to the market-driven principles of neoliberalism, it should not exist. However, many independent online media websites DO exist. Blogs provide numerous examples of this, but many more exist as well. Many of these websites do not profit. What does this show though? Well, firstly it shows that money is not at the bottom line for everyone on the internet, that it isn’t just about making money or commercial viability, going against the grain against neoliberal ideology. But, alongside that, the ability to talk freely is actually open to anybody who is willing to put time and effort into doing so. This self-determination is neoliberal. Nonetheless, what forces this contradiction into certainty is that commercially driven websites are more popular as they have the profits of a corporation behind them to encourage people to visit through advertising and through their market presence.

There is a tension within the ideals of neoliberalism between freedom of speech and a market-driven media system. In effect, it is assumed that if articles are good, they will be read, if not the media outlet in charge of its production can be easily boycotted. Therefore, the best news sources will be read the most and will make the most money. As my earlier post indicated, this assumption is rife with flaws. However, in terms of gathering news on the internet, it is a lot easier to ‘google’, to find other websites to go to if you don’t like the content of one or the other. However, when the media is driven by profits and the bottom line, finding alternatives can be time consuming and difficult. True power to determine what information one reads and the kind of information one gets in terms of bias is very diffiult in the world of offline media. Online, it is much easier to find those alternatives, by doing so you are living to the ideal standards of neoliberalism, you are determining which choice is the best in a wide range of choices you have available to you. But, because alternative websites are usually not comerically viable, you are at the same time evading the market system, thereby undermining neoliberalism. Like I said, it’s complicated.

2 Responses

  1. […] Point C is covered in two earlier posts, here and here. […]

  2. […] is still subject to being part of a hierarchy. I’ve explored this a number of times, here, here, and here. And of course, linking to my previous sub-heading, ideas and people that face […]

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