Control & Ownership

Topic one continued……

The more research you do into the media the more you see its all consuming power over society. Without doubt it acts as a secondary socialiser, a place where individuals learn the norms and values of society.

The latest Ofcom report (see link below) offers the most up to date statistics on usage of media types, some of the main highlights can be seen below.



From the above statistics we can assume that most of our opinions about society, institutions and people are based on knowledge obtained second hand through the media. We must therefore question the power the media has in shaping our identities, our opinions and beliefs. More importantly we have to consider the motivation of the providers of the information, is it neutral or filtered. Are we getting an unbiased view. The founder of Wiki Leaks gives an interesting talk about how the media filters information and we the public only know what the media want us to know. Wiki Leaks was set up as an avaneue for publishing the truth, however the ethics of such an unfiltered website is questionable, for example when spies names were published this information put lives at risk.

The formal controls on the UK media are are summarised in the following image.


The government also influence  and control the media output.


Neophilliacs would argue that new media is democratic, that by allowing immediate interaction with sources the new media no longer allows for a top down approach but is now bottom up. This means the information is not just filtered down to audiences but that audiences contribute therefore shape the news. However cultural pessimists would see this as uncensored information, uncensored means no control and no control over what the public is exposed to could lead to anarchic and fake news. Web engines such as google do act as gatekeepers and can censor quickly news and additions to news so from that respect we could say the new media has just as much bias as the old top down old media.

Who own what….

five billionaires own 80% of the UK media’

1. Rupert Murdoch – owner of news international

2. Richard Desmond – was the owner of the Express

3. Viscount Rothermere – owner of the Mail

4. Barclays Brothers – owners of the telegraph

Therefore there is no doubt that the media ownership in the UK is concentrated into a few large companies, and that these same few companies control a wide range of different media. Therefore a large proportion of what we see and hear in the media is filtered by a select few. See the table below for a summary of ownership from 2015.


Trends in ownership and control

Recent trends in media ownership and control suggest that the number of companies controlling global mass media has significantly shrunk in recent years. Bagdikian (2004) notes that in 1983, 50 corporations controlled the vast majority of all news media in the USA, but by 2004 media ownership was concentrated in seven corporations.

Curran (2003) notes that ownership of British newspapers has always been concentrated in the hands of a few powerful ‘press barons’, e.g. in 1937 four men owned nearly one in every two national and local daily newspapers sold in Britain. Today, five powerful individuals dominate the ownership of British national daily and Sunday newspapers.

The content of commercial terrestrial television is mainly controlled by one company, ITV plc, whilst access to satellite, cable and digital television in Britain is generally controlled by two companies – News Corp, (owned by Rupert Murdoch) which owns BSkyB, and Virgin Media (owned by Richard Branson).

The major difference in media ownership and control compared with forty years ago is the movement of media corporations into the global marketplace. The major media companies are now global conglomerations – transnational corporations (TNCs) with a presence in many countries.

Horizontal and vertical integration
Ownership and control of the mass media is a complex business as the following examples illustrate. Some media companies are characterised by horizontal integration or cross media ownership – this refers to the fact that global media corporations often cross media boundaries and invest in a wide range of media products. NewsCorp, for example, owns newspapers, magazines, book publishers, terrestrial and satellite television channels and film studios in several countries.

Some media companies have focused on increasing economic control over all aspects of the production process in order to maximise profits, e.g. film corporations not only make movies, but distribute them to their own cinema chains. This is referred to as vertical integration.

Some media corporations are not content to focus on media products, but have diversified into other fields. The best example of this is Virgin which began as a music label and record shop chain, but has expanded into a wide range of products and services including cola, vodka, banking, insurance, transport, digital television, cinema and wedding dresses.

Media companies often use their very diverse interests to package or synergise their products in several different ways, e.g. a film is often accompanied by a soundtrack album, computer game, ring tone or toy action figures. A company may use its global interests to market one of its own films through its television channels, magazines and newspapers in dozens of countries at the same time.

Technological convergence is a recent trend which involves putting several technologies into one media product. Companies that normally work in quite separate media technology fields are joining up or converging in order to give customers access to a greater range of media services across technologies such as interactive television, lap-tops, MP3 players and mobile phones.

Key words

Secondary socialisation,    Bias,    Libel,    Ofcom,    BBC,    IPSO, Vertical Ownership,    Horizontal ownership,    Conglomerates,    Diversification,    Synergy,     Convergence,