News Media Ownership

March 11, 1977

Report Outline
Concentration of News Ownership
Areas of Government Involvement
Communications Industry Outlook
Special Focus

Concentration of News Ownership

Recent Newspaper Mergers and Acquistions

Freedom of the press is a principle considered essential to the basic framework of American society. Concomitant with this ideal is the belief that a free press is fostered best by diversity of news ownership. E. B. White, the writer, expressed this belief most eloquently last year in a letter to the Xerox Corp., protesting the company's sponsorship of an article in Esquire magazine. “As long as there are many owners, each pursuing his own brand of truth, we the people have the opportunity to arrive at the truth and to dwell in its light,” White wrote. “…It's only when there are few owners…that the truth becomes elusive and the light fails.”

White's words carry a great deal of force as an ideology, and most journalists would hold them to be true. On a more practical level, however, they run head on into a hard reality: it takes money to operate a newspaper or broadcasting station, and money is something the big newspaper groups and other media conglomerates have. The image of family-owned, independently run newspapers, spread out across the country, is fading fast.

The increasing concentration of media ownership is raising new and important questions about the future of news dispersal in the United States. How much competition is required to ensure a forum for unbiased journalism? Should the First Amendment be invoked by the government to prevent monopolization of the airwaves and newsprint? Would such action be a violation of the First Amendment rights of the press? At what point does concentration of media ownership pose a threat to the free flow of ideas? Some news organizations are into both publishing and broadcasting, and even have branched out into unrelated businesses to strengthen their economic position.

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