Commercialism, corporate concentration, conglomeration. These are some of the words that describe media in the US today. After over ten years of corporate mergers between the news and entertainment worlds, a handful of media giants are left standing.
Every major US network is owned by a huge conglomerate. Fox is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who owns a significant chunk of the world’s media. NBC is owned by General Electric, one of the largest corporations in the world. ABC is owned by Disney. CBS is owned by Viacom, which also owns MTV, Showtime, Nickelodeon, 39 broadcast television stations, 184 radio stations, Paramount Pictures and Blockbuster.
Independent media outlets are fighting for their lives. Recently, the only independent radio network in this country fended off a corporate-style takeover. Pacifica Radio emerged out of the years-long battle with a $5 million debt.
Now, Vermont’s only independent station on the FM dial is on the brink of collapse. WGDR is the Goddard College radio station, and the small liberal arts college itself is threatening to close down. Last month, the college decided to eliminate its on-campus residency program for undergraduates due to financial troubles. This came after one vote on the board of trustees saved the college from closing altogether. Twenty-eight college employees were laid off. Two of them were the only two employees of Goddard’s vibrant radio station.
WGDR is facing a July 26th deadline to shut down the station, and Vermont Public Radio and local commercial radio stations are moving in and looking to buy. Vermont Public Radio primarily runs national NPR news and classical music. Only recently did it adopt local programming, but critics say this programming–to put it lightly–is “controversy averse.”
- Ellen Ratner, member of the board of trustees at Goddard College and a Goddard College alumni. She is White House correspondent and bureau chief for the Talk Radio News service. She is also a news analyst at the Fox News Channel. E-mail: email@example.com.
- Michael Colby, board member of the activist group “Friends of WGDR,” and a writer, activist, and publisher. He is the executive director of Food & Water; and publisher of the Food & Water Journal, which looks at food safety.
- Bob McChesney, research professor at the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of “Telecommunications, Mass Media, and Democracy: The Battle for the Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928-35,” “Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times,” and most recently, “It’s the Media, Stupid!”.