Death to Media Monopolies

I have consumed a generous share of news articles and academic papers that have proposed the dawn of a new day in the practice of journalism. This ‘dawn’ is reminiscent of the perception that traditional media is fast losing ground to new media, hence signifying the death of the media mogul (not literally of course).

In early 2011, Neiman Journalism Lab (of Harvard University), published an article on Predictions for Journalism 2011. The list below contains some of the responses culled from various Neiman authors:

  • E-book battles
  • Paywall successes (a paywall refers to the system whereby news organisations set up monetary payment plans for their online content)
  • Better curation on Twitter
  • SmartPhone growth
  • In-car app stores
  • Success for Xinhua & Social Media
  • Continued pull of the open web
  • More digital convergence

One influential theme widely cuts across the list – the Internet. In every voice, there is the undertone of certainty that the Internet is here to kick out the power of traditional media, especially media monopolies.

See this 2009 article by John Gapper of Financial Times, The Death of the Media Mogul. Gapper drove home his point using farther from the truth, considering the present turn of events.

The phone-hacking scandal has rocked the Murdoch empire to its depth. Media colleagues have been quick to snap on his quote where he described this trying moment as “the most humble day of my life” .

Today, The Economist published an article, Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation: Last of the Moguls. The opening line of the article reads, “It hardly seemed possible that the man had held sway over politics and media for so long…” It then went on to categorically state that, “The internet is undermining the dominance of mass media and handing power to start-ups, bloggers and companies like Google and Yahoo! for whom news is a peripheral business, not a consuming passion.”

I understand this statement to mean that the ‘new (media) moguls’ are not interested in monopolies to hold sway/control over political cum social sphere. Rather, for them, it is purely business – Google for instance, is so business minded that  McMillan had to ask if Google was after the MOON, lol.

How well this new system serves democracy is another debate I would  like to engage in with you.

I asked this question on Twitter and Facebook;

Would the death of media monopolies automatically translate into better democracies?

The reactions I garnered were stunning, and I wish to get more from you as well.

Joachim on Twitter said, the death of media monopolies would certainly help, but there is need for a 5th estate of the realm. I found this an interesting reaction because it meant the watcher(media as 4th estate) would become the watchee (checked by the 5th estate). And I wondered what would happen if the 5th estate (whatever group that would represent) failed as well and needed a 6th estate 🙂

On Facebook, the reactions went thus:

Eze: Me think it might translate to better democracies. Media monopoly breeds information claustraphobia which in itself is anti democracy, MY thinking… Monopoly in context of media ownership/control breeds information capitalism, few voices become opinion leaders, they control the flow of thought and reasoning which is against the tenets of democracy, mass participation

Mykey: The death of media monopolies would not guarantee better democracy. It would develop to new democratic tricks by government and the so called media houses. The fourth estate should not lose its beautiful position in the scheme of things…What is democracy? DO we understand the meaning of democracy? Is democracy an African thing? What we deserve is a system of government that suites our people. We must not copy what other people are practicing or what they think is right for us to adopt. Unfortunately though, when you don’t practice the so called “democracy” then you are termed as a failed state or otherwise.

What do you say? End of Media Monopolies = Better Democracy – Yes or No?


Media Junkie

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2 thoughts on “Death to Media Monopolies

  1. good stuff. things will change even more as the years go by. i don’t think we’ll need more than 5 estates though. 🙂

  2. Jen Poet says:

    Yeah… democracy thrives in a free society, and a free society is birthed by a free press…. me think…. great post by the way! keep it up!!

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