The media industry is a large one, filled with many people and organisations running the business and project output. A large bulk of our media is released by conglomerate companies. Basically conglomerates are when groups of other smaller companies are bought, managed, and do business with one, or more, larger companies. An Avengers team of businesses if you will.
Some examples include 20th Century Fox as they run Fox News; along with National Geographic and Sky. Or other examples being Sony. In the sense that they have a film division, (Sony Pictures) with an animation studio (Sony Animation) and parts of the company that work on their Play Station consoles. As a result, many other well-known companies have been known to be bought by conglomerates. Such as Lucas Films and Marvel Studios being brought by Disney; with many of their properties being now owned by Disney, i.e. the Star Wars franchise, and the numerous characters from Marvel comics. Which has benefited both companies greatly, after those properties were bought, tons of money was then poured into projects such The Avengers and Star Wars the Force Awakens; which had tremendous returns from the box office as a result; with both of them reaching the billion dollar mark. So of course, the point of becoming part of a conglomerate is the profit returns; while being given plenty of exposure through adverting, and even merchandise. Case and point being Sony and the Play Station 4 console. As Sony markets a game that’ll be published on their console, alongside the studio that the game developer is working alongside with. Some developers like Naughty Dog Studios have been known to be backed by Sony for the development of games such as The Last of Us. As for merchandise, this would include DVDs, T-shirts and anything sold under the brand name; such the Harry Potter World attraction, which is owned by Warner Brothers. So the exposure, resources and money given to support does benefit the creators involved, guaranteeing larger returns in profit, usually. But does this make things better for the audiences?
That’s debatable for a few reasons. For one thing, they are limited in terms of choices they have in terms of entertainment. To the point that over 90% of the US media is controlled by six different conglomerates; after being controlled by 50 companies in the 80s. General Electric, News Corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS. All of them produce forms of media such as movies, TV shows etc; as well as license other companies to produce merchandise of said brand. This being done through the smaller companies that they own/ partnered with. The reason why big budget block busters like Batman, Harry Potter and Marvel’s Cinematic Universe get the most advertisement on film news sites and cinema screens, is because the studios pump loads of money into the production, while pumping more money into the advertisement in order to get more people in cinema seats; increasing the box office result. While the idea of producing a million dollar earning blockbuster and spitting the enormous profit with the third parties assisting, it creates problems for the rest of the industry. Why? Because it’s leading small budget productions and their creators having to find lesser known companies to distribute or create a project, because if they can’t get work with the big leagues, then they’re on their own; just ask some no name band starting in their mum’s basement, to maybe getting heard by some big name music executive. That is until they get turned down because to conglomerates, niche audiences are aren’t worth the smaller returns.
In an age where anyone could afford an advanced guitar app or Adobe After Effects, it’s still hard to get hard noticed when you’re a nobody drowned out by the adverts of the brands people know and trust. Thankfully platforms like Netflix and even You Tube have produced many breakout hits on their streaming services. And many film directors, performers and video game developers have used crowd funding sites such as Kick Starter to catapult those creators to success using donations from the public. With games like Mighty No 9 using Kick Starter to fund the game, earning 3 million dollars from online donors; before becoming an example of why crowd funding is looked down by some. But that’s a whole other can of worms for another time. An example of a project crowd funding to then gain success, would be Kung Fury. A parody of 80s action films that started as a crowd funded project meant for You Tube; until gain such a positive response it’s now being hosted on Netflix. Either way, in a world where someone like Justin Bieber can go from a teenager recorded on a crappy camcorder, to a teenager selling out stadium size concerts; many of those creators can get to eventually play with the big leagues after getting more notice and praise through word of mouth. Marc Webb went from directing indie romantic comedies such as 500 Days of Summer, to then direct The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel with Sony Pictures.
From the fictional side of the media, to what is meant to be the factual real world events side. When it comes to the news, the main stream news shows and channels end up getting the wider attention; and given the conglomerates they’re partnered with, more resources. With majority of news coming from channels and sites like ABC, NBC, BBC etc. And News Corp owns some of the top newspapers in the UK, North America and Australia. The Sun, The Times and the Wall Street Times being examples. While many outlets have criticized for producing biased news reports, due to reflecting the believes of the higher-ups in the attempt of gaining the attention of those who share similar world views. Sky and Fox news have been accused of having a pro conservative agenda, like the company’s owner Rupert Murdoch. And in the past two years, other left-wing outlets have recently been accused of being biased against the Trump campaign. The reason for any agenda is that it comes back to money, as Anup Shah explains:
“Often, many media institutions survive on advertising fees, which can lead to the media outlet being influenced by various corporate interests. Other times, the ownership interests may affect what is and is not covered. Stories can end up being biased or omitted so as not to offend advertisers or owners.” Shah. A, Media Conglomerates, Mergers, Concentration of Ownership, Global Issues, 2009.
With limited options often promoting left-wing articles to appeal to younger audiences repeating back what the government wants the world to know; this has opened the door to the fifth estate. Which is defined as news and opinions outside the main stream news sources. This lead to multiple sites like AMC news, Breitbate.com, Wiki Leaks and many others gaining traction in online hits from updates on the latest Hollywood block buster or news on the politics and world events for example. Not only did this produce more voices in the discussion, but more viewpoints. In a media landscape filled with a majority of left-wing new sources, right-wing publications such as Info Wars have gained millions of views during the 2016 present election alone. Hence why said publications are blamed and shamed for the election of president Donald Trump.
So do conglomerates mean a good thing or a bad thing for the viewers of the world media? At this point it’s hard to tell. On the one hand it gives exposure and resources to multiple talents with in the industry, while also being a struggle to the smaller names and new comers in all form of the media industry. Not to mention how getting your name out involves: either the struggle with the tough, but limited choices. Or find the smaller but unknown people to help get your feet of the ground. In other words, for consumers who receive products, as well as the ones hoping to contribute in the industry, it’s a double edge sword.
Thank you for your time.