The rapidly increasing concentration of media ownership in 
the U.S. raises critical questions about whether the public has 
access to diverse opinion. And not surprisingly, the impact of 
this information monopoly continues to be ignored by the mass 
     In 1982, when media expert Ben Bagdikian completed research 
for his book THE MEDIA MONOPOLY, he found that 50 corporations 
controlled half or more of the media business. By December 1986, 
when he finished a revision for a second edition, that figure had 
shrunk to 29 corporations. Six months later, when he wrote an 
article for the media publication EXTRA, the number was down to 
26. Some Wall Street media analysts predict that by the 1990s six 
giant firms will control most of our media.
     Bagdikian notes that of the 1,700 daily papers, 98 percent 
are local monopolies and few than 15 corporations control most of 
the country's circulation. A handful of firms control most of the 
magazine business, with Time, Inc. alone accounting for about 40 
percent of that industry's revenues. The three broadcasting 
networks -- Capital Cities/ABC, CBS, and NBC -- still have 
majority access to the television audience, and most of the book 
business is controlled by fewer than a dozen companies, with major 
categories like paperback and trade books dominated by still fewer 
     The situation is exacerbated by the conflict of interest 
caused by interlocking boards of directors. An earlier study, by 
Peter Dreier and Steven Weinberg, found this phenomenon in major 
newspaper chains like Gannett, which shared directors with Merrill 
Lynch, Standard Oil of Ohio, 20th Century Fox, Kerr-McGee, 
McDonnell Douglas, McGraw-Hill, Eastern Airlines, Phillips 
Petroleum, Kellogg Company, and New York Telephone.
     The most influential newspaper in America, THE NEW YORK 
TIMES, shared directors with Merck, Morgan Guaranty Trust, 
Bristol-Myers, Charter Oil, Johns-Manville, American Express, 
Bethlehem Steel, IBM, Scott Paper, Sun Oil, and First Boston 
     Bagdikian's warning is ominous: "A shrinking number of large 
media corporations now regard monopoly and historic levels of 
profit as not only normal, but as their earned right. In the 
process, the usual democratic expectations for the media -- 
diversity of ownership and ideas -- have disappeared."
Sources: EXTRA!, June 1987, "The 26 corporations that own our 
media," and MULTINATIONAL MONITOR, September 1987, "The Media 
Brokers," both by Ben Bagdikian; UTNE READER, Jan./Feb. 1988, 
"Censorship in publishing," by Lynette Lamb.
From: UTNE READER, September/October 1988, pp. 84-85.