What about the little people?

Column by Allison Borthwick, Opinion Editor

I recently wrote a paper for my mass communications law class about minority ownership of media – or, rather, the lack thereof.

Unfortunately, this is one of those things some people, including myself, are blind to unless it’s pointed out to them.

It’s like when you buy a new car and suddenly you can’t stop seeing it when you’re out on the road.

Or like when you pick a random position paper topic and suddenly can’t stop seeing the same dialogue on every news channel you turn to on TV.

There’s a good, scary reason for this. Five, count them five, companies own approximately 90 percent of all media. To be more specific, Time Warner, Comcast, Disney, News Corp and Viacom control 90 percent of all newspapers, magazines, radio, TV and web content.

The main issue, as there are many, of a few big people owning what everyone sees and hears is that the voices and interests of the little people get lost. Local news becomes national news in disguise and the public interest is neglected.

Local news becoming national news can definitely be a good thing, don’t get me wrong.

People need to know about situations like what happened in Ferguson and, most recently, Baltimore. The voices of those affected and concerned in these areas of the United States need to be heard.

But what about the other voices talking about similar, heartbreaking issues?

What about the lives lost and the struggles fought in places that didn’t, and likely won’t, garner national or even local attention because they can’t capture the narrowly-tailored focus of five big corporations?

According to the website of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), they admit that, “allowing major broadcasters to tie up stations as sidecars made it harder for truly independent would-be broadcasters to compete to buy available stations” but that they “look forward to the continued expansion of minority ownership of broadcast stations and invite the participation of all stakeholders in working toward this goal.”

Is “looking forward to it” good enough, though?

No. The media need to have strict rules and guidelines in place so more than five corporate voices can be heard.

What happens when these national corporations continue to push out news without knowing the whole, local truth?

“If a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets its pants on, imagine what bloggers in pajamas can do,” said Ruth Marcus, columnist for the Washington Post.

Gullible is not the word that I would use to describe people who believe what they see the instant that they see it. I would describe these individuals as overly eager and vastly misinformed.

Bottom line: the public interest needs to be served.

I agree wholeheartedly with this statement in an article on CivilRights.org that reads, “The struggle for a media that presents the breadth and diversity of the experience of all Americans is one of extremely high stakes.”