As consumers of various media, have you ever questioned who owns most of the media you come across? With some quick research, you will be able to learn that a lot of the media companies you know belong to the same group of media owners. This phenomenon of media companies falling into the control of fewer individuals and organizations is known as Media Consolidation. We also call it Media Conglomeration or Concentration of Media Ownership. Comcast, The Walt Disney Company, AT&T, and Paramount Pictures are the largest media conglomerates in the world today.
The media industry can be a monopolistic or oligopolistic structure. If it is a monopoly, a single firm dominates a particular industry. Microsoft had an antitrust suit filed against it in 1998, accusing it of monopolistic practices that made it very difficult for users to uninstall Internet Explorer and use any other browser on their computer, monopolizing the personal computer market. Google has also faced lawsuits against its monopoly over all other search engines. Oligopoly, on the other hand, refers to a few firms dominating an industry. When a few firms control the media industry with large-scale companies getting rid of competitors by buying or forcing them out, it is known as media oligopoly. In such an industry structure, a lot of mergers occur. When a media company buys out another company for control of their resources to increase revenue and viewership, it is a media merger.
Many consider the increasing media consolidation to be a threat to media pluralism. As media ownership gets concentrated, it reduces the plurality of political, social and cultural points of view. A lot of these commercially-driven media care more about their advertisers than their viewers. Their focus tends to be on facilitating maximum profits than on public affairs or true journalism. In a lot of cases, powerful corporations have a great influence on mainstream media. In fact, many multinational corporations own media outlets and stations. These media outlets can be greatly affected by various corporate interests. Large media houses also come under attack for their biased political views. Media companies may act biased towards particular political parties and it can affect the content they show the viewers. They may choose to omit or not cover stories and events that can offend their political views, advertisers or owners. This means that there are less diverse voices and opinions available in the media for the general public. The concentration of media ownership thus opposes the opportunity of citizens to make an informed decision and provides fewer opportunities for minorities and others to voice out their opinions.
The well-known American multinational company, Disney or The Walt Disney Company, is one of the largest conglomerates, owning numerous film studios (Walt Disney Pictures and Animation Studios, Pixar, Marvel Studios, Searchlight Pictures, 20th Century Studios), broadcasting networks (ABC Network, Disney Channel, ESPN, National Geographic, FX), streaming services (Disney+, Star+, ESPN+, Hotstar, Hulu), publishing, merchandising, music and theme parks.
In India, Zee Entertainment Enterprises is a large media conglomerate, operating 45 channels worldwide. Its subsidiaries include the film production and distribution studio, Zee Studios, the music label, Zee Music, the news and regional entertainment channel, Zee News, and a Spanish-language Bollywood film channel targeting Latin America, Zee Munda. The company merged with Sony Pictures Network India in September 2021, which itself is a subsidiary of the mass media conglomerate, Sony Pictures Entertainment.