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cross-media ownership

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Media cross-ownership is a situation in which a single corporate entity owns multiple types of media companies. The types of media companies owned may include print, radio, television, movie and internet media sites.

Owning multiple types of media companies allows a single corporation to build cross-linked walled gardens that corral customers and their money to the corporation’s child companies and create an environment of controlled messages. In the United States as of 1985, 90 percent of all media companies were owned by 50 different companies. Through acquisitions of smaller companies by larger ones, 90 percent of media companies are now concentrated under the ownership of just five corporations: Comcast, Time Warner, The Walt Disney Company, News Corp and National Amusements.

Freedom of speech advocates point out that cross-ownership affords massive control of public opinion. Cross-ownership of media can also be anti-competitive, fostering monopolies and slowing innovation by crushing startup competition. Due to these concerns, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reviews rules for media cross-ownership once every four years.

In 2015, the FCC ruled to keep current media cross-ownership rules. Media companies are still prohibited from owning TV, newspaper and/or radio stations within the same market, to the great upset of media giants. The sole exception to the rule is the concession that local media companies may step in to save failing local newspapers. However, media companies claim that action would prove to be too little, too late.

This was last updated in April 2017

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