Who owns the media we consume and the platforms we engage on?

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The media we consume has dramatically changed over the years, and the amount of information readily available is staggering. The past ten years have seen the rise of social media as another method for people to gather world news.

While TV and cable outlets are still in the mix, the internet has given rise to many other forms of news. Now that Elon Musk has purchased Twitter, there has been a conversation concerning billionaires owning such a considerable influence in the public news discussion. With Musk in control, there are concerns that he could mold the narrative and voice of Twitter to align with his views and desires.

But billionaires and billionaire families are not anything new in media ownership. The PressGazette has a piece written by Heidi Legg of Harvard University’s Future of Media project that examines who owns the news in the United States. The article is very revealing and shows that people of great wealth and societal influence own a good portion of the news media in the United States.

The list below is only a portion of what Ms. Legg reveals in her piece, but it gives you a good sense of the ownership of some of our most prominent news outlets. Be sure to check out PressGazette’s article for the complete list of 25 and Ms. Legg’s methodology. You can also find her more extensive list of 125 outlets on Harvard’s website here.

PublisherTop Owners/Investors/DonorsMonthly Views
WikipediaVarious donors, with Google being the top1,700,000,000
FOX/New York PostRupert Murdoch939,850,000
CBSRedstone Family192,000,000
ABCDisney/Robert Iger300,000,000
NBC/MSNBCRoberts Family419,000,000
Washington PostJeff Bezos82,500,000

The table above only lists news outlets and leaves out the owners of social channels; see below. I do not have monthly views for these platforms.

TwitterElon Musk
Facebook/Instagram/Whats AppMark Zuckerberg
TikTokByteDance/Chinese Government has a stake
ParlerKanye West
Truth SocialDonald Trump

Elon Musk Twitter hostile takeover social media

As you can see, the issue of Elon Musk controlling Twitter isn’t new at all. Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, Rupert Murdoch FOX, and the NY Post. These media companies may tell us that the influence of their owners does not play into how they report or construct the news and narratives. But at some point, a conflict of interest has to arise, and if human nature is a tell, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

The question for me is how do we salvage what’s irrefutably valuable in journalism, while we embrace the possibilities of creating anew? Partisan news, a lack of trust in news, the platforms refusing a revenue formula for journalism, and a lack of standards for evidence-based news will become even more problematic as we approach 2024. I prefer knowing who to hold accountable when I read the news, especially when trying to ensure democracy prevails.

Heidi Legg

Unless those with big pockets remove themselves from purchasing media outlets, we will always have varying degrees of the truth. At this point, we must consume news from various outlets and form our conclusions. I admit it is getting harder to do that, and most people seem not to want to bother anymore. That’s how they win.

Carly Hallman has an excellent infographic you could also take a look at.

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