Date: Feature Week of
August 1, 2004
DO AFRICAN AMERICANS FIT PROFILE OF CORPORATE MEDIA?
Isn’t it time Black Americans took a close look at what relationships do we have with today’s giant media corporations? A discussion we need to have more of is: the degree to which a handful of huge corporations control the nation’s flow of information. Whether it’s television, radio, newspapers, magazines, books or the Internet, through complete control of mass media in America, six major corporations determine what we all see, hear and read.
During August, in the largest gathering of media professionals of color in history, UNITY 2004 hosted a conference in Washington, D.C. Organizers of the event, where over 7,000 participants came, say their powerful alliance of Asian, African American, Latino and Native American journalists is coming together to be a “force for change” in media. The minorities UNITY 2004 members represent make up 30 percent of the U.S. population, but constitute only 12.9 percent of newspaper staffs, 16.7 percent of TV stations and just 6.5 percent of radio station personnel. At night UNITY 2004 participants partied at events sponsored big corporate media companies, they say their focus “is on fairness and accuracy in news coverage as well as diversity in America’s newsrooms”.
The background of UNITY 2004’s problem in gaining fairness and accuracy in media is that it is big business. Television is the means by which most Americans get their “news.” In a typical American home, the TV set is on for over 7 hours each day. By age 70, the average American will have watched 7-10 years worth of television. African Americans, and other minorities, rarely see their day-to-day realities reflected on television screens. They should be concerned about what their children see and hear on television, because they learn to accept the stereotypes represented there - over and over again.
A study by the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) found that newsrooms have increased their diversity of employees and “the numbers of minorities in American newspapers continues to grow”. But, beyond just getting jobs and up their corporate ladders, UNITY 2004 participants should use the conference occasion to emphasize to their current or potential, employers how media messages influence and manipulate people of color.
In broadcasting, every major network is owned by a huge conglomerate. Fox News Channel is owned by Rupert Murdoch, a right-wing Australian who already owns a significant portion of the world’s media. His “fair and balanced” network has close ties to the Republican Party. NBC is owned by General Electric (GE). GE one of the largest corporations in the world and has substantial financial interests in weapons manufacturing, finance, nuclear power and other industries. ABC is owned by Disney Corp., which produces toys and products in developing countries where workers have low wages and bad working conditions. CBS is owned by Viacom, a media conglomerate that owns, BET, MTV, Showtime, Nickelodeon, VH1, TNN, CMT, 39 broadcast television stations, 184 radio stations, Paramount Pictures and Blockbuster Inc.
Gannett Co., Inc., which publishes USA Today, is the nation’s most diverse news, information and communications company. A company rich in its diversity of people and communities, Gannett owns TV stations and serves readers and viewers through operations in 43 states and the District of Columbia. The New York Times Company is a media company with revenues exceeding $3.1 billion and includes The New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Boston Globe, and 16 other newspapers, eight network-affiliated television stations, two New York City radio stations and more than 40 Web sites.
Despite the fact that Richard Parsons, an African American, is chairman and CEO of the AOL/Time Warner giant, blacks are still given negative images and employment profiles in media entities his company owns. Like Michael Powell, the African American chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Parson’s identity is more “mainstream” than of a minority seeking to correct the ills of the industry. To date, no matter how many minorities they have, major media news still tends to "ghettoize" African Americans. Blacks appear mostly in crime, sports and entertainment stories and are rarely shown making any important contribution to the serious business of the nation.
While most UNITY 2004 participants are in the employ of mainstream media; let’s pray that as they get more seniority and are able to move up in their companies, they will identify more with the plight of the majority of minorities than their predecessors, and fight racial stereotyping in programming and print media while using their corporate positions to speak up these important social and economic issues.
© 2000-2004 William Reed - www.BlackPressInternational.com