Why Mainstream Media Represents the View of Billionaires … Instead of Average Americans
And you probably won’t hear it from the New York Times, but the largest shareholder of the Times is the sixth wealthiest guy … worth $54.5 billion. He used to be THE richest person, but he’s slipped a little in the rankings.
It’s not just the Post and the Times …
Forbes reported last year:
Billionaires have long exerted influence on the news simply by owning U.S. media outlets.
Some billionaires, like Rupert Murdoch and Michael Bloomberg are longtime media moguls who made their fortunes in the news business. Others, like Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, bought publications as a side investment after building a substantial fortune in another industry. Billionaires own part or all of several of America’s influential national newspapers, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, in addition to magazines, local papers and online publications.
Several other billionaires, including Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and Liberty Media Chairman John Malone, own or control cable TV networks that are powerful but not primarily news focused.
Here’s a look at some of the billionaires who own news media in the United States:
Michael Bloomberg – Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Media
Michael Bloomberg, the richest billionaire in the media business, returned to his eponymous media company in September 2014, eight months after stepping down as mayor of New York City. One notable sign of his influence on the publication: Michael Bloomberg doesn’t appear on Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. FORBES pegs his net worth at $45.7 billion. Bloomberg cofounded his financial data company in 1981 with Charles Zegar and Thomas Secunda, both of whom are now billionaires as well thanks to their minority equity stakes in Bloomberg LP. The company expanded into business news coverage and has more than 2,000 reporters around the world. In 2009, Bloomberg LP bought Business Week magazine from McGraw Hill for a reported $5 million plus assumption of debt.
Rupert Murdoch – News Corp
Rupert Murdoch, former CEO of 21st Century Fox , the parent of powerhouse cable TV channel Fox News, may well be the world’s most powerful media tycoon. He is executive co-chairman of 21st Century Fox with his son Lachlan and is also chairman of News Corp, which owns The Wall Street Journal and other publications. Altogether, his family controls 120 newspapers across five countries. Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal also owns 1e of News Corp, after cutting down his holdings from 6% in early 2015.
Donald and Samuel “Si” Newhouse – Advance Publications
Donald Newhouse and his brother Samuel “Si” Newhouse inherited Advance Publications, a privately-held media company that controls a plethora of newspapers, magazine, cable TV and entertainment assets, from their father. Advance owns newspapers in 25 cities and towns across America and is the country’s largest privately-held newspaper chain. Conde Nast, a unit of Advance Publications, publishes magazines including Wired, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and Vogue. Si stepped down as chairman of Conde Nast in 2015.
Cox Family – Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Cox Enterprises , owned by the billionaire Cox family, counts The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and a number of other daily papers among its many media investments. James Cox, the company founder and grandfather of current chairman Jim Kennedy, bought his first newspaper, the Dayton Ohio Evening News, in 1898. The Cox Media Group Division today owns the Journal-Constitution and six other daily newspapers, more than a dozen non-daily publications, 14 broadcast television stations, one local cable channel and 59 radio stations.
John Henry – The Boston Globe
Billionaire Red Sox owner John Henry purchased the Boston Globe in October 2013 for $70 million. Henry agreed to purchase the Globe just days after Bezos acquired the Washington Post. The Globe was previously owned by the New York Times for twenty years. At the time of his purchase, Henry said he didn’t plan to influence the paper’s sports coverage.
Sheldon Adelson – The Las Vegas Review-Journal
In December 2014, Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson secretly bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The newspaper’s own reporting outed the billionaire buyer, who reportedly arranged the $140 million deal through his son-in-law. Since then, there have been reports of Adelson influencing coverage of himself at a newspaper that in the past was often critical of the billionaire.
Joe Mansueto – Inc. and Fast Company magazines
Morningstar CEO Joe Mansueto made his $2.3 billion fortune at the investment and research firm he founded in 1984. One month after taking Morningstar public in 2005, Mansueto bought Inc. and Fast Company magazine from G&J USA. In a statement at the time, he wrote, “I wasn’t looking to buy a magazine. Or two, for that matter….I bought them because I’m passionate about their missions. Their past, present, and future contributions.”
Mortimer Zuckerman – US News & World Report, New York Daily News
Real estate billionaire Mortimer Zuckerman is the owner of both US News & World Report and the New York Daily News. Zuckerman serves as chairman and editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report, which he bought in 1984. In the years since, US News & World Report has made a name for itself with its lucrative rankings, including Best Colleges, Best Graduate School and Best Hospitals lists. Zuckerman bought the Daily News out of bankruptcy in 1993 and unsuccessfully tried to sell the tabloid newspaper for six months in 2015.
Barbey family – Village Voice
In October 2015, investor Peter Barbey bought the Village Voice, a New York City alternative weekly, through his investment company Black Walnut Holdings LLC for an undisclosed price. Barbey is a member of the billionaire Barbey family, which made its fortune in textiles and manufacturing. In 1989, John Barbey started the Reading Globe and Mitten Manufacturing Company in Pennsylvania. His son J.E. Barbey took the company, which was then known as Vanity Fair Silk Mills, public in 1951 and the family still owns nearly 20% of the company. The family has also owned a local Pennsylvania paper, The Reading Eagle, for generations.
Stanley Hubbard – Hubbard Broadcasting
Media mogul Stanley Hubbard is CEO of Hubbard Broadcasting, which has 13 TV stations, including a number of ABC and NBC news affiliates in the Midwest, and 48 radio stations. In August, Hubbard bought a stake in PodcastOne, a one-stop shop app for podcasts, through Hubbard Broadcasting. Media runs in Hubbard’s family; his father started Minnesota’s first commercial TV station in 1923.
Patrick Soon-Shiong – Tribune Publishing Co.
On May 23, Tribune Publishing Co. announced that L.A. doctor and pharmaceutical billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong’s Nant Capital was investing $70.5 million into the media company, making Soon-Shiong the second-largest shareholder. He is now the vice chairman of the media company, which owns papers like The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune. In an interview with CNBC, Soon-Shiong described his investment as an “opportunity to actually transform this newspaper world into this next generation.” In 2014, Tribune Publishing Co. was spun out of Tribune Company , which changed its name to Tribune Media Co. Tribune Co. had previously been owned by billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell, who took control of Tribune Co. in 2007. Less than a year later, the company went bankrupt. Four years later, Tribune Co. emerged from bankruptcy after being bought by Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo, Gordon & Co and JPMorgan Chase.
Warren Buffett – regional daily papers
Warren Buffett, as CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has invested in a number of small newspapers and owns about 70 dailies today. In 2012, Berkshire Hathaway acquired 63 daily newspapers and weeklies in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama from Media General for $142 million.
Viktor Vekselberg – Gawker
Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg’s investment arm, Columbus Nova Technology Partners, bought a minority stake in Gawker in January 2016 for an undisclosed amount. The online media company took outside funding for the first time in anticipation of legal fees incurred by a lawsuit brought by wrestler Hulk Hogan, according to a leaked memo from Gawker founder Nick Denton. Hogan sued Gawker after it published a sex tape. In March a jury awarded Hogan $140 million in damages. Gawker aims to appeal the ruling.
Even the New York Times notes:
[There is] an aggressive bid by the very wealthy to control the American news media at a time when it is in a financially weakened state, struggling to maintain its footing on the electronic frontier’s unstable terrain.
Billionaires do not become billionaires by being passive about their own interests. In other instances, once wealthy individuals are involved, those interests can appear to take over.
And long before Mr. Murdoch, there was one William Randolph Hearst, who defined what it meant to be a media mogul.
Noam Chomsky points out that big status quo-loving corporations own the media, cater to other big status quo-loving advertisers, and filter out stories which question the status quo. Extreme media consolidation has made the problem worse than ever before. And see this.
Thing have only gotten worse since this chart was prepared in 2004:
And Matt Stoller points out that monopolization is the problem behind “fake news”.
Is it any wonder that the mainstream corporate media reflects the views of the oligarchs, and not average Americans?