Noam Chomsky: Media Ownership Democracy Threat

Noam Chomsky:  Media Ownership Democracy Threat


“It’s the Sun Wot Won It.” On April 11th, 1992, the day after the UK
General Election, The Sun newspaper ran its notorious headline, claiming to have tipped
the electorate to the Conservative Party. Although the paper’s owner, Rupert Murdoch,
later said that “the media does not have this kind of power”, the headline articulates
a central question in social science: do print media exert a significant impact on political
attitudes and elect-ter-ral electoral outcomes and, if so, how? To examine this question, The University of
Oxford and The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine drew on a rare quasi-natural experiment
that occurred when The Sun, a right-leaning UK tabloid, owned by News Corp, shifted its
support to the Labour party in 1997 and back to the Conservative party in 2010. In their 2015 research paper titled, “‘It’s
The Sun Wot Won It’”, which is linked in the description page below, they compared
changes in party identification and political attitudes among Sun readers with non-readers
and other newspaper readerships. The researchers estimate that in 1997 there
was a 7.43 percentage point increase in support for Labour over and above the trend. In 2010, The Sun’s endorsement of the Conservatives
increased support by 14.7% percentage points. Their analysis of the quasi-natural experiment
revealed three important findings. First, The Sun can substantially influence
party preferences among some of its readers. Second, although there were changes in party
preference, there was no corresponding change in political attitudes. Third, these effect sizes were substantial;
media endorsements were associated with a 2% increase in the share of the popular vote
for the party supported by The Sun. The magnitude of these changes, about 2% of
the popular vote, would have been unable to alter the outcome of the 1997 General Election,
but may have affected the 2010 Election, the researchers claim. Interestingly before the 1997 campaign, Blair
actively courted Murdoch’s support; meeting with Murdoch privately on numerous occasions
and publicly advocated policies favourable to Murdoch, but contrary to previous Labour
Party manifestos. After being elected, the Labour leader clearly
backed Murdoch’s interests, attacking, for example, an “anti-Murdoch amendment to the
Competition Bill” which the Labour party espoused and removing ‘Clause 4’ from
their manifesto. Blair and Murdoch became such good friends
that Blair became the godparent of one of Murdoch’s daughters Murdoch has regularly maintained close relationships
with politicians, including Thatcher, Cameron and May. Theresa May, herself, had a secret meeting
with him in 2016 and refuses to disclose a full account of the encounter. This shift of the Sun was exogenous for the
readers because it was principally determined by Murdoch and occurred over a relatively
short period of time. His decision was against the wishes of The
Sun’s surprised editorial board, who all favoured the Conservative candidate John Major. Stuart Higgins, The Sun’s editor at the time,
noted that this change occurred over a relatively short period of time in the build-up to the
election in 1997 and had not been planned in advance. Murdoch was unlikely to be responding to reader’s
preferences because their support for Labour had begun declining after 1995. In 1997 voters changed their political party
preferences based on an endorsement rather than new information about policy. Readers of The Sun were more likely than both
non-readers and readers of other newspapers to feel closer to the Labour party after The
Sun endorsed Labour in 1997. The same pattern occurred, but in reverse,
in association with the 2010 endorsement of the Conservative Party according to the researchers. This type of study has been repeated, voters
who were aware of celebrity endorsements, such as Oprah’s endorsement of Obama in the
2008 US elections, were more likely to vote for endorsed candidates than those who are
not aware. A link to that research paper is in the description
box too, however I will not cover that further in this video. Some positive outcome of the research is that
the persuasiveness of the media tends to be reduced when recipients are politically knowledgeable
and have strong and crystallised opinions about not just the content but, importantly,
the source of the message. That is why I am making this video. It also interesting to note here, that Russian
involvement in the meddling of elections has been pushed onto the national agenda while
researched and proven corporate meddling in the elections goes largely undocumented, because
who would publish that? The News Corp board of governors is made up
of Kelly Ayotte a former US senator, José María Aznar, former president of Spain, Álvaro
Uribe Former president of Columbia, Sir Rod Eddington, current chair of Infrastructure
Australia and Joel Klein, former chancellor of New York Education board, Klein fired Columbia
University professor Rashid Khalidi from the teacher training program, reportedly because
of Khalidi’s political views., After Klein left his job as chancellor to work at the
News Corp., a company owned by the News Corp. got a contract for nearly $10 million to manage
the new york education IT system. Subsequent News Corp. contracts were worth
millions more. Klein denied a conflict of interest. This is not a complete list but shows that
the board has a lot of political background. Many sit on boards of other corporations too,
causing yet more conflict of interest. In addition, the centralisation of media ownership
matters because of its potential to limit freedom of expression. Whoever owns the media owns the message. That is not to say proprietors always wish
to control the message, but they can limit public discussion at times when they have
an interest in particular public issues. Just keeping the focus on Rupert Murdoch,
but I will make similar arguments against the BBC soon. Let’s look what Murdoch said about Breixt,
Murdoch is anti-EU, but not for the reason why many Brexiteers may be for Brexit. Anthony Hilton at the Evening Standard once
asked Murdoch why he was anti-EU. “‘That’s easy,’ [Murdoch] replied and I quote. ‘When I go into Downing Street they do what
I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.'” end quote Now, weather you think Brexit is good or not,
you hopefully agree that the media should report the facts and not protect the interests
of its owner. However we should not just attack the private
business, the pubic funded BBC also recently showed one of the most flagrant examples of
media bias in the U.K. with regard its Brexit coverage. As a state broadcaster, the BBC is funded
by the taxpayer and therefore is expected to be unbiased. However, the outlet has been proven by several
studies to be biased in its reportage. A report by Citivas in conjunction with News-Watch,
linked in the description, monitored Radio 4’s flagship Today programme between 2005
and 2015 and found that only 3.2% of the guests had Euroskeptic views when discussing the
EU, in addition in the BBC EU coverage between 2002 and 2017, only 14 speakers (0.2 per cent
of the total) were left-wing advocates for leaving the EU, even today many people assocuíate
Brexit with purely right wing ideology and news covering the six months after the EU
referendum, only 10 (2.9 per cent) of 366 speaker contributions were from supporters
of withdrawal from the EU. Another study, by the Institute of Economic
Affairs, also linked, found in BBC flagship programs, from June 2016 to December 2017,
that: and I quote “The imbalance on the two programmes is
substantial, consistent and at odds with public opinion. The analysis reveals a two to one bias in
favour of those who voted for Remain.” end quote Not only that, but the BBC’s international
charity arm, BBC Media Action, actually accepted 2 million pounds in funding from the E.U.
in 2014-15 — the lead up to the Brexit referendum — while still claiming it wouldn’t impact
their referendum coverage. A detailed study by Professor Justin Lewis
at Cardiff University of peak-time television news bulletins during the course of the Iraq
war, link to the Guardian article below, showed that the BBC was more reliant than any of
its rivals on government and military sources. Over the three weeks of conflict, 11% of the
sources quoted by the BBC were of coalition government or military origin, the highest
proportion of all the main television broadcasters. The BBC was the least likely to quote official
Iraqi sources, and less likely than Sky, ITV or Channel 4 News to use independent (and
often sceptical) sources such as the Red Cross. The study found the BBC placed least emphasis
on Iraqi casualties, which were mentioned in 22% of its stories about the Iraqi people. Casualties received most prominence on Channel
4 News, figuring in 40% of its reports about Iraqis. The corporation was least likely to report
on the unhappiness of Iraqis about the invasion. A second study was carried out by the Media
Tenor group for the German newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung which looked at broadcasters
in five countries. Their findings revealed that the BBC gave
less airtime to dissenting views than any other broadcaster with 2% of airtime given
over to dissenting views, lower even than the US broadcaster ABC which featured 7%. A look at the BBC governors may reveal why
it is pro-government, here are some names, Director-General of the BBC Tony Hall life
peer in the house of Lords and crossbencher, Tanni-Grey Thomson life peer in the house
of Lords and crossbencher, James Purnell, former labour politician. A few others have close links with the government,
for example, the chairman Sir David Cecil Clementi, former governor to the Bank of England
and ex-adviser to Baron Falconer of Thoroton. The problem here is that the media no longer
informs people. Yes two sides of the view are given but highly
biased in their content, which leaves the average electriate uninformed and biased. Noam Chomsky sums this situation up nicely. And I quote “The public relations industry,
which essentially runs the elections, is applying certain principles to undermine democracy
which are the same as the principles that applies to undermine markets. The last thing that business wants is markets
in the sense of economic theory. Take a course in economics, they tell you
a market is based on informed consumers making rational choices. Anyone who’s ever looked at a TV ad knows
that’s not true. In fact if we had a market system, an ad say
for General Motors would be a brief statement of the characteristics of the products for
next year. That’s not what you see. You see some movie actress or a football hero
or somebody driving a car up a mountain or something like that. And that’s true of all advertising. The goal is to undermine markets by creating
uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices and the business world spends huge
efforts on that. The same is true when the same industry, the
PR industry, turns to undermining democracy. It wants to construct elections in which uninformed
voters will make irrational choices. It’s pretty reasonable and it’s so evident
you can hardly miss it.” The point I am finally getting to is that
media is a business when in the private hands, it sells advertisements not information. Google works on the same principle, we use
it for free but its a multi-billion dollar business. When in government hands it can become a tool
to support the government. If you think the BBC is left wing, it is not,
just look at how they treat Jeremy Corbin, it’s pro-establishment. Also Google around, there are many articles
which say its right wing, others that its left. I think it does what’s in the government’s
interest, right or left. Hopefully by being more aware of the ownership
and the inherent bias that brings, this propaganda filter becomes weaker. In my next video, I’ll talk about another
propaganda filter, advertisements.

5 Comments on "Noam Chomsky: Media Ownership Democracy Threat"


  1. How Media ownership affects what message the media gives. One part of the propaganda model to take into account when assessing the view being given.

    Reply

  2. I recall there being a sports competion and a royal event in the weeks lead up to the brexit referendum, im sure that had no significant effect but still adds to the overall psy op, just a point no one seems to have picked up on.

    Reply

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