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The following are just a small set of examples of corporate influence in the media, on issues that have been highlighted elsewhere on this web site. This section cannot aim to be comprehensive as there are so many examples! Therefore, some different types of examples are introduced here. However, over time, more will be added.
Influence on Media Coverage of the Kyoto Conference
During the Kyoto Climate Protocol Conference, large industries who could be affected by environmental legislation were able to influence the outcome, using the media to its best advantage. The Global Warming6 section on this web site has more information.
Chiquita, a company directly influencing USA to commit to a Banana Trade War7 had a damning media report about its terrible working practices and illegal activities such as bribery, tax evasion, violence towards some workers and even killings 8. Yet, the sensation wasn't that Chiquita was so unfair in its methods, but more that the reporter that investigated this apparently stole some information from internal Chiquita voicemails. The paper then retracted the story after huge pressure from Chiquita, an advertising customer, and denounced the report for three days on it's front page! Its truly amazing that while the reporter gets all the stick from everyone, the real villain9 is still at large!
McDonald's has also come under scrutiny for similar reasons. The Corporations section10 on this web site has more information on this.
Monsanto and others are trying to heavily promote (prematurely, which is where a lot of the problem also lies) genetically engineered (GE) or Genetically Modified (GM) food as the way to solve world hunger. What is not acknowledged is that food shortage around the world is more of a political problem11. GE food may be a good alternative in the future after much more testing and guarantees of safety, but the current push and types of GE technology (like Terminator seeds12) being promoted suggest that the intention is perhaps more profit-oriented.
While there have been many cases of corporate groups supporting PR firms or setting up fake consumer groups to try and lobby a certain position favorable for its interests, Monsanto had apparently gone a step further by using fake people16 on the internet on some listserves that discussed science issues. (This itself is not really a new tactic, as it appears that a number of companies in various industries have been doing this.)
Check out the GE Food17 section on this web site for much more in-depth information about GM foods general as well as more about how PR, media relations etc have been affected by bad publicity and how companies have tried to react to this.
Military Industrial Complex and Military Contractor's Influence
Some military contractors are enormous corporations and wield a lot of power and influence. Their products can literally affect the lives of many people. However, as corporations, their bottom line is important, so it is in their interest to promote an environment where the need for continual high spending on military is required. This then leads to a lot of propaganda. For more information about the role of the media and how they are also influenced by the military industrial complex, see this web site's sections on:
As an example of influence, Disney's size and popularity provides a good example. Disney is well regarded for providing wholesome family entertainment, with numerous films, cartoons/animation movies and so on. However, with the increasing size, owning the ABC news station, and enormous vertical integration, there have been increasing criticisms of Disney as well, ranging from the subtle cultural and even racial, gender and class bias depicted in their cartoons and movies, to their ability to naturally (directly or indirectly) influence major news stories via their ABC ownership20.
That is not to say that Disney is necessarily sexist, racist and so on by intent. It is possible that the drive for profits is more important and leads to less criticism, because from a business perspective, they have been very successful and implemented the most “appropriate” strategies to expand and grow. As Michael Eisner, CEO of Walt Disney Co. said in an internal memo:
We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective.
— Michael Eisner, CEO, The Walt Disney Co., (Internal Memo). Quoted from Mickey Mouse Monopoly-Disney, Childhood & Corporate Power21 (see also p.29 of the transcript which is provided as a link from this previous link.)
Because it is sometimes hard to imagine criticism of Disney, especially as a prominent icon of American culture that has provided light entertainment, fun and laughter for so many, the following links provide more in-depth look at Disney in this respect, and in the light of its increasing size and influence:
- Background info22 from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
- Additional info on what Disney owns23 from Columbia Journalism Review
- A search24 for “Disney” from the Mediachannel reveals many articles
- Mickey Mouse Monopoly-Disney, Childhood & Corporate Power25 a documentary looking at the gender, class and racial aspects of Disney movies and animation.
- The Mousetrap; Inside Disney’s dream machine26 is issue 308 from New Internationalist Magazine, December 1998. It has a collection of articles related to Disney.
- How Disney Magic and the Corporate Media Shape Youth Identity in the Digital Age27 by Henry Giroux and Grace Pollock, TruthOut, August 4, 2010
General Electric's Influence
General Electric (GE) also the largest military contractor as well as enormous multinational company producing many household appliances and other things, owns the NBC network. As a small example of their influence via the ownership of one of the major media networks in the U.S., GE Vice Chair and NBC President Robert Wright lobbied the New York City Council against a pending resolution in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to clean up the Hudson River.
One of the implication of this use of media to wield political influence was that journalists subtly get the message to not report on things that affect the mother company and related interests. Or, as put in the following quote:
When your boss is lobbying personally on one side of a controversy, the message is that these hundreds of journalists should avoid independent or balanced coverage of that issue. Such a meeting has a chilling effect on journalists, producers, correspondents and researchers. (Emphasis Added).
— Jeff Cohen, Unfair Access28, Multinational Monitor magazine, July/August 2001 - Volume 22 - Number 7 & 8.
For additional information about G.E. in this respect, you can start at the following as examples:
- Unfair Access29 An Interview with Jeff Cohen, founder of a New York-based media watch group, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting), also mentioned above. It has more examples of G.E. influence in the media.
- Background information30 from FAIR
- What GE owns31 from Columbia Journalism Review
This article is part of the following collection:
- Corporate Influence in the Media
- Media Conglomerates, Mergers, Concentration of Ownership
- Media and Advertising
- Large, Corporate-Owned Media are “Free” Trade Proponents
- Some Examples of Corporate Influence in the Media
(Note that listed here are only those hyperlinks to other articles from other web sites or elsewhere on this web site. Other sources such as journal, books and magazines, are mentioned above in the original text. Please also note that links to external sites are beyond my control. They might become unavailable temporarily or permanently since you read this, depending on the policies of those sites, which I cannot unfortunately do anything about.)
- George Monbiot, 'Beware the fossil fools', The Guardian, April 27, 2004, http://politics.guardian.co.uk/columnist/story/0,9321,1204297,00.html
- Fair Trade: Bananas;, http://www.globalissues.org/TradeRelated/Bananas.asp
- Ronnie Cummins, 'Monsanto and Fox TV Unite to Suppress Journalists' Free Speech on Hazards of Genetically Engineered Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH or rBST)', In Motion Magazine, April 28, 1998, http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/fox.html
- 'We Paid $3 Billion For These Stations. We'll Decide What the News Is.', Extra!, Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, June 1998, http://www.fair.org/extra/9806/foxbgh.html
- George Monbiot, 'The fake persuaders', The Guardian, May 14, 2002, http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4412987,00.html