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corporate dominance | media criticism

Criticism is Unlikely

George Orwell in "1984" warned that criticism and dissent would be expunged from memories. In capitalism's last stage of contradiction, myths and panaceas of the self-healing market drown out the alternatives of a future-friendly economy.

Silvia Huber on Western Media Power in the East and the Interest of the EU in Strong Corporations

[This interview published in: Freitag 02, 1/13/2006 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.freitag.de/2006/02/06021302.php. Dr. Silvia Huber is director of the Internal Journalism Center of Donau University.]

FREITAG: You first investigated the media systems overarching Central- and Eastern Europe. What was your intention in this network analysis?

SILVIA HUBER: Central- and Eastern are very exciting because the capitalist market economy has developed in the last 15 years so that the transnational media networks dominate there. We analyzed the most important media in individual countries, who is involved in the businesses on the sixth or seventh level of the interlocking ownership structures. These networks are allied with many other businesses. The leading business was an American investment corporation, Capital Research Management. This is a sign that investment corporations, not media corporations, organize the network contacts any more.

FREITAG: Where do you see a potential danger?

SILVIA HUBER: My focus is on the side of the recipients. When I live in Central- and Eastern Europe, what media reach me and what are the underlying media networks? On the other side, what media must I address in launching themes in the ten analyzed countries? More than a media corporation is needed to reach all Central- and Eastern Europeans. Commercial corporations dominate the media system. I see a structural danger here. The political scientist Christiana Leidinger speaks of a "structural improbability of critical media reports." Media that mainly serve commercial interests only bring certain contents in certain forms. Beside the ownership plane, we also analyzed the contacts of media corporations among themselves. The network analysis starts from the fact that a standardization of interests of commercial media exists.

FREITAG: Can you give us examples of the use of media power for manipulating public opinion in reporting on EU-admission negotiations?

SILVIA HUBER: The study did not analyze contents but the question: Who has potential power? There are isolated reports about influencing control. First of all, there is this structural improbability of critical reporting. A corporation will not start a campaign against political institutions that promote its own interests.

FREITAG: media concentration does not seem to have played any role in the EU-admission negotiations with Central- and Eastern European states although safeguarding diversity of opinion was often invoked.

SILVIA HUBER: The declared political will and the actual political will differ enormously here. The competitive policy of the EU is inconsistent. On one hand, diversity with many small actors should be strengthened. On the other hand, European media corporations should be strengthened against the US. The goal is establishing mammoth media corporations that are internationally competitive.

FREITAG: what response do you expect to your study?

SILVIA HUBER: The study was actually written to create consciousness and blow a little wind in the face of regulatory policy. Corporations will accept one or another result and see whether they can develop a good strategy.

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