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A new in-depth study has revealed that just 24 companies own the majority of the world’s biggest news outlets. Tech website AddictiveTips conducted the study to find out just consolidated media companies really are in The United States, The United Kingdom and Australia. While the results not be surprising, the study gives a fascinating insight into just how little variety there really is.
Tech blog AddicitveTips have conducted an extremely in-depth and detailed study into the ownership of the world’s media outlets. Their findings show that just 24 companies own the majority of the world’s most powerful news outlets.
AddictiveTips press release states that the purpose of their study is to;
“uncover the powerful companies and CEOs who control the bulk of today’s news – and present the findings in a tangible way.”
Digital media has become the main driver of news in recent years. Hardcopy newspaper distribution is in free fall, so the battle to control the narrative has moved online.
Rather than turning on the TV at 10pm for the news, you’re more likely to be watching Vox Pops online or seeing mainstream journalists revealing their big “scoop” directly on Twitter. Although the latter has come in for criticism recently, as the “scoop culture” has led to less fact checking so as to get the accolade.
Regardless of who you go to, it is highly likely that many of the outlets you use are connected by one thing; their owner. This study shows who chair the relevant companies. For example News Corp, owners of titles such as The S*n and The Times, are chaired by Australian Robert Thomson. In reality, we all know that the true owner is Rupert Murdoch.
Needless to say, this is a well conducted and researched study.
To determine the companies and individuals that own the top news sites in the world, AddictiveTips identified the top owners of the news sites with the most monthly traffic as of September 2019. Data on average visitor traffic for the past one to three months and the relative rank of each news site came from Alexa, an Amazon company, and market intelligence provider SimilarWeb.
They identified the owners of the top 50 news sites globally, in the United States, in the U.K., and in Australia, respectively, using financial filings, corporate press announcements, and other public sources. They then isolated the 20 companies with the most visited sites in each geography, as well as other newsworthy media companies, and identified all of the properties in their online media portfolios, as well as the name of their highest-level owners, using financial filings, corporate press announcements, and other public sources.
- For news sites that are owned by investment firms with a majority stake, the CEO or director of the investment firm was listed as the highest-level owner.
- For news sites that are owned or directly (or indirectly) controlled
by the government (as is the case of the BBC, who since 2017 has had its board members selected by the UK government), the head of government was listed as the highest-level owner.
A Changing Landscape
Several names are synonymous with media domination around the world: News Corp in the United States, the U.K., and Australia. Globo in Brazil & Yomiuri Shimbun in Japan.
While many of the oldest media conglomerates are as powerful as ever and still growing, the emergence of digital news has substantially altered the media landscape and allowed new companies to emerge as major players in the news industry.
Tech giants like Microsoft and Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, as well as telecommunications conglomerates such as Verizon and AT&T, now rank among the top owners of the world’s media.
In recent years, asset management firms and private investors have increasingly bought majority stakes in legacy newspapers and have come to dominate the list of the top media owners worldwide. In April 2019, for example, private equity firm Great Hill Partners acquired the Gizmodo Media Group and The Onion, and combined their digital news assets, which include Gizmodo, Jezebel, and The A.V. Club, into a new company named G/O Media Inc.
In August 2019, American investment firm KKR purchased the largest stake in Axel Springer SE, a German media group whose assets include Business Insider and Rolling Stone.
State Controlled or Owned
A significant share of the world’s media is owned by national governments. Through outlets such as PBS and NPR, the BBC, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the governments of the United States, the U.K., and Australia all have significant media holdings. State ownership of media in English-speaking countries is dwarfed, however, by the Government of China’s media holdings.
Who Owns UK News?
As can be seen above, online news media in the U.K. is still dominated by publishers of traditional print media, such as The Times, The Daily Telegraph, and The Guardian.
Tabloid newspapers such as the Daily Mail, The S*n, and the Daily Mirror have a significant online presence in Britain. Several London-based news sites, such as The Economist and the Financial Times, have substantial readership outside of the U.K.
Murdoch’s News Corp, through News Corp UK, The Daily Mail and General Trust plc own many of the largest national news sites in the U.K. This web of companies can make it confusing for some to understand ownership.
Murdoch’s UK empire includes; The Time and the S*n to name a few. The control of so many outlets by so few leads to editors at supposed competing papers actually working in unison to control how a story runs.
Through its subsidiary Local World Holdings Ltd. Reach plc owns more than five dozen regional newspapers and their corresponding websites. The mass ownership of regional newspapers by media giants has led to a steep decline in actual local reporting. Instead, outlets copy and paste an article from a sister paper and run it under a different byline. This has created a network of regional proxies all parroting the same story with no local connection.
While the hard copy papers still run a majority of local stories. their corresponding websites run clickbait titles so as to gain advertising revenue; the only thing that keeps the UK online media alive.
The Guardian is owned by the Scott Trust Limited, which it claims exists solely to control the finances of the Guardian and ensure its editorial independence.
The US Media
Online news in the United States is still dominated by publishers and broadcasters of traditional print and television news such as CNN, MSNBC, and the New York Times.
Online-only news sites that have a major presence in the U.S. include Yahoo!, Huffington Post, and Reddit. Reddit is a majorly underestimated source of news, so much so that the leaked US/UK Trade Talk Papers sat on the site for two months before being noticed.
Some of the top media owners in the U.S. have dominated the news landscape for over a century, and continue to grow in the era of digital news. The Hearst name, for example, first appeared on a newspaper masthead in 1887. Today Hearst Communications owns dozens of newspapers and magazines throughout the country, each with a significant online presence.
Advance Publications, which was founded by Samuel Irving Newhouse Sr. in 1922 and is still family-owned today, has a portfolio that includes Reddit, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and American City Business Journals.
However, as noted above, there have been new entries to the US news world. Amazon owner Jeff Bezos purchased the influential Wall Street Journal – WSJ, much to the annoyance of President Trump.
Disney are a major player in the US having purchased Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox in March 2019, it now holds titles such as Fox News, abc and has a stake in the above mentioned Hearst Newspaper group.
Australian News Ownership
From 1987 to 2006, Australia had specific legislation limiting foreign ownership of media companies on the continent, as well as restrictions on cross-ownership of media companies meant to preserve the diversity of news media.
Despite these restrictions, today Australia has a relatively high degree of media concentration. National online news media in Australia is essentially controlled by two companies: News Corp, through News Corp Australia, and Nine. Rural news media is largely dominated by Australian Community Media, whose portfolio includes over 170 regional newspapers and their corresponding websites.
Seven West Media also has a substantial news media portfolio that includes traditional newspapers, online-only news sites, magazines, and radio. The Conversation is one of the only major online news sites in Australia that is independently owned.
Australian media appears to have even less diversity than its UK and US counterparts.
As the concentration of online news has increased, so has public distrust in mass media. A recent Gallup poll shows that Americans remain largely mistrustful of the mass media, with just 41% currently having “a great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in newspapers, television and radio to report the news “fully, accurately and fairly.”
In the UK, media trust is poor at best. Just 32% of adults in the UK say they trust the news media at least somewhat. 48% say their news media do a good job of getting the facts right, 46% say they provide coverage independent of corporate influence and 37% say their news coverage is politically neutral. When it comes to covering important topics like immigration, 44% of British adults say that the media is doing a good job. These are not exactly glowing figures for the UK mainstream media. They don’t seem to be able to get close to 50% trust in many cases.
Owners should be asking themselves questions with results like this, but they don’t, and they won’t. The fact is, people still visit their websites and generate profits through advertising, as long as the profits keep coming, they couldn’t care less about trust levels.
That is why at least in the UK, the media and press need to be majorly overhauled. Regional outlets need given back their independence, conglomerates controlling an entire narrative needs to end and the BBC needs a complete overhaul. The number of incidents in the 2019 General Election campaign of “inaccuracies” by the BBC is alarming. They are still the most visited and viewed news platform in the UK. If they are peddling blatant lies, something obviously needs to change.
Regarding my EXCLUSIVE story which uncovered more Islamophobic comments by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, I contacted The BBC, Sky News, ITV News, The Guardian and The Mirror Online. Not one of them thought it was Newsworthy. Odd that…
What this study has confirmed is; independence in the news is at an all time low. Profits for investors take precedent over good quality news.
That needs to change. Perhaps you can start by visiting supporting other Independent News sites like this one.
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