Corporate Media, Advertisers, and the War on Your Mind
It’s important to understand why television exists in the first place. Commercial tv exists primarily for delivery audiences to advertisers. It’s not there to entertain; it’s not there in the public interest. Its primary directive is to deliver audiences to the advertisers who are paying for your eyeballs.
Now I want you to keep that in mind as I continue because it’s critical to understanding the role that corporate media has in our lives.
When I was a kid, I remember distinctly this one commercial for a toy called Skip-It. For my birthday, I got the Skip-It, and I was… disappointed. It was a lot smaller; it couldn’t fit two kids. Also, the counter was always inaccurate. But I learned a valuable lesson then: Advertisements are not what they seem.
Now a couple of years later, I was lucky enough to watch a video that showed how extreme closeups are used to make toys look more significant, which is why I thought the Skip-It was bigger, video making and editing techniques seem more exciting or more thrilling. That video gave me a new perspective on advertising, one that I never forgot the rest of my life.
So fast forward a few years, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was signed into law by Bill Clinton. Now what this legislation did was severely relax regulations on how many media channels a company could own, and it made way for substantial corporate mergers and acquisitions. Today, just six mega companies own 90% of the media that you and I see every day. It’s this consolidation that has exacerbated what people call the “Corporate Media.”
But what does corporate media mean? It’s that media corporations all have a corporate structure, saying they all have corporate goals, corporate strategy, and corporate messaging. The corporate strategy might be company X wants to pick up more of the LGBTQ audience share. Now you can insert any demographic into this example: people who love football, Latinos, or women who work. Now the goal in this example is apparently to make more profit. The more people that are watching, the more valuable that programming is to those advertisers. That company will then green light more shows that have more LGBTQ themes, characters… they might pick up openly gay news anchors or personalities for daytime TV.
Now apparently, in this example tolerance is good. But it’s important to understand the profit motive behind it and how they use our emotions to sell us to their advertisers.
I want to elaborate on that a bit because it’s not just about profit–it’s about financial growth. Every quarter, these corporations have to present their earnings to the investment community. These are the guys who advise the big investment firms which tickers to buy and which ones to sell. If a company doesn’t show growth or doesn’t show a good reason for not having growth, these guys can cause the stock price to dip. And lowering the stock price affects CEOs and board members and investors profoundly–these guys own a ton of shares, so a dip in stock price by just a dollar could be devastating to their portfolios. Wealthy people can become significantly less rich if they don’t produce the kind of growth that the investment community demands.
Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to tell when an advertiser is speaking directly to you. Just turn on your TV and chances are you’ll see paid promotions on talk shows or news shows, and sometimes word-for-word scripts delivered by newscasters as “news.”
Also common is cross-promotion of a company’s properties. If the ladies on The View, on ABC, had a serious discussion about when’s the best time of year to bring your family to Disneyland, as a viewer, you might think “oh, this is very helpful.” But Disney owns ABC. So it’s a direct cross-promotion of their parent company, and all of it benefits Disney, and there’s disclosure of that fact.
We receive such a barrage of these coded messages over our lifetime that a lot of people think about it as normal or just don’t think about it at all. But there is nothing normal about a company and advertisers telling you what to think about, what problems exist or don’t, and what to buy to make you feel better about yourself–after telling you to feel bad about yourself in the first place.
Now if all we had to worry about were advertisements for Hot Pockets and Maxi pads, it wouldn’t be that big of a concern. But the fact is, we’re also being sold WAR. Companies like Lockheed Martin and other defense contractors are some of the most prominent war profiteers, and they’re the same companies that fund corporate media via advertisements and paid placement.
These companies rely heavily on contracts with the U.S. government. This means that their growth, quarter-to-quarter, relies heavily on the U.S. going to war. This also means that war is seen by the American people as justified. So when you look at a company like Lockheed Martin advertising on corporate media, it means that the corporate media, news, and television shows can’t say anything negative about Lockheed Martin. It also means that same corporate media can’t say anything negative about Lockheed Martin’s primary source of income: war.
In the news, you won’t see people discussing the merits of not going to war versus the benefits of going to war. Instead, they’ll explain HOW we should go to war–“should we go to war sooner?” “Should we ally with these people?” “How many troops should we send in?”–“should we go to war at all?” is just absent from the discussion. This is precisely because of the conflict of interest between advertisers and corporate media.
Every day this false narrative is sold to you by the corporate media. Trustworthy looking people on TV tell you what to think about, and massive corporations make shows that appeal to your emotions in order to sell you to advertisers. Advertisers, in turn, promote products and ideas that go entirely unquestioned, and even applauded, including about war.
And the media is so pervasive and so deafening that if you question any of it if you have a different opinion other than the one that’s presented, you’re made to feel weird, fringe. As if nobody’s saying that, nobody else thinks that, and you’re weird.
Fortunately, there is something we can do about this: Stop consuming corporate media! Stop trusting those overpaid line readers. Seek out and support, yes with money, independent media outlets that don’t take money from advertisers or investors. Talk about the corporate media with your friends and family–you might be surprised how many people feel the same way you do but were afraid to discuss it.
Honestly, even if you have friends and family that are on a different political spectrum, you might find some common ground. And anything that brings people together around a common cause is okay in my book.
Katy Savage is an independent media skeptic and commentator on politics, media, truth, and perception. Her perspective challenges partisan and idealogical labels and seeks to bring people together rather than divide.
Written, performed, and edited by Katy Savage
Shot and produced by Jason J. Loya
Clinton signing 1996 Telecommunications Act https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1EfL8xQ5Ok
Media concentration https://marketrealist.com/2017/01/att-time-warner-merger-exploit-customers-competitors
Comcast Earnings https://www.cmcsa.com/financials/earnings
Lockheed Martin 2015 annual report https://www.lockheedmartin.com/content/dam/lockheed/data/corporate/documents/2015-Annual-Report.pdf
Lockheed Martin commercial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOxCl1P5r4k