How do Economic and Political Affiliations impact the news we recieve?

There are two major aspects of Institutional Affiliations that influence a media sources' reporting of the news: Economic Affiliations and Political Affiliations. If a media source has strong economic ties to a particular business entity these ties may play a big part in what news we actually see and how this news is revealed. Similiarly, strong Political Affliations (e.g., liberal or conservative) within a media source can influence the type of news and the angle in which this news is depicted.

Key Questions to keep in mind while reading the following example of Economic Affiliations:

Example 1

Below is an excerpt from a MSNBC news story on refrigerators entitled: "Find the best buys from Consumer Reports" original:

Find the best buys from Consumer Reports

BASIC: $600 to $850. At this price, you’re usually talking top-freezers—very energy efficient and space efficient for their size, but still smaller overall than side-by-sides. The Maytag MTB1956GE, $825, is feature-laden and convenient. Nearly as good, and quieter, is the Kenmore 7118, $750 (above, left); it offers a lot more storage space. Two GE models, the GTS18KCM, $600, and the GTS22KCM, $650, are good values. All three brands get good marks for reliability. Among bottom-freezers, the Amana Distinctions DRB1801A, $695, is a good value, at several hundred dollars less than the other bottom-freezers we tested.

MIDRANGE: $850 to $1,800. The real bargain among side-by-side refrigerators is the GE GSS25JFM, $890, A CR Best Buy. More full-featured are the side-by-side Kenmore 5255, $1,400, and the Kenmore Elite 5260, $1,700. Kenmore and GE are among the more reliable side-by-side brands. If you’re looking for a bottom-freezer, the GE GBS22LB, $1,050, offers the best combination of performance, capacity, and flexibility.

HIGH-END: $1,800 to $5,000. Side-by-side, cabinet-depth refrigerators are less expensive than true built-ins. The GE Profile Arctica PSI23NGM, $2,300 (above, right) performed well overall. The Sub-Zero 650/F, $4,600, is the ablest bottom-freezer built-in that we tested. It’s very energy efficient. But it’s noisier than others, and reliability is a concern with the brand. The GE Monogram ZIC360NM, $3,900, is almost as good, and it’s quieter.

Click here to get complete ratings on refrigerators from Consumer Reports’ pay Web site.

Consider the following:

  • MSNBC is a joint venture between NBC and Microsoft. GE is NBC's parent company.
  • GE was the manufacturer mentioned in every range with at least one, usually multiple products.
  • In the Consumer Reports articles on their pay-only website, the products are categorized by type (top-freezer, etc.) not price range.
  • GE was listed as a good value in basic and midrange, and had the least expensive entry in High-End that was listed. As a result, the side-by-side refrigerator model ranked 2nd best (Whirlpool Gold GD5SHAXL[Q]), which has essentially the same features and performance as the GE model could not be mentioned because it is approximately $500 cheaper (see excerpt from official Consumer Reports).
  • The bottom-freezer listed in the mid-range as having the “best combination of performance, capacity, and flexibility” was the GE GBS22LB, which cost $1,050; however, this model was not even mentioned in the official Consumer Report while other models in this same price-range were (see excerpt from official Consumer Reports).
  • GE's entry (GE GBS22LB) was listed as having the best feature set in midrange, while the same is true in the high-end range (the only listed competition was cited as unreliable, and a cheaper, quieter GE model was listed right afterwards.)
  • The article was composed by people at MSNBC selecting results of a 3rd party test, with the full results only available to paying customers of Consumer Reports (many people who are not subscribers will read this excerpt only, and formulate their buying plans accordingly)
  • Given that G.E. is the parent company of NBC, a which is in turn a partner in MSNBC, is it possible that the price ranges have been constructed to give GE a favorable product in each range? How did they come up with $600 to $850 for "basic"? They never share that with us, and without access to the original report, the average reader of the article may never know.

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Economic Affliliations:

When examining news sources, it is important to consider who owns what and how this ownership plays into the diversity and content of the news we recieve. For example, within the United States, the number of media sources is shrinking due to the large amount of corporate mergers that occured in the 1980s and 90s. As a result, various broadcasting, newspaper, radio, and internet companies have become inter-connected. This is in part due to the ground-breaking 1996 Telecommunications Act, which allows for increasing deregulation of all media by allowing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to modify any previous regulations it deems as not in the public interest.

The concentration of ownership results in several conflicts in terms of news reporting. The massive financial backing of the corporations may in fact allow for news reporting entities to have a great deal of freedom in their reporting due to the minimal economic concerns. On the other hand, this same financial backing can be used to censor the output of news. Thirdly, a combination of these two conflicts can occur. Such a case is similiar to the example about refrigerators discussed above in that no facts are necessarily obscured, but they are simply slanted to the benefit of the affliliated companies. Corporate relationships can have an impact on what information you receive, and it may be about things far more important than just a refrigerator.

Media sources that are tied to corporate entities operate on a for-profit basis. As a result, Journalism responsiblities may be compromised due to the fact that making a profit is a necessity for these corporations to survive.

The same conflicts arise in individually run media sources. These media sources may not be controlled by a corporation, but they are still subject to economic pressures by advertisers and/or large individual investors.

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Key Questions to keep in mind while reading the following example on Political Affliliations:

  • What do the headlines reveal about the story to come?
  • What is the slant of the headline and opening paragraphs – conservative, liberal, or fairly neutral?
  • What news source are these excerpts coming from?
  • Who owns the news source of the respective excerpts and does this ownership reveal anything about the expected political stance of the excerpt? (consult the Columbia Journalism Review - Who Owns What)

Example 2

Below are excerpts from two articles on Americans feelings toward going to war with Iraq:

FOX News

‘Pro-War’ Movement Springs Into Action

Sunday, March 2, 2003

NEW YORK – As time runs out for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to disarm or face a military thrashing from the United States and its allies, “pro-war” – or “anti-anti-war” – Americans are saying they have had enough of the recent protests in various cities at home and abroad.

“We decided we can’t sit idly by while President Bush’s agenda, specifically his continuing efforts on the war on terror, specifically Iraq … while they … Democrats, the left wing and Hollywood … conduct a well-coordinated, well-organized, well-financed effort to undo the president and really to destroy him, because that’s their goal,” David Bossie, president of Citizens United, told Foxnews.com.

Washington Post

Poll: Americans Ambivalent About Support for Iraq War

Monday, March 3, 2003

Surveys conducted since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks have consistently showed that a majority of Americans favor military strikes against Iraq. But this general agreement that force should be used is neither absolute, unconditional nor uniformly shared by key voting groups, an analysis of recent Washington Post-ABC News surveys suggests.

This ambivalence, most recently reflected in a Post-ABC News poll completed Sunday, raises questions about the depth and durability of public support for using force to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The poll found that 59 percent of respondents favor using military force against Iraq, even without the support of the U.N. Security Council. But four in 10 supporters also said they had reservations about the looming conflict with Iraq. When these doubters are combined with opponents of military action, the result suggest that more than six in 10 Americans harbor at least some doubts about using force while only a third are unequivocally behind going to war.

Consider the Following:

  • These two very different perspectives on the desire for war were reported within a day of each other - one says that Americans "have had enough of the recent protests in various cities at home and abroad" while the other states that Americans are "ambivalent about support for Iraq war" (what does this say about the Sources that have been chosen?).
  • The Washington Post has a reputation of having a liberal slant.
  • FOX News has a reputation of having a conservative slant.
  • FOX News is owned by News Corp, all of which is owned by Rupert Murdoch who is commonly associated with conservative politics.

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Political Affiliations:

The choice of what is to be reported and how it is reported is a key one and, in the above example, it is worth looking further into the political affiliations of these news sources due to the vastly different reports given on virtually the same subject.

Upon further examination of FOX News it can be found that the owner of this media outlet News Corporation all of which is owned by K. Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch is commonly associated with conservative politics and is often criticized for using his media outlets as a way of promoting his own political agendas. In a recent interview with Murdoch by MSN, Murdoch noted his favor for President Bush and the Iraqi war (citation). This exact viewpoint is the one often reported at FOX News. Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume that much of what is reported on at FOX News has a conservative slant.

Ownership of a media company does not necessarily mean that the owner’s political viewpoints are the same as those reflected in the media source; however, given Murdoch’s reputation and history it is reasonable to link FOX News and other Murdoch owned entities with the conservative political affiliation.

The above is an example of when the political affiliation of the news source helps determine the economic associations of it and not vice versa. This is not to say that there are not economic pressures on the news source, but rather, that at least for the time being, these pressures most likely will not interfere with the conservative viewpoints reflected on FOX News.

The political affiliation of certain news sources may very well take precedent over the business aspects of the news source. This is often the case when there is strong financial backing that holds the same views as the news source. Also, some news sources refuse to allow economics to determine the reporting. In such cases, the political affiliation of the source is much more important than maintaining a profitable business.

(Top of Page) (Example 1: Refrigerators) (Economic Affiliations: In-Depth Analysis)(Example 2: 2003 Iraqi War)