Thursday, January 24, 2013

So Many Channels but Nothing to Watch

In today's world we have many different channels to choose from on the TV. Cable and satellite providers offer packages with hundreds of stations, each with different content and different opinions. So many channels to flip through, and so little time.

However, the idea that we have so many different choices when it comes to television is an illusion. When it comes to media, the majority of what seems like many independent channels are in fact owned by only a handful of mega corporations.

This image from shows the channels that just one company, News Corporation, owns. News Corp is the largest of the media empires, and owns a wide variety of channels, from Fox News to National Geographic Channel.

What does ESPN and Mickey Mouse have in common? They are both owned by the Walt Disney Company. While the first thing that may come to mind when you hear the word "Disney" may be Disney World, child friendly cruises, and Snow White, the company has quite the sports lineup with all of the ESPN channels and also owns ABC.

General Electric takes the word "general" pretty seriously. Besides light bulbs and power strips, the company is also a major player in the media market. They've got all the bases covered, from the news junkie to the nerd to the emotional part in all of us, since they own NBC, SciFi, and Oxygen, among others.

When a few companies own so many different channels which provide different public discourses, how do we know what's behind these discourses? Why are some topics addressed and others are not? Who decides what is relevant, what is popular, and what product is placed so carefully in your favorite show? It is important for consumers of media to be ever critical and always thinking about what they're watching.

If you'd like to know more about who owns what, here is a nice interactive chart from


  1. It is mind-boggling how far a company’s reach can go. I mean I know I never really think about who runs the network my favorite show is on (though I now don’t watch as much television as I did before), except the few occasions where it does come to mind. I think this comes from not caring as long as I am enjoying what is on in front of me—mainly television shows and not news programs. And that is the problem that people may not care (I can’t speak for more than myself on this). But we should because we can’t answer the, what I would call valid, questions you ask unless we care enough to search. I mean what are we missing from what we are shown?

  2. I completely agree with Amanda's statement, "It is important for consumers of media to be ever critical and always thinking about what they're watching." Ultimately, I think the consumer dictates what gets broadcasted on television. Regardless of which mega corp owns which channel(s), they will always need viewers to maintain profits. With that said, we should choose the channels we watch carefully. If enough viewers stop watching a channel they deem unfit for air time, for whatever reason, it will either change or cease to exist. In other words, I don't think we should underestimate the power of the consumer, even in the face of mega corps.

  3. In response to Jacob;

    I think that television viewers are meant to think that they have control over television programming, when in reality it is entirely in the hands of whoever decides which advertisements to air during commercials. It can be argued that the main purpose of television today is ad space in order to turn viewers into consumers.

  4. I usually completely bypass television altogether and go straight to the internet. While you'll still find content produced by large corporations online, I do have more control of what I'm viewing via browser plugins such as adblocker. I'm also completely capable of choosing what independently produced content I want to view, which actually eats up a lot of the time I spend online.

  5. As John does, I usually just do my viewing online. I go to Netflix for TV and movies, or just browse the net to see what's available. Still, however, I do find it shocking how many businesses are owned by just another bigger business. It makes you wonder who really has the power around here. Who's running these big corporations that control a ridiculous amount of the information that is pumped into our heads daily? I don't mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but it seems like each one controls such a diverse variety of sub-corporations that they're trying to get at us from every angle, not depending on anyone else for any one thing. it may not be at all threatening, but it's something to think about.

  6. First, I had no idea ESPN was owned by Disney? Strange. Also, I had no idea that all of these channels were owned by so few corporations? A little scary when you think about it. I wonder about what we are missing out on compared to the rest of the world (i.e. news). However, we are at the same time lucky - in a way- to have such technology.