5 The Implications of Commercial Media

Taylor Wright, David Varney, Quinn Weldon, and Austin Anderson

Commercial media is media that is privately owned by larger companies and corporations. The sole purpose of commercial media is to make money off their programs and advertising (Commercial). Noncommercial media refers to media that primarily does not involve the larger corporations, for example state sponsored TV (Commercial). Noncommercial networks on TV or radio don’t run advertisements in exchange for large profits, instead they’ll rely on and ask for donations with a brief pause during the show (Commercial).

The goal of commercial media is to capitalize on the mass media industries. The main industries are newspapers, magazines, television, and the internet (Biagi 8). In America the majority of broadcast time has about a ⅓ ratio of commercial to show time. About “10 to 20 minutes of show time are typically devoted to advertising,” usually depending on the network the show’s being aired on (Commercial). The amount of money that advertisers will have to pay for a time slot can also depend upon that shows ratings and the network it’s on (Commercial).  Each network is different, ranging from the type of shows they stream and the advertisements they show on their network. There is “about 1,700 televisions stations operating” just in the United States alone, with the majority being commercial media-based networks (Biagi, 9). Commercial media is the market’s perfect tool for advertising and displaying goods and services to the mass public (McChesney).

Noncommercial stations back in the early 1900’s survived for years “on a mix of modest federal funding, grants, and listener donations from regular fundraising campaigns” (Usher). In recent years government funding in America for noncommercial medias has gone down. Having lack of public broadcasting networks causes a lack of difference in mass opinion. In other countries the reason that small newspapers and magazines still exist is because of government newspaper subsidies, these subsidies have been around since the 1970s (Usher). Government subsidies in other countries were put in place with the purpose to “help keep afloat struggling newspapers and create a diversity of opinion” (Usher). The reason noncommercial media has slowly been disappearing from the world is because the world is shifting towards watching and consuming only commercial media. Government funding is being pulled from the majority of noncommercial media within the U.S.

Commercialism has some very major influences on media, in numerous different ways. But it is important to note that commercial forces are always influencing the type of media that is being produced, whether it is local, national, or international. Some of these implications have very negative effects, that can be somewhat detrimental to media corporations. Such as large-scale layoffs, pulling of funding, conflicts of interest, and instances of that nature.

Now with commercial media being a major force in today’s society we have seen a large portion of skewed information that is being released to the general public. In an international and national standings, we don’t see major impact of this problem because there are hundreds of companies releasing information, so educating yourself on important news in not hard, with so many different perspectives. You’ll never get the full story but at least you can be educated on it. But with information being released in a local news sense, we can see the impacts being very large. Especially if there is only one real news source that is publishing information. The problem here is that when a local news outlet published information, it is usually news that is published to fit the views of the owners. This view can be political, because “even in open and democratic societies with a free press, economic factors and corporate decisions often influence what is and is not covered in the new” (Pavlik, 54).  This is important to note because not only does this show that happens to everyone It shows that it is almost unavoidable.

In local terms, corporate media causes problems not just in the media that is being produced, but in the industry, themselves. We are seeing a more and more news outlets downsizing, and when this happens on a local level we are losing the ability to have fair coverage of information. This is happening because of the fact that with less workers we have less coverage of important topics that impact the community.

In a more mass media sense, there is a large amount of advertising that go into the consideration of content in the media that is output into main stream media. Many advertising companies will threaten to pull their ads and essentially their funding from the media source if their content contradicts their views. In a broad example of this, a republican corporation parent isn’t going to allow for their company to run a show or produce news that hold more democratic views, so to stop this they might threaten to pull funding to deter the company form producing anything in that matter

No matter who you are, or where you are, you are typically exposed to some sort of media every day. It is said that the average adult is exposed to over 100 commercials per day. This saturation of media in our lives is speculated to have some sort of effect, and that is what the advertisers behind these commercials are paying different platforms for.

“Ever since mass media became mass media, companies have naturally used this means of communications to let a large number of people know about their products. There is nothing wrong with that, as it allows innovative ideas and concepts to be shared with others. However, as the years have progressed, the sophistication of advertising methods and techniques has advanced, enticing and shaping and even creating consumerism and needs where there has been none before, or turning luxuries into necessities.” (GlobalIssues.org)

When a company advertises their product or service it is in the interest of enticing potential consumers towards purchasing whatever it is they are selling. These companies have become so good at this that, sometimes, we don’t even realize that we are being advertised to. When most people think of a commercial they imagine the convoy of thirty second messages between sections of the television show they are watching. But what most people don’t realize is that there are very few places nowadays where we are not exposed to some sort of advertising. When researching for this chapter I have run into multiple advertisements that have diverted my attention for a moment or two. Even the outside world is not safe, think of how many billboards, signs on storefronts, emails, magazines, newspapers, and even other products themselves that have promoted something that you could buy.

“[T]he New York Times [is] a corporation and sells a product. The product is audiences. They don’t make money when you buy the newspaper. They are happy to put it on the worldwide web for free. They actually lose money when you buy the newspaper. But the audience is the product. … You have to sell a product to a market, and the market is, of course, advertisers (that is, other businesses). Whether it is television or newspapers, or whatever, they are selling audiences. Corporations sell audiences to other corporations.” (Chomsky)

Like was mentioned before, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with commercial advertising. Until, that is, the companies behind the advertisements starts to insidiously push their own agendas on consumers. There has been much speculation that the outcome of the 2016 presidential election was greatly affected by this. People criticized news outlets of skewing coverage to the more “sensational” of the two candidates and possibly creating an outcome that was not best for the people of America.

“Trump’s screen-to-screen exposure during the campaign provided bait to capture advertisers’ most coveted product: our attention. To keep our attention, media must entertain us. And Trump delivered—especially for media’s bottom line. As CBS CEO Leslie Moonves infamously stated: ‘[Trump’s candidacy] may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.'” (Pickard)

In today’s world media is shared among thousands of people, spanning across many different countries and cultures. It is a commonality between people regionally and globally, weather they share different ideas, values, or beliefs. Although media is for the people, in recent years it has become dictated by only a few people. The shift of media ownership has drastically changed as the wealthy get wealthier and companies start expanding by buying other companies. Today this is referred to as a media oligopoly, the domination of the media marketplace by a select few, seriously limiting the diversity and ownership of all media.

With the consolidation of media ownership, we see more effects every day, starting with larger companies buying out smaller ones. These buys are not considered small in the least and really show how wealthy these companies can become. Some examples include, the $19 billion buy from Disney in 1996 to acquire Capital Cities/ABC and in 2001 AOL took it a step further buying Time Warner for $160 billion (Pavlik & McIntosh, 59) Companies like AOL and Disney increase their wealth tremendously with these purchases, and with that comes the increase in power. Companies are able to acquire more control and dictation as they know can expand their products to many other people. Also, they are able to obtain even more power in deciding what content gets distributed and when people are able to view it. This further limits people from deciding what they believe the media should be showing.

Limiting the number and variety of people who own media further decreases the diversity in media content. It also increases the social disparities isolating minorities more than ever. Minorities lose their voice when they have no one to represent them, which in this media industry is exactly what is happening. In the Converging Media book it describes this as, “fewer owners owning more media, results in less diversity of media voices and the possible silencing of minority and non-mainstream views” (Pavlik & McIntosh, 58). This creates an even bigger separation between the media owners and the minorities. Reducing the variety of voices that are being heard, leading to the reduction of content that is being displayed and distributed.

Not only is media consolidation affecting minorities it is also affecting social, political and cultural issues. With the media owners having so much power they also obtain power outside of the media industry. They are able to influence all aspects of society, such as politically, socially, and culturally. With this much prestige in society, the media ownership starts to create a hegemony. This means that the ideas, values, and beliefs of the wealthiest start to become seen as the views of everyone. Even if the people under the wealthy do not agree with them, they still follow the hegemony that is created because they eventually see it as their norm. Examples of this can be seen in politics as people running for office will try to receive money from these media corporations to advance their campaign. Media companies will usually agree to this on the condition that these politicians are promoting the ideas and beliefs the owners of the company desires. This allows the wealthiest media companies to have an effect in politics even when it is not their concerned industry.

With the limiting of media ownership, the separation between classes increases and minorities continue to lose their voice. The media oligopoly continues to intensify creating less diversity and variety of the media content being distributed. Socially, culturally, and politically, the media hegemony reflects only the views of the wealthiest and those leading the media industry. This becomes dominant and only increases as the need for power is never relinquished by those who having, further benefiting them and hurting those below them.

The implications of commercial media are growing and continuing to affect the general public. The concentration of media ownership is narrowing, leaving only a few people to dictate what media is being produced and distributed. It creates a barrier between those in power and those that are not, exemplifying the social inequalities and the current wealth gap. Commercial media today is looked at as one of the most powerful and expensive industries. It has reign over political, social, and cultural issues that are currently going on today. Using advertising to influence consumers, bribing politicians to set the political agenda, or pressuring their viewpoints and beliefs as the status quo, forcing people to believe in them too. Minorities lack a voice in the media, which leads to lack of proper representation and the formation of stereotypes. As media companies see their wealth and power strengthen, they will try to expand upon it. Weakening the idea that media is equal and beneficial for everyone. As it is going now media will continue to change, benefiting those powerful enough to control and hurting those who receive it.

Works Cited

Biagi, Shirley. Media/Impact: an Introduction to Mass Media. Cengage Learning, 2017.

Chomsky, Noam. “What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream,” Z Magazine, October, 1997. http://chomsky.info/199710__/.

“Commercial Broadcasting.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 Dec. 2017,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commercial_broadcasting 

McChesney, Dr. Robert W. “The Mythology of Commercial Broadcasting and the Contemporary Crisis of Public Broadcasting.” http://www.ratical.org/co-globalize/RMmythCB.html.

“Media and Advertising.” Global Issues, http://www.globalissues.org/article/160/media-and-advertising.

Omachonu, John O. and Kevin Healey. “Media Concentration and Minority Ownership: The Intersection of Ellul and Habermas.” Journal of Mass Media Ethics, vol. 24, no. 2/3, Apr-Sep 2009, pp. 90-109.

Pavlik, John V., and Shawn McIntosh. Converging Media: a New Introduction to Mass Communication. Oxford University Press, 2018.

Pickard, Victor. “The Problem With Our Media Is Extreme Commercialism.” The Nation, 30 Jan. 2017, http://www.thenation.com/article/the-problem-with-our-media-is-extreme-commercialism/.


Usher, Nikki. “Funding Public Media: How the US Compares to the Rest of the World.”Nieman Lab, 11 Mar. 2011, http://www.niemanlab.org/2011/03/funding-public-media-how-the-us-compares-to-the-rest-of-the-world/.



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Introduction to Media Studies by Taylor Wright, David Varney, Quinn Weldon, and Austin Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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