"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." - First Amendment, United States Constitution
There are a multitude of reasons the 1st amendment comes first (it wasn't an accident), but for here I would like to focus on the Freedoms of Speech and the Press. From this country's inception, the media has played an intrinsic role in its development and evolution. News pamphlets kept people abreast of important political, social, and economic developments, as well as, serving a more clandestine purpose, at times. In this country's early years, news pamphlets sometimes served as mechanisms for the broad delivery of military intelligence, especially when an entire populace was at war. This happened regularly during the Revolutionary War. Since Ronald Reagan, in the mid 1980's, the basic usefulness of the media has been under attack and has since been severely blunted. By vetoing a bill regarding the Fairness Doctrine of 1949, which would have renewed certain restrictions on the amount of airtime individual media outlets can own, Reagan left open the door for the monopolization of our available media. Bill Clinton furthered this to a greater extent with his focus on trade and economic expansion. Surprisingly enough, the act passed by the US Congress validating our participation in the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, lifted even more restrictions on the concentration of media ownership. The direct result of these two men's actions is profound.
In 1983, 50 corporations owned and CONTROLLED the majority of American media outlets. By 2000, that number had massively shrank to 6. Just, four years later, in 2004, that number dwindled to five. That's correct. Five corporations own and control every bit of information we hear or see. So, who are our media masters? That magic number five is made up of Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch News Corporation, Bertelsmann (Germany), and Viacom. This a viable monopoly when one considers the amount of "smaller" media outlets these corporations actually control. Further, do you think those media moguls have forgotten those who made their media empires possible? Of course they haven't because the Fairness Doctrine was not gutted out of concern for the Freedom of Speech, as touted, but rather, just plain old fashioned greed. Since this unceremonious whacking of the Fairness Doctrine, the corporate media and US politicians have been in bed with one another to such an extent that their relationship resembles something like a Romanesque orgy, paid for at the expense of we, the people, and the information we receive.
Don't believe me? Look back at journalism and, especially, investigative journalism. Around 1983, one can document the beginning of a steady decline in the airing of opposing ideas and opinions and a softening of "hard hitting" journalism. This isn't due to a falling off of journalistic talent. It is due to the fact that journalists and reporters now have to toe corporate line, and the five remaining corporations seem to be colluding with one another. By not doing so, journalists risk not just their jobs, but their whole careers and even their freedom. With five corporations owning and controlling the media that means, basically, five people can now decide what we see and hear and in what light we interpret that information. That's right. Five people have the ability to control, skew, and spin any of the information we receive, and one would be naive to think that these five people and the politicians that they now pay are not working together, hand in glove. So, where does this leave us? Very simply, it leaves us either one step away from a Corporate State Media that dwarfs the power of the government itself , or a defacto State Media organization, ran with the help of Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch News Corporation, Bertelsmann, and Viacom that runs with the effectiveness of the German state media led by Joseph Goebbels, under Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. Neither is preferable.