excerpts from the book

Global Media

the No-Nonsense guide

by Peter Steven

New Internationalist/Verso, 2003


The [Media] Bigs

World's largest media companies

Time Warner Inc.
The Wait Disney Corporation
The News Corporation Ltd.
Sony Corporation
General Electric Co.
Viacom, Inc.
Bertelsmann AG


World's largest record companies

General Electric
Sony Music Group - includes Columbia, Epic, etc
Warner Music Group - includes Atlantic, Elektra, etc
EMI Group PLC - includes Capital, Virgin, etc
BMG (Bertelsmann) - includes RCA, Arista, etc


World's largest publishers

Bertelsmann AG - selling 40 per cent of trade books worldwide -
including Random House
Pearson PLC - dominant in academic, medical and business books
- includes Penguin, Prentice-Hall, Macmillan, Viking, etc
Time Warner - includes Warner Books, Book of the Month Clubs,
Little, Brown, etc
Wait Disney Corporation
The News Corporation Ltd. - includes HarperCollins
Viacom, Inc. - includes Simon and Schuster


World's dominant film companies and their parents

Warner Brothers (Time Warner)
Walt Disney Pictures - including Miramax
Paramount Pictures (Viacom, Inc.)
Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures (Sony Corporation)
Universal Pictures (Vivendi)
Twentieth Century Fox (News Corporation)




In Europe and North America the power of the ruling elites seldom appears in its rawest forms. The media play a key role in communicating and creating legitimacy for those in power. Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist writing while imprisoned in the 1920s and 30s, developed a useful concept for describing this situation. He called it hegemony. Hegemony is achieved when the power of the dominant groups in a society appears natural. It is a form of power or rule not limited to direct political control but one where those who have power maintain their position through the creation of a particular world view, one that seems to be based on common sense. Newspapers, TV and radio can be used to communicate the viewpoint of the ruling elites.

This becomes most obvious in times of crisis, such as the Iraq war in 2003, where a closing of the ranks and a shutting down of critical, oppositional, even skeptical views becomes painfully clear. Even the widely praised BBC, which to North American viewers, appeared more distant than other media from Tony Blair's war emerged with a generally compliant position, what one journalist referred to as BBC - 'Basically Biased Coverage'. But hegemony doesn't confine itself to intellectual matters or ideas. It works within everyday culture and seems to provide a frame for understanding experience.

Even in quieter times the media play a leading role in maintaining the status quo, defining the boundaries of political debate and the economic orthodoxy of neoliberalism. Most empirical studies reveal a significant overlap of media owners and managers with the political elite. Thus they are not really doing someone else's bidding - they're just looking out for family.

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