Citizenship and Media Ownership

John McMurria


For the practice and study of media production, ownership matters. This chapter considers three orientations to media ownership in the US, with attention to how each invokes particular rationales for citizenship. The first orientation considers the critique of media conglomeration that emerged in the 1980s and the anti-corporate populist expressions of citizenship that have informed recent campaigns to reduce corporate media power. The second considers positions that perceive a potential for new interactive digital technologies to free individuals from corporate and government power. The third assesses the movement, since the 1970s, to increase minority ownership of media. Here access to media ownership is framed within conceptions of citizenship informed by past and present conditions of racial discrimination. In each of these orientations, consideration is given to how ideas about the transformative power of media in democratic societies engage with political and cultural struggles over rationales of citizenship.

A common concern in the vast literature on media ownership is whether media facilitate democratic deliberation and promote diverse viewpoints and cultural expressions (Rice, 2008). Some have argued that the growth of large media conglomerates has decreased competition and delimited diversity, while others have suggested that this is not the case, because a proliferation of new media outlets through cable television ...

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