~ Ben H. Bagdikian, The Media Monopoly, Sixth Edition, (Beacon Press, 2000), pp. xx–xxi
While Bagdikian’s grasp of the media is good, there are parts of the book that are not. He routinely (and correctly) laments the power of the big corporations to alter the media landscape. The consolidation of power has destroyed media independence and obliterated the FCC as a regulator. Bagdikian has a blind spot, however in realizing that the government is always the other half of the equation. The special dispensations given out by the FCC and government regulators in order to allow the massive corporatization movement that began in the 1980’s would not have been possible without government help. Bagdikian seems to only see the corporations and their malfeasance as the issue. He turns a blind eye to the necessary cooperation by government. This exposes a shameless leftist bias and only exposes half of the problem.
This bias also shows in all of his economic explanations. The worst examples are his trotting out the tired socialist shibboleth that the USA is the only modern country without universal healthcare – despite those schemes failing in Canada and the UK for decades. He childishly talks about the the politics of the country veering to the “far right” because of the power of the moneyed interests and the corporations. Bagdikian should know better – that this is the ‘corporatization’ of the country and has nothing to do with the “far right”. Lastly, he refers to the “uninhibited free market” of the 1920’s multiple times. This is unforgivable. Both Lionel Robbins and Murray Rothbard have shown that the 1920’s were manipulated severely by the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury. They manhandled the money supply (creating inflation), managed interest rates and butchered sound monetary policy that had allowed a certain stability from 1879 to 1914. Bagdikian apparently spent zero minutes and zero seconds studying this topic. A middle aged nobody English teacher in the crappy neighborhood (me) should not be able to point out such obvious flaws in a book by a Media Analyst Giant like Mr. Bagdikian.
Overall, this book is worth it, just stick to the chapters that deal directly with media analysis. Ignore the rest.
An interview with Bagdikian can be found here.
Independent New Media reporters mention Bagdikian here – Corbett and Pilato are modern Bagdikians in their own right: