Ninety percent of what Americans read, watch and listen to is controlled by only six media companies.PBS’s Frontline has described the conglomerates that determine what information is disseminated to the public as a “web of business relationships that now defines America’s media and culture.” Business relationships. Last year a mere 232 media executives were responsible for the intake of 277 million Americans, controlling all the avenues necessary to manufacture any celebrity and incite any trend. Time Warner, as owner of Warner Bros Records (among many other record labels), can not only sign an artist to a recording contract but, as the owner ofEntertainment Weekly, can see to it that they get next week’s cover. Also the owner of New Line Cinemas, HBO and TNT, they can have their artist cast in a leading role in a film that, when pulled from theaters, will be put into rotation first on premium, then on basic, cable. Without any consideration to the music whatsoever, the artist will already be a star, though such monopolies also extend into radio stations and networks that air music videos. For consumers, choice is often illusory. Both BET and MTV belong to Viacom. While Hot 97, NYC’s top hip hop station, is owned by Emmis Communications, online streaming is controlled by Clear Channel, who also owns rival station Power 105.
Here is where the author makes an even more compelling connection. He then explains that companies like Vanguard Group own major stakes of prison companies and media companies at the same time. Vanguard, for example, is the largest stakeholder in the Corrections Corporation of America, and also holds massive stakes media giants as well. According to the author (who cites Bloomberg), Vanguard is the third largest shareholder in both Viacom and Time Warner. Finally, Vanguard is the third-largest shareholder in the GEO group, the second largest prison holding company to CCA.
There are many other startling overlaps in private-prison/mass-media ownership, but two underlying facts become clear very quickly: The people who own the media are the same people who own private prisons, the EXACT same people, and using one to promote the other is (or “would be,” depending on your analysis) very lucrative.
Adding fuel to the fire, the author notes that the CCA and GEO have long lobbied Congressmen to push for stricter laws in order to fill their prisons. They’ve pushed for the “Truth in Sentencing” and “Three-strikes” laws, as well as other initiatives that have led to longer periods of incarceration for inmates.
Likewise, the largest rise in incarceration that this country has ever seen correlates precisely with early-80′s prison privatization. This despite the fact that crime rates actually declined since this time. This decreasing crime rate was pointed out enthusiastically by skeptics eager to debunk last year’s anonymous industry insider, who painted a picture of popularized hip-hop as a tool for imprisoning masses. What wasn’t pointed out was that despite crime rates going down, incarceration rates have skyrocketed. While the size of the prison population changed dramatically, so did its complexion. In “‘All Eyez on Me’: America’s War on Drugs and the Prison-Industrial Complex,” Andre Douglas Pond Cummings documents the obvious truth that “the vast majority of the prisoner increase in the United States has come from African-American and Latino citizen drug arrests.”