While Capitalism might first be seen as a positive influence on free and open access to information, in fact, it can also have a detrimental impact. Inaccurate news stories, sensationalized material, and manipulation through the media are all repercussions of the effects of capitalism. Capitalism’s influence in the media skews content in favour of the market, preventing the public from access to democratic, objective news content. Too often, capitalist influence dominates the media market through conglomerate control, structured by the ever-growing desire to gain capital, treating the audience as a commodity regardless of the negative repercussions that ensue. As opposed to presenting balanced, unbiased issues that are relevant and open to the interpretation of the media consumers in order to best meet the needs of society, the result is a cycle of information that does not broaden public democratic discourse, but channels it with bias.
Perhaps the best place to begin a review of the relationship between media, capitalism and democracy is the United States of America, where democracy is held up as its foundation, freedom of speech is protected in its Declaration of Independence, and its society has held up capitalism as the best option for prosperity and equality for its citizens. Within the USA, news channels have long been accepted as having obvious links to political philosophies. Depending on the corporate interest, media channel content will display bias, supporting either a left-leaning, right-leaning, or neutral point of view to best serve the corporation.
Stanford University professor Magnuson highlights,
“The media plays a significant role in American democracy; it wields serious influential power; it uses this power in compromising ways, capitalism situates the media in a conflict of interest, the media is shifting news towards tabloid news, the mega-media corporations are growing fewer by the number and more powerful by the week” (Magnuson).
In Magnuson’s comment, several factors are exposed. As more and more media outlets are aligned, fewer independent voices are heard. Also, if a corporation owns the media outlet, they are bound to make a profit for their shareholders, even if it is at the expense of providing broadly based and incomplete information.
According to professor McChesney of the University of Illinois, “Democracy requires that there be an effective system of political communication, broadly construed, that informs and engages citizenry”, it further states that,
“While democracies by definition must respect individual freedoms, these freedoms can only be exercised in a meaningful sense when the citizenry is informed, engaged, and participating. Moreover, without this political debate information can scarcely address the central issues of power and resource allocation that must be at the heart of public deliberation in a democracy” (McChesney).
The social theorists Croteau and Hoynes emphasize that in...