Tue, Aug 22, 2017 - Page 9 News List

Shining a light on media capture in the digital age

By Anya Schiffrin

This expectation was reinforced by the assumption that more competition could lead to higher-quality news.

However, the opposite might have happened. The rise of digital media rendered traditional media outlets’ business models untenable.

Advertisers migrated to the Internet, where slots are cheap, and consumers, with seemingly infinite free options, became less willing to pay for content.

As a result, traditional media have endured precipitous declines in revenue and large-scale job losses.

Dwindling resources undermine the quality of reporting, especially because many cash-strapped outlets tried to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, Science Po’s Julia Cage said.

The need to chase clicks on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google eroded the ability of legacy media owners to perform their traditional role in ensuring accountability.

Declining media revenue promoted capture in another key way: It shifted the incentive for owning a media outlet.

If a newspaper will not provide much in the way of economic returns, the main inducement for purchasing or running one becomes influence.

Billionaire American casino owner Sheldon Adelson, for example, did not purchase the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2015 or capture Israeli media for the money.

As the media landscape increasingly lends itself to capture, political and corporate accountability will only decline. That is why the Center for International Media Assistance has just released a report shining a spotlight on the phenomenon — and calling for solutions.

Free and healthy news media are essential to a well-functioning democracy. If people are to protect the latter, they must defend the former at all costs.

Anya Schiffrin is director of the technology, media and communications specialization at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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