We spend countless hours exposed to television, radio, CDs, books, newspapers, magazines, billboards and the Internet. These media help form our ideas, opinions, values and beliefs. They play a vital role in our democracy, shaping citizens’ understanding of social and political issues. The media influence the perceptions of citizens and decision-makers, affecting the policies that touch us all. On average, children spend nearly four hours a day watching television and view as many as 40,000 television commercials every year.
To have a true democracy, people need easy access to independent, diverse sources of news and information. But the last two decades have seen unprecedented corporate media consolidation. In the early 1980s, 50 media conglomerates dominated all media outlets including television, radio, newspapers, magazines, music, publishing and film. Today, most U.S. media are controlled by just six corporations.
We need trustworthy, stimulating and value-driven information to create change. Although thousands of issue-oriented websites offer outstanding public interest content that can help users to find public information to act, the role of journalism is to help society focus on critical issues that we face. Increasingly, news coverage is shaped by the corporate owners of the media, who themselves have an obligation to their shareholders. The role of journalism is to investigate conflicting stories, which inevitably leads to challenging the policies of people in power.