Private media ownership has both positive and negative qualities.

Private media ownership can result in better quality products due to competition.  The threat of losing market share to a competitor forces firms to put forth their best products.  Furthermore, large media firms achieve efficiencies due to economies of scale.  (In microeconomics, a situation in which a producer’s cost per unit of a product falls as more of that product is produced.)  Lastly, the very fact that these firms are not owned by governments allows perspectives that dissent from official sources to be shared.

On the other hand, private ownership leads to media firms placing profit above public interest.  It can also lead to cultural decay in that popular media can become homogenized:

In Kellner we observe a claim for the spread of a global culture, usually American in origin underpinned by a notion of a media powerful enough to shape our self-identities and our views of the world.  According to a number of media and cultural critics, this “global culture”–with the hallmarks of homogenization and convergence–is obliterating local cultures, creating in its wake mirrors of American consumer society.  Thus media theorist Cees Hamelink believes that “the impressive variety of the world’s cultural systems is waning due to a process of ‘cultural synchronization’ that is without historic precedent (Strelitz, 2001).

Furthermore, private ownership often results in industry concentration—especially if there is a dearth of regulation—which in turn leads to the stifling of alternative points of view.  For instance, in 2002 the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) and the Quebec Federation of Professional Journalists accused CanWest Global Communications, Canada’s largest media firm, of “a disturbing pattern of censorship and repression of dissenting views”(Winter, 2002). 

CAJ vice president called for “the elected officials of this country to be looking at what the repercussions [of media concentration] are for the general public” (Winter, 2002).  As a remedy, the Newspaper Guild of Canada stated that the media giant should respect the editorial autonomy of its papers and columnists—a reference to the firm’s purchases of other newspapers (Winter, 2002).


Next: Conflict of Interest