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The following article appeared in Left Business Observer #83, May 1998. It retains its copyright and may not be reprinted or redistributed in any form - print, electronic, facsimile, anything - without the permission of LBO.

Why TV sucks


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Pierre Bourdieu, On Television (New Press, 112 pp., $18.95).

In leftish circles, it's an article of faith that the reason the corporate media are so awful is the increasing concentration of ownership. Now there are ways in which this may be true; book agents report that they're no longer able to play publishing houses against each other, because they're all owned by a handful of giants. But how much awfulness can concentration really explain?

The point is usually treated as self-evident, not something to be proved. Yet partisans of the concentration thesis, armed with their ominously tangled cross-ownership maps, have little to say when asked just how these sinister interlocks explain content. Was Chet Huntley doing tough reports on nuclear power before GE owned NBC? Did People magazine run investigative pieces on the consciousness industry in those golden days before Time merged with Warner and both ate up CNN? Just what are we implicitly nostalgic for - the days of David Sarnoff? William Randolph Hearst</