Government Bailouts: The Media Is In It For Themselves

In the past few weeks there has been a flurry of activity on Capitol Hill to dump truckloads of cash on ailing industries. Insurance companies, banks and financial services, mortgage lenders, and auto makers are all heading for Washington with their hands out.

But who is the real beneficiary? Keep this in mind when you see news reports in the media discussing the benefits of multi-billion dollar taxpayer funded disbursements to the nation’s biggest corporations:

2007 Advertising Expenditures By Bailout Targets
Company Amount (000’s)
General Motors 3,010
Ford 2,525
Toyota 1,758
Chrysler 1,739
Bank of America 1,491
Nissan Motor 1,407
Honda 1,326
Citigroup 1,135
JPMorgan Chase 1,074
American Express 1,050
Capital One 757
Hyundai 651
Visa 581
Allstate 537
Fidelity 499
MasterCard 489
Progressive 460
Washington Mutual 445
State Farm Mutual 431
Wells Fargo 356
Total: 21,751

That’s right. That’s almost $22 Billion in advertising that would be at risk if these companies were to fail. And this is only from the list of the top 100 advertisers. All told, the total would come to more than $36 billion. That does not include ancillary businesses like home furnishings, hardware, gas and oil, auto parts, accounting services, etc., all of whom are significant advertisers.

Do you think that the media might be somewhat concerned about losing these sources of revenue? Do you think that they might adjust their coverage to make the bailouts more palatable to the public to insure their passage? Do you think the businesses might pressure the media to put on a positive spin under the threat of cutting back on ad budgets?

When you consider how much of the money doled out to the banks, automakers, etc., would eventually end up in the pockets of Big Media, you would think that someone would question whether or not they can fairly present coverage of these issues. At the very least, they ought to disclose their interest so that news consumers can factor that into their conclusions.

The media also has its tentacles around the legislators in Congress who are debating and deciding these matters. So our representatives in Washington are susceptible to pressure from the media if they want to continue to receive favorable coverage. No congressman wants the press battering them every day about how they are responsible for this economic debacle.

Because of the ascendancy of multi-national media monopolies, whose only allegiance is to their bottom line, it is almost impossible to separate the interests of media companies from the corporate culture they promote and the public discourse they control. And they can hardly be depended on to represent the interests of their readers and viewers. Certainly not at the expense of their own interests. So when an issue of public concern is raised, the public has to very careful about who to trust.

Once again, the irrepressible anthem of conspiracy theorists everywhere is the key to assessing these mysteries. Cui Bono – Who Benefits. In this case, clearly the media will enjoy a windfall if American taxpayers bailout our failing industries. That doesn’t mean that the bailouts are bad policy. It just means that if we get our information about this from Big Media, we may not have all the facts with which to make the right call. And if we ever hope to have confidence in what we learn from the press, these media conglomerates will have to be broken up and regulated to insure independence and diversity.