Saldana discusses corporate power in news media

Dave Saldana (pictured, far right), a USC alumnus and the communications director for Free Press, explained how corporate power has influenced journalism at the Oct. 25 Annenberg Journalism Director's Forum.

Saldana responded by saying the FCC has strayed from its initial goal to "act in stewardship of the public."

Saldana used the example of News Corporation to demonstrate how the FCC has failed to adhere to previously established standards of journalism.

The FCC initially prohibited cross-ownership of media platforms, but today News Corp owns FOX networks, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal, among others.

Also, there used to be rules against foreign ownership of news media. However, the Australian Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp., "got his way with regulators and policy makers with his wallet and media holdings," said Saldana.

In 1996, the FCC declared that a single news corporation was not allowed to cover more than 25% of the population. When News Corp. broke this rule in 2003, the FCC changed it to 39%, "which was oddly enough he same amount News Corp. had at the time," said Saldana.

"They feel comfortable threatening the FCC, an appointed reguator of their industry," he said.

"What News Corp. holds over the FCC is just a symptom the larger disease," said Saldana.

The top news and media outlets are owned by four major companies: Viacom (CBS, MTV, Disney, ESPN), Comcast (NBC), Time Warner (CNN, TNT, TBS, Warner Brothers) and News Corp.

"The pathogen for the disease is money," said Saldana.

When corporations with news operations can't influence policy by steering public debate, they do it with cash, he said. "They buy influence from regulators."

"It's no longer a legitimate and honorable public service," said Saldana about the effect that corporate ownership has had on news media.

Rather than the news media acting as the "watchdog" of the public, "the watchdog is now a co-conspirator serving the governors rather than the governed," Saldana said.

What's the solution? Make the public interest the top priority of news media, Saldana said.