It's rumored the billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch are considering a purchase of the Tribune Co. a media conglomerate that includes titles such as the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Baltimore Sun. Although neither the Koch Brothers, or their spokesperson, have confirmed or denied the rumor, such a possibility is a dangerous one if it were to become reality. Here's what we think a Koch Brothers newspaper purchase would have on the news industry and the news we get:
Further Consolidation Would Decrease News Quality
Information from diverse, competitive, and independent sources is vitally important to the health of a democracy, and a Koch Brothers newspaper purchase would only consolidate the media further and decrease the diversity, competitiveness, and independence of our news and its sources. We already don't hear enough about what's going on outside of the United States, and the facts that affect the issues. We don't need more of the same. Just how consolidated is the media already? Here's a quick rundown of who owns what, according to Common Cause:
Viacom owns CBS; General Electric owns NBC; Disney owns ABC; and News Corporation owns Fox Broadcasting Company. ABC's corporate parent is the Walt Disney Company.
Disney owns 10 television stations, 50 radio stations, ESPN, A&E, the History Channel, Discover magazine, Hyperion publishing, Touchstone Pictures, and Miramax Film Corp. Viacom owns 39 television stations, 184 radio stations, The Movie Channel, BET, Nickelodeon, TV Land, MTV, VH1, Simon & Schuster publishing, Scribner, and Paramount Pictures. General Electric owns 13 television stations, CNBC, MSNBC, and Bravo. News Corp. owns 26 television stations, FX, Fox News Channel, TV Guide, the Weekly Standard, New York Post, DirecTV, the publisher HarperCollins, film production company Twentieth Century Fox and the social networking website MySpace.
Do we really need (or want) the Koch Brothers in the mix?
The Koch Brothers Don't Need More Influence
The brothers' spent hundreds of millions in the 2012 election. Granted, they did not get the results they wanted, but that doesn't mean their money doesn't carry a big stick and influence a few people (okay, many people). Not only don't the Koch Brothers need newspapers and televisions stations to their arsenal, but adding newspapers and television stations would give them much more power to influence than they already have. Newspapers may be a dying species, but they certainly aren't a discredited species. Newspapers would give these two men much more ability to spread their message than ever before, and with much more credibility than ever before. This opens up the possibility that the news these entities deliver will not be the same, or will not be an honest reflection of what's happening in the world. The Los Angeles Times may end up with a new owner, but who that new owner is won't change the minds of those who read the LA Times. Most of those people will still think it's a great paper, and might not notice a shift in content and stance (presuming there will be a shift in content and stance if the Koch Brothers were to own these newspapers and television stations).
Overall, a Koch Brothers newspaper purchase would be detrimental for news. It doesn't need further consolidation, especially consolidation into the hands of the rich and powerful. The Koch Brothers have also demonstrated that they will use their assets to affect change in policy and in who gets to be in government, and having news entities has assets will only better enable them to do those things (whether the idea of the Koch Brothers changing policy or deciding who gets to be in government is a good one or not is debatable). Not sure if the purchase can be stopped, or if allowing someone else to make the purchase is necessarily better, but a Koch Brothers newspaper purchase isn't good at all.