U.S. Media Are Actually More Diverse Than Ever

Published in The Denver Post on August 13, 1995

In her column of August 4, about the recent merger of Disney with Capital Cities/ABC, and the impending purchase of CBS by Westinghouse, Caroline Schomp appeals to several unfounded fears regarding the behavior of businesses. She states that these "megamergers take us closer to a time when a basic assumption of American civilization -- the free exchange of ideas -- is extinct."

Implicit in this and other assertions by Schomp is the belief that when unregulated by government, large corporations merge, swallow up smaller entities and eventually form monopolies. If this were true, all the companies in America would have become one huge conglomerate long ago.

This has not happened. If someone is successful providing a given product of serve at a particular price, you can bet that plenty of folks will get busy devising ways to provide a better version at a better price, and will quickly jump into the marketplace. If a monopoly exists, it is either because there is sufficient demand to support only one provider -- e.g. a small town general store -- or because the government grants a monopoly -- e.g. a public utility.

Contrary to Schomp's fearmongering, today's media marketplace is more diverse than ever. Cable TV offers viewers dozens of options that were unavailable until just a few years ago. Visit any magazine rack and you will find a limitless array of specialty publications, most of which have only been available for a few years. The explosive growth of talk radio is due to the widespread demand for an analysis of current events that differs form that provided by the older broadcast networks.

The whole subject of monopolies prompts one more question: why is it that people who cannot sleep at night out of fear of a private-sector monopoly are often the same people who favor government monopolies? They are staunch defenders of the public school system and avid proponents of socialized medicine. They fail to realize that whereas the consumers they purport protect can always say no to General Motors, Exxon, or IBM, they have no such liberty in the face of a state monopoly.

Life can be messy. When we leave people and organizations alone and allow them to plot their own courses, they will not always produce the results we would like them to. However, they will rarely confirm our worst fears either.

Douglas F. Newman

Freely Speaking: Speeches and Essays by Doug Newman

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