Billionaires are bad for humanity, bad for democracy, bad for freedom. One reason is they buy and control newspapers and control the media.
Sheldon Adelson has bought another major newspaper, The Las Vegas Review-Journal for $140 million, according to the NY Times
. That's very bad news-- for Las Vegas, for Nevada, for gambling regulation and probably for his casino competitors.
Adelson has a history. The New York Times article mentions that he owns Israel Hayom, Israels largest circulation newspaper. That's not surprising. He gives away the dailies for free. But the NY Times fails to mention that Adelson also owns a number of other Israeli media properties. The Washington Post (owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos) sets the record straight in its article, How U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson is buying up Israel's media
. Adelson also bought Israel's "main religious daily, Makor Rishon, which caters to Israel's Zionist religious right, and NRG, the news Web site of the Maariv newspaper."
The Washingtonpost article casts light on Adelson's influence,
""As a very strong backer of Prime Minister Netanyahu -- not that there's anything wrong with it -- Adelson owns a paper that is rarely, if ever, critical of the PM," wrote Shmeul Rosner, an Israeli commentator, in Jewish Journal. "He now owns two papers, and one might suspect that now two papers will never be critical of Netanyahu."
Rupert Murdoch bought Fox news. He promised he wouldn't influence it. Jeffrey Sachs writes, in the HuffingtonPost
"t he Wall Street Journal has become the Fox News of print journalism, another entertainment outlet of the Murdoch media empire. The paper's opinion pages are lively, clever, and increasingly fact free. Business leaders looking for serious analysis instead of entertainment should turn to The Financial Times and other leading business outlets.
The problem with Murdoch media is that ideology is both fun and highly profitable, and Murdoch is nothing if not profit oriented. The truth is of no particular interest; viewership and readership are paramount. And who wouldn't be charmed by a world in which science fact is fiction; the poor are greedy; the rich are worthy; and the plutocrats represent the common good against the evil conniving of government. The new season of House of Cards arrives once a year; The Wall Street Journal every day."
It's witty commentary, but the Wall Street Journal was an icon of solid journalism for a long, long time. A billionaire turned it to garbage. We might call it news porn for right wingers.
We can expect more of this blatant assault on the press-- ownership by billionaires and their families. There are many more examples.
Wikipedia reports: Together with his brother Samuel
, he owns Advance Publications
, founded by their late father
in 1922, whose properties include Conde Nast
(publisher of such magazines as Vogue
, Vanity Fair
, The New Yorker
, etc.), dozens of newspapers across the United States (including The Star-Ledger
, The Plain Dealer
, etc.), cable company Bright House Networks
and a controlling stake in Discovery Communications
J ohn Henry,
owner of the Boston Red Sox, bought the Boston Globe from the New York Times company in 2013. It is reported that he was favored because he would keep the liberal slant.
Warren Buffett, through his company, Berkshire Hathaway, is bigtime into the news business. Forbes reports, that after he bought Media General's 25 newspapers in 2012 and adding that to his colection that already included the Buffalo News and Omaha World-Journal, made him "one of the largest publishers in the US."
controls the largest share of the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, and the Hartford Courant, held as Tribune Publishing. Tribune owns 23 TV stations, one radio station, 12 daily newspapers, numerous magazines and other media properties.
loaned the NY Times $250 million, which was repaid in full, but still owns 15.9% of the company, making him, outside the Sulzberger family, the largest shareholder. Slim is ranked the wealthiest person in the world, worth over $81 billion.
led a group that bought a controlling interested in Univision. Wikipedia reports: "Saban says his greatest concern is to protect Israel. At a conference in Israel, Saban described his formula. His three ways to influence American politics were: make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets"
The United Kingdom has the same problem. One UK writer reports
that " Almost 78 per cent of our press is owned by a handful of mostly foreign-based billionaires."
Some billionaires will be benign owners. But newspapers and journalism play too important a role in democracy to allow the whims and personalities of billionaires to control them or to even take the risk.
Newspapers should be owned by the people, like cooperatives. Corporations or billionaires should not be allowed to own them.
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