Sep 1 2007

Millionaires Working for Billionaires

When you’re exposed to network TV news, it’s always good to bear in mind that you’re watching millionaires working for billionaires, telling stories whose main purpose (from an economic perspective) is to get you to hold still long enough for corporate advertisements to rearrange your value system.

It’s not surprising that such an institution does a poor job of informing viewers about poverty, as a new FAIR study by Neil deMause and Steve Rendall documents. How could it do a good job? It’s impossible to explain why some people are poor without explaining why other people are rich. And that’s the very last story that the moguls who own the networks, or the sponsors who are the source of their wealth, want to be told.

But without telling the story of wealth and poverty, it’s hard to tell the many other stories that have money and its unequal distribution at their root. Take the issue of immigration, which has managed, as Julie Hollar notes, to get plentiful coverage without any real examination of the question of why people are immigrating—specifically, why the trade deal that was supposed to solve the problem of illegal immigration has instead resulted in a large increase in the number of people coming across the border without official permission.

To address this issue in any depth would require acknowledging that the goal of NAFTA—what economists refer to as “efficiency”—translates in real terms to lowered wages on both sides of the border.

Now, if there’s anything that corporate media are in agreement on, it is that such trade pacts are a splendid idea. (See, e.g., Extra!, 9-10/97.) And from the point of view of those signing the paychecks, they are a great idea. From those trying to get by on those paychecks, they haven’t worked out so well.

Journalists are rarely competing with undocumented workers, but outsourcing in journalism has been a reality at least since 2004, when Reuters moved many of its financial reporters to Bangalore, India (London Guardian, 10/7/04). As more media workers move into the category of globalization’s losers, they may find their views on inequality changing. But unless they find different bosses, they’ll be unlikely to be able to express them.