The Media Monopoly, Fifth Edition


Ben Bagdikian was an editor at The Washington Post in 1971 when he met Daniel Ellsberg, who passed him portions of the Pentagon Papers, the top-secret history of the Vietnam War. Bagdikian later became a significant media critic, and wrote about the consolidation of media ownership in fewer and fewer hands in his 1983 book The Media Monopoly. "What we're seeing in the media now is a decrease in hard reporting as a proportion of the whole," he said,  "and an increase of soft entertainment features - which are the least expensive to produce and the most revenue producing." 

The Media Monopoly was revised seven times since 1983, and each edition chronicled an accelerating wave of media mergers that eventually resulted in five companies owning most of the major U.S. media including newspapers, magazines, books, radio and TV stations, and movie studios. "What is at stake is American democracy itself," he writes. "A country without all the significant news, points of view, and information its citizens need to be informed voters is risking the loss of democratic rights."

This interview from 1997 is the second of three Ben Bagdikian interviews in the Focus archives.