This week's editor

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Adam Ramsay is co-editor of OurKingdom.

Sparks fly when the media ownership debate brings together leading media experts to explore these issues. Legendary media critic Robert McChesney gets the ball rolling with a trenchant critique of corporate convergence. Ben Compaine says he’s got it all wrong. As the debate deepens the temperature rises - it’s an enjoyable ding-dong. Taking in case studies from Korea and Japan, Italy and Hungary, Pakistan and Broadway, we put their arguments to the test.

Cinema, citizenship and the promise of the internet: a personal view from the Third World

Piracy is typically portrayed as the vice of only those who wish to steal media for the sake of self-indulgent entertainment. But 'file sharing' is also, for some, the only means of gaining access to educational material or information censored by oppressive governments, let alone revolutionary inspiration

Regulating for freedom: media lessons from Australia

Australia is often cited as an exemplar of the failure of media policy to guarantee the quality and independence of broadcasting. But in its development of arguments about ‘freedom of communication’, this outpost of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire offers a surprising lesson in the significance of local experience in promoting a culture of informed citizenship.

Global media concentration: shifting the argument

The combative debate on media ownership has highlighted the importance both of new global megacorporations and of the multiplicity of the commercial landscape. But, concludes openDemocracy’s media co-editor, the combination of money and power in sustaining media oligopoly and monopoly continues to pose serious questions about the state of democracy.

McChesney's mistakes

If Compaine needed any justification for labelling McChesney ‘extremist’, this argument is it.

A world without absolutes

Benjamin Compaine concedes that most participants in openDemocracy’s media ownership debate sympathised with Robert McChesney, but draws from its global perspective support for his claim that pluralism and diversity are compatible with a market-based system.

It's a wrap? Why media matters to democracy

The renowned critic sees in the inadequacies of US coverage of Enron, the 2000 election, and the ‘war on terrorism’ ample evidence of his argument that the dominant media system fails democracy.

Can Berlusconi do no right?

The state of Italian television, and Berlusconi's role in it, is less one-sided than Mastrolonardo suggests. By helping to challenge state monopoly in the past, and responding to changing audience preferences, Berlusconi has not just used his media influence for political ends. The variegated Italian television landscape may lack for quality, but it cannot override people’s democratic choices.

Media concentration: the Italian case-study

Silvio Berlusconi already controls three of the four main private TV channels in Italy, but he is intent also on using patronage to dominate Rai, the public sector network. When the prime minister of a country and its most powerful media magnate are the same person, how healthy can its democracy be?

Stumbling Goliaths, dithering Davids: unpicking the mythology of the media mogul

David Elstein, formerly one of Rupert Murdoch’s senior executives and founder of the UK’s Channel 5, details the trials and tribulations of global media’s Mr Bigs, and challenges the conventional view of their unchecked media power.

<i>Grandes gigantes</i>: media concentration in Latin America

A perspective from Latin America adds a refreshingly different perspective to the debate on media ownership. Giantism (and duopoly) increasingly rule the continent, but among the explosion of content there are spaces of diversity and seriousness.

Public broadcasting, media ownership and democratic debate in Japan

In Japan, the near-fifty year incumbency of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and the best efforts of Rupert Murdoch, have not yet managed to destroy the conception of ‘public service’ as a deliverer of honest and comprehensive news. But political pressure and media rivalries make the space for serious, critical, independent journalism a constrained one.

Media monopolies versus editorial independence: signs of hope in Korea

The spread of corporate power in the media is a serious threat to quality, independent journalism. But a global perspective is a healthy counter-balance to pessimism: as Korea illustrates, progress in taking on unwarranted media power is possible.

Why media mergers matter

The information that people receive through the media, and the ideas and arguments they can access, help to shape their decisions as citizens as well as consumers. Thus, discussion about the evidence and implications of the pattern of media ownership is ultimately about the character of a democratic society itself.

Lullaby of Broadway? Big media and the future of commercial theatre

New York’s theatre district is the classic American ‘melting pot’. The unique Broadway distillation of Jewish, black and gay influences proved its spiritual mettle in the wake of 9/11. But can its combination of quality experience, commercial toughness and quasi-religious optimism resist the longer-term threat from bland, franchised ‘megamusicals’?

Media freedom, or regulation?

It is in relation to media policy that the left shows its true anti-democratic credentials. It precisely doesn't want freedom of speech.

Voices from the Hungarian edge

A small, post-communist, market-oriented central European state is in its way one of the best viewing-points from which to judge the argument about global media trends. In Hungary there is an explosion of commercial broadcasting, a beleaguered but surviving public realm, and diversity in the newspaper sector. This is not a monolith, but is it freedom?

The media still needs ownership regulations

Cutting back ownership rules makes eminent commercial sense but bodes ill for quality news journalism.

Ownership is only part of the media picture

Both McChesney’s and Compaine’s views of media ownership are incomplete and reductive. The complex relationships between owners and publics, and the space for anti-conformism even within popular culture, require a flexible understanding that avoids the pitfalls either of monolithism or complacency.

The market adds choice - and quality

The new media economy has not extinguished competition. Globalisation and diversity can and do co-exist.

The workable real versus the absolutist ideal

Robert McChesney’s criticism of the media ownership system depends on a form of absolutism that, without evidence, deplores existing diversity in the name of an ideal alternative. What would the latter look like?

Media corporations versus democracy: a response to Benjamin Compaine

In the wake of Benjamin Compaine’s challenge, Robert McChesney reaffirms his view that the concentration of media ownership is a danger to democracy, as it augments the limitations of a corporate and commercial system. This is a global issue, and not simply a US one. But since US media corporations are so powerful and influential across the world, the conclusions that follow from a focus on the US experience have a much wider relevance.

The myths of encroaching global media ownership

Media conglomerates are not as powerful as they seem, for even corporations must respect the discipline of the market. A diverse media reflects the plurality of publics in modern society. This is democracy in action.

Policing the thinkable

The global media are integrating and their ownership is concentrating in fewer hands. This process threatens to undermine democracy. We need more independent and non-commercial media to challenge the corporate stranglehold on the culture.
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