The media have flooded our lives. They are everywhere. We invite them into our homes through our televisions, our computers, and our newspaper subscriptions. We are met with media advertisements and information on billboards, the radio, and even the clothes we wear and the cars we drive. The bias in the media has been a long debated topic, but there are good reasons behind the bias they present.
First and foremost, it must be accepted that the media is biased. A study done at UCLA by professors Groseclose and Milyo (2004) showed that many major news outlets are biased one way or another. The Wall Street Journal, for example, was found to be the most liberal in the news they presented, while The Washington Times was found to be the most conservative. While this may not be a shock, consider Fox News Network. In Outfoxed, the audience is shown irrefutable evidence that the Fox Network is conservative. Rupert Murdock himself asserts that there are liberals on his payroll, they tend to be on the conservative side of liberal, and the number of conservatives brought on the shows far outnumber the liberals (Achbar & Wintonick, 1993).
Now, the question would be, why are the media biased? The news networks and other outlets, by convention, should strive to provide unbiased information to the public, and to offer all possible sides to any story. Many people still buy into this idea, and believe that the media do that. However, there are many others who know of the bias, and are outraged. They never consider the reasoning behind the actions of these media outlets.
One reason is that it takes a great deal of money to begin a network, newspaper, magazine, or other media outlet. In order to open any business, and media is a business, a large building must be found. If it is a television or radio station, the buyer must be allowed to put up satellites and antennae so the signal can be sent to the consumers. The machinery and equipment needed is expensive, and a lot of it must be purchased. The machinery for running a newspaper would require the largest outlay of capital. Therefore, the media would be at the mercy of those who help fund their start-up costs, namely, their owners/investors.
Another problem is the amount of money required to keep the outlet running. Newspapers used to be kept up by the sales of the papers. When some papers began using advertisers, though, they were able to lower the cost to the readers, and were able to drive those without advertisers out of business. Since then, the media have been using advertisers to fund their running costs. Because of this, the media are dependent on their advertisers and cannot risk losing them by producing something that would offend them (Chomsky, 1988).
What could be considered yet another issue is the fact that the media are dependent on government officials to act as primary sources. These sources, though many would want to consider them unbiased, are careful to only report the information that the government wants people to know, and to do it in such a way as to convince the people to their side. In this way, the media can give the impression of being objective, while aiding in spreading propaganda. If the media outlet were to criticize these officials in any way, then they would lose their primary sources and powerful allies in staying in business (Romano, 1986; Chomsky, 1988).
In summary, it is known to many that the media are biased. Some are more liberal while others are more conservative. However, there are many reasons why they would present biased news stories and programming. There are reasons such as start up costs, operating costs, and source management. All these point towards a need to stay in business and earn money, which is an effect of residing in a capitalist environment.
Greenwald, R. (Producer/Director). (2004). Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism. Retrieved from: http://www.archive.org/details/Outfoxed-RupertMurdochsWarOnJournalism
Chomsky, H. &. (1988). A propaganda model. In Manufacturing consent. New York: Pantheon.
Groseclose, T., & Milyo, J. (2004). A measure of media bias.
Romano, C. (1986). Grisly Truth about Bare Facts. In e. M. Schudson, Reading the news (pp. 38-78). New York: Pantheon.