Year: 2003; 1999
Length: 10:20; 4:17
Access: YouTube (clip from The Corporation)
YouTube (clip from The Insider)
Summary: This pair of excerpts exposes corporate censorship of the news via a documentary (The Corporation) and through a Hollywood film (The Insider). In recent years, the news media has become increasingly concentrated and controlled by corporations. The implications of this is that corporations are responsible to shareholders and must earn high profits. This concentration of corporate news has led to conflicts of interests when a news source wants to air a story that could hurt their advertisers or their shareholders. The first clip from The Corporation shows this process. In 1997, investigative journalists Steve Wilson and Jane Akre of Fox News, had prepared a story about Monsanto and the negative impacts of their bovine growth hormones (e.g. their milk was potentially carcinogenic to humans). Monsanto was an advertiser for the Fox News channel, and the company threatened to both sue Fox and pull their ads. Because this would have cost Fox News significant advertising revenues, Fox decided to edit the news story so Monsanto would not pull their ads. The clip describes the process of 83 rewrites that either removed or minimized any negative effects of the hormone, until the journalists were ultimately fired and the story never aired. The second clip, from The Insider, features Al Pacino arguing how a story at 60 Minutes was being censored because of financial interests. The film is based on a true story about a whistle blower who worked for Big Tobacco and CBS was hesitant to air the interview on 60 Minutes because it might jeopardize the sale of CBS to Westinghouse Electric. Both clips illustrate the political economy of news media and Marx's concept of ideology, in which ideas and knowledge reflect the interest of the ruling class. Marx argues that the class having the means of material production (e.g. technology, money, labor, tools, etc.) also has control over the means of intellectual production (newspapers, schools, books, broadcast media, etc). One can see Marx’s claim come to life with the influence that Monsanto had over Fox News. Corporate interests shaped what news was aired, and a Fox executive later told the journalists "the news is what we say it is"; when the journalists used the courts to fight back, a Florida appeals court ruled that falsifying the news is not against the law. In both cases, financial interests shaped what constituted the news, and how it was presented--ultimately shaping knowledge in the interest of the dominant class.
Submitted By: Avery Winston and Paul Dean