by Steven Hill
Published in The Fishwrapper, March 1991 and the Seattle Community Catalyst, October 1992

The media coverage of the Persian Gulf War -- what was left out as well as the bias of what was put in -- only makes sense when we realize who owns the corporate media. For starters, all three major television networks are either owned outright or have i ntimate links with defense contractors. What's more, they are directly influenced by former high-level government officials from the national security state who now sit squarely on their board of directors.

NBC is owned by General Electric, the third largest defense contractor with Pentagon contracts worth $5.8 billion for manufacture of radar and guidance systems F404 and F110 aircraft engines and other military hardware (source: Dollars and Sense, May 199 1). CBS is involved in joint ventures with Westinghouse (including a satellite news channel -- source: Forbes, Jan. 3, 1983) and has on its Board of Directors former Secretary of Defense Harold Brown (who is also on the board of directors of IBM, Rockef eller Foundation and a member of the infamous Trilateral Commission, an association of wealthy and powerful politicians, industrialists, and bankers -- see Trilateralism edited by Holly Sklar), former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (also a member of the Trilateral Commission), and other directors associated with AT&T, Honeywell and Dow-Corning.

ABC has been owned since 1985 by Capital Cities. One of the founders of Capital Cities was Ronald Reagan's director of the CIA, the infamous William Casey. Casey was on the board of Capital Cities until 1981, when he left to head the CIA, though he stil l retained $7.5 million in Capital Cities stock as the largest stockholder. As director of the CIA, Casey asked the FCC to revoke the license of ABC when ABC reported unfavorably on some of the CIA's dirty dealings. The FCC declined to do so, and the nex t thing you know -- Voila! -- Capital Cities bought ABC! In addition, current members of ABC's board of directors also serve as directors of defense contractors ITT (which was involved in the overthrow of the Allende government in Chile in 1973), United Technologies (headed by former Secretary of State, General Alexander Haig), IBM, and Texaco (source: EXTRA! March/April 1990, a publication of FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting).

That's why every television viewer in every USA living room was entertained by awesome video footage of smart bombs cruising down the streets of Baghdad, sniffing out its target -- it was free advertisement for defense contractors. Just as many in the U. S. were talking about Peace Dividends and post-Cold War military budget cuts, along comes a convenient little war that allows the military industrial complex to demonstrate its high-tech weaponry on the people of Iraq. The result was renewed enthusiasm a nd popular pride in the United States's military might and technologically-advanced weaponry, and dampened calls for defense cuts.

Of course, the result was also many thousands of Iraqi dead, and the destruction of an entire civilian infrastructure that Harvard physicians tell us will cause the death of another 100,000 Iraqi children in the next year due to disease and starvation. B ut we didn't see any video footage of that. That's bad advertisement, and even worse entertainment.

In fact, the Great Free Press is dominated by major corporations. What's more, these major media corporations are more-often-than-not dominated by single individuals or families. For instance, the New York Times, one of the Crown Jewels of the mighty Fr ee Press, has been owned by the Ochs-Sulzberger family since 1896-- one family, one fortune, one philosophy, one ideology, one religion, one set of assumptions and preferences, running the New York Times, generation after generation, since 1896. One of the daughters of this family recently married the chairman of Time, Inc. Another daughter is the publisher of the Chattanooga Times. Keep it all in the family, as they say.

And speaking of families: the Washington Post is owned by the Graham family, Knight-Ridder by the Knight and Ridder families, Hearst Publishing is owned by the Hearst family, McGraw-Hill by the McGraw family, News Corp. by the Rupert Murdoch family, Read er's Digest by the Wallace family, Times-Mirror by the Chandler family, Turner Broadcasting and CNN by the Ted Turner family, U.S. News and World Report by the Zuckerman family (source: Manufacturing Consent: the Political Economy of the Mass Media by Ed ward Herman and Noam Chomsky).

Are these Leading Families the defenders of free speech and free press? Or are they part of the Ruling Oligarchs of U.S. society? Is this the Great Free Press, committed to a Free Flow of Information and Ideas? Or is this the Media Mafia, looking to pr otect its own wealthy and elite interests?

Apparently "free press" means the press is "free" to print whatever it wants-- or whatever it doesn't want. But is this the same as a "responsible" press? Can a "responsible" press be run by the rich?

I am reminded of what Socialist candidate for president Eugene Debs said in 1927: "The economic owning class is always the political ruling class." Might as well add to that "the media owning class." And jeez, did they do a number on us during the Pers ian Gulf War.

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