tv remote

The episode of "Wheel of Fortune" that Sollie competed on aired on Wednesday, April 4. Courtesy Public Domain Pictures. 

Whether a student walks past a television on-campus or settles down in front of their personal TV, cable news consumption ingrains itself into the daily lives of many Americans.

However, people everywhere, both UGA students and otherwise, should stop watching cable news. It is biased to favor corporate interests, which affects the quality of information news consumers receive.

According to the Institute for Applied and Professional Ethics from Ohio University, the big business aspect of cable news outlets skews what is presented to their audiences. News stations rely on advertisers and high ratings for their survival, two factors that can cause a cable news station to misinform the public or keep extremely important information hidden.

For example, Jane Akre and Steve Wilson were two award-winning reporters from WTVT-13, a substation of Fox Television, in the 90s. They were fired because they refused to publicize false reports.

The two reporters investigated a dairy cow growth hormone (rBGH) that had been linked to cancer. Monsanto, the manufacturer of the hormone, threatened Fox with “dire consequences,” forcing Fox to pull the story from airing. After a nine month long fight to air their story, involving 80 rewrites of the story, Akre and Wilson were fired from Fox and the story was never reported.

An example from 2018 includes the coverage of Larry Nassar, one of the largest-scale sexual abuse scandals in the past two years. Over 100 women came forth to share their stories of abuse, but the top three cable news networks only spent 20 minutes maximum covering the scandal out of their entire news lineup. With the Me Too movement gaining momentum, cable news networks limited coverage of Nassar’s indictment removes proof of the movement’s seriousness and hides how the movement helps topple powerful, abusive men.

No commercial power should dominate the news, just as no state power should,” said Ben Bagdikian, the late dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

Commercial powers will always push their agenda, pushing away public health and safety as a result. And yet, American citizens find themselves in a commercial-news ecosystem. When 90 percent of cable news is controlled by six corporations, the public can never know what information is truthful and what has been altered, skewed or omitted.

However, despite the propensity of cable news, American citizens have other avenues of keeping up with current events, social issues and other topics relevant in society.

Citizens of Athens can peruse WUGA for local and national news, in addition to  The Athens Journal on the student radio station WUOG. Other national news outlets, such as Reuters, NPR and PBS manage to have neutral partisanship or at least balance the bias, according to Market Watch. Independently-owned news outlets, such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, also sustain themselves on the contributions of readers wanting high journalistic standards.

Cable news networks owned by corporations act with corporate interests, mainly to continue profits and sustain audience viewership. People should opt instead for a healthier news diet from reputable news sources, or at the very least balance the news coverages you consume. Only then can the news consumer avoid the echo-chamber of politics and opinion many Americans find themselves in.

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(2) comments

Thunderboltoftruth

So your solution to too many networks being owned by the same company is to suggest turning to the major newspapers? How is that any different? NYT and WSJ are just as biased as the cable networks, if not moreso.

Man with the Axe

You mention the downplaying of the Larry Nassar charges as an example of how cable news might not report stories they don't like. But it was NBC that refused to run the devastating in-depth story that Ronan Farrow researched and wrote for them regarding Harvey Weinstein and other Hollywood sexual abusers. All the news outlets are corporations, not just the cable news outlets. The New York Times makes the same kind of decisions about what they print or don't. For example, the mainstream news almost never covers the March for Life in D.C. every year, while giving wall-to-wall coverage of the Women's March.

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