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Monopolies, Streaming, and Their Effect on Creativity

In 1983, fifty companies owned all of the mainstream media. As our technology and corporate greed progress, that number becomes even smaller.

Netflix sign in screen on iMac

Who owns what we consume?

Today, only six companies own all the dominant media consumers buy. These companies are General Electric, NewsCorp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, and CBS. One of the biggest corporations in our current media environment is Disney. Their list of assets is astronomical; here are just a few: Pixar Animation, Marvel Studios, 20th Century Studios, Lucasfilm, ABC Studios, National Geographic, ESPN, and Hulu, not to mention the countless stores, parks, and theatres that they own. Disney is the perfect example of a large producer set on owning and profiting as much as possible. With their new streaming service, Disney+, they have removed most of their content from other streaming services, forcing viewers to subscribe to their service in order to access it, despite the countless other streaming services viewers probably already subscribe to.

Why does it matter?

The less diverse the ownership in media, the less it reflects the interests of the whole population. Dominant media tends to reflect the interests of those that own it, meaning the rich and powerful. With less diversity in the ownership and production of media comes the creation of media that only reflects the experiences or ideas of those with the privilege to make it.

Recent discourse follows the cancelling of a vast majority of shows on streaming platforms like Hulu and Netflix after only one season. These shows tend to be more unique or progressive in their storytelling, making them popular with minority groups but not with more mainstream society. The diverse teams that work on these shows then lose their jobs and the chance of new shows making it past one season becomes smaller. Many recent popular productions have been cancelled, some even in the middle of production, like Inside Job from Netflix. These big corporations don’t care about telling a story for audiences, they care about making money. These companies churn out as many shows as they can until one sticks, meaning people’s time, creativity, and livelihood are wasted. Don’t get me wrong, some of the shows and movies made by these companies are great, but that’s thanks to the talented people they were lucky enough to hire and who probably get underpaid compared to their CEOs who don’t contribute to the creativity needed to create real art.

How do we change?

It may feel impossible to find content that feels genuine and supports real people. The best advice I can give is to look around you–visit local film festivals, libraries, independent publishers, and art galleries (and more) in your local area. It may seem like the only media that exists are the ones made by conglomerates on our TV screens, but that is not the case. You can access independent media with your library through apps like Kanopy and Hoopla. You can discover creators in your area by going to local shows and events. While many social media sites are flooded with mass-created content, they are still a great tool to find independent creators on topics you already love. 

Everything seen on billboards, television, radio, and social media is all money to be gained. Our eyes have become the largest commodity–make sure to use them wisely.

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