VIEWSrnThe Matter of MoneyrnMedia Empires and the Shaping of Democracyrnby Philip JenkinsrnOver the last year, the doings of the media have occupiedrncenter stage in the media themselves, an obsession thatrnseems harmless if somewhat incestuous. There has been arntournament atmosphere surrounding the issue of whether therndamsels CBS or ABC would fall to one or another suitor, and arnsense of awe at the financial buccaneering that has producedrnsome of the largest takeovers in history. After all, where’s thernharm? Unlike (say) the O.J. Simpson case, this is a bloodlessrnform of jousting in which the defeated lose nothing save honor,rnand perhaps the odd billion in cash or stocks. Nor is this type ofrnmedia concentration historically new. Complaints about thernexcessive power of publishers and media barons date back tornthe eadiest days of the popular press, and received a huge stimulusrnfrom the tumor-like growth of the Hearst chain from thernturn of the century: Citizen Kane is the classic memorial to thernmegalomaniac publisher who wanted to be king, or at least tornbe loved. What, if anything, is different about the currentrntrends that have made colossi out of multimedia concerns likernDisney and Time-Warner?rnSeveral major differences can be cited. In eadier years, newsrnoutlets could be easily distinguished from publishing or entertainmentrnvehicles with which they might be loosely connectedrnthrough common holding companies. Today, however, thernPhilip Jenkins is a professor of history and rehgious studies atrnPennsylvania State University.rn”press” broadly defined is bound up with the same informationrntechnology that dominates an elaborate and booming entertainmentrnindustry. Concern about blatant partisanship inrnnews or political coverage therefore gives way to subtler worriesrnabout pervasive social biases and the homogenization of culture.rnIn addition, these concerns apply on the global scale, anywherernin fact that can be reached by the satellites transmittingrnthe films or television programs manufactured in the UnitedrnStates. Finally, there is a critical difference in the concept ofrncontrol and regulation. In the days of Hearst, it was feasible tornimagine a government taking the relatively simple steps requiredrnto suppress the worst excesses of financial banditry andrneditorial irresponsibility, but this can scarcely be done when thernforms of bias and influence are so relatively inconspicuous, ifrnnonetheless potent.rnIn 1938, George Seldes’ classic book The Lords of the Pressrnperformed a hostile dissection of the American news media, arnpolemic that can still be read with immense profit. I cannotrnoffhand think of a modern survey of this depth and insight,rnpossibly because any recent parallel would certainly run the riskrnof libel suits: and who would publish it? As Seldes remarks,rn”The press publishes the news, true or false or halfway, aboutrneverything in the worid except itself.” The veteran leftist exposedrnthe political and antilabor biases of the newspapers andrntheir affiliated radio stations, their visceral hostility to New-rnDeal reforms and anything vaguely “pink.” He portrayed thern12/CHRONICLESrnrnrn