Is Comcast trying influence how it is covered in the press?
Did you ever read a story about a company and say to yourself “This sounds like it was written by the company itself and not a reporter”. If you have you should be very concerned to see that Comcast is stepping up its investment with Vox Media properties. On the surface that appears to be just another business announcement but there is reason to worry about it. At question is the role of an independant media. Included in the Vox Media portfolio are The Verge and Re/Code. Why is this important? Because the Verge and Re/Code cover the technology sector and have gigantic followings. As Comcast increases its stake in the companies that own these media outlets we should worry that it will increase its influence on the editorial direction of the publications. Earlier this year in a similar move Verizon bought AOL, an entertainment and video news service. Should we expect to see critical stories from AOL On News concerning Verizon or question the validity of any story focussing on any of Verizon’s competitors in the cell phone or video delivery world. What do you think? When a cigarette company sponsors a health study on the effects of cigarettes don’t you wonder if you can trust the results? You should. In the same respect seeing well followed tech websites come under added influence from the biggest media company in the country should worry those who want unbiased reporting on issues like net neutrality and other issues surrounding Comcast from customer service complaints, pricing schemes and so on. Many critics have fairly questioned ESPN’s relationship with the NFL and weather it affects how the company covers the darker side of the league. Issues like post concussion syndrome, criminal activity and drug use. The Network once cancelled an original series centered on a pseudo NFL under pressure from the league because of how it depicted the lifestyle of the characters in the show. In a similar decision ESPN parted ways with commentator and columnist Bill Simmons shortly after he heavily criticized NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The decision has been spun as a purely financial move but it is not difficult to connect the dots between his criticism and his removal from the website.
I really don’t want to be a tinfoil hat person here but I don’t think that these kinds of questions are being asked loudly enough in the mainstream media, which in an era of slashing staffs and resources has come to rely more and more on press releases and spin instead of sourced reporting or critical thinking. It doesn’t matter whether the publication has existed for 100 years or 5, if it is owned by a company with its own agenda we should all regularly question the validity of its reporting. If every publication owned by Vox Media changed its logo to the Comcast logo would you trust anything it said about the cable industry? Why or Why not. Let us know how you feel in the comments section.