You may or may not have heard about this clusterfuck of a merger that took place recently between Comcast Corporation and Time Warner Cable. In case you haven’t, here’s a brief rundown: Comcast is the largest cable and internet service provider in the United States, as well as the largest mass media and communications company in the world.
They have gradually acquired NBC Universal (and control over everything it produces) and have now bought Time Warner Cable, the next biggest cable and internet service provider in the U.S., for $45.2 billion.
According to GeoResults, Comcast will now have 70 million customers in the U.S. after the merger is complete. That’s over one-third of U.S. households. Holy shit. Oh, wait. Comcast said they will sell cable systems serving 3 million subscribers so that it doesn’t exceed the 30 percent mark.
Phew! Sixty seven million is way better. If I were going to get a little conspiracy theory on you, I would tell you that I thought that Comcast was buying Time Warner in an effort to monopolize the cable service industry and control the Internet. I mean, it already put a cap on how much internet data its customers can use each month (it’s 300 GB, by the way).
But I won’t. Instead, there’s a much larger problem that we face now. See, there have been five big media corporations that control most of the media we consume every single day. Those five were Com- cast, News Corp, Viacom, The Walt Disney Company and Time Warner.
Obviously, now Time Warner and all of its subsidiaries are owned by Comcast, which means there are now four major media corporations controlling most of what we consume. Yes, most of the media we consume on a daily basis is owned by four companies.
That’s it. (Again, if I were going to plant a conspiracy theory in your head, I would say, “Yeah, we have the First Amendment, but when only four corporations own most of our media, do we have as much power over that as we think we do?” But I digress.) Regardless of the fact that neither Comcast nor Time Warner have a large presence in Nevada most of their customers are on the East Coast and in the Mid-West — the fact that most of our media is owned by four companies is a big deal.
Granted, those companies have only whittled down in number over time and become more powerful, so it would seem that not much of an impact has been made in combating these media conglomerates.
In the wake of all these corporate mergers, I realized that working for a student newspaper actually has the staff of The Nevada Sagebrush in a unique position. We’re a financially independent publication, despite being affiliated with the university. This means that we can essentially say whatever we want, and the university administration and ASUN directors can only wag a finger at us. (Sometimes this means we can do something innovative; sometimes we learn from our mistakes.)
If I choose to pursue a career in media, how- ever, I may end up getting my paycheck from one of those four corporations. The problem is that many people in my demographic have had more power to create media individually during our lifetimes than any of those tycoons at Comcast.
I believe our generation has a predisposition to being both the consumer and the creator thanks to the ubiquity of the Internet. We can make our music and put it on Soundcloud or Bandcamp for free. You can self-publish your first novel. You can put your directorial debut on YouTube or Vimeo. It’s an exciting — and sometimes frightening — time of media innovation. Do we even need cable anymore?
Netflix and Hulu’s production of original programming has certainly proven that you don’t necessarily need one of those four corporations to pay for high-quality television shows. I would argue that those types of models are archetypes for media innovation, but they’re still only blips on Comcast’s massive radar.
OK, so if I haven’t lost you yet, dear reader, indulge me and think for a moment about how much you depend on the Internet for entertainment purposes. Do you use Netflix? Hulu? Download your music from some sort of online platform? Do you have a blog? Personal website? A YouTube page? Do you make memes? Do you sit on Reddit or Imgur for hours at a time? Do you get your news online? Do you write fan fiction? Do you perhaps even film your own porn? Then this merger affects you.
This is not only about protecting our rights as consumers; it’s also about protecting our rights as creators. Whether you know it or not, participating in creating something on the Internet is a small act of rebellion against corporations who don’t believe in a model where those who consume can also create. Gil Scott-Heron was right: “The revolution will not be televised.”
Stephanie Self studies English. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.