In our society, the media are mainly seen as the Fourth Estate. The concept of Fourth Estate can be traced back to the time of the
French Revolution which suggested the press were counterpoised to the other sectors that made up the society. The clergy, or First
Estate, the aristocracy, or Second Estate, and the common people, or Third Estate, were the classes to keep in check. In fact,
according to the Liberal elites, the media are a means through which the population can protect itself from state power. Nonetheless,
it is more difficult to find among the liberal thinkers, someone who claims the role of media is to scrutinise corporate power.
Open markets provide the space for individuals without any discrimination of race, gender, creed or political faith to spread their
opinions on cultural, political and economic issues as long as other individuals want to get to know them. Audiences in a free market
system are “sovereign” and “ultimate judge of their own interests”.
According to this theory, media consumers have the chance to find a wide range of TV programmes, newspapers and books which
can satisfy their needs (apparently Liberals don’t watch telly on Sunday morning!). These are the main arguments that justify the
liberal claim that the media “should be encouraged or herded down the road of commodification”. This process of commodification
has transformed the media into firms, which try to contain costs and increase their own profits. However, this practice has changed
the nature of the media, which now seems to be far less critical towards the establishment and perhaps can no longer be considered
an independent Fourth Estate.
In fact, the mainstream media reflect the inequality of wealth and power within our society and the media’s main purpose is to serve
the interests of dominant elites rather than informing, educating and entertaining. It’s worth reading Noam Chomsky and Ed Herman’s
joint work “Manufacturing Consent”. This article analyses two of the most controversial aspects of the mainstream media: advertising
and size, ownership and profit orientation of the media. These elements interact and reinforce each other in order to create an
unchallengeable system in which there is a dominant or core ideology and dissent is banned.
The era of industrialisation of the media has transformed adverts into the lifeblood of TV, Press, and Radio. Advertising has become
the major source of income for the media and enable them to cover higher production costs and improve their products. Yet adverts
are responsible for creating a double standard within the media. Radical media aimed at informing working class people are less
likely to indulge in consumerist activities, and could not attract as many adverts as Liberal or Conservative media therefore they went
bankrupt despite their huge readership. In fact, large audiences did not guarantee enough profits to cover production costs. This is the
reason behind the lack of radical voices in the media. Moreover, adverts can undermine the role of the media as a watchdog.
Mainstream media would never criticise any of its advertisers because this would endanger its chances to get a profit.
The second element to be analysed is “size, ownership and profit orientation of the media”. The profit orientation of the media make
them compete over advertising revenues rather than fulfilling its role to inform, educate and scrutinise. Besides, the entry costs into
the mass media market being raised, only wealthy people could set up their own paper, publishing company or television channels. In
the market therefore, only the richest companies resisted protection by high entry costs. As those companies increased their power,
they started to expand by buying other media. These multinational companies have no legal responsibility towards their media’s
audiences. They have legal responsibilities towards shareholders and advertisers instead. There is also a close relation between
media companies and governments. Media firms need a governmental license to enter the market and the government may exert
control over the media. However, in western countries, governments support the media with pro-media policies. In turn, media provide
a channel for the delivery of governmental propaganda.
This leads to a double consideration. Firstly, the liberals’ free market has become a guided market in which the major companies call
the shots and set the political agenda and propagate their class biases. Secondly, those big corporations share the same interests
which will be reflected in their products. Hence, it shrinks the concept of plurality of the media as liberals meant. Adverts have eroded
social and political diversity.
I strongly believe the so-called alternative media (like us) are the only ones that are able to perform the role of Fourth Estate. A flexible
and non-corporate structure allows Alternative media to be more critical towards the establishment.
Alternative media was created by groups of people without any commercial interests whose only goal is to make their voice heard. As
Soma Soma Scene, our fate lies in the hands of our readers, not on the prospects of future earnings. We agreed on opening our pages
to adverts due to financial restraints. At the moment all of us are contributing to funding the magazine but we are aware of the benefits
of an external source of revenue in order to improve our publication in terms of content and layout. However, we have decided we won’
t bow down and change our editorial line in case of conflict with some advertisers’ interests. We’d rather bear the costs of production
ourselves than sell our souls out. That’s why we aim at selling adverting spaces to enlightened local businesses that realise the
importance of a critical voice and believe in our project.