The following are just a small set of examples of corporate influence in the media, on issues that have been highlighted elsewhere on this web site. This section cannot aim to be comprehensive as there are so many examples! Therefore, some different types of examples are introduced here. However, over time, more will be added.
Some general observations
By no means a complete set of tactics, the following have been tactics common over many issues.
Creating Fake Citizens on the Internet
A Public Relations firm contracted to biotech giant Monsanto apparently used fake people on internet listserves to appear independent and raise questions and concerns about critics and unfavorable scientific findings that even pressured the prestigious science journal, Nature, to detract an article. George Monbiot is worth quoting about this:
Ridiculing and Discrediting Scientists on Health and Environmental Issues
While business lobby groups and business funded scientists have attempted to protect many causes, from tobacco to oil (in the climate change issues), the media's poor attempt at balance has worsened the problem.
Eric A. Davidson is worth quoting on this:
George Monbiot, in 2004, notes a similar issue, whereby media attempts at balance has led to false balancing whereby disproportionate time is given to more fringe scientists or those with less credibility or with additional agendas, without noting so, and thus gives the impression that there is more debate than what really exists in the scientific community about whether or not climate change is an issue to be concerned about or not.
But Monbiot notes that this happens in other issues, such as the issue of smoking. Davidson in the above book also highlights other industries where businesses have felt afraid to make changes, such as reducing lead in gasoline, or doing something about acid rain, or about CFCs and the Ozone layer. In all cases, concerns about job losses, denials about whether it was actually an issue, and so on, have turned out to be false.
Influence on Media Coverage of the Kyoto Conference
During the Kyoto Climate Protocol Conference, large industries who could be affected by environmental legislation were able to influence the outcome, using the media to its best advantage.
Chiquita, a company directly influencing USA to commit to a Banana Trade War had a damning media report about its terrible working practices and illegal activities such as bribery, tax evasion, violence towards some workers and even killings.
Yet, the sensation wasn't that Chiquita was so unfair in its methods, but more that the reporter that investigated this apparently stole some information from internal Chiquita voicemails. The paper then retracted the story after huge pressure from Chiquita, an advertising customer, and denounced the report for three days on it's front page! Its truly amazing that while the reporter gets all the stick from everyone, the real villain is still at large!
McDonald's has also come under scrutiny for similar reasons.
Monsanto and others are trying to heavily promote (prematurely, which is where a lot of the problem also lies) genetically engineered (GE) or Genetically Modified (GM) food as the way to solve world hunger. What is not acknowledged is that food shortage around the world is more of a political problem. GE food may be a good alternative in the future after much more testing and guarantees of safety, but the current push and types of GE technology (like Terminator seeds) being promoted suggest that the intention is perhaps more profit-oriented.
Two award-winning Florida TV producers working for Fox were fired after they refused to broadcast false reports about Monsanto's controversial genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone.
While there have been many cases of corporate groups supporting PR firms or setting up fake consumer groups to try and lobby a certain position favorable for its interests, Monsanto had apparently gone a step further by using fake people on the internet on some listserves that discussed science issues. (This itself is not really a new tactic, as it appears that a number of companies in various industries have been doing this.)
Military Industrial Complex and Military Contractor's Influence
Some military contractors are enormous corporations and wield a lot of power and influence. Their products can literally affect the lives of many people. However, as corporations, their bottom line is important, so it is in their interest to promote an environment where the need for continual high spending on military is required. This then leads to a lot of propaganda.
As an example of influence, Disney's size and popularity provides a good example. Disney is well regarded for providing wholesome family entertainment, with numerous films, cartoons/animation movies and so on. However, with the increasing size, owning the ABC news station, and enormous vertical integration, there have been increasing criticisms of Disney as well, ranging from the subtle cultural and even racial, gender and class bias depicted in their cartoons and movies, to their ability to naturally (directly or indirectly) influence major news stories via their ABC ownership.
That is not to say that Disney is necessarily sexist, racist and so on by intent. It is possible that the drive for profits is more important and leads to less criticism, because from a business perspective, they have been very successful and implemented the most appropriate strategies to expand and grow. As Michael Eisner, CEO of Walt Disney Co. said in an internal memo:
General Electric's Influence
General Electric (GE) also the largest military contractor as well as enormous multinational company producing many household appliances and other things, owns the NBC network. As a small example of their influence via the ownership of one of the major media networks in the U.S., GE Vice Chair and NBC President Robert Wright lobbied the New York City Council against a pending resolution in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to clean up the Hudson River.
One of the implication of this use of media to wield political influence was that journalists subtly get the message to not report on things that affect the mother company and related interests. Or, as put in the following quote: