The 17th Duke of Norfolk. President of the Lucky Sperm Club
We love to talk about the ‘democratization’ of the media.
And it’s not a bad thing to talk about.
But it won’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen without a fight.
Because ownership of the media is today in a very few hands; people like Roy Disney or Sumner Redstone. And they are not going to just hand it over.
Because it is worth a fortune.
Democratization will only happen when ‘the people’ decide to ‘take control’. No one, not NBC, not CBS, not ABC, not CNN is going to hand over control. They don’t want to.
This ‘loss of control’ or shift of power is not new to the media revolution. It is the continuing and repeated history of democratizations everywhere.
Britain, which we like to think of as one of the foundations of democracy did not in fact begin in so democratic a fashion. True democracy in Britain came realtively late. In fact, not even so relatively.
Prior to 1832, it was only men who owned property that produced more than 40 shillings a year who were entitled to vote. In 1832, 40 shillings generated by property was a fair amount of money. In fact, in 1832, only 435,000 men in all of England and Wales had the franchise.
And of these landholders, the vast majority held their land only through extensive and intertwining submissive obligations to greater landlords (with the emphasis on Lords).
Of the 514 members of Parliament in 1835, 370 were in fact selected by 180 landholders across the UK.
Was this a true democracy? Not really. Closer to a majlis in Saudi Arabia. It served at the pleasure of the wealthy few.
Today power that was once inherent in landholding is vested far more in the media than in land. From networks to cable to online, it is media that controls much of the intellectual, economic and political real estate in the US.
Up until now, that real estate was held by a small handful of people. Like the Duke of Norfolk (pictured above), who was and remains the single largest landholder in the UK, these positions of power are incredibly valuable and also hereditary. Just ask the children of Rupert Murdoch and how they got their great jobs. Ask Arthur Sulzberger. Ask Sumner Redstone’s daughter.
But now, as the franchise was once extended to the ‘commons’, to women, to blacks in the US (who Constitutionally only counted as 3/5ths of person), the media ‘franchise’ is on the cusp of being extended to the ‘commons’.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that Ted Turner is going to turn over that franchise without a fight. Why would he?
The wealth and power that accompany ownership of the media only come to those who have the courage and the desire to take it.
Now you can.. but only if you want…