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Mainstream media (MSM) is a term and abbreviation used to refer collectively to the various large mass news media that influence many people, and both reflect and shape prevailing currents of thought. The term is used to contrast with alternative media which may contain content with more dissenting thought at variance with the prevailing views of mainstream sources.
The term is often used for large news conglomerates, including newspapers and broadcast media, that underwent successive mergers in many countries. The concentration of media ownership has raised concerns of a homogenization of viewpoints presented to news consumers. Consequently, the term mainstream media has been widely used in conversation and the blogosphere, sometimes in oppositional, pejorative or dismissive senses, in discussion of the mass media and media bias.
The advent of the internet allowed the expression of a more diverse or alternative viewpoint which may contrast to mainstream media, to the point where the term mainstream media is seen in pejorative terms.
Lamestream media is a common pejorative alternative. Sarah Palin referred to "lamestream media," notably around 2009 during her participation in the Tea Party Express, in the context of what she perceived as media misrepresentation of the Tea Party movement.
In the United States, movie production is known to have been dominated by major studios since the early 20th century; before that, there was a period in which Edison's Trust monopolized the industry. In the early 21st century, the music and television industries was subject to media consolidation, with Sony Music Entertainment's parent company merging their music division with Bertelsmann AG's BMG to form Sony BMG, and Warner Bros. Entertainment's The WB and CBS Corp.'s UPN merging to form The CW. In the case of Sony BMG there existed a "Big Five", later "Big Four", of major record companies, while The CW's creation was an attempt to consolidate ratings and stand up to the "Big Four" of American network (terrestrial) television (although the CW was actually partially owned by one of the Big Four in CBS). In television, the vast majority of broadcast and basic cable networks, over a hundred in all, are controlled by eight corporations: Fox Corporation, The Walt Disney Company (which includes the ABC, ESPN, FX and Disney brands), National Amusements (which owns ViacomCBS), Comcast (which owns NBCUniversal), AT&T (which owns WarnerMedia), Discovery, Inc., E. W. Scripps Company, Altice USA, or some combination thereof.
Over time the rate of media mergers has increased, while the number of media outlets has also increased. This has resulted in a higher concentration of media ownership, with fewer companies owning more media outlets.
Some critics, such as Ben Bagdikian, assailed concentration of ownership, arguing that large media acquisitions limit the information accessible to the public. Other commentators, such as Ben Compaine and Jack Shafer, find Bagdikian's critique overblown. Shafer noted that U.S. media consumers have a wide variety of news sources, including independent national and local sources. Compaine argues that, based on economic metrics such as the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index, the media industry is not very highly concentrated and did not become more concentrated during the 1990s and early 2000s. Compaine also points out that most media mergers are not purely acquisitions, but also include divestitures.
|The Big five||Media Outlets||2018 Revenues|
|Comcast||NBCUniversal: NBC and Telemundo, Universal Pictures, Focus Features, DreamWorks Animation, 26 television stations in the United States and cable networks USA Network, Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC, Syfy, NBCSN, Golf Channel, E!, Olympic Channel, and the NBC Sports Regional Networks. Comcast also owns the Philadelphia Flyers through a separate subsidiary.||$94.5 billion |
|The Walt Disney Company||Holdings include: ABC Television Network, cable networks ESPN, Disney Channel, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, FX, FXX, FX Movie Channel, A&E and Lifetime, approximately 30 radio stations, music, video game, and book publishing companies, production companies Marvel Entertainment, Lucasfilm, Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios, 20th Century Studios, Searchlight Pictures and Blue Sky Studios, the cellular service Disney Mobile, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media, and theme parks in several countries. Also has a longstanding partnership with Hearst Corporation, which owns additional TV stations, newspapers, magazines, and stakes in several Disney television ventures.||$59.4 billion |
|News Corp/Fox Corporation*||Holdings include: the Fox Broadcasting Company; cable networks Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2; print publications including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post; the magazines Barron's and SmartMoney; book publisher HarperCollins.||$39.4 billion ($9 billion News Corp  and $30.4 billion 21st Century Fox )|
|WarnerMedia (AT&T)||Formerly the largest media conglomerate in the world, with holdings including: CNN, the CW (a joint venture with ViacomCBS), HBO, Cinemax, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, HLN, NBA TV, TBS, TNT, truTV, Turner Classic Movies, Warner Bros. Pictures, Castle Rock, DC Comics, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and New Line Cinema.||$28.9 billion |
|ViacomCBS||Holdings include: MTV, Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, VH1, BET, Comedy Central, Paramount Pictures, Miramax, and Paramount Home Entertainment. CBS Television Network and the CW (a joint venture with WarnerMedia), cable networks CBS Sports Network, Showtime, Pop; 30 television stations; CBS Radio, Inc., which has 130 stations; CBS Television Studios; book publisher Simon & Schuster.||Unknown|
A 2019 Gallup poll found that Americans remain largely mistrustful of the mass media. Between 2017 and 2019, 41%-45% of respondents have had "a great deal" or "fair amount" of trust in newspapers, television and radio to report the news "fully, accurately and fairly." Distrust had increased since the mid 2010s when Americans were already more negative about the media than they had been before 2004.
In the UK, during 1922, after the closure of many radio stations, the British Broadcasting Company started its first daily radio transmission and started to grow an audience. Later that year John Reith, a Scottish engineer, would be appointed the first General Manager for the BBC. Later on January 1, 1927 the BBC was fully established by Royal Charter and renamed the British Broadcasting Corporation with Reith as the first Director-General. During November 1936 the BBC began to expand into television broadcasting and was the first broadcaster to start the trend of a regularly scheduled TV service.
Today the BBC is one of two chartered public broadcasting companies in the United Kingdom. The second is ITV, Independent Television, which was established in 1955 as the first public commercial television company after the Television act of 1954 in an effort to break up the monopoly the BBC had on television broadcasting, gaining fifteen regional broadcasting licenses in less than twenty years. Today the BBC and ITV are the two free to air digital services offered to everyone in the United Kingdom and each other's biggest competitors. The BBC has nine national television channels, BBC three, the first channel to switch from television to online, an interactive channel, ten national and forty local radio stations, BBC Online, and BBC Worldwide. ITV currently holds thirteen of the fifteen regional broadcasting licenses in the United Kingdom that carries their multiple channels including ITV, ITVhub, ITV2, ITVBe, ITV 3, ITV4, CITV, ITV Encore, Britbox, a video-on-demand service in collaboration with the BBC to bring British television content to the United States and Canada, and Cirkus, their own video-on-demand service.