The Big 6 vs YouTube – Mainstream Media & User Generated Content

Being a relative newcomer to film and new media studies, I found Jennifer Holt’s Empires of Entertainment to be an interesting and informative read. The novel provided extensive insight as to how the landscape of modern film production has evolved, and shed light on many aspects of the industry I had never previously considered or recognized.

For me, this reading prompted a series of self-reflective questions about my consumption of media. Why do I watch the shows that I watch? Is it because they are truly aligned with my interests, or is it because they’re the most accessible, or most promoted? The vertical and horizontal integration of media has largely left the formation of mainstream media in the hands of a select few.

According to Holt, “just six conglomerates now dominate the global media marketplace, sharing the common traits of convergence, consolidation, and major international presence” (1).

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These six corporations control the vast majority of the film, broadcast, and cable we consume on a daily basis. Moreover, in being vertically integrated, many seemingly distinct entities answer to one of these six ultimate authorities. Questions of exclusive rights and potential conflicts of interest among each conglomerate’s properties leaves the viewer somewhat wary of the ultimate agenda of conglomeration- namely, to make money.

However, with the rapid development and integration of technology into our daily lives, the accessibility and production of mainstream media has invariably shifted. With social media platforms like YouTube and Spotify emphasizing user-generated content, individuals are finding ways to circumvent the dominance of these conglomerates, finding non-traditional paths to mainstream success.

The list of individuals who have achieved major success through social media platforms is extensive – Justin Bieber, Bo Burnham, and Jake Paul are just a few named in an article by Refinery29 called “20 YouTubers Who Actually Became Famous”. A recent article by The Guardian chronicles band The Glass Animals rise to fame on the streaming website Spotify.

In the article, former Spotify exec George Ergatoudis makes the profound claim that “Spotify has democratized the universe”.

While this may be overstating the power of a single site, it is true that YouTube, Spotify, and other similar platforms are giving consumers more freedom and choice than ever before. In the very least, they are providing alternative options to the media conglomerates that are behind the brunt of mainstream film, television, and broadcast.

 

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