A favourite scapegoat of the right wing is the so-called “liberal” (otherwise known as “mainstream”, or “lamestream” by the more “witty”) media. The moniker is often utilised by the conservative media and their zombie followers in an attempt to discredit media institutions with whom they disagree. However it can be questioned whether an industry overwhelmingly controlled and influenced by large conglomerates – especially the noticeably partisan News Corp. – can possibly be one dominated by a left leaning ideology.
The term liberal has unfortunately long been a blackened term in the eyes of conservatives, as conservative has been in the eyes of liberals. However only recently has “liberal” truly attained the status of an insult. It is freely attached by the right to any institution which does not produce material strictly conforming with right wing philosophy. Even centrist organisations that go out of their way to present two sides of every story (and are often criticised by experts for it) such as CNN and the BBC are labelled as liberal for their contradictory reporting. This tendency to discredit contradictory information exploded during the dramatic rise of Fox News and the right wing media ecosystem (right wing blogs, radio, newspapers and TV stations which quote and reinforce each other to the exclusion of contradictory viewpoints).
While it is a legitimate argument that a majority of reporters, columnists, editors and producers in the news media hold left leaning opinions (a side effect of an industry heavily beholden to arts degrees); the modern stranglehold of media ownership by large conglomerates, the demographic shift of media viewership (primarily print media) to older generations, and the movement of classified advertising to the internet (print media’s traditional cash cow) thoroughly quashes the notion that the news media is dominated by the left and liberals. Businesses by definition lean to the right, as do the people who run them. Older generations are on the whole conservative as they lean towards the status quo and reject change. Classified advertising allowed independent editorial, as classified advertisers generally had no leverage over media institutions. Therefore, as the primary producers and source of funding (advertising) for media, businesses influence the editorial content of the media, especially in terms of garnering favourable government policies, public opinion, and to soothe potential advertisers and investors. As the primary consumers of print media, older generations dictate the editorial policies of the print media institutions, which means media institutions reflect society.
In reality the media establishment as a whole is quite centrist, as the left wing opinion of individual media members is counterbalanced by business interests. Except for extreme outliers such as Fox News and MSNBC who have managed to turn partisanship into incredible success, media organisations are forced to cater to as many people and viewpoints as they can. A ready example is the difference between “the Australian” and the “Sydney Morning Herald”. While the Australian loses money every year due to its narrowcasting ideology, the Sydney Morning Herald is the bestselling paper in Australia with a thoroughly ideologically diverse cast of journalists and columnists. As left and right ideologies each represent less than half of a country’s population, it can be questioned whether there is a market for a media establishment dominated by the left.
Therefore despite claims by right wing ideologues, there is no proof of a “liberal media”. As business interests overwhelmingly control the media establishment, editorial is more likely to either be centrist or right in its ideology. As the primary consumers of print media are older generations, these too are more likely to be right wing. However on the whole, as media institutions are in the business of making money, media institutions make a habit of broadcasting rather than ideological narrowcasting.