Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Consolidation of Culture

I had a pair of conversations this week that goes together with some recent news that I found irritating. The news was that the Disney Corporation may be seeking to buy out 21st Century Fox.  The conversations with my friend involved the artistic hollowness and shallowness of the film industry and culture more broadly.

I would like to think I am not a terribly naive person. Popular culture is a business enterprise. That's fine, since the time of patrons and master craftsmen artists have needed supporters to financially back them. But for those who love to the market it might be time to consider the consolidation of our cultural industries.

An alarmingly small number of massive corporations produce most of our popular culture, especially in the areas of film and television. Furthermore, these companies are often deeply entwined with one another in business deals and frequently share common interests. If you want to see the twists copyright laws they are a good case in point. Disney perhaps is the peak of these oligarchs, and I fear nostalgia and positive associations deflects much of its criticism.

Defenders of, or those comfortable with, these few titans dominating our cultural life might point to the "meritocracy" of services like Twitch or YouTube which allow 'anybody' to find their own audience and create content and share it widely. Both are platforms owned by massive companies, Amazon and Google respectively. We have many example of creators running afoul of these company and losing their businesses, demolishing the illusion of their independence. Market concentration has made competition incredibly difficult as has the simple reality of creating such a service in 2017.

While many enjoy the products of these few dominant media companies the consolidation and death of meaningful competition is a concern. Disney has being pressuring distributors for special treatment for the upcoming Star Wars film. Though distribution is also problematic, this can happen as companies become excessively dominant in the market. The space for small, independent artists is dictated by large companies over again. A rich culture is a diverse culture that takes risks. It may be time to shatter the oligarchy that dictates the terms for the films and television we watch.

No comments: