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The Millennial Media Revolution: How The Next Generation is Re-Shaping The Press

By Nolan Higdon

[This is the first article in a four part series addressing how the flow of information has changed for the Millennial Generation (referring to people born between the early 1980s and 2000s). Each installment will be published on the Project Censored website weekly throughout this month. (February, 2014). Due to the removal of media regulations the millennials grew up with a defunct media industry that peddles infotainment and serves--rather than questions--those in power. In response, the millennials are partaking in a media revolution that is re-shaping the press. Part one will examine the removal of media regulations that shaped the millennial press. Part two will examine the state of the press in the Millennial Era. Part three will examine how millennials are reshaping the media. Part four will examine the success of the media revolution.] 

Part I: De-Regulated to Ignorance

            In The Dumbest Generation: How The Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future, Emory University Professor of English Mark Baurlein argued that the millennials (referring to people born between the early 1980s and 2000s) are the “dumbest generation” because they focus on Facebook and Twitter instead of the political process or history.[1] A decade earlier, critics had predicted the opposite. The millennials were the first generation raised with a computer in the home, leading many to believe they would be the best informed.[2] However, in the Millennial Era, politicians have championed de-regulation, including the removal of government safeguards on maintaining a vibrant free press.[3] The result is an electorate misinformed by media that is increasingly concentrated, homogenized, and in service of the nation’s power elite and their interests.

Recent data suggests Millennial Era voters are widely uninformed and misinformed about political happenings. A 2012 Pew Research study found that only 53% of Americans could identify that Republicans support “reducing the size and scope of the federal government,” which has been a core GOP aim for decades.[4]  Journalist Thomas Frank found voters in places like Kansas to be uninformed, because they voted against their economic interests.[5] Polls in 2010 showed a slew of voters believed relevant falsehoods: the stimulus legislation lost jobs (91%), health reform will increase the deficit (72%), income taxes have gone up (49%), stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (63%), and Obama was not born in the US (63%).[6]

Many of the Millennial Era voters attain their knowledge from media conglomerates that espouse the narratives of those in power. In 1996, the former media consultant for three Republican Presidents, Roger Ailes, became CEO of the burgeoning conservative news network, FOX.[7] FOX became overwhelmingly biased in favor of the Republican Party. During a 19-week period in 2001, Special Report with Brit Hume had a 50:6 ratio of conservative to liberal guests.[8] In 2010, the World Public Opinion project found that out of all news viewers, Fox’s were the most misinformed.[9]  In response to FOX, Democrats created MSNBC.[10] By 2013, a Pew study found MSNBC to be the least factually based and most opinionated of the three 24-hour news networks.[11]

Previous generations had regulations to protect media from becoming homogenized. The Communications Act of 1934 kept media diverse by limiting the number of stations one could own and keeping broadcast “facilities at reasonable charges.”[12]  The Telecommunications Act of 1996 removed the limits set by the Communications Act.  As a result, media became more concentrated and homogenized as the 50 major media companies that owned 90% of all media in the US in 1983 dropped to 10 in 1996 and 6 in 2012.[13]

Congress passed the Fairness Doctrine in 1949.  This mandated equal airtime for differing views paid for by the broadcaster.[14] In 1974, the Supreme Court exempted newspapers from the regulation arguing that, with so many newspapers, diversity is naturally protected.[15] However, a fifth of newspaper jobs were cut from 2001 -2009.[16] In 1987, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which “regulates interstate and international communications,” exempted all from Fairness Doctrine regulations.[17]

The de-regulation philosophy opposed new regulations aimed at protecting the youngest millennials. In 1978, the Federal Trade Commission which provides “consumer protection” among other functions, proposed no advertising to children under the age of 8 after studies showed they could not tell the difference between television shows and ads.[18]  A few years later, under the new President and de-regulation supporter Ronald Regan, the FTC killed the bill.[19] Thus, the millennials became the first generation to experience widespread advertisements directed at them. Youth targeted periodicals doubled between 1986-1991 as did music between the years 1991 and 1994.[20] In 2009, Nielsen, reported that, the youth’s time spent viewing television was “at an eight-year high” averaging 32 hours a week.[21] Thus, the millennials were arguably largely influenced and informed by the very corporations trying to profit from them in a consumer culture. Reporter William Kleinknecht argued that the result was that millennials do not wear sneakers and t-shirts, they wear Nikes and Abercrombie.[22]

The prospects of the Internet improving the flow of information in the Millennial Era are waning. In his recent book Digital Disconnect, media scholar Robert McChesney argues that the internet’s promise of wide spread information is declining as a few monopolies dominate the majority of its economy: Google owns 97% of the mobile search market and Microsoft 90% of operating systems.[23] Like television, a few major corporations dominate the popular Internet news sites, which re-post and aggregate corporate news articles.[24] Thus, they spread the same misinformation of traditional media to the Internet. Currently, world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, are attempting to legislate bills such as the Stop Online Privacy Act and the Trans-Pacific Partnership to further limit and control the flow of information on the Internet.[25]

The removal of media regulations has led to Millennial Era voters being informed by a defunct media industry dominated by only a handful of corporate and commercial private interests.. This creates a homogenized and biased corporate media that serves–rather than questions–those in power. Millennials need to turn off the corporate broadcasts and begin a media revolution where they change the conception of how people receive their news. 

Part two of four in this series  further examines the state of the press in the Millennial Era. Read it here.

Nolan Higdon is a history instructor for multiple San Francisco Bay Area colleges. His academic work focuses on nation building through propaganda in the US and Latin America. Contact: NolanHigdonProjectCensored@gmail.com       



[1] Mark Baurlein, The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future, (New York: Penguin, 2008).

[2] Neil Howe and William Strauss. Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 2000).

[3] Steven Hayward, The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution 1980-1989, (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2010); William Kleinknecht, The Man Who Sold The World: Ronald Regan and The Betrayal of Main Street America, (New York: Nation Books, 2009); William Fleckenstein and Frederick Sheehan, Greenspan’s Bubbles: The Age of Ignorance at The Federal Reserve, (New York, New York: McGraw Hill, 2008); Chris Martin, Framed: Labor and The Corporate Media, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004); Rightward Bound: Making America Conservative in The 1970s, edited by Bruce Schulman and Julian Zelizer, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University press, 2008); Jack Goodwin, Clintonomics: How Bill Clinton Reengineered The Reagan Revolution,  (New York, New York: American Management Association, 2009); Richard Reeves, President Reagan The Triumph of Imagination, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005).

[4] Mark Blumenthal. “What Americans Know: Pew Research Finds Most Can Identify Where The Parties Stand,” HuffPost, April 11, 2012, accessed 11/20/2013.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/11/what-americans-know-pew-research-party-positions-leaders_n_1418489.html  “What the Public Knows about the Political Parties,” PEW Research Center, April 11, 2012, accessed 11/20/2013.

http://www.people-press.org/2012/04/11/what-the-public-knows-about-the-political-parties/

[5] Thomas Frank. What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, (New York, New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2004).

[6] “Voters Say Election Full of Misleading and False Information,” World Public Opinion, December 9, 2010, accessed 11/20/2013.  http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/brunitedstatescanadara/671.php?nid=&id=&pnt=671&lb=

[7] Lawrie Mifflin, “At the new Fox News Channel, the buzzword is fairness, separating news from bias,” The New York Times. October 07, 1996, accessed 11/20/2013.  http://www.nytimes.com/1996/10/07/business/at-the-new-fox-news-channel-the-buzzword-is-fairness-separating-news-from-bias.html

[9] “Voters Say Election Full of Misleading and False Information,” World Public Opinion

[10] Linda Moss, “MSNBC Shifts Shows,” Cable World, July 2, 2001, accessed 11/20/2013.  http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-76511381.html

[11] “The State of The Media 2013,” PEW Research Center, March 2013, accessed 11/20/2013.  http://stateofthemedia.org/2013/overview-5/

[12] “Communications Act of 1934,” accessed 11/20/2013.  http://www.criminalgovernment.com/docs/61StatL101/ComAct34.html

[13] Ben H. Bagdikian, The Media Monopoly, (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1997); Ashley Lutz, “These 6 Corporations Control 90% Of The Media In America,” Business Insider,  June 14, 2012, accessed 11/20/2013.  http://www.businessinsider.com/these-6-corporations-control-90-of-the-media-in-america-2012-6#ixzz2lCpSO188

[14] FCC Rept. 1246 “In the Matter of Editorializing by Broadcast Licensees.” (1949)

[15] Dan Fletcher, “A Brief History Of The Fairness Doctrine,” Time, February 20, 2009, accessed 11/20/2013.

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1880786,00.html#ixzz2aTB9x7MV

[16]Jennifer Saba, “Specifics on Newspapers from ‘State of News Media’ Report,” Editor and Publisher, March 16, 2009, accessed 11/20/2013. http://www.editorandpublisher.com/PrintArticle/Specifics-on-Newspapers-from-State-of-News-Media-Report

[17] Fletcher, Federal Communications Commission, http://www.fcc.gov/

[18] William Kleinknecht, The Man Who Sold The World: Ronald Regan and The Betrayal of Main Street America, (New York: Nation Books, 2009); xiii AND Bushman BJ, Anderson, CA; “Comfortably numb: desensitizing effects of violent media on helping others,” Psychological Science, 2009 21(3): 273-277; Federal Trade Commission. http://www.ftc.gov/

[19] Kleinknecht, xiii

[20] Neil Howe and William Strauss, Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, released in 2000, (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 2000), 34

[21] P. McDonough, “TV viewing among kids at an eight-year high,” Nielsenwire, October 26, 2009. Available at: http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/media_entertainment/tv-viewing-among-kids-at-an-eight-year-high/. Accessed 11 November 2009.

[22] Kleinknecht, Xiii

[23] Robert McChesney. Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning The Internet Against Democracy. (New York, New York: New Press, 2013.)

[24] “Facts on Media in America: Did You Know?” Common Cause, accessed 11/20/2013.

http://www.commoncause.org/site/pp.asp?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=4923173#sthash.jSKNbel3.dpuf and Robert McChesney and John Nichols, The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution Will Begin The World Again, (New York, New York: Nation Books, 2010.).

[25] “H.R.3261 – Stop Online Piracy Act” House Judiciary Committee. October 26, 2011. “A Corporate Trojan Horse: Obama Pushes Secretive TPP Trade Pact, Would Rewrite Swath of U.S. Laws,” Democracy Now, October 4, 2013, accessed 11/20/2013.

http://www.democracynow.org/2013/10/4/a_corporate_trojan_horse_obama_pushes

  • Typo detected March 7, 2014

    Stop Online Privacy Act is a typo…Piracy not privacy…lol. The bill has nothing to do with media restriction and everything to do with strengthening IP distribution rights, a monopoly legal fiction. (“Fiction” in the sense that its a legal construct, not fictitious or fake.)

    Your argument for media regulation is not supported by the existence of ignorant people.

    Furthermore, ignorant people will continue to exist, independent of the existence of media regulation.

  • Rod Halver March 10, 2014

    [8] In 2010, the World Public Opinion project found that out of all news viewers, Fox’s were the most misinformed.[9] In response to FOX, Democrats created MSNBC.[10] By 2013, a Pew study found MSNBC [8] In 2010, the World Public Opinion project found that out of all news viewers, Fox’s were the most misinformed.[9] In response to FOX, Democrats created MSNBC.[10] By 2013, a Pew study found MSNBC to be the least factually based and most opinionated of the three 24-hour news networks.[11]

    I don’t see the difference here? Fox most misinformed MSNBC least factual. This is misleading like there is a difference when there is not. Misinformed and least factual are not different both lead to the same outcome spreading lies and hiding the truth. So how does this work? Does it mean both are lying to the public? So if both are lying then there is a third agenda out there. Both parties are actually involved in the same coverup and have the same agenda which is to keep us from knowing the truth about the third agenda.
    to be the least factually based and most opinionated of the three 24-hour news networks.[11]

    I don’t see the difference here? Fox most misinformed MSNBC least factual. This is misleading like there is a difference when there is not. Misinformed and least factual are not different both lead to the same outcome spreading lies. So how does this work? Does it mean both are lying to the public? So if both are lying then there is another total agenda somewhere else

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