[R-G] The Soros Media "Empire" - The Power of Philanthropy to Engineer Consent

Anthony Fenton fentona at shaw.ca
Sun Jul 13 17:29:34 MDT 2008

The Soros Media "Empire"
The Power of Philanthropy to Engineer Consent
by Michael Barker


(Swans - July 14, 2008)   In the past few decades critical scholars  
have worked hard to draw attention to the antidemocratic influence of  
conservative philanthropists on the 'development' of global media  
systems, and more generally on democracy itself. This is commendable  
work that deserves greater recognition within mass communications  
research, yet of arguably more importance is the fact that only a  
handful of media researchers have focused on the similarly  
antidemocratic trends that have resulted from the influence of Left- 
leaning capitalist funders on media trends. Moreover, while many  
people may think that the pro-free market doctrine of the Right- 
leaning philanthropoids may receive more funding than liberal  
('progressive') foundations this is not necessarily the case: instead,  
the Right has simply acted with more cohesion, and consciously worked  
at influencing policy makers and politicians at an ideological level,  
while the Left has adopted a more haphazard reactive approach to  
tempering the excesses of our capitalist society. So it is problematic  
to suggest, as some commentators have, that progressives should  
attempt to emulate the Right's antidemocratic strategizing to  
democratise the public sphere.

To date, in most cases researchers have tended to assume that liberal  
funders only have noble (progressive) intentions to strengthen  
democracy, and while this may be true to a point, this article will  
demonstrate that this charity is ultimately given to sustain  
capitalism -- albeit a less brutal variant of capitalism than that  
promoted by Right-wing philanthropists. Using the example of George  
Soros's philanthropic foundations, which at their peak were  
distributing some $500 million a year to ostensibly progressive  
causes, this article will highlight his involvement in creating  
'independent' media outlets worldwide. Initially, the article will  
review the critical literature regarding the work of liberal  
philanthropists, then owing to the scarcity of studies examining their  
influence on media organizations and researchers it will briefly  
summarize this media-related work. Next, the article will introduce  
George Soros and his network of foundations, providing a number of  
examples of significant media projects that Soros and his foundations  
support. Finally, the article will conclude by suggesting how media  
scholars might counter the arguably antidemocratic nature of Soros's  
media interventions.



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