This DataViz Shows Who Owns the Most Visited News Sites in the World

Has there ever been a time when the news has had such an important role to play in our lives? All around the world, politics is becoming ever more divisive and people are becoming ever more sceptical of what they read and see. With ‘news’ being spread by bots on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, it’s harder and harder to know what to trust, with the impact being seen in elections and referendums around the world.

However, while the spread of fake news is a worrying trend in recent years, that doesn’t mean that public trust in the traditional media is placed with any real confidence. A recent Gallup poll shows that Americans are largely mistrustful of the media, with only 41% currently having “a great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in newspapers, television and radio to report the news “fully, accurately and fairly.”

So, if we can’t believe what we see on social media, why are we largely suspicious of the mass media? It most likely has a lot to do with the ownership of that media, something that we are having to pay more and more attention to, as its consolidation gets ever more worrying. So, what do you really know about who owns the news, and what impact that might be having on our world?

Who owns the global news?

An analysis of 30 countries found that, on average, the top four media companies in each country hold 40% of that country’s media content market. Even on the internet, the days where there was a ‘wild west’ of independent news organizations seems to have passed, with the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information research center revealing that the market concentration of internet media has more than doubled since 2000, as the internet has been bought up by corporations and tech giants.

The companies that control global news

As you can see in this image, there’s several large companies that feature strongly when it comes to owning the news that millions of us watch to get our views on the world. One of the most prominent and powerful is News Corp, the current incarnation of News Corporation, founded by the one media mogul almost everyone can name - Rupert Murdoch, whose son Lachlan appears here with the family’s other major group, Fox.

Another big name in the world of moguls can be seen with the presence of Hearst Communications, founded by William Randolph Hearst, who was the main inspiration for Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane. He may have died nearly 70 years ago but his influence on the mass media in America and beyond remains strong, particularly when it comes to magazines.

Of course, no global media picture could be complete without mentioning Disney. It may have started out making cartoons, but the company founded by Walt has been busy acquiring the likes of Lucasfilm, Marvel and 20th Century Fox and also has an extensive network of TV channels. Other major players in the global market include Axel Springer in Germany, Yomiuri Shimbun in Japan and Globo in Brazil, all of who have millions of consumers getting their news from their properties.

Who owns the news in America?

It’s a mixture of old names and new ones in this snapshot of the American media. Along with Hearst, there’s also Advance Publications, which dates back nearly 100 years but is right up to date with its portfolio of news outlets including The New Yorker and Vanity Fair but also the self-styled ‘front page of the internet’, Reddit, which sums up how even the most radical and controversial internet sites can end up owned by the traditional media.

Who dominates the news in America?

There’s plenty of big corporations here, as you’d expect, including Comcast, Verizon, IBM, AT&T, Warner Media, and of course, News Corp. As a sign of the ever contracting media market, one of the largest collections of news outlets in this image is that of GateHouse Media, which is surrounded by local and regional newspapers. It’s connected to another big player Gannett, which actually merged with GateHouse in August 2019, making the merged company the biggest newspaper publisher in the USA, with over 100 daily newspapers and nearly 1,000 weekly newspapers.

Who owns the news in the UK?

Meanwhile, in the UK, there’s an incredible amount of power that lies in the publishing media world, which is dominated by a very small number of media companies. The two biggest selling newspapers in the country are The Sun - owned by News UK, part of News Corp - and the Daily Mail, both of whom have played their part in the recent political turmoil, being vociferous supporters of Brexit and Boris Johnson.

What companies own the news in the UK?

Johnson himself features on this image, with the Prime Minister representing the state’s ownership of the BBC and Channel 4, but there is plenty of foreign ownership in the UK media too. Hearst and Conde Nast own several magazines each, while Nikkei owns the Financial Times. One of the most independently-owned newspapers is The Guardian, which is owned by the Scott Trust Limited, which exists to ensure the paper’s financial and editorial independence.
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One of the less familiar brands on the image is JPI Media, which owns a huge number of local newspapers. JPI is the organisation, founded in 2018, which took over the assets of Johnston Press when that was sold to its creditors. One of its main titles, the national newspaper the ‘i’ was sold to the Daily Mail & General Trust in November 2019, again further shrinking the number of owners of national UK newspapers.

Who owns the news in Australia?

Given that Rupert Murdoch was born in Australia, is it any surprise to see News Corp feature strongly here too? News Corp Australia owns several newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph and The Australian, but while Murdoch’s influence on the news agenda in his home country can’t be underestimated, there are bigger players on the scene, as you can see here.

Seven West Media was formed in 2011 when West Australian Newspapers Holdings Ltd acquired Seven Media group, making it Australia’s largest diversified media group, with several regional newspapers (particularly in West Australia) and magazines, plus the Seven Network on TV.

Who dominates the news industry in Australia?

The largest collection of titles you can see here sits under the brand of Australian Community Media, a trading name of Rural Press Limited, co-owned by billionaire Alex Waislitz. It has over 170 local newspapers in its stable, including The Canberra Times, Newcastle Herald and The Examiner. One of the few truly independent news platforms in Australia is The Conversation, which, as you can see, has no links to any others.

So, does it matter that the news that we read and watch on TV is owned by so few people and organizations? Do we really need to know the business and political interests that might be shaping how the news is presented to us? Your answer to that might depend on how you personally feel about the way the political landscape is currently playing out in the USA, UK and Australia, but even if you support those political movements, there still should be some unease about the future of the news with so little editorial diversity.

After all, if we can’t rely on the news to tell us what’s really happening, where can we find news that we trust?

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