The potential takeover of U.K. satellite broadcaster BSkyB by media magnate Rupert Murdoch has provoked quite a stir in political and media circles. Many key industry figures have penned letters to Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat MP and business secretary, to condemn this as a move toward further diminishing media plurality and have urged a halt to the acquisition.

Murdoch, perhaps best known in North America as the founder of Fox News Channel and the CEOU of Newscorp, has long sought to consolidate various media outlets around the world under the umbrella of his multi-platform company, News Corporation, in order to spread a conservative political agenda and act as a mouthpiece for right-leaning governments. While his quest to monopolize most, if not all, of U.K. media has not yet reached the same proportion in the United States, the success of Fox News is but one example of the mainstream media’s deteriorating state of affairs.

The rise of corporate media has led to a merger between journalistic and government interests, whereby the “journalists” and the political leaders whom they are supposed to be challenging are virtually identical. Although we are seeing more web-based, progressive organizations like WikiLeaks fulfill the duties of the media by exposing government secrets and wrongdoing, the website, along with its founder, Julian Assange, are under attack by the U.S. government and perhaps not surprisingly by the mainstream press, whose livelihood is so dependent on the political and financial elite targeted by WikiLeaks. Even some of the most widely respected news organizations, like CNN (owned by TimeWarner) and the Washington Post, who are often praised for objective, non-partisan reporting, have shown a willingness to repeat statements from government officials that accuse Assange of endangering lives, putting national security at risk, and being careless in releasing hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables (the latter of which is categorically false). This dangerous alignment between government officials and journalists poses a serious threat to the democratic process and above all, shield corrupt factions in government from accountability and justice.

Although WikiLeaks consumed much of the recent news coverage, the pathetic way in which it was treated by reporters and assailed by political pundits is perfectly illustrative of the media’s pattern of subservience to those in power. Last year’s proposed healthcare reforms ignited a debate in the country that, for the most part, consisted of inaccuracies, lies, and damned lies (remember “death panels?”) Instead of having a serious national discussion about meaningful structural reform to the health care system, perhaps one that could mirror Canada’s universal healthcare, according to media watchdog FAIR, proponents of such reform were virtually shut out from the discussion. Why? Once the Obama administration had nixed the possibility of implementing a single-payer system early in 2009, media outlets began reducing coverage on this issue, to the detriment of public awareness. The merger of government and journalistic interests is further intensified when former government officials, like torture aficionado Marc Thiessen, landed cushy jobs as political contributors or columnists at news organizations and were given a platform from which to argue propaganda on behalf of their previous employer. It has been widely documented that at the height of the Iraq War, corporate executives of various news outlets, such as Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, among others, suppressed stories and reports that were deemed critical of the Bush administration’s policies. It is, for this reason and many others, that we have seen alternative sources of information, such as WikiLeaks, gain more credibility and legitimacy among the public, to the chagrin of many establishment news outlets.

In order to preserve the democratic process, it is imperative that the media be dedicated to exposing conspiracies and government malfeasance, independent of any political party or moneyed interest. However, as the corporate-owned organizations continue to balloon in size and scope, our understanding of the world’s pressing issues will continue to be filtered through the narrow lens of these corporations, whose interests are more profit-driven, and less about journalistic integrity. It is no surprise then, that investigative journalism has drastically declined over the years, mostly due to the corporate media’s reliance on cost-cutting measures. It is certainly cause for concern when a handful of wealthy individuals exert tremendous influence on public opinion, which in turn, can have significant political and policy consequences. The public embrace of independent voices and the growing support for WikiLeaks represents a desire for more transparency and a rejection of the media’s corporate domination.