In the 2018 Forbes Global 2000 list, Comcast was America's largest media conglomerate in terms of revenue, with The Walt Disney Company, AT&T, CBS Corporation and Viacom (both are controlled by National Amusements through supervoting shares) completing the top five.
In 1984, fifty independent media companies owned the majority of media interests within the United States. As of 2017, 90% of the United States' media is controlled by the six media conglomerates.
Between 1941 and 1975, several laws that restricted channel ownership within radio and television were enacted in order to maintain unbiased and diverse media. However under the Reagan administration, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission, then led by FCC Chairman Mark S. Fowler, began a concerted deregulation over the years 1981 and 1985. The number of television stations a single entity can own increased from seven to 12 stations.
The industry continued to deregulate with enactment of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Signed by President Bill Clinton on February 8, 1996, it was considered by the FCC to be the "first major overhaul of telecommunications law in almost 62 years." In the radio industry, the 40-station ownership cap was lifted, leading to an unprecedented amount of consolidation. Since this period, Clear Channel Communications grew from 40 stations to 1200 stations, in all 50 states, while Viacom grew to owning 180 stations across 41 markets.
As media consolidation grew, some in the nation began to speculate how it might negatively impact society at large. In the case of Minot, North Dakota, the concerns regarding media consolidation is realized. On January 18, 2002, a train containing hazardous chemicals derailed in the middle of the night, exposing countless Minot residents to toxic waste. Upon trying to get out an emergency broadcast, the Minot police were unable to reach anyone. They were instead forwarded to the same automated message, as all the broadcast stations in Minot were single-handedly owned by Clear Channel Communications. As the FCC reviews media ownership rules, broadcasters continued to petition it for the elimination of all rules, while those who are against this easing would often cite the incident in Minot as how consolidation could be harmful.
Between the years 2002 and 2006, the conglomerates expanded. In 2005, top companies Verizon and MCI Inc. received approval to combine, while SBC acquired AT&T Corporation, respectively, giving the nation's premier communication company a global reach unmatched by any other.
Other articles and infographic: