Baker takes certain ideas touched upon in Bagdikian’s book, The (New) Media Monopoly and analyses them in much greater depth (Bagdikian has published many versions of his book, the first of which appeared when there were 50 major players in the media business… there are now only 5). He uses economic analysis to determine the efficiency of the current system (or lack thereof), and makes various policy arguments for remedying the current problem within our press. The structure is as follows: he illustrates the problem, proves it economically, introduces a policy proposal, compares it to programs implemented around the world, and then discusses the constitutionality of going forward with his recommendations.
Implicit throughout his book is that the media serves a distinct role in society and that given the current influence that advertisers can exercise, they prevent the media from fulfilling the needs of a democratic society. This idea is developed in greater depth in his book Media Markets and Democracy where he analyses a democratic society’s requirements of its press according to 4 different theories of democracy. He values diversity and that the media should work harder to meet the desires of its readers through content rather than from its advertisers by delivering the right readers.
Another key point of Baker’s argument is that advertising disproportionately hurts the poor. He points to the example of an English newspaper that had larger circulation than the other major newspapers combined, but not withstanding this fact, because the newspaper was read by people without a substantial disposable income, there were few (if any) advertisers who would subsidize the paper. Thus, the paper had to be profitable with only subscription revenues, and it eventually failed. Baker gives the case study and then explains why this is so on theoretical grounds and that this phenomenon most likely occurs rather often—advertisers seek a wealthy audience, and thus media products are disproportionately catered to their tastes, in terms of political leanings, interest pieces, and other editorial content.
Lastly, another interesting argument is that “objective” news in the sense that we currently read it has some insidious consequences, insofar as it removes (or tends to) partisanship and controversy from public discussion and mass media. Though this may not seem accurate with regards to magazines, when reading mainstream newspapers and news outlets (notwithstanding Fox News), this certainly seems like a rather valid argument.