It used to be the case that there were real choices involved in purchasing food from the grocery store, buying clothes from the mall or a department store and even watching the news on television. But today, the vast majority of what people consume in all spheres of life is owned or controlled by just a handful of powerful corporations, or what authentic vernacular might dub as corporate fascism.
A visual chart circulating on Reddit, for instance, reveals that a mere 10 corporations control almost all major food brands these days. 90 percent of the American mainstream media, according to a recent Frugal Dad “infographic,” is now owned by just six companies, as opposed to about 50 back in 1983. And the number of major American banks in operation has diminished from about 37 back in the 1990s to just four today.
One might assume that all this consolidating and merging has taken many decades to get where it is today, but the disturbing reality is that much of it has taken place within the past 10-20 years. Major food corporations like PepsiCo and Kraft, for example, have swallowed up dozens of brands just within the past 10 years, while major consumer brands like Unilever and Proctor & Gamble probably own most of the personal care products and cleaning supplies in your house.
“$84 billion-company Proctor & Gamble — the largest advertiser in the U.S. — is paired with a number of diverse brands that produce everything from medicine to toothpaste to high-end fashion,” writes Chris Miles for PolicyMic. “All tallied, P&G reportedly serves a whopping 4.8 billion people around the world through this network.”
Switzerland-based Nestle is right up there with P&G, as it owns about 8,000 different brands across the globe, including major brands in the categories of food, clothing and pet food. The same goes for Unilever, which owns brands as diverse as Dove soap, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Skippy peanut butter and supplies goods for as many as two billion people around the world.
Major media, banks owned by just a handful of corporations
As far as the mainstream media is concerned, six major companies now own almost every popular source of news and information. From actual media service providers like Comcast and Time Warner to news stations like Fox and CNN, just a handful of powerful companies control almost everything you watch, see, hear and read.
According to the Frugal Dad consolidation chart, almost every major news network today is owned by either Comcast, News Corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner or CBS. Major motion picture companies Universal Pictures and Focus Features are the property of GE, while Pixar, Miramax and Marvel Studios are Disney brands. And if you watch television news, chances are that your station of choice is owned by either Fox Entertainment (Fox), Disney (ABC), Comcast (NBCUniversal) or Time Warner (CNN).
And then we have America’s financial assets, more than 50 percent of which is now controlled by either JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo or CitiGroup. Back in the 1990s, there were dozens of major banks, and even the 10 most powerful only held 20 percent of our money. But today, the top 10 banks now own an astounding 54 percent of our total financial assets, and that figure is growing.
Since the time these graphs were first published, there have been some changes in who owns what — News Corp, for instance, which used to own Fox, split into two companies earlier this year. But the general trend of just a few corporations owning or holding considerable stakes in most major consumer brands is still a reality, and something worthy of consideration as you go about your everyday patterns and routines.
Sources for this article include: