This week, NPR broadcast an interesting story on The Villages, a burgeoning retirement community in Florida. What made it interesting was the developer of the project “owns just about everything.” This includes the local media. As NPR’s Robert Siegel explained:
The local radio station, which of course plays oldies, its also piped by loudspeaker to the two downtowns – is owned by the developer. So is The Villages’ Daily Sun, a full-sized newspaper with multiple sections. It has a local reporting staff and runs AP stories about the rest of the world.
The peril of a lack of competition in news media came out in an interview Siegel had with Joe Gorman, the president of the property owners association in The Villages, a natural adversary to the developer.
SIEGEL: Joe Gorman says that after his group raised that issue, over a thousand homes were eventually repaired. He says the vinyl siding story escaped the notice of the local paper and the radio station completely, as does his organizations work in general.
Siegel also interviewed Andrew Blechman, the author of Leisureville, a book about The Villages. Blechman describes The Villages as a benevolent totalitarian government:
Everything is owned by the developer. The government is owned by the developer. Everything’s privatized and they’re happy with that. You know, they traded in the ballot box for the corporate suggestion box.
Why is this interesting? Because it demonstrates the American fear of propaganda by Big Brother. The developer is an effective propagandist in this situation not because certain stories are broadcast and others are not, but because there is a lack of competition, which would result in both accountability and a broader spectrum of news. This also creates the environment of Big Brother: the media and the ‘government’ are one and the same and support each other.