media concentration | November 08, 2012

The Medium's The Message: Kal Penn Gives A Keynote on Media Monopolies

According to Tom Gagnon, an Executive Vice President here at Lavin, Kal Penn's most recent keynote was "one of the most compelling ten minutes of lecture [he's] ever seen." And Tom's seen a lot of college keynotes! Penn, an actor-turned-political-advocate (not that he's given up on acting) traveled to The University of Pennsylvania to give a rousing lecture two days before the presidential election. With his signature mix of sharp wit, intelligence and charisma, Penn riled up the crowd with his discussion of media monopolization and the future of the entertainment industry. He began his talk by listing five prominent media companies—then gave the audience the laundry list of companies owned by those five conglomerates. When he rhymed off all the different networks that were owned by these big five, Tom said you could hear "groans, gasps and shock from the audience." The tone was reminiscent of The Matrix and Marshall McLuhan, Tom notes, as the concentration of media ownership provides us with less access to original content and an integrity-threatening concentration of news media. The medium then, as McLuhan famously said, becomes the message; diversity of content takes a backseat to earning more advertising revenue.

Penn continued his talk with a discussion of where he saw the entertainment industry heading in the future. Citing the example of how the once-unknown Andy Samberg rose to Saturday Night Live fame using YouTube, Penn explained that new media will be vitally important to creativity, even in the traditional media. New media also played an important part in President Obama's campaign, which Penn has been working with in various capacities since 2009. Using humor and tech-savy, Penn helped Obama appeal to the youth voters and use new mediums to creatively reach voters. Whether he's in front of the camera, or in front of a live audience, Penn has no trouble connecting with the viewer. Passionate and knowledgeable, Penn uses his engaging and funny personality to draw audiences in—and hold their attention until the very end.

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social change | November 07, 2012