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Definition: Alternative Media
Alternative media is a form of mass media that has arisen as a contrast to mainstream media. Mainstream media is mass media (newspapers, radio, television, magazines, movies, Internet, etc.) that disseminate information that is inline with the thoughts, interests and opinions of the current general society. Alternative media thus becomes those mass media outlets that disseminate information that is in contrast to the thoughts, interests and opinions of the current general society.
For example, while prime time news channels may report more on celebrity news because of the demands of their audience, alternative media would probably report on issues being ignored by the mainstream like the fast-approaching extinction of bees.
One of the reasons that leads to the homogenization of viewpoints represented in the mainstream media is the increasing concentration of ownership of the various mass media outlets and brands.
Another reason is that bigger corporations often have the resources required for original reporting and therefore are able to decide upon the topics of reporting, even for the smaller mass media outlets which use resources like Associated Press, Reuters etc. for their news. Alternative media may also be ‘alternative’ in the way they present their information. For example, Wikileaks believes in also making public the original documents that the journalist uses for writing his/her article - which is contrary to mainstream practice. Most alternative media use the internet as their forum because of its uncontrolled nature, cheapness and multimedia (images, audio, video, text) format.
Alternative media tend to represent marginalized groups. However, on the negative end of the spectrum, alternative media also feeds into unnecessary controversy reporting of unsubstantiated government cover-ups, existence of extraterrestrial life etc. It is however important that in order to function as ‘good’ alternative media, discussing economic and social issues like malnutrition, the environment etc. is not sufficient but rather it is the accommodation of the plurality of alternative views that exist and not just the one or two that are acceptable to a slightly smaller section of the society after the mainstream.