That’s a good point. In my research, it looked like conglomeration was a piece of evidence that confirmed an already-existing belief, rather than causing the belief in the first place. The big uptick in when the media gets talked about as “THE MEDIA” happens around 1991, before deregulation really makes the trend of conglomeration visible to the public. It does, however, correspond to the moment when cable breaks the network’s dominance of TV news, which I argue results in a far greater news hole, and a far greater opportunity for the media to talk about themselves. The public’s perception of the media as an institution results not from people gathering facts about the media independently, but from the media framing itself as an institution. That’s my argument, anyway.