Did you know that just six media companies control 90% of what we read, watch, and listen to — including news, radio, and movies. According to an infographic from Frugal Dad, the Big Six are GE, News Corporation, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS. In other words, it might seem like the media offers a wide variety of choices to consumers, but media consolidation over the years has actually given way to an illusion of choice.

As the infographic below shows, in 1983, 50 companies controlled 90% of American media. That’s quite a difference from the six that would dominate the media landscape less than 20 years later. Today, 232 media executives control the information consumed by 277 million Americans (that’s a 1:850,000 ratio).

Furthermore, the Big Six media companies control 70% of cable television while nearly 4,000 other businesses control the other 30%. The figures are similar for radio and movies.

Prefer to look at things from a monetary perspective? The Big Six media companies generated $275.9 billion in revenue in 2010. To put that figure into perspective consider this — that’s $36 billion more than Finland’s GDP and five times the government bailout of General Motors.

Bottom-line, smaller authoritative online publishers serve an extremely important role in today’s media landscape and deliver important benefits to the media audience — variety, choice, and authenticity, to name just a few. News tycoons aren’t going to disappear in the near future, but the importance of smaller publishers will continue to grow as more and more media consumers realize that there is more out there than what the Big Six are providing.

media consolidation infographic