We examine the patterns of media ownership in 97 countries around the world. We find that almost universally the largest media firms are owned by the government or by private families. Government ownership is more pervasive in broadcasting than in the printed media. We then examine two theories of government ownership of the media: the public interest (Pigouvian) theory, according to which government ownership cures market failures, and the public choice theory, according to which government ownership undermines political and economic freedom. The data support the second theory.