[opendtv] Commentary: Bad News in Mogulville

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: OpenDTV Mail List <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 9 Jul 2004 07:33:10 -0400

Via ShopTalk

Bad News in Mogulville
Marvin Kitman

Your average media mogul got some upsetting news last week.

First, the U.S. Senate voted to rescind the new Federal 
Communications Commission rules that would allow a company to own as 
many as three television stations, eight radio stations, a cable 
operator, as well as a newspaper, in the same market.

What an outrage!

And if that weren't bad enough, a federal appeals court in 
Philadelphia ordered the FCC to reconsider those same rules that big 
broadcasting and publishing companies had lobbied for and litigated 
for years.

The FCC's new rules, according to its chairman, Michael Powell, were 
a shot in the arm for democracy, competition and diversity, allowing 
a fuller range of opinion than was possible under the old rules

By a free press, Chairman Powell means freedom for average media 
mogul Rupert Murdoch to own a duopoly, both WNYW and WWOR in the same 
New York market. And for Sumner Redstone of Viacom to own both of our 
local all-news radio stations (WINS and WCBS).

By diversity, your average media mogul means the ability to fire 
people and reduce costs. For example, who needs two news directors, 
one for the WNYW and one for the WWOR news?

Chairman Powell, the average media mogul believes, is the patron 
saint of free enterprise. Any day they would try to convince the 
Senate that his face should be on the new $1,000 bill.

What a slap in the face it was to the well-paid lobbyists who had 
been trying to convince the Senate since June 2003 that the FCC's new 
rules were in the public interest. After all the money they spent on 
dinners and drinks, plane rides to fancy resorts for corporate 
meetings and seminars, and whatever else lobbyists do in a town and a 
Congress run by lobbyists.

What's the Senate coming to these days, actually doing something for 
the people instead of to them!

What a denigration of all the hard work Chairman Powell and the three 
blind mice (the Republican majority on the five-person commission) 
had done over the years to free the nation's media moguls from the 
shackles that limited the fulfillment of their destiny.

After all the trouble the media companies' lobbyists and litigators 
went to to convince the FCC that what competition means in the 
marketplace today is that the fewer owners, the more competition. It 
took some industrial-strength shutting of eyes since the Telecom Act 
of 1996, which allowed your average media mogul to swallow everything 

After all the trouble, the FCC helped by the average media mogul over 
the years, went to in making people not care about the so-called 
public interest the moguls are required to serve in exchange for 
their licenses. The simps think public interest is voting for 
"American Idol" candidates.

Now this - a public rebuke from the judiciary. The court is abusing its powers.

I know there are people who think Colin Powell should have bought his 
kid Michael a tank or a candy store, as one famous agent explained, 
"and that he and the FCC are a national disaster."

But, hey, he represented the views of the average media mogul, his 
favorite minority group. What are they - chopped liver?

Personally, I think the actions by the Senate and the court are good 
for business.

If I was your average media mogul, I would be looking to sell TV 
stations, not buy them. TV is dead.

Everybody younger than 40 I know goes home and checks the news and 
e-mails on the computer. They download music or some movie they want 
to see again, play video games. Nobody is watching television.

Each year, fewer and fewer people watch TV. Historians will tell you 
that in the 1950's on Tuesday nights, when Milton Berle did his 
Texaco show, movie theaters closed down because the entire country 
was at home watching.

And these smart guys are trying to buy more market share when people 
are tuning out in alarming numbers?

The market is disappearing in front of their eyes. It's like trying 
to catch quicksand or mercury. And it's happening because the 
programs are so bad.

The bottom line is they're fighting over something that is going to 
disappear in 15 years. Increasing ownership now is like buying up a 
town after the railroad stopped going there. TV stations are the 
ghost towns of the arts.

I think the moguls are fools. Why bother putting a couple more 
billion dollars in a losing market? They'd be better off taking the 
money and putting it into real estate, some apartment buildings in 

My further advice to your average media mogul: Cheer up. Don't despair.

Somehow, some way, despite all the bad news last week, they will 
manage to get the crazed senators and the wacko federal courts to 
drop their insane crusades, trampling the rights of media moguls to 
own it all. Nothing will stop the friends of democracy, free speech 
and diversity in government from giving away the public airwaves 
until they end up where they belong: in the grip of the average media 
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