THE BLOG
12/20/2008 01:31 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Fathom

"Fathom"

From dictionary.com

a unit of length equal to six feet (1.8 meters): used chiefly in nautical measurements

to measure the depth of by means of a sounding line; sound

In that I have never used the word that I can recall, now is the time for me to use it at least a few times as it relates to the third definition.

"to penetrate to the truth of; comprehend; understand: to fathom someone's motives"

To begin with, "truth" is an elusive word, and in a way it should be defined as "what is believed to be reflective of the facts at a given moment."

Early on in my career at Screen Gems, my boss John Mitchell had lied to me about a major item in my life and I insisted that we resolve the issue with "the big boss, Jerry Hyams."

Now John knew that he had lied to me, and he knew that I had found out what was "the truth" before I confronted him, and I had it all on a piece of paper with his signature on it. This most gregarious of men was speechless when I showed him my "evidence."

I related the entire event to Hyams who turned to Mitchell and said: "I told you, John, that he would find out." That was a tough situation for me to fathom. It was not the first time that I would be lied to by my management nor was it nearly the last time.

Very little in business has changed in the last thirty five years of my career, yet I continue to find it difficult to fathom events like these. I had naively assumed that my government told the truth. How foolish I was.

It was about forty years ago while at CBS that our "serving the public" FCC promulgated my life altering "Prime Time Access, Financial Interest, and Syndication" rules. Although I understood President Nixon's political intent, I could not fathom the reasoning given for issuing these new rules.

I realized much later that the new rules did not need to be "rationalized or understood" but rather were issued for political reasons, and sadly that is enough of a reason to so do.

In the intervening years, I have been unable to fathom the lying and duplicitous behavior of the big deal broadcast services and production companies as they lied and mislead the regulators and the congress with their sworn testimony. It appears that taking an oath is meaningless in our society when the "really big guys are testifying before other really big deal guys."

I do not believe in retrospect that anything would have been any different had the truth been told in that it all seemed to be a "ritual dance" and the outcome was pre-determined by "the forces at play."

Knowing that there are criminal penalties for perjury, I find it difficult to fathom that they did this stuff other then their knowing that no one seems to care about this type of lying under oath by Corporate executives whose only desire is to increase the earnings of their companies, and of course their own power and income at all costs.

How vivid is everyone's memory about "big tobacco's" sworn testimony.

The following words were excerpted from an article I wrote in August of 2001 for Electronic Media. I remain unable to fathom our system allowing the self evident greed and avarice of the media giants to be in conflict with the public good.

"In the early '80s, we had the major studios (20th Century Fox, MGM, Warner Bros., MCA/Universal, Disney, Paramount and Columbia) and the broadcast networks (CBS, NBC and ABC). But there also were lots of well-financed, independent production and distribution companies (MTM, Spelling, King World, Lorimar, Worldvision, Polygram and many more).

Is it fair to ponder why these companies are no longer in existence? Is it a coincidence that in the 1970s the FCC implemented its prime-time access rule as well as the financial interest and network syndication rules? (The FCC Report and Order makes interesting reading decades later as to just why the agency ruled in this manner.) The PTAR was rescinded on July 28, 1995, and fin-syn dissolved the following month. It appeared once again that the commission came to a politically motivated conclusion and then created reasons to justify it while the networks intensely lobbied for the repeal of both laws...

Mr. Valenti, in fact, warned that deregulation would allow the networks to "grow like kudzu," choking off all competition. In 1990 he testified, "The networks have abused their power before. They will do it again. They have not been rehabilitated. They are corporate recidivists." While his predictions have come true, there is now "kudzu" everywhere -- and what has become of the normally outspoken Jack Valenti?

Did the spectrum space ever really belong to the public, or did it belong to Wall Street? If there ever was such as thing as public interest, has it been replaced by the interests of News Corp. and Rupert Murdoch? Has the Anti-Trust Division of the Justice Department been anesthetized by a series of administrations that never saw a merger they didn't consider efficient? Knowing the media consolidation "ship" has left port, the only "reasonable" remedy would be the re-implementation of PTAR and fin-syn. The rules certainly worked in the '70s and '80s, and what could be better for America now than their re-implementation?

When the FCC was established, the airwaves were to be licensed to those who would use them in the "public interest, convenience and necessity." It does not benefit the public when it permits widespread ownership of media outlets among few companies. Diversity of ownership promotes diversity of thought, and America has thrived on diversity of thought for more than 200 years..."

All of that was in the past and yet the broadcasters want even more in 2008, and I fear that Rupert wants to take another run at the New York Times.

Many of the people who were involved like GE's Bob Wright jut perjured themselves with their testimony and NO ONE CARED AT THE TIME, OR CARES TODAY.

Now please try and "fathom" this.

In November of 2008, seven of the top US Syndication shows were distributed by CBS in the United States, one by Twentieth Century Fox, one by Sony, and one by NBC/Universal. (There was a tie for tenth place,)

I have fathomed a "regulatory ho hum" as it pertains to these matters, and with an eight year Republican FCC, it is a wonder that the consolidation of the media is not still worse then it already is.

To me, the broadcast media should serve as the fourth branch of government, the one that can tell America just when the feds are "screwing" us, which they have a tendency to do.

How sad.

Norman Horowitz
Fathomer