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Political Payoffs and the Media in America


In an editorial published on April 4th in the Los Angeles Times, the headline was, "Now playing at a PC near you." The piece went on to say that the move by six Hollywood studios speaks to the issue of online delivery of content without mentioning the underlying problem.

Succinctly stated, (not an easy thing for me to do), the "Big Guys" have far too much power, and this power has been derived from good old fashioned politics played by Republicans and Democrats alike. It has allowed the media in our country to be concentrated in the hands of a very few companies.

America is not served by this concentration, and something should be done about it. The question is what, when, and how.

At a simpler time before all of the media mergers, I watched, and even at times participated in, the studios' attempt to influence the legislative and administrative process. This was absolutely the American thing to do at that time, and Jack Valenti served the studios, and served them well.

This current media concentration has been bought and paid for by News Corp., Viacom, General Electric. The Walt Disney Company and Time/Warner, with a humungous amount of content controlled by Sony (MGM/UA and Columbia/TriStar). If you were a regulator hoping for a political future, would you cross Rupert Murdoch?

A friend, who was a senior staff official with the FCC, once told me that the testimony the Commission hears, is just ritual dance. The administration decides what course of action it wishes to take regarding most matters; the FCC holds hearings, and then does what they wanted to do before the hearings.

While at CBS (in the late 60"s), I became very involved with the CBS petition for reconsideration of the Prime Time Access, Financial Interest, and Syndication rules. My boss allowed me to attend meetings with the lawyers who were filing the petition with the FCC for reconsideration of the rulemaking.

The lawyers were looking at it as a matter of case law. I was then, as now, looking it as a matter of equity and reasonableness. I was torn by the issues, because I perceived that while what the FCC was manifesting was appropriate, the reasons they gave in reaching their decision were ALL WRONG.

I can't prove it, but I believe the rules were changed by the administration to warn the networks not to be critical of the administration, and its war in Viet Nam.

(Have you noticed, in the last couple of years, whether the broadcast network coverage has been at all critical of our government's policy of getting our country into the Iraq war?)

It was at CBS that I met some great people--Walter Cronkite, Dick Salant, Dan Rather and the ego-driven news guys who could be a monumental pain in the ass much of the time, yet I believe that they were dedicated to honestly informing the American public of what was happening in the world. I thought that they also believed that the network should hand over much of their prime time schedule to the news division. They were constantly at odds over that issue. (This was properly portrayed in the motion picture "Good Night, and Good Luck".)

It is reasonable to assume that the most powerful and concentrated media and content companies are in a conscious conspiracy arrangement with the Feds of "You won't hurt me, and I won't hurt you."

Bring back Bill Paley.