Staring Into the Unblinking Eye
Vol: 26 Issue: 26 Wednesday, November 26, 2003
The White House and Congress reached a compromise agreement on how many TV stations media conglomerates are allowed to control.
At issue is how much control a few of the biggest media companies have over what TV viewers see and whether greater concentrations of ownership would deprive the public of diverse points of view.
The FCC and White House contend that with the proliferation of cable networks and news sources, the old ownership limits are out of date.
Until last June, media ownership was restricted to 35% of the nation’s market. Under FCC rules, that meant that no single media giant can own local television stations that reach more than 35% of America’s television viewers.
Last June, the FCC raised that cap to 45%, putting unprecedented control of the nation’s editorial policy in the hands of a few.
Fortunately, House and Senate conferees agreed last week to reinstate the 35% limit for one year in a provision attached to a $328 billion catchall spending bill funding Commerce, State, Justice, Labor and other departments.
But after the president renewed a threat to veto the bill, which funds a third of the federal government, White House negotiators and Republican leaders went back to the table and came up with a compromise 39% cap.
The main effect of the 39% limit is that Viacom, owner of CBS, and Fox, which both own stations reaching about 38% of national viewers, will not have to sell any.
General Electric-owned NBC, whose 29 stations reach about 34% of the national audience, could buy two more stations in top markets and five to eight stations in midsize cities.
Consider the reach the new rules give, and then consider how that reach is used in America.
Viacom owns CBS, UPN, MTV, Nickelodeon, Showtime,Sundance Channel, VH-1, King World Productions, Infinity Broadcasting and Comedy Central. Viacom’s holdings also include Blockbuster Video, the world’s largest video rental chain, and Blockbuster Music; book publishing, including Simon & Schuster, Scribners and Macmillan; film, video and television production, including Paramount Pictures; a 50 percent interest in United Cinemas International, one of the world’s largest movie theater companies.
Oh, and five theme parks.
Viacom’s CBS entertainment division produced the hatchet-job on President Reagan that public pressure forced off CBS and over to Viacom’s Showtime.
The president and CEO of Viacom’s Infinity Broadcasting is a fellow named Farid Suleman. Viacom itself is a French-owned company.
Any of this scary to you?
In 1950, 1,300 American newspapers — almost all of them — were independently and locally owned. Today, that number is fewer than 300.
Here’s an example of why this is dangerous. Anybody remember Election 2000?
NBC’s planned broadcast of an American League divisional playoff game conflicted with the first Bush-Gore debate. NBC decreed that every station in the network should carry baseball instead of politics. The affiliates protested clamorously.
Thanks to the 35 percent cap, enough of those stations were independently (non-network) owned, giving them the collective wattage (barely) to force an NBC retreat and let them air the debates if they chose.
The politics of the big networks is no secret. The companies that own them are equally brazen. Remember who owns them — Viacom, GE, Disney and Newscorp.
Senator John McCain called it “a consolidation of power the likes of which this country hasn’t seen since William Randolph Hearst.”
The long-term strategists at Disney/GE/ News Corporation/Viacom/AOL Time Warner have a pretty clear vision of how they want their companies to expand and to exploit their synergies, but the public is clueless about this revolution that’s going on largely outside its view.
According to the Bible, in the last days, the antichrist will control everything we see, hear and do. He orders the death of the two Witnesses; “And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half.” (Revelation 11:9)
The doctrine of the False Prophet reaches into every home. “[P]ower was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. . .” (Revelation 13:7)
Now we go back to 1950, when there were 1,300 independent local newspapers. That would be a pretty unwieldy propaganda machine to control.
Today, he’d only need to deal with the CEO’s of Viacom, Newscorp, Disney and GE.
The timing of the new rules are interesting, to say the least.
“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)