The legally questionable merger of the Village Voice and New Times Media makes the two largest alternative newspaper groups in the U.S. into one massively powerful chain—and its owners lose no time in reportedly ordering an end to what remained of the once-strong critical stance of the Voice.
According to sources who were present at the meeting, [owner Mike Lacey] announced that the Voice news section was too soft because it was full of commentary and criticism of the Bush administration. He said he didn’t want any more commentary.
As far as I know, the merger is legal. That doesn’t mean that current US law concerning media concentration is as tough as it should be.
More media concentration and another news organization moving to the right is bad for consumers.
One Tuesday, two big announcements about media mergers.
The WB and UPN are joining to form one TV network, “the CW.”
Also announced today, “Disney buys Pixar: House of Mouse is teaming up with Pixar in a $7.4 billion deal. Steve Jobs to become board member at Disney.”
The broadcast networks UPN and the WB will cease to exist this fall. Instead, they will be combined into one network “the CW.”
Reporter Matea Gold of the Los Angeles Times writes:
UPN and the WB Network will cease operations this fall to make way for a new broadcast network called The CW aimed at young, ethnic viewers, CBS Corp. and Warner Bros. Entertainment executives announced today.
Both companies will own 50% of the new venture, which will be carried by the Tribune Co. and the CBS UPN affiliates and offer 30 hours of programming a week, including shows like “Smallville,” “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Beauty and the Geek.”
The news about the launch of the new network — which will dramatically reshape the broadcast television landscape — was kept tightly under wraps until this morning, when reporters were summoned to a news conference at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan.
“We’re coming here with a pretty historic announcement,” Leslie Moonves, president and CEO of the CBS Corp. said.
“The CW is going to be a real competitor, a destination for young audiences, diverse audiences and a real favorite with advertisers,” Moonves added. “The CW will be able to do something truly remarkable: program already hit shows every single day of the week, programs that consistently rank number one or number two in their time slots in the most coveted young adult demographic.”
More on who owns what in the media here.
From the New York Times via Raw Story:
Ending a partnership that soured long ago, Microsoft and NBC announced yesterday that they would dissolve their joint ownership of the cable news channel MSNBC, with NBC taking control.
NBC has completed a deal to assume majority control of the channel immediately, with an 82 percent stake, and it will become the sole owner within two years, NBC executives said yesterday. The two companies did not disclose financial terms of the deal.
But the partners will continue their 50-50 ownership of the MSNBC Web site, which, partly as a consequence of its affiliation with Microsoft, is the most-used news site on the Internet.
« More On Cable News Ownership »
The NBC channels are owned by GE. Fox News and the Fox broadcast channel are owned by Rupert Mudoch’s News Corp. CNN is owned by AOL Time Warner.
“Current TV,” by contrast, is independently owned. It shows short videos about current events, fashion, and music. Current TV isn’t a cable news channel in the sense of people sitting behind desks and talking about the day’s stories, but it may be the closest thing to an independent cable news channel.
The organization Campaign for America’s Future wants to rent a billboard that says, “‘Wal*Mart: Killing Local Businesses…One Main Street at a Time.”
Robert Greenwald writes:
After allowing Campaign For America’s Future to reserve a billboard less than a mile from Wal-Mart’s World HQ, Clear Channel has refused to accept the ad, censoring the message about Wal-Mart which received 13,000 votes! You can help by demanding Clear Channel not suppress speech to placate Wal-Mart.
Greenwald quotes this letter by Robert L. Borosage of Campaign For America’s Future:
Bob Sadler, Clear Channel’s Fort Smith, Ark., division president, unilaterally made the decision. To try to rationalize his censorship, he forwarded a copy of Clear Channel’s official content review policy which stated:
“I wish I could offer objective guidelines for reviewing copy, but I can’t. Frankly, I think these kinds of issues need to be viewed the way Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart approached a very controversial pornography case many years ago: “You know it when you see it.”
This is outrageous. Our ad isn’t pornography. It is a clear statement of the truth about Wal-Mart. Mr. Sadler is suppressing free speech out of fear of offending Wal-Mart.
Clear Channel owns more billboards than any other company in America and over 1,200 radio stations nationwide. It is simply outrageous that they would use this power to suppress speech — even a message that we are prepared to pay for. We have to let Clear Channel know that their censorship is unacceptable. Please send an email to Bob Sadler, the man who rejected your billboard, and demand that he not suppress speech to placate Wal-Mart.
The problem is that billboard ownership is so concentrated. Ideally, a billboard company could refuse an ad and the sponsor could just ask dozens of other billboard companies serving that area.
We’d have more free speech if the big billboard companies were broken up such that there were a variety of owners along each highway.
Regarding the billboard calling Bush “Our Leader,” which Clear Channel ran, there is more information at Move Left.
Congressman Jack Murtha (D-PA) wants the US to leave Iraq soon. Murtha is a former Marine.
Congresswoman Jean Schmidt (R-OH) controversially responded to Murtha last month on the House floor: “A few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bop, Ohio Representative from the 88th district in the House of Representatives. He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do.”
The Democratic National Committee wants to put up a billboard criticizing Schmidt, but that’s easier said than done.
Billboards attacking Ohio Republican Congresswoman Jean Schmidt have ignited a political battle, and the ads haven’t even gone up.
The Democratic National Committee has tried to buy two billboards to criticize Schmidt for calling Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha a coward for wanting US troops withdrawn from Iraq. But billboard company Lamar Advertising said the message was too negative.
The ads were supposed to say, “Shame on You Jean Schmidt. Stop Attacking Veterans. Keep your Eye on the Ball - We Need a Real Plan for Iraq.”
The Democrats accuse Lamar of having Republican leanings. A Lamar executive says the company will run the signs if the Democrats include a large disclaimer making clear they’re the sponsors.
This is ridiculous. The name of the sponsor of a negative political ad is usually smaller than the name of the politician being criticized. It’s expected that the views of a billboard aren’t the official position of the billboard company.
Is there only one billboard company in the Congressional district? Otherwise, I don’t know why it would matter what Lamar Advertising thinks.
Curious about who owns what in the media world? A helpful map can be found at mydd.com.
Via Colin K.
Sinclair Broadcasting owns TV stations throughout the United States.
It controls locals news on those TV stations, but since 2004 it has been making news of its own.
Here’s some background on Sinclair Broadcasting, from an article in GQ (via DC Media Girl):
In April 2004, the company forbade all of its ABC stations to air a segment of Nightline in which Ted Koppel read the names of American casualties in Iraq, which Sinclair’s management considered “motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States.” Six months later, Sinclair executives launched a political effort of their own, instructing all their news stations to broadcast a documentary on John Kerry called Stolen Honor, which accused the candidate of treason during the Vietnam War. In the buzz that followed, Sinclair’s vice president of corporate relations, Mark Hyman, stoked the fire even further by announcing that any network that refused to air the anti-Kerry documentary were “acting like Holocaust deniers” and that even if the documentary was a gift to Bush, the effect was balanced by the existence of suicide bombers in the Middle East, since after all, “Every car bomb in Iraq would be considered an in-kind contribution to John Kerry.” Nearly three months later, the company was back in the hot seat, this time forced to admit that one of its most visible reporters, Armstrong Williams, had not only spent recent years landing exclusive interviews with men like Dick Cheney and Tom DeLay but was also getting paid handsomely by the Bush administration, having struck a deal with the White House to receive $240,000 in exchange for “favorable commentaries.”
Sinclair Broadcasting forces local news stations to play a one-minute editorial by conservative Mark Hyman each night.
In practice, Sinclair Broadcasting is right-wing.
But are the top executives there right-wing? Or just promoting right-wing views to ‘legally’ bribe the Republicans into helping them expand?
The GQ article continues:
A close look at the four brothers who own Sinclair — David, Duncan, Frederick, and Robert Smith — reveals a much less conservative cast of characters than one might expect. Far from the Bible-thumping, family-values stereotype that Sinclair’s critics imagine, the Smiths are a study in contrasts — especially the two principal owners, David and Duncan. Even as they lobby for government deregulation and a return to some idealized notion of 1950s family values, Duncan is a passionate environmentalist working to restore the power of the Environmental Protection Agency, while David got his start not in the conservative family-values business but selling bootleg pornography.
In fact, the closer you examine the values espoused on Sinclair’s stations, the harder it is to determine whose values they are. As Sinclair has mushroomed in size and influence over the past few years, developing financial ties to the Republican Party, promoting the GOP agenda in its broadcasts, launching vicious attacks on Democratic candidates who dare to campaign against their Republican allies while profiting from business contracts with the military and loose federal oversight, it has become increasingly difficult to figure out where Sinclair’s true ideological bias ends and its business interests begin.
The story of Sinclair, then, is not merely about what happens when news and opinion merge. It’s about what happens when news and opinion are both subverted, and something else takes over.
In other words, the top executives at Sinclair Broadcasting may be some of the biggest sell-outs in America.
Yesterday, Bill O’Reilly urged people not to watch MSNBC.
Or read the New York Daily News.
His argument is that these media repeat what is written at “the far left smear web sites.”
It’s worth noting, however, that MSNBC competes with Fox News, which employs Bill O’Reilly.
And that the New York Daily News competes with the New York Post, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (which also owns Fox News).
Knight-Ridder owns the Miami Herald, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, among other newspapers.
From JPZenger in a Daily Kos Diary:
A group of investors from Florida, who are regular contributors to Bush and GOP National Committee, are trying to break up the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain. Knight-Ridder is one of the few truly independent mainstream news sources that provides truly independent coverage and investigative journalism. Knight Ridder includes the Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as major papers in Northern California, Miami and many other cities.
Their reporters had the rare distinction of being able to see through the Bush Administration’s smokescreen before the Iraq invasion. Their stories in 2002 and 2003 predicted everything that has subsequently happened in Iraq — based upon leaks provided to them by career State Department and Defense Department staff.
That investment group is Private Capital Management (PCM), which is threatening a hostile takeover unless its demands are met.
From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
PCM, whose officials declined comment Tuesday, is based in Naples, Fla., and owns about 19 percent of Knight Ridder stock. PCM also owns about 35 percent of the common stock of McClatchy but, as is the case with Dow Jones and the New York Times, voting control is in the hands of family-controlled trusts, making takeovers more difficult to mount.
That’s not the case with Knight Ridder, however. In its letter, PCM cited disappointing profits and a slump in Knight Ridder’s stock price. The newspaper industry long has been among the most profitable of U.S. businesses, with many chains reporting annual operating profit margins of 20 percent or more.
But newspapers have faced increasing competition in recent years from nontraditional media. In particular, newspapers have lost revenue from classified advertising as online options, including eBay and Craigslist, have grown. Readership among younger people, a prized target of advertisers, has fallen to historic lows as the Internet grows in popularity as a news source.
Knight Ridder could be sold outright to a buyer or its newspapers could be sold off piecemeal to other chains, according to the demand letter.
Huge corporations can merge and merge, says the FCC:
U.S. communications regulators Monday conditionally approved Verizon Communications’ (VZ) $8.6 billion purchase of MCI (MCIP) and SBC Communications’ (SBC) $16 billion acquisition of AT&T (T).
The Federal Communications Commission voted to clear the deals after days of intense negotiations to set conditions that include requiring Verizon and SBC to freeze rates for leasing some wholesale access to their networks for 30 months.
…They also agreed for two years to permit customers to surf anywhere they choose on the Internet and use any applications on it.
What a lousy deal for the public.
No ISPs should be allowed to stop adult costumers from surfing wherever they want. Now or two years from now.
Why would a bunch of newspapers decide to support Bush and the interests of the rich around the same time in the same way?
Each of the newspapers is owned by Freedom Communications, Inc. (freedom to spread propaganda for the rich.)
Each of the editorials is unsigned as the official opinion of the newspaper.
Each says Bush was right to lower the wages of workers rebuilding New Orleans, by suspending the Davis-Bacan law requiring prevailing-wages for government contracts.
From “Facing South: Blogging for a Progressive South:“
And they all happen to say exactly the same thing, beginning with this paragraph:
One of the smartest things President Bush did to reduce recovery costs in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita was to suspend Davis-Bacon Act rules in the hardest hit states. But Congress is frantically trying to overrule the president, which would add billions of dollars to the already staggering recovery costs.
Amazing that newspapers from California, Colorado, and North Carolina could be channeling, simultaneously and in complete harmony, the Bush administration line for cutting wages for workers rebuilding the Gulf Coast.
Papers recently running this include the Daily News of Jacksonville, NC and the The Colorado Springs Gazette of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Freedom Communications also owns TV stations.
The FCC is considering relaxing a rule against media concentration to let companies own newspapers and TV stations in the same city.
More city newspapers will probably have the pro-rich, pro-Bush editorial line from Freedom Communications if the FCC changes this rule.
Regarding the substance of the editorial:
The Davis-Bacon Act which George W. Bush suspended requires workers on government contracts to get prevailing wages.
It is bad policy to hurt workers by suspending this rule.
It’s more effective to rebuild New Orleans through good-paying jobs which give workers stability and spending money they can use at other businesses, then by giving workers lousy wages while the middlemen with contacts in the the government make millions.
If Freedom Communications is so concerned about saving taxpayer money, why not limit the amount of money which the executives can make off these deals, instead of lowering what workers will be paid?
California-based indie record label Baja/TSR is taking on Sony/BMG. TSR is suing Sony for buying airtime on radio stations, an violation of FCC regulations also being investigated by NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
TSR Records has filed a lawsuit against SonyBMG Music Entertainment, accusing the company of breaking antitrust laws by using “pay-for-play” tactics with radio stations. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, builds its case on Sony BMG’s civil settlement in July with New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. The company paid a $10 million fine and admitted that some employees used improper promotion practices. TSR President Tom Hayden is claiming that because of these practices, SonyBMG interfered with his business practices and made it practically impossible for independent labels to get songs played on the radio. The case seeks unspecified damages.
“The best way to sell albums is to get songs played on the radio,” Hayden told the Los Angeles Times. “But we can’t afford to bribe programmers with plasma-screen TVs, so we’re shut out.”