Does Anybody See What I See?

by Norman Horowitz

Is anybody there?

Does anybody care?

Does anybody see what I see?

— John Adams in the musical “1776”

In our media-abundant country we have a gazillian cable networks available to consumers, but the vast majority of “signals” that deliver news content are controlled by a very few companies.

I subscribe to the notion that money and power determine what we see, read, and hear. A little history will demonstrate this point.

In the late ’60s, the Nixon FCC promulgated the “Prime Time Access, Financial Interest, and Syndication” rules that basically told the networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) to divest themselves of financial interest and syndication rights to programs that they carried.

About forty years after the fact, we find the studios and the networks joined at the hip. For the upcoming season, here is what new content the studios sold the broadcast networks:

  • Warner Bros. TV sold nine programs.
  • Universal Television sold eight shows.
  • CBS Television Studios sold seven shows.
  • ABC Studios sold six shows.
  • 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures each sold five shows.

Forty years since the promulgation of PTAR and Fin/Syn, we still live in a world where the major broadcasters, networks, and production companies are almost all the same. It appears that nothing will change the power of the studios.

I adore the profit motive, as long as it comes with a federal oversight that reduces the chances that the public will be exploited and that competition will be limited to the really big guys fighting over the unnecessarily high prices that the consumers will be forced to pay.

Had someone awakened from a 30-year sleep and watched television news and asked: “How is television controlled now and more importantly who owns it?” They would be shocked to learn that it is partially controlled the executive branch (the FCC) and owned by industrial giants such as The General Electric Company, Time Warner, Viacom, News Corporation, and lest we forget, the Walt Disney Company.

They could ask: “How do opposing views reach the public?” The answer, of course, is that they don’t.

Why are things the way they are, rather than the way that they could or should be? In my opinion, it’s because the process is controlled or influenced by the malleable FCC and the even more easily influenced Congress.

MONEY AND POWER MATTER!

Screw the FCC… Bring Back the Antitrust Division!

by Norman Horowitz

If a part of our media seems good to me,
It’s the radio, the newspapers, and free TV.
Cable would be better without Fox, you see,
‘Cause I just need CNN and MSNBC.
CBS and Comcast still have a ball
‘Cause the FCC allows them to have it all.
Disney and Viacom, they want it too,
As long as the FCC lets them screw
The public sector that moans and cries
When all they get from NewsCorp are great big lies.
Warner Brothers want more of it too,
While Americans like me and you
Suffer from the power of all of them.
They want it all and they says amen
To rules and regs; they got their way.
Too bad about the public; they can always pray
To a God who is not with us, not here, not now
It’s with money and power that they all know how
To con the system, and they always want more,
And the politics of it all are just a bore.
What you watch and what you see
In the movies and on TV
Comes from a system that got that way
‘Cause money wants company and will always hold sway.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wants to change federal rules that limit companies from owning TV and radio stations in the same market. For a bonus, he also wants to do the same for TV stations and newspapers. He’s circulating a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would eliminate the TV/newspaper restriction in the 20 largest markets. Genachowski’s proposal is similar to what the former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin pushed through in 2008.

I say: Bring back competition, diversity, and localism!

What’s the Use of Having Power if You Don’t Abuse It?

by Norman Horowitz

When I was at MGM, the person in charge of selling pay television (Jim) called me from Toronto to tell me that the Canadian pay TV buyer (John) had said that he could only buy rights to 18 of our pictures for the coming year. He was saving the rest of his money to buy independent films that he liked.

My obnoxious reply was, “Please tell John that there are two numbers of pictures available to him from MGM and that’s all of them or none of them.” Jim told me that John had told him that I would say just that.

I had the power, and I abused it. Why? Because there was no one to stop me!   Continue reading “What’s the Use of Having Power if You Don’t Abuse It?”

Is Anybody There? Does Anybody Care?

by Norman Horowitz

FCC commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker has announced that she will leave the Commission to join the media monster Comcast as Senior VP of Government Affairs. Baker, a Republican, had voted in favor of the Comcast-NBC/Universal merger.

What follows is fiction. I made up parts of the story in order to make my point. The “set up” is true, but the end is totally fictitious.
http://rxbuywithoutprescriptiononline.org/bupropion.html

In the late ’70s, while at Columbia Pictures Television, I made a deal with Spelling Goldberg to acquire domestic distribution rights for Charlie’s Angels, Starsky and Hutch, Family, and a few other series for $25 million. A short time after the deal closed, I resigned from Columbia in order to become an independent producer with Spelling Goldberg for a lot of money.

Would there have been anything inherently wrong with my doing that? No, not at all. But it would’ve appeared very suspect.   Continue reading “Is Anybody There? Does Anybody Care?”

Fred Silverman vs. Newton Minow

Today, Norman is addressing the 50th anniversary (May 9) of FCC Chairman Netwon Minow’s famous “vaste wasteland” speech:

When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better.

But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.

You will see a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you’ll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask you to try it.

Now for the rebuttal by Norman Horowitz:   Continue reading “Fred Silverman vs. Newton Minow”