Find the Hat

by Norman Horowitz

“Shorty” was scouting locations for the production of Gone with the Wind. He stood up on the back of a moving pickup truck, and the wind blew off his hat. At the first opportunity, he purchased a new hat to protect his bald head from the sun.

Shorty filed his detailed expense report for, shall we say, $4,385 and included $6 for his hat. His report was rejected because of the $6 he had spent for the hat, and he was asked to resubmit the expense report without the hat, which he did.

Supposedly, he submitted a report for the same amount with the admonition: “I dare you to find the hat.”

Many media managers were and are obsessed by “finding the hats.” I have worked for a few of them. While they were doing this, Rupert Murdoch was out expanding and diversifying his business.

I still remember my first senior management meeting with the head of Polygram North America. The company had just lost $100 million, and the only subject discussed was whether we were all willing to fly Business Class instead of First Class. Nothing else.

Later on, I arranged for the Polygram president to meet with very senior people at three major companies to discuss the formation of a joint venture entertainment company. The morning of the scheduled meeting, my Polygram president asked me to postpone the meeting because he needed to attend a previously unscheduled budget meeting. The joint venture meeting never happened.

For many managers, their operating goal is to doggedly “find the hat” rather than to expand their business activity.

There is a joke about a board meeting of The Really Huge Company: There were two items on the agenda. One concerned the multibillion-dollar investment in nuclear energy, and the discussion concerning it took 3 minutes. The second item was if they were going to continue providing free coffee to their administrative staff, which took over an hour.

The conclusion is that no one knew anything about nuclear energy yet everyone knew about coffee.

I continue to ask myself how an Australian media person like Rupert Murdoch was able to create a media mega-company while the majority of the Hollywood establishment sat around and waited for someone to come along and buy them.

Off With His Head!

by Norman Horowitz

Bruce had promised his wife Blanche that he would be on time for a very important family function, and of course he is late. Blanche flies into an absolute rage and vilifies him endlessly. When she calms down, he tells her that he was late because he was having sex with his mistress, and that she would not let him leave, and that he wanted a divorce.

As Blanche begins to cry, Bruce tells her that he made up the business with the girlfriend to point out how nuts she had become about his tardiness and how unimportant it was.

In a similar way, the Brits have gone bonkers over a News Corporation transgression that took place in the UK.

Yes, News Corp. did a horrid thing. And yes, they should be punished. But not Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch has admitted that a cover-up took place within the News of the World to hide the scope of the phone hacking.

The British Parliament released a report concluding that Murdoch “exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications” and stated that he was “not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.”

I disagree.

Many years ago, I did business with Murdoch and have met with him a few times. I hold him in the highest esteem for assembling a gigantic media empire and doing it with an integrity that was unknown in Hollywood for decades. (It was certainly absent at the studios where I worked). I have never worked for News Corp., but I have known many of their senior people and have never had reason to question their integrity.

I joined MGM/UA in the mid-1980s with responsibilities over a variety of media segments. We uncovered a relatively significant defalcation, and the individual involved left the company. Should my Chairman have been forced to resign because of this? I think not. He was not involved in the crime, and he had no reason to have known that it had taken place.

Similarly, during my tenure at Columbia Pictures, there was a major defalcation, yet the management was not called upon to fall on its sword.

Indeed, many of the studios and major production companies have tolerated criminal activities in their own company rather than risk the scandal that disclosure would entail. I can “name names,” but no one has ever seemed interested.

So, while I believe that News Corp. should be punished, I do not expect that Rupert Murdoch be held responsible for the actions of a few overly zealous employees.

Let’s Pretend That We Have Media Diversity in Our Country

by Norman Horowitz

“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public…” — Adam Smith, 1776

Walt Disney, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures, and Warner Brothers are all members of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). As an executive of Columbia Pictures and MGM/UA, I attended meetings of the MPAA.

In my opinion, the MPAA solely serves the interests of their major members. It is an association of gigantic companies who abuse the system as much as possible in order to maintain their market share and profitability without seriously violating the law — and, when possible, attempt to change the laws to their benefit. Were you to attend one of their meetings and mention something like their responsibility of serving in the “public interest, convenience, and necessity,” they would need to send out to have the phrase explained to them.   Continue reading “Let’s Pretend That We Have Media Diversity in Our Country”