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!

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”

I’m Only Thinking of Him

by Norman Horowitz

I’m trying to imagine the moment when that itsy bitsy company AT&T decided, “Hey, we’re only grossing $124 billion. We only have 300,000 employees. Our assets are only worth $268 billion. Why don’t we go out and ‘eat’ another company? Why not T-Mobile? They only have 34 million customers. Their gross income is a paltry $21 billion.”

Have you seen the TV commercials advertising how great it’ll be if these two companies operate as one rather than — God forbid — competing with one another? This will be good for America, they always say, just like the previous “consolidations” that allowed CBS to be gobbled up by Viacom, ABC to be consumed by the Walt Disney Company, NBC by Comcast, and of course Fox by News Corp. They are, like Antonia in Man of La Mancha, only thinking of us.

Actually, those mergers were not good for America. Our purported “regulators” sided, as they almost always do, with “the regulated,” and everyone won…except the public.   Continue reading “I’m Only Thinking of Him”

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?”