Get To Know Rupert Murdoch, The Man Who Wants To Buy Time Warner

Last week there was a surprising announcement that international media baron Rupert Murdoch had made a bid to expand his empire even further. He submitted an offer to acquire Time Warner in an $80 billion stock transaction.

Rupert Murdoch

Be Sure To “LIKE” News Corpse On Facebook

This would be an atrocious development for a myriad of reasons. It would create an anti-competitive monopoly in several media markets including film production and distribution, and cable TV operations. Furthermore it would make Murdoch the most powerful force in media with control over an unprecedented percentage of both news and entertainment businesses. This would only enhance his already dominant position in worldwide newspaper publishing and satellite television.

Murdoch has demonstrated his cravenly biased approach to business management with his current corporate holdings. These include the world’s most flagrant disseminator of right-wing propaganda, Fox News. Particularly notable is the shift at the Wall Street Journal where, prior to his acquisition, it was a respected leader in business and general reporting. Today it is a hollow shell of its former glory. It had been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for news journalism thirty-four times in its celebrated history, but has not received a single one since Murdoch assumed control seven years ago and turned it into just another of his tabloid rags.

Taking all of that into consideration, it is important to know precisely the sort of man who is proposing to become the head of the most powerful media conglomerate in history. So here is a brief summary of Murdoch’s recent resume:

  • Murdoch’s News of the World hacked into phone and email accounst of hundreds of private citizens, celebrities, and politicians, including a murdered schoolgirl.
  • Murdoch called the victims of his hacking “scumbags.”
  • Murdoch’s New York Post repeatedly publishes racist political cartoons.
  • Murdoch posts anti-Semitic Tweet.
  • Murdoch’s criminal enterprise protects him from any negative reporting.
  • Murdoch’s Fox News deployed hundreds of fake blog accounts in order to rebut critics on the Internet.
  • Murdoch’s companies deleted incriminating emails to avoid responsibility in the hacking scandal.

The scope of the corporate megalith that would result from a Murdoch takeover of Time Warner should be more than enough to prohibit the acquisition. It would create an unholy monopoly that our anti-trust laws were specifically put in place to prevent. But the depraved and criminal character of Rupert Murdoch should also be a fatal impediment to a Time Warner deal. There are morals clauses in business that ought to exempt Murdoch from completing this purchase. In fact, they ought to force him out of his current position and commence a discussion of whether his citizenship should be revoked.

If you’re interested in taking some concrete action to hold Murdoch accountable and protest the proposed Time Warner deal, Media Matters has started a petition to fight back against Murdoch’s encroaching media tyranny. Please sign it and share it with everyone you know.

The Tea Party Times? Rumors Swirling About The Koch Brothers Buying The Tribune Comapany

Newspaper wires are buzzing over a report by the L.A. Weekly that billionaire oil magnates and Tea Party financiers David and Charles Koch are interested in buying the Los Angeles Times or even its parent corporation, the Tribune Company. Tribune owns the Times as well as the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, and some 20 television stations.

On the surface this might appear to be an ominous development that would put a number of influential media assets in the hands of some notoriously self-serving political manipulators. The prospect of the plutocratic Koch clan assuming control of a network of media properties that they could convert into clarions for their Tea Party fronted campaign to expand their wealth and power is worthy of some concern. However, a deeper examination of this will take the sting off of it.

First of all, the Tribune newspapers are not exactly journalistic powerhouses that break major stories or shape public opinion. To the contrary, they are mere shells of their former glory having cut their editorial staffs to the bone which, not surprisingly, has resulted in a downward spiral in circulation. And if the Koch brothers were to assert their ultra-conservative political ideology on newspapers in liberal enclaves like L.A. and Chicago they are not likely to find many new subscribers.

This brings us to the question of whether an acquisition by the Kochs would represent any change in ideology at all. The Tribune Company was already a right-wing enterprise that published papers with editorial positions that conflicted bitterly with the majority of their constituents. The current CEO of Tribune is a former News Corp executive. Until 2008 the L.A. Times had never endorsed a Democrat for president. And, in a particularly telling and shameful action, the Times fired columnist Robert Scheer, a thirty year veteran with the paper and a Pulitzer Prize winner, and replaced him with Jonah Goldberg, a dimwitted conservative hack with no journalism credibility. So contrary to conventional wisdom, these media operations were not bastions of liberalism.

MurdochalypseThe Tribune rumors have added to speculation about the company’s future that has also included gossip about Rupert Murdoch as a potential buyer. News consumers in the cities affected must be excited about the prospect of having their hometown papers run by the man responsible for hacking into the phones of hundreds of people including a murdered schoolgirl. However, all of this chatter ignores some fairly steep obstacles for both parties. Despite their wide-ranging conglomerate, the Kochs have no experience with media companies. And as noted above, the specific entities available with Tribune would not be very helpful to their propaganda mission. Murdoch would likely be unable to close a deal due to his current ownership of TV stations and newspapers in the same markets. A Tribune acquisition would violate FCC rules (for which he has already received waivers) and would initiate a long and difficult approval process.

Given the impediments to the deals by these famous suitors, one wonders where the rumors might have come from. The most obvious source would be from within Tribune itself. They may be trying to create the illusion that there is acquisition interest in the company and its assets in order to stir up potential buyers and artificially inflate its value as it emerges from bankruptcy. That’s a more likely scenario than one wherein either Murdoch or the Kochs actually bid on the company.

If either of these rumored suitors actually did acquire all or part of Tribune, it would be a sad day for journalism, but only on a symbolic level. Seeing any media property with the history of these enterprises become so embarrassingly intertwined with Tea Party nutjobs would be unfortunate and disheartening. But on practical terms it really wouldn’t result in any observable change considering how stridently conservative and deeply ineffectual these properties have become in recent years. What is truly sad is just the fact that the papers have already fallen to such appalling depths that these rumored acquisitions by disreputable characters bent on deception wouldn’t really make any difference at all.

Breitbart Wins! The Most Epically Idiotic Article On The Internet – This Week

The World Wide Web is a cornucopia of Olympian ignoramusi. The field ranges from hollowed out heads in suits like Jonah Goldberg, to asylum escapees like Ted Nugent, to pitiful has-been bimbos like Victoria Jackson, to messianic delusionaries like Glenn Beck. With such an abundance of talentless charlatans like these posting staggeringly asinine missives online, the competition for Most Epically Idiotic Article On The Internet is stiffer than Mitt Romney at a gay bar four hours after overdosing on a bad batch of Viagra.

Leave it to Breitbart’s John Nolte to sink to the occasion and compose a work of astonishing stupidity. The title of Nolte’s opus, “Why the Media Hates and Fears Super PACs,” pretty much gives away the fundamental foolishness of his premise. The media is perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Super PACS (more on that later). But foolishness is the hallmark of Nolte’s career. Take for example this article wherein Nolte advocated murdering the mother of a young actress:

Breitbart's Penis Envy

Breitbrat Nolte begins his incoherent rant with a typical bashing of the press as liberal, despite all the evidence to the contrary. With no substantiation whatsoever, he called the media “a gaggle of left-wing operatives disguised as journalists.” Nolte goes on to assert that the media fears the Citizens United decision handed down by the Supreme Court because the media is in the business of the “furthering of leftist causes.” Notice how he refers to the media as a single-minded entity shuddering frightfully at the thought of Citizens United. He makes no effort to document that assertion. But finally, Nolte gets around to what he regards as the core of the problem:

“[T]he media is objecting to free and unlimited political speech – the very thing protected by the very first Amendment. The media’s outrage that there are now no longer restrictions on how much money a company or individual can spend to further a political cause, is the same as expressing outrage that that most sacred of American rights – unlimited political speech – is no longer limited by a tyrannical government.”

Of course. The media is “outraged” that individuals and corporations can now spend unlimited amounts of money on ….. MEDIA! Where does Nolte think that the hundreds of millions of dollars that he concedes will be raised and spent is going to go? By far, the biggest share of that bounty will be spent on advertising in the media. The very same media that Nolte refers to as an amorphous singularity that is united in opposition to Super PACs. So obviously the media is beside themselves with rage. Their secret plot to advance socialism is way more important to them than the windfall in unprecedented profits. Anyone can see that.

Well, anyone that suffers from the same moronic myopia of Breitbrat Nolte, whose grasp of the particulars of the Citizens United decision is utterly confused. Nolte does not seem to understand that the decision opened the funding floodgates to allow unprecedented levels of unaccountable contributions that are tantamount to giving wealthy individuals and corporations permission to buy election outcomes. He describes it as a “First Amendment victory,” but it is a victory for dollars, not for voters. It changes the dimensions of democracy from “one man, one vote,” to “one dollar, one vote,” because now free speech comes with a price tag that only the wealthy can afford. How can the average citizen’s voice be heard when it is competing with Exxon or Karl Rove’s American Crossroads?

Nolte’s whining that the media has been enforcing a liberal tyranny over the nation and is enraged by new competition from the Super PACs created by Citizens United ignores the fact that the media themselves are participants in the rush to exploit the Super PAC phenomenon. Every major media corporation (Time Warner, General Electric, Comcast, Viacom, Disney, News Corp) already has their own. And they are spending heavily to advance their interests over those of the people. But Nolte has trouble with the concept of facts to begin with, as is apparent in this example from his article:

“Fact : In 2008, you heard almost no media outcry against all of that ‘outside money affecting elections.’ Today, that’s all you hear, especially after a Republican victory like the one last week in Wisconsin.

First of all, Nolte needs a remedial course in identifying facts. He cannot assert as fact that “you” heard nothing in 2008 about outside money. How could he know what you heard? Secondly, his main point as to the “media outcry” on campaign finance completely ignores that actual fact that fundraising by independent groups has long been a huge topic of discussion. It resulted in the passage of the McCain–Feingold Act in 2002 that put restrictions on certain types of contributions and spending. That act was still in effect in 2008, but was largely overturned in 2010 by Citizens United. If Nolte didn’t hear people talking about outside money in 2008, it’s because his ears were stuffed with right-wing bias and the smears and tangential trivialities that he helped to promulgate (i.e. Rev. Wright, Anthony Weiner).

Nolte makes an extraordinary leap in logic to assert that media companies are de facto Super PACs and that they have always been “allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money to push a political agenda.” But Nolte is not talking about any actual PAC activity. He is asserting the premise that any money spent collecting or reporting news is identical to spending for political advocacy. That’s because Nolte believes that all news is the work of the left-wing gaggle mentioned above. He writes that everyone from the Today Show to Saturday Night Live are “shill[s] for leftist causes.” Therefore, he sees the advent of Citizens United as a leveling mechanism.

“Thanks to ‘Citizens United,’ though, what you now have are mainstream media corporations forced to compete on a level playing field with other individuals and corporations, who can now spend as much money as MSNBC and Politico and The Washington Post, etc. to affect the outcomes of our nation’s politics.

“And this is why the media so loathes ‘Citizens United’ and those beautiful super PACs that have blossomed as a result.”

And therein lies the heart of Nolte’s Epic Idiocy. He actually sees Super PACs as “beautiful,” a blossoming bouquet of wholesome, corporate goodness. In fact, he veritably tingles at the thought of corporations being able to affect the outcomes of elections. Who wouldn’t want corporations – soulless entities whose only purpose is to increase shareholder wealth – to decide everything from how are children are taught, to the state of our environment, to Wall Street regulatory policy, to when, and with whom, we go to war? Nolte’s lust for allowing unaccountable corporations to assume control over the most profoundly personal aspects of our lives is downright perverse. It is also a nearly textbook definition of fascism.


And it’s a perversion rooted in ignorance because the backbone of his thesis is utterly false. It should come as no surprise that a web site called “News Corpse” is not suffering from a naive affinity for the press. But the stated mission of this site recognizes that the problem with the media is that it has evolved into an incestuous family of a few giant corporations whose interests lean more toward their own welfare than the welfare of the public they serve or the nation that protects their independence. The problem with the media is that it IS composed of giant, multinational corporations that exploit their market power and their influence over government.

It is difficult to comprehend how Nolte can harbor such a schizophrenic viewpoint wherein he worships corporations, but despises the media which are, in fact, corporations. He makes no sense in castigating the whole of the media for bitterly opposing Super PACs (for which he provides no evidence), even while they have formed their own and are projected to earn billions of dollars from the advertising headed their way. His opinion can only be described as twisted by a paranoid neurosis that prevents him from observing reality as it is.

It is that blindness that has created a monumental obstacle to rationality and earns Breitbart’s John Nolte the award for the Most Epically Idiotic Article On The Internet. And due to his puerile dimwittedness and cognitive ineptitude, this will surely not be the last time he will be so (dis)honored.

Rupert Murdoch Faces Shareholders And Occupiers

MurdochalypseIn a theater on the lot of Fox Studios in Los Angeles, about a hundred investors in News Corp assembled to hear Rupert Murdoch and his lieutenants defend being criminals and thieves. There was a certain beauty in this charade taking place in the guts of a fantasy factory, in the shadow of Hollywood.

Murdoch delivered his well rehearsed monologue about how strong the business is and how bright its future, on the same day that their PR department announced that they were paying $4.8 million dollars to compensate the family of a murdered schoolgirl for having hacked into her phone and misled her parents and the police as to her fate. Today we know that there were perhaps hundreds of others whose privacy was violated, including politicians, celebrities, and royals. And yet Murdoch is comfortable declaring that “I’m very proud of the culture we have at this company.”

Murdoch had the gall to assert that most of the information authorities have now about the phone hacking and other scandals came from News Corp itself. That statement defies belief considering that the company has done nothing to punish any of the wrongdoers associated with the criminal acts. The scandal goes back a decade, all the while being covered up by editors and executives. It was reporting by the Guardian’s Nick Davies that broke the scandal wide open. Since then fifteen News Corp employees have been arrested, top executives have resigned, and one former journalist, Sean Hoare, was found dead in his home. Hoare was the first person to allege that former News of the World editor, Andy Coulson (who later became a press aide to Prime Minister David Cameron), knew about the hacking.

The shareholder’s meeting provided an opportunity for critics to voice their frustration with the company’s management. There were proposals to slash the pay of the Murdochs, to mandate a separation between the chairman and the CEO, both positions currently held by Murdoch. And an unprecedented number of investor groups and advisers publicly advocating that the entire board of directors not be reelected.

British Member of Parliament, Tom Watson, flew in to confront Murdoch and inform shareholders that the worst is yet to come. He revealed that investigations are proceeding on allegations of unlawful surveillance beyond those of phone hacking. But there were Murdoch defenders in the audience as well. One of whom identified himself as a Fox employee and said that in his years of service he has never been asked to do anything unethical. Of course not. As a Fox employee you don’t have to be asked, it’s expected.

By the end of the shareholder’s meeting it was learned that the Murdochs had retained their board seats. And despite Murdoch saying that the vote results would be released in a couple of hours, News Corp. declined to announce the vote tally, saying it would release the figures early next week. Analysts say that if even 20% of votes are cast against the Murdochs, it would be a victory, because that would be nearly half of the 53% of votes unaffiliated with the family. So what are they hiding? Apparently they have reason to want to keep the results out of the news cycle.

Outside the studio, about 200 people gathered to protest the greed, domination, and manipulation of News Corp. Participants included OccupyLA, FreePress, Common Cause, MoveOn, Avaaz, Change to Win, Brave New Films, and more. The media was there in force as well. Representatives from every local TV station showed up, along with the Associated Press, CNN, BBC, and Al Jazeera.

This is irrefutable evidence of the Occupy movement’s success. It has grown from a curious rabble ignored by the press, to a powerful voice for the people. It has earned the enmity of dullards who can only resort to childish insults that the protesters are unfocused, unclean, and unpatriotic. But most importantly, it has changed the public debate from one of a phony debt crisis, to one that addresses the real concerns of Americans: jobs, economic disparity, and the destructive influence of corporations on politics and policy. And it’s only been one month.

Occupy Fox News: The Rise Of The Other 99%

For the past month Manhattan has been the epicenter of a new movement that seeks to reinstate the people as the stewards of American politics and to foreclose on the corporations who have been managing Washington as if it were a wholly owned subsidiary. But now the revolution heads west to Los Angeles where News Corp, the parent of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, will be holding their annual shareholders meeting on Friday, October 21.

The meeting promises to be a stimulating affair as Rupert Murdoch and his spawn face expulsion from the board of their own company. A surprising number of institutional shareholders and analysts have already publicly advised their clients to withhold their votes to reelect the Murdoch clan and a handful of their allies. The Guardian is reporting that opposition to “The Family” is presently as high as 25% before the meeting is even gaveled in to order.

Murdoch-NOTWDumping the Murdochs will still be an uphill battle given that they control 39% of the voting shares. Astonishingly, they still have supporters despite the fact that they have presided over unlawful and unethical practices that have materially damaged the company’s revenue and reputation. But even if they survive it will be in a weakened and humiliated state. There is certain to be vocal opposition in the room from big shareholders disgusted by nepotistic cronyism and the lack of independence, as well as rebel voices who may engage in a bit of theatrical protesting.

The real protesting, however, will be going on outside the meeting as the Occupy Los Angeles crowd migrates over from their base in Downtown L.A. to give Fox a taste of what it’s like to be occupied. They will be joined by FreePress, Change to Win, Common Cause LA, Brave New Films, and others. If you’re in L.A., be sure sure to head down to Fox Studios at 10201 W. Pico Blvd., Century City, Los Angeles (Street parking is available on Motor Ave. A map is here). The protest is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 21, 9–11 a.m.

Rupert Murdoch and News Corp are the epitome of what the 99% are protesting: an unaccountable corporation that manipulates the political process while seeking to enrich itself at the expense of the public that it is failing to serve. And as a media enterprise they also contribute to the disinformation and divisiveness that is tearing this country apart.

But remember, there is another 99% in America. That is the 99% of the nation that does not watch Fox News. The highest rated program on Fox (The O’Reilly Factor) pulls in about 1% of the population. That’s about half the audience of the lowest rated broadcast network news program (CBS Evening news). NBC’s Nightly News draws four times the viewers of Fox. Yet Fox deftly uses their platform to exult themselves and shout down everyone else.

After taking the Tea Party under their wing and promoting it incessantly, Fox now regards protesters as ignorant, smelly, and unpatriotic. Their overt hostility to the majority of citizens who want economic and social justice is fraught with lies and riddled with childish insults that cater to the diminished IQ of their viewers. Polls show that, even after Fox’s relentless propaganda, support for the Occupy movement is twice as much as the Tea Party, which is still viewed negatively by most people.

So let Fox have the 1% of America’s most delusional television viewers. The rest of us will make our voices heard the old fashioned way: by organizing, communicating, and exercising our rights. Stand up. Speak out. Occupy. We are the 99% who do not watch Fox News.

News Of The Whirled: What’s Rupert Murdoch Up To Now?

The hacking scandal that has embroiled Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is one of the most stunning ever recorded. The News of the World is not some backwater rag with a handful of readers. It is one of the largest circulation Sunday papers in the UK. Well, it was. As of next Sunday it no longer exists. And arrests are said to be pending as soon as tomorrow.

The despicable actions of its reporters and executives that brought the paper down include hacking into the cell phones of celebrities, politicians, sports stars, and royals. However, the bottom-feeding scum at NotW went even lower when they hacked into the phone of a kidnapped thirteen year old girl who later turned up dead. And as if that weren’t enough, new reports reveal that they also hacked the families of soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan and victims of the terrorist subway bombing in London.

When news of hacking first broke two years ago, Murdoch appeared on his own Fox Business Network where Stuart Varney, who is notorious for aggressively challenging (i.e. interrupting) liberals, attempted to ask him a question:

Varney: The story that is really buzzing all around the country, and certainly right here in New York, is that the News of the World, a News Corporation newspaper in Britain…
Murdoch: No, I’m not talking about that issue at all today.
Varney: OK. No worries, Mr. Chairman. That’s fine with me.

That’s fine with him? What an intrepid reporter. Murdoch’s response today would be starkly different, I’m sure. In fact, in response to this parade of revulsion, James Murdoch, the heir-apparent to daddy Rupert’s empire, announced that, rather than cleaning house and soldiering on, the NotW would shut down entirely, thus avoiding the sort of scrutiny that would come with a corporate cleansing. This dramatic solution will result in hundreds of staffers being terminated who had nothing to do with the scandal, while the guilty executives continue on in new positions at other divisions.

Rebekah Brooks, who edited the NotW during the period the hacking occurred, is presently the chief executive of its parent company, News International. Les Hinton who ran Murdoch’s British newspapers is now running the Wall Street Journal. Hinton also lead the internal investigation that concluded that there was no widespread wrongdoing at the paper. That’s a conclusion that can only be explained as either incompetence or complicity.

Murdoch hopes that shuttering the paper will allow him to evade further questions about its criminality. There are even reports that by closing up shop he will be permitted to dispose of company records that the law would otherwise require be maintained for investigations. And speculation has already emerged that the paper may actually resurface as the Sunday edition of The Sun, another of Murdoch’s British tabloids (that has its own hacking scandal). So the closing may be a subterfuge that masks the rats scurrying off to another garbage dump.

The NotW was not sacrificed for some moral repentance. This radical reaction has a purpose that is not being disclosed. Nothing Rupert Murdoch does can be taken at face value. He has proven himself to be a ruthless, untrustworthy, and dishonest businessman. That ought to be cause for conjecture as to what sort of chicanery might be taking place at his U.S. enterprises. Who is being hacked here at home? And is the demise of NotW a gimmick to prevent the exposure of even more disturbing revelations?

FOX News Invents Another George Soros Conspiracy

On the Fox News web site today, Dan Gainor, a VP at the ultra-conservative Media Research Center, wrote an op-ed that asked, “Why Don’t We Hear About Soros’ Ties to Over 30 Major News Organizations?” The answer, as it turns out, is because there aren’t any such ties. In the opening paragraph Gainor writes that Soros…

“…has ties to more than 30 mainstream news outlets – including The New York Times, Washington Post, the Associated Press, NBC and ABC.”

Then Gainor fails to provide a single piece of evidence that Soros is connected to any of those enterprises. The article is a hodge-podge of guilt-by-association assertions that are held together by the thinnest of threads.

Rather than support his headlined accusation, Gainor offers as examples of Soros’ omnipotent influence the fact that he has donated to a few independent, non-profit institutions that focus on journalism. The organizations he chose to pick on are ProPublica, the Center for Public Integrity, and the Center for Investigative Reporting. These groups have indeed received donations from Soros, as well as many other donors. Soros has no executive control of any of them. But more to the point, these groups hardly qualify as being “major news organizations.”

Gainor’s problem with these groups, other than that they were beneficiaries of Soros’ generosity, is that they have some working journalists serving as board members or advisors. Perhaps Gainor would prefer that media foundations put more banking and oil executives on their boards. The wild-eyed players that Gainor is so disturbed by include rabid partisans like David Gergen and Christiane Amanpour. And, again, Soros has no influence over these individuals or whether they accept invitations to serve on foundation boards.

Gainor has utterly failed to support his thesis. Not only does Soros have no control over these organizations, but they aren’t even the big media powers Gainor describes them as. However, Gainor’s column appeared on the web site of a bona fide major news organization: Fox News. And the owner of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch, also has control over an empire of media enterprises including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, Dow Jones NewsWire, and BSkyB, Europe’s biggest satellite television provider. What’s more, Murdoch is also on the board of directors of the Associated Press, another bona fide big media player.

Finally, it should be noted that Gainor’s own employer, the Media Research Center, is funded by foundations run by right-wing media baron Richard Mellon Scaife. It is also closely tied to Murdoch’s Fox News. When former Fox anchor and managing editor, Brit Hume, accepted an award from the MRC, he thanked them

“…for the tremendous amount of material that the Media Research Center provided me for so many years when I was anchoring Special Report, I don’t know what we would’ve done without them. It was a daily buffet of material to work from, and we certainly made tremendous use of it.”

So, as usual, the allegations levied by the right turn out to be the very same improprieties they are guilty of themselves. Some things never change.

[Update] Media Matters reveals that Dan Gainor is “the Boone Pickens Fellow” for MRC, and that Pickens himself is an MRC trustee. Pickens is also a major player in the natural gas industry, which ProPublica has reported on and exposed for its grim environmental record. Funny that Fox News failed to disclose the conflict of interest in which Gainor is engaging by attacking ProPublica for its coverage of Pickens’ business.

Also, Glenn Beck referenced this article on his television program today and completely misstated its contents. He said that Soros funds ABC, CBS, and the Koch brothers. Not only is that not what the article says, it’s downright insane. Or in other words, typical Beck.

Stop Federal Funding Of Fox News

Defund Fox NewsA few weeks ago video pimp and propagandist, James O’Keefe, released a heavily edited and deliberately deceptive video that purported to expose an institutional bias at National Public Radio. It was quickly debunked and denounced as a fraud by analysts across the political spectrum, including those at Glenn Beck’s web site, The Blaze.

Nevertheless, partisans in Congress and agenda-driven conservatives in the press continue to behave as if the video were legitimate. The House of Representatives, on a party-line vote, passed a resolution to defund NPR – a purely symbolic gesture as the Senate is not likely to concur.

The latest attack comes from former NPR correspondent, and confessed bigot, Juan Williams, in an op-ed for The Hill. After first conceding that “NPR is an important platform for journalism,” Williams joins his conservative comrades in calling for federal defunding of NPR. But he also reveals his self-serving and vengeful motivation by slandering NPR in saying that…

“They’re willing to do anything in service of any liberal with money. This includes firing me and skewing the editorial content of their programming.”

Nowhere in the article did Williams support his contention that “liberal money” was behind either his termination or any of its reporting. This is nothing more than a personal vendetta on Williams’ part. He is merely using the funding debate to strike his own blows against a former employer for whom he obviously bears a deep resentment.

However, if the right wants to introduce the issue of federal funding of the media into the public debate, they should be prepared to see their own Fox gored. Fox News has been the beneficiary of government largess for years and it is time to stop it and make Fox pay its own way. As far back as 1999, there have been reports documenting how News Corp, Fox’s parent company, exploited loopholes in tax laws that permitted them to avoid levies that all other citizens have to pay. From The Economist:

“…News Corporation and its subsidiaries paid only A$325m ($238m) in corporate taxes worldwide. In the same period, its consolidated pre-tax profits were A$5.4 billion. So News Corporation has paid an effective tax rate of only around 6%. By comparison, Disney, one of the world’s other media empires, paid 31%. Basic corporate-tax rates in Australia, America and Britain, the three main countries in which News Corporation operates, are 36%, 35% and 30% respectively.”

The article goes on to describe how News Corp used a complex network of accounting dodges including as many as 60 shell companies that were incorporated in such tax havens as the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, the Netherlands Antilles and the British Virgin Islands. More recently, an investigation by the New York Times revealed that…

“By taking advantage of a provision in the law that allows expanding companies like Mr. Murdoch’s to defer taxes to future years, the News Corporation paid no federal taxes in two of the last four years, and in the other two it paid only a fraction of what it otherwise would have owed. During that time, Securities and Exchange Commission records show, the News Corporation’s domestic pretax profits topped $9.4 billion.”

When giant, prosperous, multinational corporations weasel out of their tax obligations, ordinary citizens are the ones who are forced to make up the shortfall. That is effectively a tax subsidy for the corporations funded by you and me and all of the indignant Tea Partiers who claim to oppose special interest favors for the elite.

What’s more, federal bailouts to corporations like General Motors and Citigroup provided them with billions of taxpayer dollars, some of which are eventually spent on advertising that appears on Fox News, in the Wall Street Journal, and other Murdoch assets. Additionally, financial institutions that receive bailout funds use some that money to acquire shares of News Corp and to finance and insure News Corp activities including billion dollar motion picture projects like Avatar and capitalizing mergers and expansions.

USUncut is mounting a campaign to expose this sort of corporate welfare. They should add News Corp/Fox News to their list. But why aren’t there more voices objecting to these handouts? Why aren’t Democrats in Congress drafting legislation to prohibit bailout and stimulus funds from being used to enrich partisan political operations like Fox News by funneling cash into their accounts disguised as advertising expenditures. Every time you see a commercial on the Fox News Channel for a Chevy Tahoe or a Citibank Visa you are watching your tax dollars flow into the pockets of Rupert Murdoch and his wealthy associates.

The right wants to defund NPR despite the fact that they have utterly failed to demonstrate any journalistic bias on the part of NPR. On the other hand, Fox News has been documented to be brazenly one-sided over and over again, yet they receive hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer financed subsidies. Well, no more.

Stand Up! Fight Back! It is time to end the federal funding of Fox News NOW!

[Update 3/28/11:] And finally there is some media attention on the fact that there are many U.S. corporations brazenly shortchanging the country. MSNBC via Daily Beast.

Foxophobia: What If Fox News Finds Out?

Last month I received a fundraising email from the Center for the Study of Political Graphics. The Center collects, preserves, and exhibits posters relating to historical and contemporary movements for social change and has a library of more than 75,000 items. The solicitation noted the importance of individual donations due to the difficulty of obtaining funding from the government agencies that administer grants to the arts and archival organizations.

One particular part of the email was jarring for what it revealed about the decision making process of this administration. In an inquiry regarding their grant application, the Center’s director, Carol Wells, sought to gauge their chances of being successful and had this exchange with an agency representative:

Just before our most recent Federal submission we again asked about the political content and were told, “as you are writing the proposal, ask yourself this question:

“What if Fox News found out that U.S. tax dollars were being used to support your project. How would it look, how would it fly?”

HypersensitiveThe notion that Fox News’ mindset should serve as the benchmark for whether prospective arts endeavors are deserving of our tax dollars is insane, and more than a little frightening. And if it is difficult to accept that there is someone presently working for a government agency who is employing that criteria, then how much more frightening would it be to learn that this malignant perspective has spread through much of the body of our government? To be sure, all administrations are sensitive to reactions from the media, the public, and political peers, but for this administration to defer to Fox News, given their history, is mind boggling.

Barack Obama has been under attack by Fox News since before he was even elected. He was the subject of delusional allegations that questioned his patriotism, his citizenship, and his faith. The absurdities Fox promoted ranged from trivial associations with a former preacher to noxious accusations of “Palling Around with Terrorists.” It was a non-stop barrage that continued throughout the campaign and into his presidency where, if you can believe it, it escalated further.

On inauguration day Fox News anchors posited that Obama was not actually president because Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed the oath of office. It went downhill from there. As president, Obama was called a “racist with a deep seated hatred of white people.” He has been castigated as a communist, a fascist, an atheist, and perhaps worst of all, an elitist. The vitriol exceeded all bounds of civility. It was the soil from which the Tea Party sprouted along with the portrayal of Obama as an enemy of the state who is seeking to deliberately destroy the country.

Early on the administration recognized the toxic environment that was being created. There was a short-lived embargo of administration officials appearing on Fox. Anita Dunn, the former White House director of communications, told Howard Kurtz on CNN that Fox News is “a wing of the Republican Party.” Both Rahm Emmanuel and David Axelrod correctly observed that Fox “is not a news organization.” But the courage demonstrated by these positions quickly dissipated as the White House shifted tactics from confrontation to capitulation.

In one of the first examples of the Obama team folding under pressure from Fox News, Van Jones, a White House advisor to the Council on Environmental Quality, resigned subsequent to a relentless smear campaign by Glenn Beck and others at Fox. Jones was followed out the door by Yosi Sergant, Director of Communications for the National Endowment for the Arts, who was similarly hounded by Fox.

Perhaps the most egregious moral buckling was exhibited in the administration’s disengagement from Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod. In a video originally disseminated by the terminally choleric Andrew Breitbart, Sherrod was falsely portrayed as discriminating racially against a white farmer who had sought assistance from the department. It was later revealed that the video was deceptively edited to give an impression that was diametrically opposed to reality. After being featured in various segments on Fox News and elsewhere, Sherrod was asked to resign. Sherrod told the press that there was an urgency to the request due to the fear that the controversy was “going to be on Glenn Beck tonight.”

For his part, Glenn Beck theorized that the whole affair was a premeditated plot by the White House to “destroy the credibility of Fox News?” As if that hadn’t already been accomplished by Fox News itself (and particularly Beck) without any need for help from the White House. Nevertheless, leave it to Beck to concoct a theory that borders on psychosis.

This knee-jerk Foxophobia is evident in policy as well as personnel. Fox’s harping on issues ranging from the closure of Guantanamo Bay to the inclusion of so-called “death panels” in the the health care bill, resulted in those initiatives being abandoned. Obama was often seen in retreat after Fox newsers complained about the handling of the Census, the arrest of a Harvard professor, or the non-mosque that was not at Ground Zero. At times it appeared as if Fox had a greater impact on Obama’s agenda than his cabinet – or public opinion.

By acquiescing to a de facto Fox litmus test you produce scenarios wherein Fox objects to an art exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute, followed by Congress drafting legislation to defend the Smithsonian. Or NPR terminates a correspondent for making offensive statements at his other job on Fox, and Congress moves to defund NPR. Do we really want a network that specializes in conservative tabloid sensationalism conducting political payback like this?

Now, after all of the dishonest, hyperbolic, caterwauling from Fox, Obama is rewarding that network with an exclusive interview preceding the Superbowl. And more disturbing than just the fact that Obama would sit down with this phony news network, the Fox anchor pegged to conduct the interview is not one of their supposed journalists like Bret Baier or Wendell Goler. It is Bill O’Reilly, someone even Fox doesn’t regard as a newsman. In fact, O’Reilly’s boss, Roger Ailes, said that it’s a mistake to look at Fox News Channel’s primetime opinion shows and say they represent the channel’s journalism.” What would Fox think if Obama gave the interview to Rachel Maddow? How would that fly?

Moreover, the real mistake is for any Democrat or progressive to agree to appear on Fox News. They will only be abused while they lend their credibility to a network that hasn’t earned any of their own. Nevertheless, President Obama still sees fit to sit still for a non-journalist on a network that portrays him as an alien socialist bent on collapsing the nation’s economy and the nation itself.

This administration needs to take more seriously the threat presented by a massive, international media conglomerate that has made no secret of its disdain for the President and his agenda. And it is in its own best interest to cease kowtowing to Fox and being so concerned about what they think of his people and policies. Criticisms from Fox should be heralded by administration spokespeople. They should be embraced and repeated (and mocked) at every opportunity. They should be regarded as affirmation that you’re on the right track.

Conversely, bureaucratic flunkies like the one who quoted above, who worry about whether something will fly with Fox News, need to be rooted out and reeducated. If there is a test for whether the administration should proceed with an appointment or a policy initiative it should be based on the merits, not on what will happen when Fox News finds out.

Keith Olbermann Quits MSNBC, Joins Fox News

* * * Psyche! * * *

Keith OlbermannA cable news bombshell was dropped this evening, but not the one in the headline above. And anyone who clicked on this article thinking it might be true should take a minute or two to have a little chuckle at your own expense.

The actual breaking news is that Keith Olbermann closed his program tonight with the announcement that it would be his last. That’s pretty shocking in and of itself. Countdown is the highest rated program on MSNBC. It has been the launching pad for the rest of the network’s primetime lineup and its ratings cornerstone. It isn’t often that a network will jettison its top fare without some compelling justification. Although it should be noted that MSNBC did it once before when they canceled the number-one-rated Phil Donahue Show. At that time it was conservative politics that precipitated the cancellation. One can only hope that it is not the same case here.

There has already been rampant speculation as to the reason for this split, most of it centering on the just-approved acquisition of NBC by the notoriously conservative folks at Comcast. I find it unlikely that the new management stepped in to abruptly set Olbermann adrift before they have even moved into their offices. But since speculation is the special of the day, I’ll add mine. Olbermann’s au revoir began with him noting that…

“I think the same fantasy has popped into the head of everybody in my business who has ever been told what I’ve been told: That this is going to be the last edition of your show.”

Keith Olbermann has always been an artful author who chooses his words carefully. In saying that he was “told” that this show was his last, it is fair to say that the decision to leave was not his own. So what sort of issue could get a popular news anchor canned on such short notice? Generally it is either something he did recently, or something he was about to do. And since there doesn’t appear to be any event in the recent past that might have gotten him in trouble, it is more likely that there was some conflict with where Olbermann wanted to go in the future. My guess is that he wanted to cover a major event in the world of television news: The Comcast acquisition of NBC.

If Olbermann were to produce a report on this merger, I would expect that he would insist on addressing the passionate opposition to it. Most progressive media reformers have been lobbying mightily to prevent the merger from going through. Coincidentally, today happens to be the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s disastrous support for corporations over people in the Citizen’s United decision. There may have been an irresistible temptation for Olbermann to comment on the loss of rights for average Americans resulting from the CU case in the context of a media merger which puts even more power into the hands of a giant corporation. And if Olbermann pitched this story to his bosses who are presently jockeying to keep their jobs post-merger, they may have forbade him to do the report. And that could possibly have led to a heated disagreement and a parting of ways.

[NOTE: Sign this petition from MoveOn to Support a Constitutional Amendment to Reverse Citizens United: Corporations Are Not People]

Phill GriffinOf course, this is just conjecture. No one will know what the real low down is until the parties involved spill the beans and, as of now, no one’s talking. However, it would be in line with the management philosophy of Olbermann’s boss, Phil Griffin, who is an admirer of Roger Ailes, the CEO of Fox News.

The biggest unanswered question after why is where. What will happen to Olbermann going forward. CNN stands as the biggest potential beneficiary. If the 3rd place network were able to snap him up it would deliver another million or so loyal viewers. But the hardest part of this to understand is how Olbermann, a caring, passionate, honest, progressive voice has lost his job, while Glenn Beck, a hostile, lying, egomaniacal, rodeo clown remains employed even after telling his viewers that to stop progressives “You’re going to have to shoot them in the head.”

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