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.”

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The So-Called Liberal New York Times Profiles Alan Grayson

Alan GraysonThe fact that there still lingers a perception that the media leans to the left is a testament to the hard working propagandists of the right. The Sunday New York Times has provided us with yet another demonstration that this perception is fatally flawed.

In a profile of outgoing Representative Alan Grayson of Florida, Times correspondent Michael Barbaro described his commitment to traditional Democratic themes. Then, noting that Grayson was critical of his fellow Democrats for not “acting Democratic enough,” Barbaro belittled that view saying…

“It is not exactly a widespread sentiment among the electorate.”

Where did Barbaro get that idea? Who knows. He doesn’t say. And unfortunately for him, it isn’t true. Recent polls show that the Democrats’ position on issues like allowing the Bush tax cuts for the rich to expire, are favored by a majority of Americans. The same poll shows that most Americans favor keeping the Democratic health care bill or expanding it. The Republicans were recently shamed into voting for the Democratic proposal for aid to the 9/11 First Responders. Majorities agreed that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy should have been repealed, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

Grayson’s point that many Democrats may have lost in the election last November because they did not sufficiently support the agenda that voters expected of them was exactly right. The result of that failure was that many Democratic voters stayed home on election day. As Grayson said…

“If you want people to support you, then you have to support them. You have to think long about what you did for people who voted for you, made phone calls for you, who went door to door for you.”

Therein lies the mistake that Barbaro, and most of the rest of the press, have made in their analysis of the mid-terms. There was no message from the people to move to the center. Barbaro does not, and can not, support his contention that this is “a moment when centrism seems to be the party’s antidote to a redrawn political landscape.” The problem for Democrats was not that the people didn’t support their agenda. It was that they themselves didn’t support it, so the people bailed out.

There is still a great deal of talk about the “success” of Tea Party candidates, even though most of their most prominent members lost. Recall senate candidates Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, Linda McMahon, Carli Fiorina, Ken Buck, and Christine O’Donnell. All losers. Only two Democratic incumbent senators were defeated. The rest of the Republican gains were for open seats, some of which were held by retiring Republicans.

Poll after poll shows that the Tea Party is a trumped up charade whose views are wildly out of touch with the mainstream of America. Yet the media continues to pretend that they matter. Even worse, they prop them up to deliberately and falsely inflate their significance. How else can you explain CNN partnering with the discredited Tea Party Express for a GOP primary debate?

As for Grayson, he will be missed in the Congress. But hopefully he will find his own place in the media. He would make a great radio/TV host. And in that role he could provide some balance to the heavily over-weighted conservative presence of extreme right-wingers like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, etc.

It is long past time to abandon the falsehood that the media is liberal. When CNN and the New York Times, two of the right’s favorite “liberal” targets, engage in overtly right-wing politics; when Fox News boasts of their dominance in the cable news marketplace; when the vast majority of news outlets are controlled by a handful of giant multinational corporations; the pretense of liberalism in the media should finally be put to rest.

Fight The FCC’s Phony Net Neutrality Plan

One of the most promising signs of the early Obama administration was the appointment of Julius Genachowski to chair the FCC. There was significant hope that the days of coddling Big Media and permitting more consolidation and concentration of corporate influence was about to end. However, it is now turning into one of the most disappointing appointments as Genachowski appears to be caving on Network Neutrality, one of the most important free speech issues of this decade.

The New York Times is reporting that “Genachowski has decided not to use the commission’s telephone regulatory powers to govern broadband Internet service.” He also seems to be prepared to allow Internet service providers to engage in “paid prioritization,” which could lead to favoritism on the part of the ISPs and discrimination against smaller, independent web enterprises.

This is not exactly the sort of plan that was promised by candidate Obama in 2008. It charts a course that smothers efforts to increase broadband access while giving more control of the Internet to monopoly-minded corporations. Josh Silver of FreePress.net summarizes the ill-effects of this proposal as “a shiny jewel for companies like AT&T and Comcast.”

Net Neutrality has been a target of right-wing disinformation for several years. They wrongly portray it as anything from a new Fairness Doctrine to something out of Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia. That is how obsessed they are with defeating a proposal whose actual purpose is to protect a free and open Internet. That’s how obsessed they are with advancing the interests of their wealthy benefactors at the expense of the American people.

This administration has been notably weak-kneed when it comes to anything remotely controversial. They demonstrated this tendency to bail with Van Jones, Shirley Sherrod, the Public Option in the health care debate, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and presently the matter of extending tax cuts to the wealthy. It seems that any opposition to common sense progressive proposals is met with complete surrender. We can’t let liars like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh drive the debate. And we can’t let the White House cave in to pressure from factions that represent greed and corporate power.

You can fight back by signing this petition from Bold Progressives to urge the FCC to protect free speech online by supporting Net Neutrality. And here’s another from Credo Action. Or you can use this form to contact the FCC directly and submit your comments. But you only have a couple of weeks, so act soon. You will surely regret it if you don’t and you later find that you can’t access some of your favorite web sites because they were blocked by ISPs because they couldn’t pay the toll.

It’s Time For Some REAL Liberal Media

The American media landscape has long been dominated by giant, multinational corporations whose interests have never been aligned with those of the people they purport to serve. It doesn’t take a great mental exertion to observe the divergent aspirations of a population that is concerned with jobs, education, health care, and the welfare of their families, and a business enterprise that is concerned with profits, deregulation, protected markets, and returning value to shareholders. A corporate-managed news operation simply cannot represent the interests of their Wall Street board and their Elm Street audience at the same time.

Over the years there have been some heated debates about the absence of a media platform that represents real people’s issues, particularly from a liberal perspective. The right has had Fox News for 14 years, but nothing remotely similar exists for the left. To the extent that MSNBC comes close, it is still not equivalent. MSNBC never took the explicit role of advocating for party politics in the all-consuming way that Fox does for the GOP. Not that I would want a liberal media outfit to take up with the Democrats. I’m just noting the distinction.

The recent controversy over the suspension of Keith Olbermann for making a few donations to Democratic candidates illustrates the inadequacy of having to rely on another right-wing, corporate parent to satisfy our media appetite. And it magnifies the differences between Fox and MSNBC. Fox would never contemplate removing their most successful anchors from the air over something like that. Fox doesn’t even contemplate reprimanding their anchors when they brazenly lie, overtly incite violence, or call our president a racist. But MSNBC had no qualms about imposing a severe and embarrassing punishment on someone whose political leanings were already well known. As Sen. Bernie Sanders said about the NBC/Comcast deal:

“We do not need another media giant run by a Republican supporter of George W. Bush. That is the lesson we should learn from the Keith Olbermann suspension.”

In the past, I have not been particularly enthusiastic about the idea of building a liberal media enterprise. Not because I don’t think it’s important, but because it would be prohibitively expensive to do it right. Air America is a sad example of what happens without sufficient support and capitol. There are many additional reasons to be pessimistic about such an enterprise, i.e. it would be a risky venture that would require a long-term commitment. Rupert Murdoch deficit-financed Fox News for at least five years; radio and cable channel access is scarce and difficult to acquire; bona fide talent, both on the air and in the executive suites, is hard to recruit; and building any business from scratch is fraught with fiscal danger and obstacles.

However, we may have an opportunity today that has not been available in the past. Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator is in the process of acquiring NBC/Universal. It is a merger that has raised red flags for many media watchdogs who are concerned about the concentration of power that has been getting progressively worse year after year. And Comcast is a conservative-run business that would further tilt the press to the right. Free Press and other reform groups are actively lobbying to oppose approval of the merger by federal agencies. And therein lies our opportunity.

Comcast wants very much to smooth the path for approval of their acquisition of NBC/U. So perhaps they could be persuaded to trade something of value for an agreement to drop opposition. What I would propose is that Comcast agree to divest itself of NBC News prior to the merger. Specifics of such a transaction would have to be worked out but would center around the divestiture of NBC’s news operations, the MSNBC cable network, CNBC, and the related Internet properties. Comcast would still get the NBC broadcast network, the lucrative USA cable network, Bravo, SyFy, and Telemundo. These networks form the basis of the syndication strategy for the NBC entertainment group. And, of course, they would also still have the NBC television station group and the Universal Studios and theme parks.

What makes this proposal viable is that the new media group splitting off is already a profitable business. It would not face the risks associated with building a business from scratch. It already has cable access to most of the country. And it is already staffed with proven talent and executives. MSNBC and CNBC are both profitable in their present form and would likely continue to be.

For this to work there would need to be an acquiring entity and financing. The money could come from a consortium that might include people like Ted Turner, Al Gore, George Soros, Steve Case, David Geffen, and/or Bill Gates. There’s no shortage of available billionaires. And ideally there would be an existing media enterprise that this could be folded into. Some examples might be Tribune, Gannett, or the Washington Post Company.

A requirement for agreeing to this would be a promise to appoint credible, progressive, experienced executives to run the news operations. It would be imperative that the management team be committed to quality, ethical journalism. It would have to be the sort of business that valued investigative projects and was unafraid of controversy. And it must be open to partnering with relevant and respectable media reform groups like Free Press, the Poynter Institute, the Schumann Center, the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center, Media Matters, etc.

By forming a new company in this fashion we would benefit by producing honest, progressive news content; by establishing a baseline for journalistic ethics; by not having to suffer the indignities of hare-brained lackeys like Phil Griffin, the man who suspended Olbermann and is likely already sucking up to his future conservative bosses at Comcast; and by preventing another media merger that would have exacerbated the problem of concentrated power in the press. And as for Comcast, they would benefit by easing their path to the acquisition of NBC/U. There may never be a better opportunity to negotiate a deal that could produce a real liberal media outlet – for a change. And that wouldn’t be a bad name for the channel: Real Media: For a Change.

None of this will be easy. The proposed merger is already a complex arrangement that could fall apart if someone pulls the wrong thread. But it would be worth exploring. If MSNBC is presently the only allegedly liberal news channel on the dial, then it shouldn’t have to cower in the shadow of right-wing masters who can slap them down if they get too uppity. They should have the freedom to express themselves without fear of reprisal. And if that environment can be created through a spinoff of the NBC news division, then it may be worth it to let the rest of the Comcast transaction go forward.

The Stupidest Man On Fox News Is Spooked By George Soros

Steve DoocySteve Doocy, unquestionably the stupidest man on Fox News (which is no easy achievement), expressed his astonishment that George Soros might be executing an insidious plot to Jiu-Jitsu Fox News by turning its own wealth against them. Here are excerpts of an exchange this morning between Doocy and right-wing crank/author Ron Arnold:

Doocy: Did you know that George Soros made over $2.3 million by investing in News Corp, which is our parent company? So, is he using those profits to attack Fox News? Some people are wondering that.

By “some people” Doocy means himself and his producers. Arnold took up Doocy’s question and responded precisely as he was expected to when they invited him into the studio:

Ron Arnold: That’s absolutely true. Over a period of about four years the Soros Fund Management had about $4 million at one time, ended up with about $2.3 million when they sold it off. And now they’re simply using the cash to try to get rid of News Corp’s Fox News. And that’s exactly what’s happening.

Just to be clear, Soros is being accused of parlaying a $4 million bit of a $20 billion fund (that’s 0.002%) into a windfall with which he could blow away Fox News. That’s not much more than a rounding error. The accusation also implies that the fund itself is bankrolling the Fox attacks and not Soros personally (who could write a million dollar check on his own account like most of us pick up a Venti Latte with extra foam). There is no evidence that Soros’ Quantum Fund, or any other investment, has engaged in any such partisan expenditures, and probably would not be permitted to do so. What’s more, the $2.3 million cited as the proceeds from the sale of News Corp stock appears to represent a loss of principle, not a profit as Doocy stated. But Doocy’s Fox & Friends have no use for trivialities such as facts while they are trying to fabricate a scandal. Doocy continues…

Doocy: It looked like George Soros was trying to control the media.

Saints preserve us! An international billionaire financier might actually be trying to wield tyrannical control over our free press. I wonder if Doocy has ever met his boss, Rupert Murdoch, an international billionaire who actually does run a media empire and sits on the board of the Associated Press. Soros, on the other hand, has no management interests in any media concern. He has made some charitable donations to NPR and Media Matters, but has no executive role or even a seat on their boards. However, even if he did, is it Doocy’s contention that NPR and Media Matters constitute a mortal threat to News Corp, AP, and the rest of the Corporate Media cabal? Apparently so.

Arnold: Well, he certainly was. And you’ve got to remember he’s got a very good friend in the Tides Foundation’s CEO whose name is Drummond Pike. They go back a long way, Soros and Pike. And I’m pretty sure that the only reason that that million dollars went to Media Matters was because Drummond Pike stepped in. Because Media Matters has been trying to get money out of Soros for years. He said no.
Doocy: It just seems incredulous [sic] that he would be making money in News Corp stock and then turning around and taking the money to try to run a division of News Corp out of business.
Arnold: Yes, it does seem incredible but you have to remember, cash trumps hypocrisy. It’s all about the money as far as he’s concerned.
Doocy: That is a crazy story.

Now follow this logic: Soros didn’t even want to fund Media Matters. He was persuaded to do it by his pal Drummond. Yet he is still portrayed as seeking to control the media despite his lack of interest. And while Doocy and Arnold find it incredible, they explain it away by asserting that “It’s all about the money,” which contradicts their whole theory as to Soros’ obsession to dominate the media. That is indeed a crazy story.

Of course I didn’t expect any of this to make sense from the beginning. Doocy’s Olympian ignorance pervades every subject he approaches. The truth is that this just a teaser for Glenn Beck’s upcoming “Puppetmaster” special on Soros. Fox News is a focused and effective marketing machine and they always go to great lengths to promote their own phony stories. Doocy is like the teaspoon of Aspertame before the full-on dose of poison that Beck will dispense tomorrow.

Fox Cancels The Future Of All Civilization

In a demonstration of precisely why giant media conglomerates must be regulated and broken up, Fox has escalated a contract dispute into an obscene abuse of power. Their action stems from faltering negotiations over fees paid to Fox by Cablevision, a New York area provider of cable TV service.

“Reports indicate that Fox Broadcasting Company, a subsidiary of News Corporation, is blocking Cablevision high-speed Internet customers from accessing Fox.com and Hulu content. Fox’s actions raise important questions about the future of the online video market and the public interest obligations of broadcasters.”

Indeed, it is questionable that Fox would seek to punish Internet users in an attempt to coerce a cable TV operator into forking over twice as much in fees as they presently pay. The Internet users are not a part of this dispute, but because Fox has corporate tentacles that reach around numerous media platforms, they feel empowered to abuse their position. So what’s next?

  • Fox Stops Broadcasting to Hotels And Bars To Keep Viewers From Watching Disputed Programming.
  • Fox Forbids Customers To Visit The Homes Of Friends And Watch Their Dish Network.
  • Fox Blocks Access To Yankee Stadium By Cable Subscribers.
  • Fox Erects Tower To interfere With Radio Broadcasting.
  • Fox Disables Dialysis Machine Of Cable Customer Watching Glee In Hospital Room.
  • Fox Releases Internet Virus To Attack Cable Viewers Of Fox Programs.
  • Fox Hires Al Qaeda To Fly Planes Into Cablevision Headquarters.

When companies control access to every pathway to media content the potential for this sort of abuse is too tempting for them to resist. Fox’s behavior is reprehensible. Cablevision’s Internet users have no part of the television dispute. The fact that Fox would deliberately seek to disrupt that service is a perfect example of why they must not be permitted to have that kind of tyrannical power. And that applies to Time Warner, Viacom, and Disney as well. It is also a foreboding preview of what can be expected from the pending Comcast/NBC merger.

The backstory on this concerns a demand by Fox that Cablevision pay almost twice as much for the same programming they presently provide. Cablevision says that the fees Fox is demanding are greater than those that Cablevision pays to all of their other local broadcasters combined. Furthermore, Cablevision has said that they would agree to comply with the findings of a third-party arbitrator, but Fox refuses to participate in such arbitration.

The channels involved in the dispute include FOX 5, My9, FOX Business Network, and National Geographic Wild. Fox News is not a part of these negotiations. It would be interesting to see what Fox would say if Cablevision decided to cut off Fox News anyway. It would certainly benefit viewers who would be freed from additional exposure to the lies and propaganda that make up most of Fox News.

Some late reports indicate that Fox will be restoring Internet service to Cablevision’s customers, but that doesn’t excuse their first response, nor relieve the risk of future misbehavior. These monopolistic conglomerates must be broken up.

Fox Nation: The Week The Democrat Media Industrial Complex Died


Classy as always, Fox Nation has posted a headline graphic of an ass with its head up its ass (and, no, it isn’t Bill O’Reilly, which would have made more sense). Remember, this is the online face of Fox News, an enterprise that wants to be viewed as a legitimate purveyor of journalism. I guess that this is the visualization of what journalism means to Fox News.

The accompanying text reads: The Week The Democrat Media Industrial Complex Died. OK then, that settles it. Since this is the week it died it is safe to assume that there will be no more assertions of Democratic control of the media; no more accusations of the press being dominated by liberals; no more whining about bias against conservatives. All of that died this week, so SHUT UP!

Of course, the illusion of the liberal media has always been a false claim by conservatives who can’t take honest criticism. The notion that a few multinational media corporations, run by billionaires, whose self-interests are squarely aligned with the right, are somehow advancing liberal ideas could only be believed by a mental patient with a fresh lobotomy.

The article that the Fox Nationalists linked to from their juvenile image was posted on a site (jedeckart.com) named for a character in the movie Red Dawn, a favorite of rightist revolutionaries and Tea Baggers everywhere. Eckart was a militia-style dissident fighting a guerrilla war against Russian invaders. It is a mythology that appeals to right-wingers who pine for a new civil war.

The content of the article is just a short list of cliche conservative complaints. Only one even relates to the media. Obviously the Fox Nationalists just wanted to exploit the link for its headline which they must have found amusing.

Now that the fictional Democrat Media Industrial Complex has been declared dead, let’s get to work on the real Corporate/Media Complex that is perverting our press. Let’s break up the Big Media conglomerates that monopolize the industry. And let’s reveal the distortions and dishonesty of propagandists like Rupert Murdoch, Phillip Anschutz, and the Koch brothers. Addressing these real problems with a media that seeks to further its own power and profits will do far more to move us forward than the childish posturing we see on Fox Nation.

Uh Oh. CNN Takes A Sharp Turn Toward Hell

Remember the old days when CNN was the dominant cable news network? Or the even older days when it was the only cable news network? I didn’t think so. It was a long time ago. Viewers today don’t appreciate how remarkable an achievement it was to launch a 24 hour news channel when nothing like it existed at the time.

Whether or not you like Ted Turner, you have to give him credit for being a pioneer, although given the state of cable news today, I’m not sure he’d want the credit/blame. However, he recognized the unique environment in which his experiment was born, and he further recognized the changes that took place in subsequent years that preclude anyone from ever doing the same (see My Beef With Big Media).

Now CNN is mired in third place, overtaken by a bombastic, right-wing, agenda-driven, Fox News, and a lukewarm, marginally liberal, MSNBC. So it should come as no surprise that the brass at CNN would be looking to shake things up in hopes of recovering their glory days. To that end, yesterday CNN announced that its president, Jon Klein, would be leaving the network. That, in and of itself, would appear to be a routine response to poor performance in the marketplace. The problem here is not that Klein is leaving. It’s who they are elevating to his post that is worrisome.

Ken Jautz, presently the head of CNN’s HLN (formerly known as Headline News Network) has been tapped to replace Klein. He is a brash, iconoclastic, executive who is more interested in ratings than journalism. But perhaps the most disturbing item on Jautz’s resume is that he is the man who brought Glenn Beck to HLN, and to television. Looking back at that millstone in broadcast media is one of the best ways of getting a handle on what may be in store for a Juatz-run CNN. Here is what he had to say upon hiring Beck back in January of 2006:

“Glenn Beck is the next piece of the puzzle,” said HLN prexy Ken Jautz. “Glenn’s style is self-deprecating, cordial; he says he’d like to be able to disagree with guests and part as friends. It’s conversational, not confrontational.”

If Beck is Jautz’s idea of cordial, I hope never to meet anyone he considers to be rude. What’s more, Beck is not known for having guests with whom he disagrees, friendly or otherwise. And the notion that he is not confrontational is absurd on its face. Calling the President a racist; charging that progressives are a cancer; tagging anyone with whom he disagrees a Marxist; declaring his hatred for Woodrow Wilson as well as 9/11 families; these are not behaviors generally associated with being non-confrontational. Jautz went on to say…

“As part of the continued evolution of the network, we wanted another primetime show,” Jautz said. “We didn’t look for a conservative, a liberal or anyone of a particular ideology. It was about getting the best talent that would resonate with the most viewers.”

Well then, it’s a good thing he wasn’t actually looking for a conservative. He would have ended up with a modern version of Attila the Hun (or did he anyway?). It should also be noted that his desire to find the “best talent” who would “resonate” with viewers, was unfulfilled. Beck’s show was a dismal ratings failure on HLN. He would not be a success until he moved to Fox News with its built-in audience of pre-cooked FoxBots.

Given the remarks Jautz made when taking over HLN and bringing Beck into the fold, it is fair to say that he was somewhat disingenuous with regard to his public appraisals. And he was similarly disingenuous in private. In the book “Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck And The Triumph Of Ignorance,” author Alexander Zaitchik noted that Jautz mislead his employers at the time as to his intentions in reforming the channel:

“Facing a staff weary of rumored changes, Jautz gently presented Blue Sky [his programming initiative] as a trial balloon. He promised that CNN standards would not be diluted in the makeover and that soon-to-be-hired Headline News personalities would not appear on traditional CNN news programming. He broke both promises.”

Indeed he did. Glenn Beck not only appeared on CNN, he was permitted to fill in as a guest host on Larry King Live. Taking into consideration the duplicity of Jautz’s comments when he assumed command of HLN, it might be prudent to take note of what he is saying now with regard to his promotion at CNN. Jautz was interviewed by The Wrap and said…

Q: Can we expect a tone change, or any sort of ideological shift?
A: I think that CNN needs to be as lively and engaging and as informative as it is known for its reporting.

Whatever that means.

Q: For a long time, Jon Klein resisted any sort of partisan programming — especially as expressed by the hosts. Can we expect to see more opinions — or at least opinionated hosts — under your watch?
A: CNN has always been about adhering to non-partisan programming in general. And it will continue to be.

However, I do not believe that “facts-only” programming … it will not work. Viewers, if they’re looking for just the news, they can get that anywhere now. The news that happened that day, they probably know already. They want context, perspective and opinion. And we’re going to give that to them. As long as it’s non-partisan, in the aggregate, from all ends of the spectrum.

In other words, we will continue to be non-partisan except when we’re being opinionated. And none of those pesky “facts” that clutter up the news.

Jautz did improve the standing of HLN. But he did it by ramping up the volume with shouters like Beck and Nancy Grace, and by diving head-first into the tabloid world of pop culture and celebrity gossip. Could that approach help to restore CNN’s prior leadership? Who cares? It isn’t what anyone who truly cares about responsible journalism would want.

And that’s the problem with contemporary corporate media: It is more interested in serving the shareholders than in serving the public. Unless Jautz has recently had a revelatory transformation, CNN has taken a giant step backwards by giving him the reins to the network. The prospect of the man who launched Glenn Beck’s television career running a cable news network is troubling, to say the least.

In related news, NBC/Universal has announced that it’s chief executive, Jeff Zucker, will also be leaving his post. This is an entirely different situation than the one at CNN. NBC is presently the number one network in evening news, morning news, and Sunday news. CNBC is still the top business channel. Plus, under Zucker’s reign, MSNBC moved up from third place to second. The staffing change at NBC is due to its imminent acquisition by Comcast. It remains to be seen who will be replacing Zucker.

Sometimes these sort of changes are merely shifts designed to put a new management’s imprint on the merged entity. But Comcast has baggage that makes it important to keep an eye on them. And they will have an unprecedented range of influence as a result of the merger. Stay tuned.

Fox News Tells 9/11 Families To Fear Fox News

This morning on Fox and Friends there was another ridiculous, fear mongering, discussion of the non-mosque that is not at ground zero. In this farcical parade of ignorant banter the hosts were aghast at the notion that some of the funds for the proposed Islamic community center at 51 Park Place might come from sources in Saudi Arabia.

Brian Kilmeade: He [Imam Rauf] is going to be looking for fundraising to Muslim nations around the world.

Alisyn Camerota: If the 9-11 families are worried now and are concerned and feel hurt about this mosque, imagine if Saudi Arabia were to give some of this $100 million. … Saudi Arabia, where the majority of the hijackers, the terrorists came from. You can only imagine how much the victims’ families would speak out in that case.

Exactly! You can only imagine how much the victims’ families would speak out if Fox News were to get millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia, where the majority of the hijackers, the terrorists came from.

Murdoch MoolahOh, wait a minute…..Fox News does get millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia. In fact, the biggest shareholder of News Corp stock outside of the Murdoch family is Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal of the Saud family.

One has to wonder why it would be such an abomination for what is, in effect, an Islamic YMCA in lower Manhattan to be partially funded by Saudis, but no outrage is in order for an international news organization whose top investors include members of the Saudi royal family.

Rupert Murdoch has already shown that he is susceptible to influence by financial considerations and relationships. He agreed to let the government of communist China censor his news reporting in order to gain access to their markets. He acquiesced to a demand that MySpace China display a link on every page for users to report “inappropriate information” to the authorities (I wonder how many Chinese dissidents disappeared as a result of that little feature). He also altered stories on protests in France at the request of the very same Prince who is his business partner:

Al-Waleed: I picked up the phone and called Murdoch…(and told him) these are not Muslim riots, these are riots out of poverty. Within 30 minutes, the title was changed from Muslim riots to civil riots.

It seems to me that there is much more to fear from a worldwide media conglomerate caving in to the demands of foreign powers, than from a single interfaith social club in an old Burlington Coat Factory building in New York. And if the morons on Fox and Friends want to spin scary tales about imaginary terrorists, they would find more material in their own building than in the one a few blocks from ground zero.

Fair And Balanced Fox News Funds GOP

A report from Business Week reveals that Rupert Murdoch is keen on electing Republican governors. His News Corp donated a million dollars to the Republican Governors Association in June.

Fox News GOP TeaThis is a significant contribution to a partisan electoral committee. There are 37 governorships on the ballot this year. Democrats currently hold a majority of state houses, Republicans hope reverse that. And since this is census year, the control of state governments can have a huge impact on the make up of Congress for the next decade by managing the redistricting process.

It should come as no surprise to political observers that partisans on both sides are lining up to support the party they regard as most sympathetic to their views. Unions will back Democrats. Wall Street and Oil companies will back Republicans. But what makes this unique is that the media are supposed to be unaffiliated politically. How can they produce unbiased coverage of electoral issues while they are spending millions to benefit one side. Can we really expect them to be critical of the GOP when they are bankrolling their campaigns?

Not that Murdoch’s news enterprises have ever produced unbiased coverage in the first place. His Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, Fox Radio, etc., have made it their business to advocate on behalf of the GOP for years. Their anchors and reporters routinely bash Democrats and liberals. But the funds they are providing to the RGA will result in further Democrat bashing which Fox News will dutifully report on the air. And no doubt the RGA will allocate a considerable amount of their advertising budget to Fox News and other Murdoch entities. So Murdoch is effectively putting that money right back in his own pocket while advancing the goals of Republican candidates.

This is one of the most disturbing consequences of the modern media environment where giant corporations have been permitted to control so much of the press. They are devoted only to their own fiduciary interests as opposed to the public interest. Their international stature means that have no loyalty to any particular nation including the United States. Yet they can provide virtually unlimited funding to influence elections that impact the lives of millions of actual citizens who cannot hope to match that kind of political philanthropy. And with the recent ruling in the Citizens United case, these corporations can now expand their charitable largess to federal campaigns. Congressman Paul Hodes and Senator Chris Dodd have each introduced legislation in their respective chambers to reverse Citizens United, but there is still much work to be done.

What Can You Do?

  • Support Congressman Alan Grayson who has introduced a package of bills designed to “Defend Our Democracy.”
  • Sign on to the Pledge to Protect America’s Democracy sponsored by People For the American Way and Public Citizen.
  • Move to Amend the Constitution to establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.
  • Support The DISCLOSE Act to combat the new, unregulated corporate influence over elections.
  • Join the Fair Elections Now campaign to end corporate funded elections.
  • And get aboard the Free Press movement to reform the media, save the Internet, and restore independence, diversity and local representation in the media.

If we don’t succeed in returning control of our elections and our media to the people, we will continue to see perversions of democracy like that which News Corp is engaging in. Media corporations can’t serve the public while simultaneously financing partisan politics and padding their bank accounts, all at the public’s expense.

Update: For reference, the RGA also received donations (pdf) from wingnut billionaire David Koch ($1,000,000), GE ($105,000), Comcast ($50,000), Time Warner ($25,000), and SEIU ($100,000) Does Glenn Back know about that last one?

The DGA received donations (pdf) from AFSCME ($1,000,000), GE ($105,000), Comcast ($100,000), Time Warner ($35,000), and SEIU ($325,000), but $0.00 from News Corp.

Note that many organizations, including unions and media companies, play both sides of the fence. But News Corp is the only media enterprise that contributed to just one party. Fair and balanced my ass.

The Many Faces Of The Tea Party

Malice in Wonderland - Tea PartyOn the cover of the new Weekly Standard is a caricature of two people that the magazine’s cover story regards as the banner carriers of the Tea Party movement. They are Rick Santelli, a correspondent for the cable business network CNBC, and Glenn Beck, a delusional Fox News host with a Messiah complex. The title of the cover story is The Two Faces Of The Tea Party.

The article by Matthew Continetti is an overly verbose examination of the Tea Party founding and philosophy. It employs a comparative clash between conflicting visions of the movement represented by Santelli as a sober, businesslike advocate for economic rationality, and Beck as a feverish, paranoiac warning of impending economic and social doom. The problem is that, even as Continetti defines the battle in terms of this duality, he entirely misses the real source of the Tea-volution. He insists on distilling it down to these two charactors, despite recognizing in his opening paragraph the multiple personalities residing in the body of the Tea Party:

“Is the anti-Obama, anti-big government movement simply AstroTurf fabricated by Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks? Is it a bunch of Birthers, Birchers, conspiracists, and white power misfits? Is it a strictly economic phenomenon [...] Or are the Tea Partiers nothing more than indulgent Boomers [...] Reagan Democrats and Perotistas?”

Continetti correctly answers his own question saying, “All of the above.” However, he then immediately retreats to present the argument as one between Santelli and Beck for the remainder of his interminably long essay. And Continetti takes sides. He characterizes Santelli and Beck in starkly different terms. Santelli is the “former businessman” who “you’d expect to find at the Rotary Club,” while Beck is the “former Top 40 DJ” who “was addicted to alcohol and drugs.”

On Santelli: They are the words of a man who is worried about America’s future, but who thinks the right mix of policy and leadership can cure the nation’s ills. They are the words of a forward-looking, optimistic, free-market populist.

On Beck: For Beck, conspiracy theories are not aberrations. They are central to his worldview. They are the natural consequence of assuming that the world hangs by a thread, and that everyone is out to get you.

As if to confirm Continetti’s portrayal of Beck as perennially victimized, Beck’s producer, Stu, posted a response that blasts the article and the magazine with both barrels. He condemned the author for his laziness and accused him of deliberately lying. But worst of all, says Stu, is that these attacks appeared in the Weekly Standard, an organ he must have presumed would always be friendly.

But Stu wasn’t finished. He helpfully published the Standard’s phone number so that readers could boycott the magazine by canceling their subscriptions. And then, in a fit of hysterical hypocrisy, Stu adds a postscript asserting that he doesn’t believe in boycotts.

The Weekly Standard (until recently owned by Rupert Murdoch) is one of the few remaining advertisers on Beck’s program. They may not take kindly to spending scarce advertising dollars on a program whose producer is encouraging people to cancel their subscriptions. Is this a trend on the part of Beck and company to insult their advertisers? Just a few weeks ago the Vermont Teddy Bear Company was blindsided by Beck bashing Mother’s Day in an intro to the company’s ad for Mother’s Day gifts.

I have to give Continetti some credit for drawing sensible distinctions between Santelli and Beck. Not that Santelli was right. He basically rallied a bunch of commodities traders to whine about financial aid for working people while supporting bailouts for their employers. But there is still a difference between his greed-infused ranting and Beck’s fear mongering.

There are many faces of the Tea Party that Continetti didn’t even mention. Nowhere in his eight page opus did he recognize Tea Party Queen, Sarah Palin, even though he is the author of a book called “The Persecution of Sarah Palin.” I think he is desperately trying to shift attention to folks he feels are reasonable and away from the Becks of the world. But Continetti’s most egregious failing was something that ought to have been pretty obvious. As the Tea Party was forming, neither Santelli nor Beck were representatives of the people. They weren’t activists or politicians or academics or citizen advocates. They were, and are, media personalities. They represent a class of elite, well-to-do broadcasters working for giant, multinational corporations.

Look back at the opening paragraph of Continetti’s article where he identified lobbyists, birthers, racists, etc., as the components of the aborning Tea Party. Notice that he left out what is arguably the most influential component of all – the media. Fox News acted as the public relations arm of the Tea Party. They hosted the early organizers and candidates. They produced lavish rallies that aired live with custom graphics and music. They dispatched their top anchors across the country to perform the duties of masters of ceremonies. They literally branded Tea Party events as Fox News productions.

The question as to what the face of the Tea Party is can be debated for hours on end. But there is one thing that is indisputable: Without the media, there would not have been any Tea Party.

The Opportunity At CNN: Replace Campbell Brown With The Daily Show

CNN Daily ShowNow that Campbell Brown has announced that she will be signing off of her CNN show, CNN has an opportunity to advance the state of journalism. They are the network that claims to be the champions of straight news and they dismiss the partisanship that is so deeply ingrained in Fox News and, to a lesser extent, MSNBC. So if they are serious, they need to take a long, hard look at themselves and begin to construct the sort of ethical news enterprise to which they claim to aspire.

The first thing they need to recognize is that they presently have no exclusive claim to being non-partisan. The only difference between them and their competition is that their hosts are not overtly partisan. But the substance of many of their programs is just mashed together panels of left and right pundits who argue with one another. That’s not non-partisan, it’s multi-partisan. More importantly, it’s not journalism.

If they are serious, CNN needs to fill this timeslot with a program that doesn’t seek to attain some sort of fabled balance. Balance is a phony metric. Journalism is not served when you balance reporting about say, the dangers of cigarettes, with a segment about how smoking cures cancer. The standard should not be balance, it should be truth.

One of the best examples of truth-telling in the media today is The Daily Show. Sure it’s funny and the correspondents are clowns (which is something they have in common with Fox News correspondents), but there is a determined effort to cast aside bullshit and back up their humor with facts. The technique of juxtaposing video of a politician making contradictory statements was a Daily Show innovation that has been picked up by some “real” news programs.

Am I seriously proposing that The Daily Show replace Campbell Brown? Let’s just say that I’m only half joking. It’s important to note that The Daily Show is not a news information show, in that it is not a collection of reports about what happened during the day. There is a presumption that their viewers already know what’s going on. It is also not political satire. It is media satire. Almost every segment is about how the media covers stories rather than the content of the stories themselves.

I think that a daily program that addresses the way news is presented would be a welcome addition to CNN’s schedule. By eight o’clock in the evening there has been plenty of time to observe and critique the reporting that occurred during the day. If they need additional time they could do the previous day. This would be more than a dry exercise in fact-checking. While taking a more sober tone than Jon Stewart, it could still be a raucous affair that would be both fun and enlightening. They could use dynamic and fast-paced Entertainment Tonight style graphics and charming, but well informed, hosts. They could even bring in special correspondents on occasion (I would recommend Stewart or other actual Daily Show personalities).

This show could provide true competition to the O’Reilly/Olbermann/Grace block that dominates the time period. It could also be a bellwether program that holds the media feet to the fire. They would have to play fair and include CNN’s flubs. Preferably it would be produced independently. But if they executed it right, I think many viewers would find it a refreshing change from the shoutfests on the other cable nets. Then CNN could use it to anchor a slate of truly responsible newscasts.

The only question is: Are the program executives at CNN smart enough to listen to me? Of course, they probably don’t even know I exist. Consequently, look for CNN to add another interminable hour of John King.