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.