Monday, August 03, 2009

Silencing the Corporate Attack Dogs

There's a story about Citizen Kane, that in the days after it was finished and everybody understood that it was take down of William Randolph Hearst that the various studio heads gathered and offered to buy the negatives from RKO, in order to burn it. Why? Because Hearst was threatening to wage corporate warfare against the studios if the film saw the light of day.

I was reminded of that story today reading this post over at Glenn Greenwald's place. It's about a story in the New York Times about the war between MSNBC's Keith Olberman and Fox News's Bill O'Reilly and why, earlier this summer, it came to an abrupt halt. Turns out that the chairmen of General Electric (which owns MSNBC) and News Corp (which owns Fox) had a summit meeting and decided that having their attack dogs constant go at each other was bad for corporate business, so they agreed to a cease fire. Since June 1, Keith and Billo have largely been silent about each other.

I'll be the first to say that, although I like Keith's show, I find his relentless harping on Billo's latest stupidity hard to take. And I've got no use for Billo's usual hit, run, yell, and scream style. Having said that, that's their way of doing the job of journalism, for better or worse. For the corporate puppet masters to clamp down on them because it might cause the mothership's stock price to dip. It's . . . well, it's Orwellian, even if they have the perfect legal right to do it.

The bottom line is this is the kind of problem we have when news outlets - even a nominal one like Fox - is owned by a bigger corporate entity. A free and independent press this is not.

UPDATE: From the "Google has a sense of humor" file - when I posted this, the Google ad on the side of the page asks the musical question, "Is Fox News really fair and balanced?" with Billo's smug mug in living color.

UPDATE 2: Olberman, back from a two-week vacation, denied there was any kind of deal and promptly made Billo the runner up for "Worst Person in the World" today - right behind Murdoch for muzzling said Billo!

No comments: