Nov
01
1995

TV Nation

A Show for "The Rest of Us"

Michael Moore likes to ask the question: "What if the rest of us had a TV show?" We might want an amiably unkempt, roly-poly everyman in a baseball cap for an anchor. We'd want to fly a kite with suicide-assisting doctor Jack Kevorkian, and run a convicted felon for president under the slogan, "From the Big House to the White House." We'd poll audiences on which country the U.S. should invade next--Belize or France?--and then ask a White House spokesperson to compare invasion costs and strategies. Or we might see what happens when we try to smuggle Canadians over the […]

Nov
01
1995

The China Syndrome

When Women Talk, Media Listen...to Politicians

The topic was women. The place was China. And mainstream media in the United States still managed to focus on men and politicians in D.C. Consider any topic, from the global economy to health care, to education and technology--the women in China were discussing it. Looking for a variety of perspectives on those issues? The diversity was there. The Beijing conference was not just the largest gathering of women in history, it was probably the largest gathering of marginalized experts the world has ever seen. But did the press focus on justice, equality and the way that women have moved […]

Nov
01
1995

Westinghouse/CBS: The No. 1 Nuclear Company Wants the No. 3 Network

The prospect of CBS being taken over by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation--the biggest nuclear power plant manufacturer in the world; the No. 3 U.S. government contractor for nuclear weapons; the manager of a string of government nuclear weapons facilities, including several heavily polluted sites--is being met with sharp criticism by safe energy activists. "We now have two of the three networks run by nuclear power interests," said Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Nuclear Information and Resource Service. (General Electric acquired NBC in 1986.) "This is frightening especially considering that NBC's coverage of the nuclear industry has deteriorated […]

Nov
01
1995

Corporate Ownership Matters

The Case of NBC

One pundit who had no problem with the summer's media merger marathon was USA Today columnist Michael Gartner. "It makes no difference if media are owned by corporations or families or individuals," he wrote (8/8/95). "What matters are the integrity and intelligence and intrepidness of those owners." Gartner wrote from experience: "For five years, I was president of NBC News, which is owned by General Electric," he said. "Not once did GE boss Jack Welch or anyone else at GE ask me to put something on the air--or not to.... Jack Welch, tough and some say ruthless, does not use […]

Nov
01
1995

Media Monopoly: Long History, Short Memories

ABC Was Born Out of Fear of Media Consolidation

What's wrong with media mergers? A look at the history of ABC--the network that the Walt Disney Company is in the process of swallowing up--illustrates nearly every argument against consolidation of media ownership. ABC can trace its origins back to 1919, when RCA, the Radio Corporation of America, was created by a consortium of General Electric, Westinghouse, AT&T and United Fruit. RCA and its allies controlled the patents for radio, and had a virtual monopoly until the alliance was declared to violate antitrust laws in 1932. In the meantime, RCA had launched the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) which controlled two […]

Nov
01
1995

The Pundit Spectrum: How Many Women--and Which Ones?

The myth of the feminist dominatrix lives. When a handful of right-wing women founded the "Independent Women's Forum" in 1992, they did so because "they felt invisible in a media culture that tends to represent all professional women as liberal Democrats" and they wanted "to get conservative women's views heard in the media and on Capitol Hill." (Village Voice, 7/11/95.) Talk about setting achievable goals. In 1992, television's most visible female pundits were former Reagan speechwriter Mona Charen and Reagan's Civil Rights Commissioner Linda Chavez. Female liberal Democrats were hardly controlling the culture; as for outspoken feminists, they were largely […]

Nov
01
1995

Invasion of the Magazine Snatchers

The Sassy/'Teen Merger:

Amid teenage girl magazines' standard fare of earnest advice about boyfriends, self-esteem and cosmetics purchases, Sassy was always a stand-out. Take how Sassy dealt with the issue of flirting. The cover of the September 1994 issue might not have stood out on the newsstand—"How to Flirt Like an Animal" was the main story. But rather than recycle the same age-old drivel about how flirting requires a pleasant laugh, an ability to make small talk, a dose of self-confidence and a modicum of restraint, Sassy gave an extensive description of various types of mating behavior practiced by animals, then detailed their […]

Nov
01
1995

The Philadelphia Inquirer's New Spectrum

From Centrism to Anti-Semitism

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently announced a shake-up in its editorial pages (9/10/95), dumping long-time syndicated contributors Jeff Greenfield, Richard Reeves and George Will in favor of E.J. Dionne, David Shribman and Joseph Sobran. Greenfield is a centrist, while Reeves is a moderate liberal, so their replacement by two other Beltway centrists marks a slight shift to the right. There's no syndicated columnist now appearing on the Inquirer's editorial page who can fairly be described as an advocate for the left. (Centrists like David Broder, William Raspberry and Richard Cohen don't count.) What is surprising is the replacement of Will with […]