The proposed NBC-Universal/Comcast mega-merger is being debated in the nation’s capitol, with more than a little pushback.
Minnesota’s freshman Senator Al Franken, is among those doing the pushing, or trying at least. With the amount of money involved and the influence it can buy, it appears Franken might be needing some help.
“The $30 billion transaction would significantly reshape the media landscape by giving the nation’s largest cable and broadband Internet provider control over content that makes up one out of five TV viewing hours, according to some analysts. NBC owns Universal Studios, theme parks, shows such as “The Biggest Loser” and “Heroes,” and cable channels such as USA Network, Bravo and CNBC.” – The Salt Lake Tribune
You could dismiss this as just another merger among the many that have taken place in recent years, and it is. And that is precisely the point. It’s exactly why it should not be dismissed with regard to consequence.
The merger tsunami has been rolling across the country for a number of years.
A posting by the Media Reform Information Center is telling-
“In 1983, 50 corporations controlled the vast majority of all news media in the U.S. At the time, Ben Bagdikian was called “alarmist” for pointing this out in his book, The Media Monopoly. In his 4th edition, published in 1992, he wrote “in the U.S., fewer than two dozen of these extraordinary creatures own and operate 90% of the mass media” — controlling almost all of America’s newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, books, records, movies, videos, wire services and photo agencies.”
“In 2004, Bagdikian’s revised and expanded book, The New Media Monopoly, shows that only 5 huge corporations — Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) — now control most of the media industry in the U.S. General Electric’s NBC is a close sixth.”
The more you look, the more interesting the question of mergers becomes.
In 2007, MSNBC reported on the possibility that the FCC was destroying data that pointed to the possible negative impact of mergers.
WASHINGTON – The Federal Communications
But the mergers have continued moving forward. Consider the the holdings of just one company, Clear Channel:
According to a company press release, Clear Channel has a presence in more than 50 countries and-
- Reaches more than 154 million people, or 75% of the 18+ U.S. population.
- Operates over 800 radio stations reaching more than 97 million listeners every week.
- With international partners, owns and operates more than 140 radio stations in Australia and New Zealand.
- Premiere Radio Networks syndicates 90 radio programs and services to more than 5,000 radio stations affiliations reaching over 190 million listeners a week.
- The Katz Media Group is the largest media representation firm in the U.S. representing more than 2,600 radio stations and 400 television stations.
- Clear Channel Outdoor operates close to one million displays in over 50 countries across 5 continents.
- In the United States, the company operates just under 200,000 advertising displays and has a presence in the top 50 Designated Market Areas.
Or how about good old CBS? What are their holdings? Take a look at this-
- CBS Television
- WUPA – Atlanta, GA
- WJZ-TV – Baltimore, MD
- WBZ-TV – Boston, MA
- WSBK- Boston, MA
- WBBM-TV – Chicago, IL
- KTVT-TV – Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
- KTXA-TV – Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
- KCNC-TV – Denver, CO
- WWJ-TV – Detroit, MI
- WKBD – Detroit, MI
- WCBS-TV – New York, NY
- WFOR-TV – Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL
- WBFS-TV – Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL
- WCCO-TV – Minneapolis, MN
- WGNT-TV – Norfolk, VA
- WPSG-TV – Philadelphia, PA
- KYW-TV – Philadelphia, PA
- KDKA-TV – Pittsburgh, PA
- KPCW-TV – Pittsburgh, PA
- KOVR-TV – Sacramento, CA
- KMAX-TV – Sacramento, CA
- KUTV-TV – Salt Lake City, UT
- KPIX-TV – San Francisco, CA
- KBCW-TV – San Francisco, CA
- KCBS-TV – Los Angeles, CA
- KCAL-TV – Los Angeles, CA
- KSTW-TV – Seattle, WA
- KTOG-TV – Tampa, FL
- KCCO-TV – Alexandria, MN
- KCCW-TV – Walker, MN
- Other Television
- The CW (partial)
- I’d get into CBS Radio and their publishing and outdoor advertising divisions, but the list is just too long for the page. If you really want to see it, you can go to the CJR’s “Who Owns What” page.
- As for NBC, here’s a list –
NBC Universal Television Stations Division (TVSD) is an operation division of NBC Universal’s owned and operated NBC stations and the following Telemundo Stations:
- KNBC, KVEA, and KWHY-TV, Los Angeles
- KNSD, San Diego
- KNTV and KSTS, San Jose–San Francisco
- KXAS-TV and KXTX-TV, Dallas–Fort Worth
- WCAU, Philadelphia
- WMAQ-TV and WSNS-TV, Chicago
- WNBC and WNJU, New York City
- WRC-TV, Washington, D.C.
- WTVJ and WSCV, Miami–Fort Lauderdale
- WVIT, New Britain–Hartford
- KBLR, Las Vegas
- KHRR, Tucson, Arizona
- KDEN, Denver
- KNSO, Fresno, California
- KTAZ, Phoenix
- KTMD, Galveston–Houston
- KVDA, San Antonio
- WKAQ-TV, San Juan
- WNEU, Merrimack, N.H.–Boston
And those are just the “over the air” tv stations owned by NBC, a network beset by layoffs and other cost-cutting measures as these media giants continue to complain that they just can’t make enough money. At one point NBC even forced its executives to fly coach to the Superbowl. Can you imagine that?
Franken’s stand is admirable, but with so much media already in the hands of so few, you have to wonder what will be needed to turn the tide. Or whether it’s even possible. You also have to wonder if at least some of what’s ailing America isn’t related to all of this.
Is it possible that greater corporate diversity would lead to increased competition with more jobs and a greater variety and veracity of opinion from those we look to for our news and information and thus a healthier Republic?
At least Franken’s trying. Here’s some of what he had to say to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts.