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The media and Gaza, part 2

Media monopoly and Big Oil

Published Nov 14, 2010 9:47 PM

WW presents here the second installment of “The media and Gaza,” a chapter from an upcoming book on the heroic struggle of the Palestinian people of Gaza who are fighting for self-determination.

“We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective.”

When Michael Eisner wrote these candid words (in what he thought would remain an internal memo), he was CEO of the Walt Disney Co. The quote appears in the documentary “Mickey Mouse Monopoly — Disney, Childhood & Corporate Power.” The Disney Co. is the second-largest media giant but brings in the largest revenue of any media conglomerate in the world.

The corporate media say they are committed to “report the truth” and that they “strive to be fair” or at the very least “tell both sides.” This is as much spin as the New York Times and Washington Post rewriting the Gaza war. The media are corporations. Like every other corporation, they are in business to make money.

The big five who control it all

At the end of World War II, 80 percent of the daily newspapers in the U.S. were independently owned. Today, only five giant companies — Time Warner (CNN, AOL), Disney (ABC), Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation (FOX), Bertelsmann of Germany (the world’s biggest publisher of English-language books), and Viacom (formerly CBS) — control most of the television, radio, magazines, newspapers, books, movies, videos, music, photo agencies and wire services people in this country rely on. General Electric’s NBC is a close sixth. (“The Media Monopoly” by Ben Bagdikian, 2004 edition)

These media monopolies are truly huge. Time Warner, the biggest, has 292 separate companies and subsidiaries. The Walt Disney Co. owns eight book publishing imprints; the ABC-TV network has 10 owned and operated stations, 30 radio stations, 11 cable channels, 13 Internet broadcasting channels that operate around the world, 17 Internet sites and more. The other media giants have similarly large holdings.

The extent of this monopolization is well hidden. But the truth is that “a shrinking number of large media corporations now regard monopoly, oligopoly and historic levels of profit as not only normal, but as their earned right,” says Bagdikian.

Sumner Redstone, head of Viacom and owner of CBS, MTV, BET and Paramount Pictures, explains how conglomerate media profit-taking works: “When you make a movie for an average cost of $10 million and then cross promote and sell it off of magazines, books, products, television shows out of your own company, the profit potential is enormous.” (“Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times” by Robert W. McChesney)

The giant corporate media are not a “free press.” They are a press happily married to the pursuit of profits. The “freedom” they pursue is the freedom to make a buck. These profits are only partially earned via big media’s hundreds of subsidiaries. Even more important is the money to be made through the mainstream media’s interlocking relationship with even larger monopolies.

Major media in bed with biggest corporations

About 118 — that’s the number of people who sit on the boards of directors of the 10 biggest media giants. These 118 individuals in turn are on the corporate boards of 288 national and international corporations. And eight out of 10 big media giants share common memberships on each other’s boards of directors. (“Big Media Interlocks with Corporate America” by Peter Phillips, CommonDreams.org, June 24, 2005)

This integration occurs at the very pinnacle of corporate power. For instance, board members of ABC/Disney, NBC/GE, CBS/Viacom, CNN/TimeWarner, Fox/News Corp., New York Times Co., Washington Post/Newsweek, Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones, Tribune Co., Gannett and Knight-Ridder also sit on the boards of 13 of the Fortune 500’s 25 most profitable companies and probably have indirect connections to the other 12. This linkage forms a huge matrix of interlocking corporations and monopolies, usually with banks at the center, that control the U.S. and to a large extent the world economy.

‘Enhancing values preferred by corporate world’

“The dominant media firms, now among the largest in the world, have the power and use it to enhance the values preferred by the corporate world of which they are a part,” says Bagdikian. This includes self-censorship, based upon class and financial interests, or “omission of the news that might interfere with the media’s maximizing their own profits. The same tendency makes the news media sympathetic to similar profit maximization by whatever means among corporations in general.”

This is what is passed off as “objective reporting” to 310 million people in the U.S.

At the same time, with each new round of consolidations, the media as a whole have moved more openly to the right. For example, the right-wing-and-proud-of-it Fox News, with 23 wholly owned or affiliated network stations in the U.S., is the fourth-largest television network, right behind ABC, CBS and NBC.

Corporations benefit from vilifying Palestinians

Which corporations benefit the most from vilifying the Palestinian people and their leaders?

Far above all others, it’s the oil and energy companies, which pull in the greatest profit.

ExxonMobil and Chevron, the first- and second-largest U.S. oil companies, top the Fortune 500 list. ExxonMobil reported the highest annual profit in corporate history in 2006. The next year it broke its own profit record, clearing $40.61 billion or nearly $1,300 a second. (CNNMoney, Feb. 1, 2008) As of this July 1, ExxonMobil occupied eight out of the 10 slots for the largest quarterly corporate earnings of all time and five out of the 10 largest annual corporate earnings slots.

Chevron and Conoco, the second- and third-largest of the U.S. oil giants, are not far behind.

While these oil companies drill, pump and refine all over the world, their profit empires rely most of all on control of the cheap, easily extracted, high-grade oil in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and, once again, in Iraq. They were also in Iran until the revolution of 1979 kicked them out and nationalized the oil. They vowed to never let this happen again.

ExxonMobil sees Palestinian rights as a threat to “their” profits of $1,300 a second. With these warped values prevailing, the Palestinian people don’t stand a chance of fair coverage in the corporate media.