Democracy Soup

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General Electric brings ‘bad things’ to influence news coverage to be the Media Putz

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Originally published on on August 6, 2009

General Electric

If you want your company to not be seriously investigated by the media, there is one simple yet expensive solution: buy your way into the corporate media.

Though it takes a lot of money to buy a network or cable news channel, you end up making money on the deal. After all, you don’t have to defend yourself from costly investigations. And how you make your money can be your little secret.

The GE/News Corp. war — as profiled recently in The New York Times — is a symptom of the bigger problem that GE, News Corp., along with Disney, CBS/Viacom, and Time Warner are virtually free from recrimination, at least by the corporate media.

You would think the war chest that literally is General Electric would be worth investigating. The most wide-eyed optimist wouldn’t expect NBC to go after General Electric. But the unofficial code says that CBS, ABC, CNN, and Fox wouldn’t dare go after GE for one simple reason: if Disney went after GE, GE would go after Disney.

So what we have is détente on a level that the United States and Russia would have drooled over, say, in October 1962.

Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly — yes, Bill O’Reilly — threatened this détente, admittedly on the tiniest of levels, more like slingshots while riding in sailboats. In their tit-for-tat, they would drag in the success or failure of MSNBC and the Fox “News” Channel. Somehow, that became a threat to GE and News Corp.

In GE’s corporate-minded mind, when O’Reilly’s producer asked questions about GE’s business in Iran, the red flags went up at GE.

As Glenn Greenwald, in his excellent coverage, put it so well, “GE’s journalists will stop reporting critically on Fox and its top assets because Fox can expose actions of GE that we want to keep concealed.”

For the record, Olbermann has denied any deals with his bosses. But that doesn’t mean GE didn’t step into this particular case, or numerous other instances. On every level, the “good things to life” presence has been felt on the MSNBC family for some time.

We don’t have to go back all that far — about 12 months ago — when multiple forces worked to pull Olbermann and Chris Matthews off the anchor desk.

Ironically, GE didn’t step in for several months as MSNBC had Richard Wolffe on its programs, and even guest-hosting “Countdown” without disclosing his public relations position with Public Strategies, Inc., the corporate communications firm run by former Bush White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett.

The corporate influence over news coverage has been felt for a long time. All the way back in 1998, ABC’s Brian Ross was working on a story about lax standards in checking for pedophiles in hiring for theme parks. One company Ross investigated was Disney, owners of ABC.

Michael Eisner, then chairman of the Walt Disney Co., said on September 29, 1998, in response to the potential story:

“I would prefer ABC not to cover Disney … ABC News knows that I would prefer them not to cover [Disney].”

Days later, the 20/20 story on exposing Disney’s lax attitude toward employing pedophiles at its theme parks was killed by ABC News management. What was amazing in reality — but not in the realm of the corporate media — was that no other network or cable news channel ran with the story.

Here was a shocking story already uncovered, so a network wouldn’t have to even spend much money to further the story. Yet no major corporate media outlet touched the story, now going on 11 years.

But that is the way the corporate media works. No back scratching involved, but nods in elevators that say, “Don’t touch my company and we won’t touch yours.”

Owning a major corporate media outlet is more than just about making money. It’s about protection for how you make your money outside the media ownership. Though all these companies participate in the farce, General Electric went above and beyond to influence news coverage to win the Media Putz award this week.


Written by democracysoup

August 6, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in media criticism, MSM

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