Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch, Media Consolidation, Globalization, and catchy titles.

Jennifer Holt, assistant professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is the author of Empires of Entertainment. Her novel provides an in-depth look at the political tactics and corporate maneuvers executed by heavy players within the film, broadcast, and cable industries, respectively. Holt meticulously traces their histories from the 1980s onward, outlining key events that occurred which eventually led to the formation of today’s modern global multi-media conglomerates. However, she decidedly devotes two seperate chapters, one devoted to famous philanthropists  Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch, founders of CNN and NewsCorp  respectively, the other regarding  the impact of globalization on  film, broadcast, and cable. Holt remarks on each man’s tenacious behavior as well as their shrewd businesses maneuvers and foresight. It’s clear from the reading that each man’s ability to recognize the future value of media consolidation led to their ultimate success, providing them with a business versatility that carried them past the millennium and into today’s modern global platform. Their foresight has allowed them to survive in the ever shifting global mediascape. Understanding their thoughts and processes may yield insight into where the future of today’s media may lie in the face of modern globalization.

Ted Turner established CNN in 1980. Tried to acquire CBS, failed, purchased MGM/UA from Kirk Kerkorian in hopes of acquiring thousands upons thousands of hours of broadcast content. However, after various flops, Turner was forced to sell it back to to Kerkorian at a reduced price. Maintaining the film library he purchased from MGM/UA, he established Turner Entertainment and subsequently TNT and Turner Classic Movies in efforts to distribute the myriad of films he’d owned. He started TCM with an airing of Gone with the Wind. Turner is a prime example of a philanthropist turned mogul by seeing the future of broadcast and cable television, investing in vertical and horizontal integration by buying “distribution networks, creative production arms, and exhibition outlets in various media”. Turner was relentless in the construction of his media empire, even having the gall to sue the President of the US for not allowing CNN to broadcast his addresses, and won.

Known as the Australian Ted Turner, Murdoch started out in print press and his presence grew into a global power as he established News Corp, an international media empire. He bought 20th Century Fox from Marvin Davis in 1985. Murdoch went so far as to officially reject his status as an Australian Citizen to become a U.S citizen so that he could circumvent laws that inhibited his control/stake in his U.S companies due to his status as an Aussie. Murdoch’s most shrewd business move was buying several Metromedia Stations for 1.85 billion dollars, roughly exceeding 15 times the standard “cash flow value” of such a purchase and established the Fox, Inc., network. By 1986, the Fox Network was reaching into more than 80% of homes in the U.S.

The only thing that might have been more colossal  than Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch Time-Warner was the amalgamation of two media titans, Time, Inc and Warner Communications, that resulted in a new global media conglomerate with an arsenal of media products ranging from film, to music, to cable, to retail. Their multi-faceted and extensive media empire became the hallmark for future media conglomerates. One of Time-Warner’s arguments was predicated on global expansion. Realizing that media was inevitably headed towards a global platform, Time-Warner selflessly volunteered itself as being the “one company that will help tip the balance of trade in America’s favor”(Holt). Realizing they needed to stop the formation of a such a powerful conglomerate, Paramount tried to buy out Time for upwards of 10 billion. When Time rejected this and subsequent offer, Paramount attempted to sue them and failed. It seemed the formation of Time-Warner was inevitable.

Globalization meant a revamping of network control, this time by foreigners which would affect national  audiences and eventually international audiences abroad. Fox was owned by Australian mogul Rupert Murdoch. Sony bought Columbia Tri-Star. MGM/UA was bought by France’s Credit Lyonnais. Seagrams bought Universal etc. These new international players and the inclusion of domestic programming for national/international audiences forced a re-regulation of television in a way that would prove more prudent and contemporary to the modern network era’s demands.

The book’s final chapter, 1993-1995: The Last Mile, delves into the issues surrounding the globalization of communications media. It acknowledges the national implications as well as those overseas. Obviously, different countries had various attitudes regarding the global flows of media production. Quotas established by countries affected the import and export of media products in and out various countries, taking care to preserve their own domestic cultures and preventing an over-saturation of american neo-liberal ideologies present in their media products.

It is obvious from this reading then, that one must have foresight when it comes to media consolidation and network technologies, be culturally cognizant, as well as tenacious in order to break successfully into the professional world of media.

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. At certain points in your post I found myself wishing I had a clearer sense of your tone and position. For instance, when you describe Murdoch and Turner as “famous philanthropists” and talk about Time-Warner, Inc. as “selflessly volunteer[ing] to reestablish US-owned conglomerates’ dominance of the entertainment market, are you being sincere or sarcastic? If the former, I’d be interested in hearing more about why you’re inclined to depoliticize their role in shaping the political-economy of US (and to a large extent global) media culture. If the latter, you may want to clarify for readers the impetus for the tongue-in-cheek treatment – i.e., is this an implicit criticism or even critique of some kind, and if so, of what specifically and why?

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