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By David Podvin
In 2000, when Karl Rove called General Electric Chairman Jack Welch to
guarantee that a Bush Administration would be extremely generous to media
conglomerates that were sympathetic to the Texas governor’s presidential
campaign, it was a notable moment in history. If only this once, Rove wasn’t
Since taking office, George W. Bush has lavished spectacular taxpayer funded
largesse on the corporate media that made excuses for his inadequacies,
overlooked his corruption, shielded him from scandal, and escorted him into the
White House. It has been a squalid quid pro quo that has gone largely
unexamined, because those whose job it is to report on such corruption are too
busy benefiting from it.
The payoff began immediately. Two days after he was inaugurated, Bush
appointed industry puppet Michael Powell to head the Federal Communications
Commission. The media conglomerates were thrilled. The New York Times
editorialized about Powell’s virtues, as did the Washington Post. They knew
that, as an FCC commissioner, Powell had supported every media mega merger
without ever voicing any concern about the consequences to the consumer. They
knew that he had stated that the government should not protect the public
interest against media conglomerate excesses because he had “no idea what the
public interest is”.
They knew that Powell advocated total deregulation of the airwaves, meaning a transfer in ownership from the public to the multinational corporations that currently need licenses in order to broadcast. They knew that he opposed any rules to restrict media monopolies. They knew that the son of Colin Powell was so brazenly unethical that he had failed to recuse himself from considering the anti-trust implications of the AOL/Time Warner deal, despite the fact that his father was on AOL’s board of directors.
Michael Powell claims that he is a capitalist who embraces the free market. In this guise, he has “deregulated” the media industry by eliminating consumer protections regarding consolidations and cross ownership. The changes that he has made will provide a huge financial windfall to General Electric (NBC), Disney (ABC), Viacom (CBS), The New York Times Company, and the Washington Post Company.
And, of course, Powell has been generous to News Corporation (Fox). When Rupert Murdoch needed a waiver to buy additional TV stations in order to provide more Americans with a fair and balanced look at the infallibility of George W. Bush, it was Powell who made it happen.
Free market advocate Michael Powell says that he opposes allowing more competition in the FM radio industry because it would reduce ad revenue for the existing media powerhouses. His staff consists of lobbyists from the major print, broadcasting, and cable companies. He is not a capitalist; he is a manipulator who has gained prestige and power by whoring for the biggest communications companies in the world.
Powell gets extremely favorable media coverage. When profiled on the networks and in the major papers, he comes across looking like a billion dollars. It’s only fair. Michael Powell’s appointment was a multi-billion dollar reward to the media conglomerates that have been so good to George W. Bush.
General Electric has been very, very good to Bush. During the campaign, NBC
News hewed to the corporate media line, discarding any facts that did not
conform to the theme that Democrat Al Gore was dishonest and Bush was likeable.
On election night, Jack Welch was in the NBC News Election Center and instructed
Tom Brokaw to call the election for Bush, which Brokaw did. Right after Bush
took office, it was NBC News that was chosen to publicize the Bush lie about
President Clinton vandalizing the White House. NBC News has strained to avoid
investigating improprieties in the current administration, preferring to accentuate
the positive and eliminate the negative in regard to all things related to Bush.
Six days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Michael Powell announced an FCC ruling that affected corporations having licenses to operate 130 UHF TV stations broadcasting on certain frequencies. The FCC gave the media companies approval to sell those taxpayer-owned licenses and keep the tens of billions of dollars that will be generated by the sales. This will be extraordinarily profitable for GE, among others.
Personalized attention is another benefit of shilling for Bush. On June 18, 2001, Jack Welch called White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card to ask for assistance in pressuring the European Union to approve of GE’s proposed merger with Honeywell. The next day, Bush interrupted his tour of Poland to tell reporters, "I am concerned that the Europeans have rejected it." The head of the EU antitrust review committee subsequently complained that he was being coerced by the Bush Administration to see things General Electric’s way.
Walt Disney Company’s ABC News unit spent the 2000 campaign openly supporting Bush. From Good Morning, America to World News Tonight to Nightline and This Week, the ABC coverage was relentlessly anti-Gore. After the vice president gave his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention, ABC talking heads Peter Jennings, Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts, Ted Koppel, George Will, George Stephanopoulos, and David Gergen each proclaimed that Gore had marginalized himself with a presentation that was too far left of center. Conversely, the Gallup Poll showed that, as a result of the speech, Gore received the biggest post-Convention gain of any candidate in the survey’s history.
This attack on reality was typical of the ABC News cheerleading effort for
Bush, and it did not go unappreciated by the Republicans. After
being appointed FCC chairman, Powell named Walt Disney Co. executive Marsha
MacBride as the agency's new chief of staff. MacBride had served as a vice
president in Disney's Washington office, which was heavily involved in lobbying
the FCC. Disney’s chief lobbyist is now making federal communications policy.
The ability to write its own rules is one dividend of the company’s assistance
in helping Bush seize power.
When it comes to genuflecting before
Bush, Viacom/CBS doesn’t have to take a backseat to anyone. CBS News Managing
Editor Dan Rather cast aside all pretense of journalistic integrity when he told
David Letterman, “George Bush is the President. He makes the decisions, and,
you know, it’s just one American, wherever he wants me to line up, just tell
me where. And he’ll make the call."
Actually, Bush has been making the
call for Rather for quite some time. In 2000, CBS News fell obediently in
lockstep with the Republican storyline for the campaign. Night after night on
Rather’s broadcast, Gore was misportrayed as a dishonest, sleazy, and corrupt
automaton who deserved no credit for the accomplishments of the Clinton
Administration, but who bore responsibility for anything that had gone wrong.
CBS viewers were instructed that Bush was charming, and that his frequent bouts
with the truth just made him all the more lovably human. Military desertion?
Paying for an illegal abortion? Influence peddling? Corrupt insider business
dealings? Viewers of CBS News never heard these allegations against Bush, much
less saw any investigation of them.
CBS radio is aggressively pro-Bush.
The network features the commentaries of Charles Osgood, whose allegiance to
Bush is spousal in tone. Osgood is unswervingly protective of his man, bitterly
complaining that Bush is being persecuted by labor unions and environmentalists,
but defiantly declaring that W is “holding up well under the assault”.
Viacom has tasted the sweet financial
fruits that go to media conglomerates supporting Bush. Limitations on media
expansion have already been partially lifted, which will allow Viacom CEO Mel
Karmizan to pursue his dream of empire building. And with Bush in power, when
the FCC fines radio stations for indecency, it targets an obscure rap station in
Portland instead of Viacom’s nationally syndicated vulgar golden goose, Howard
The New York Times is
stereotyped as a liberal paper, but there was nothing liberal about its
presidential campaign coverage in 2000. Reporters Richard Berke and Katherine
Seelye promoted every Republican slander of Gore as truth. After the first
debate, they falsely accused Gore of lying about anecdotes that were later
proven to be accurate, while ignoring blatant Bush lies on major public policies
ranging from the economy to taxes to Social Security to health care. Meanwhile,
tender Bush correspondent Frank Bruni was called “my favorite reporter” by
the Texas governor.
Since inauguration day, The Times has
been on a crusade to legitimize Bush. The effort has included joining with the
other participants in the media Consortium to proclaim (on page one) that a
review of Florida ballots confirmed a Bush victory, while grudgingly
acknowledging (on page nine) that more Floridians voted for Gore. Berke has
written articles suggesting that Democrats are secretly thrilled that Bush is in
the White House because he’s doing such a swell job.
No one was happier with the FCC appointment of Michael Powell than The New York Times Company. Although primarily known for its flagship newspaper, The Times has diverse media interests to promote. It responded to Powell’s selection by electing William Kennard to its Board of Directors. Kennard also joined The Carlyle Group, the private equity firm that includes Poppy Bush. Kennard is a Managing Director in the Carlyle Global Telecommunications and Media Group. He had served as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission from November 1997 to January 2001.
Kennard’s protégé at the FCC was Colin Powell’s son. His mentor at the
Carlyle group is George W. Bush’s father. He has been the go-between as the
Times, the Bush Administration, and the Carlyle Group have coordinated their
interests. In an upcoming article, MakeThemAccountable will examine Kennard’s
key role as the behind the scenes liaison between the Bush Administration and
the mainstream media.
When George W. Bush was governor of Texas, he greatly increased the money
that was spent on the Texas
Assessment of Academic Skills, a previously experimental program that Bush
turned into an annual litmus test of academic achievement. The major financial
beneficiary of the expanded standardized testing was Kaplan, Inc., a publisher
of educational material. Kaplan is a subsidiary of the Washington Post Company.
During the 2000 presidential campaign, the Post assigned reporter Ceci Connolly to cover Al Gore. Connolly was a key participant in the GOP effort to discredit the Democratic nominee, writing a false story that misquoted Gore as claiming that he was the one who started the investigation of Love Canal. "Add Love Canal to the list of verbal missteps by Vice President Gore," she wrote. "The man who mistakenly claimed to have inspired the movie 'Love Story' and to have invented the Internet says he didn't quite mean to say he discovered a toxic waste site."
Connolly was also lying when she wrote that Gore mistakenly claimed to have
inspired “Love Story”; author Erich Segal confirmed that Gore was telling
the truth. And Connolly was lying when she accused Gore of claiming to invent
the Internet; neither she nor other Republican operatives have ever been able to
document Gore’s nonexistent claim. Even after she was confronted with proof
that her allegations were false, Connolly refused to retract them, and her
editors allowed her lies to go uncorrected.
the Washington Post Company is being rewarded for its favorable news
coverage of Bush. In the education bill that Bush recently signed, additional
standardized testing will provide more than $100 million dollars a year of added
revenue to the Post through its Kaplan subsidiary.
The New York Times.
The Washington Post.
In 2000, the “liberal” media saw an opportunity to earn huge financial rewards by advancing the career of George W. Bush. The corporate news organizations that dominate the flow of information in this country rejected the principles of objectivity and honorable journalism in favor of ingratiating themselves to a corrupt politician who had pledged to reward them once he was in office.
Now the payoff is happening, but you won’t see it reported on the major
commercial networks, or read about it in America’s newspapers of record. The
huge conglomerates that control the mainstream media are too busy promoting the
current interests of George W. Bush, motivated by their lust for the enormous
financial rewards that Bush will continue to bestow upon his media sycophants at
the expense of the American people.
Podvin on the Media
Podvin, the Series