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February 1998, Week 3


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Laurence Jarvik <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 17 Feb 1998 11:25:23 -0500
text/plain (130 lines)
I don't think the criticism of the "media conglomerate" list is unfair at
all. Four pages of Pat Aufderheide's writings is not very much. Indeed, it
can be argued that because of its upscale and educated demographic, public
broadcasting has a disproportionately greater influence on American
intellectual and cultural life than any other broadcasting organization.
Which is why it is important to note that PBS is part of a bigger
conglomerate than any single business because it is connected to the U.S.
government and other entities in a parallel way to that in which a cable
channel is tied to its investors.
Let's connect the dots for PBS and NPR to the educational institutions and
governmental entities with which it is connected in the way that one is
connecting broadcasting, the record business, magazine publishing,
textbooks, databases, forestry, trucking, real estate, etc. for the other
media conglomerates such as Time Warner. And funders of PBS programming
include not only corporations but departments of the US government,
including the multi-billion dollar National Science Foundation, Department
of Education, HHS, etc. And State and Local governments. And of course the
U.S. Congress, which has a budget vastly larger than that of Time-Warner --
or Mobil Corporation, for that matter. Not to mention the local stations.
For example: WGBH is located on the campus of Harvard University, which
last time I checked had an endowment of over $6 billion. That's one station
at one campus -- admittedly the largest, but there are over 300 PBS
stations and some 600 public radio stations at colleges, universities,
school districts, etc. The University of Texas houses a public tv station
in Austion, etc. James Ledbetter has a nice diagram in "Made Possible
I believe Aufderheide merely critcizes public broadcsting ties to
corporations and timidity in the face of Republicans and unlike Ledbetter
does not fundamentally describe the problem of influence by, say, funders
like the Ford Foundation (assets over $7 billion last time I checked), the
Rockefeller Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation.
I stick to my claim of the blind spot on the reading list.
Former CBS News president Richard Salant RESIGNED from the NPR board to
protest underwriting for content as unethical (still going on today by such
entities as the National Science Foundation by the way) -- a point also
made by Ledbetter, to his credit, in his new book "Made Possible By..."
 (Curiously there is no mention of Ledbetter in Dr. McAllister's posting
and one has to ask: Why not? Was it fair to omit part the reference?)
There was  a very good front page article in the NY Times just last week
exposing huge salaries totalling the $500,000 range at Minnesota Public
Radio and its catalog subsidiary, Rivertown Trading Company -- which
grosses about $200 million a year.
Or does only some sort of big money influence on broadcasting deserve study
-- and not others?
I would stand by my additions to the list and hope that others might
suggest some more free-market readings. Some would argue that the
government is the problem, not the solution, for media conglomerates,
through the manner FCC regulation is used to reward political friends and
punish opponents.
 Where are the books arguing for de-regulation such as Jonathan Emord's
work on the deleterious effect of broadcasting regulation on the First
Amendment? Etc. The Cato Institute in Washington and the Pacific Research
Institute in San Francisco can provide references to interested parties. Of
course, my own books, including the new paperback edition of "PBS: Behind
the Screen", are carried by
Yours sincerely,
Laurence Jarvik
>Hi everyone,
>Laurence Jarvik wrote:
>>Might I add that I call PBS a large media conglomerate in my book
>>PBS:BEHIND THE SCREEN (Prima Publishing, Rocklin, CA) coming in paperback
>>at the end of February. Total revenues for the whole shebang and spinoffs
>>are over $2 billion annually.
>>Yanni, Barney, etc.
>>Funny how the cited references somehow skip that fact. You can also check
>>out PUBLIC BROADCASTING AND THE PUBLIC TRUST, a book I edited with David
>To begin with, let me say that I absolutely agree that public broadcasting
>is still a visible and influential entity in this country and of course is
>worthy of study.  However, the implied attack on recent critical sources
>about mega-media conglomerates I believe is unfair, and I think it is
>unfair for two reasons.
>First, although $2 billion is a significant figure, it is pretty small
>potatoes compared to the largest of media giants on this planet.
>To quote the Time-Warner Factbook, "The combined revenues of Time Warner
>Inc. and Time Warner Entertainment, L.P.  were $20.9 billion in 1996, and
>combined earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization
>(EBITDA) were more than $4.29 billion."
>Likewise, The Walt Disney Company brought in revenues of $18.7 billion,
>with a profit of $1.5 billion, in 1996.
>Revenues for Bertelsmann in 1996 were $14.7 billion.
>Viacom brought in $12.1 billion in 1996.
>Sony, which includes the electronics firm as well as Sony-Columbia, earned
>$45.7 billion in 1996.
>Even media corporations without significant national broadcasting interests
>dwarf PBS.  Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the US, made a 1996
>profit of $ 943 million on revenues of $ 4.4 billion (all of the above
>information found on the companies' web sites).
>Second, at least two of the authors writing about mega-media conglomerates
>(and, I suspect, others) have written about the corporatization of public
>broadcasting.  Pat Aufderheide (who does in fact discuss public
>broadcasting in the originally cited _Conglomerates and the Media_ book,
>see pages 166-170) has published articles critical of public broadcasting
>in _The Progressive_ and _Critical Studies in Mass Communication_.  Bob
>McChesney's award-winning _Telecommunications, Mass Media, & Democracy_
>lays the historical and critical foundation for a discussion of why
>commercial and public broadcast developed as they did in the US.
>Matt McAllister
>Department of Communication Studies, Virginia Tech
>Blacksburg, VA  24061-0311 USA  ph: 540-231-9830  fax: 540-231-9817
>e-mail: [log in to unmask]
>Department of Communication Studies at Virginia Tech Home Page:
>Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
>University of Alabama.
Laurence Jarvik
<[log in to unmask]>
Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama.