Sunday, 29 August 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #584: Why Rupert?

Welcome to the show folks...

As I mentioned the other day the head of the BBC is going after Rupert Murdoch, his son James, Rupert's company News Corp. and their Sky Network for well... being the competition. There is also talk in important circles in the USA about bringing in a "fairness doctrine" to bring some sort of government control over the content and style of Fox News, another Rupert Murdoch enterprise. Then there's the almost constant controversy over his many newspapers, with many citing them, and their owner, as the chief cause of the complete fall of civilization itsel

Now his critics will say that he's biased and right wing, as evidenced by his company's recent political donation. That as a controversy is a fart in a thunderstorm. Other media companies, their senior executives, and on-screen talent give generously and campaign for political parties, or to be more exact, one political party in particular, and it's not the party News Corp gave to, but I'll get back to that later.

First a little history...

All this controversy over political stances is very ironic because back when he started out he, and his fledgling Australian newspaper empire, was attacked for being biased and left wing. Despite his personal political beliefs, which have shifted to the right after his Oxford/Labour Party days, his first papers leaned left because there was a gap in the market that he sought to exploit.

When his rivals tacked left, his companies tacked right.


Because the gap shifted, and he moved in to exploit it.

It's just that simple.

Same thing with Fox News. There was a gap in the market that he decided to fill, and make money from. If all the other cable news channels were like Fox, he'd have the network swing the other way, because it means that there's an audience, and their money, that's being ignored.

Now this is where people talk about how all consuming News Corp is, and how we must fight such media consolidation.

Yet you almost never hear that sort of talk being leveled at Viacom, a just as rapacious conglomerate that, thanks to MTV's masterful use of pre-packaged corporate friendly rebellion, has destroyed more young minds than syphilis and pinball combined. And the other mega-conglomerates like NBC-Universal, Disney-ABC, or Time-Warner, incites such passionate calls to be regulated, punished, or crucified.

Why is that?

It's because Rupert Murdoch is, in the words of my grandfather, a fellow who would rather fight than eat.

You see, the other big media conglomerates give each other a pass because, well, they give each other a pass. Before Murdoch started rocking the boat you really didn't see ABC News run an opinion piece saying that they disagree with how CBS handled a story. The most that might be said would be a little gentle chiding on a Sunday morning political panel show, because for the most part they don't disagree over anything.

It's a nice cozy country club kind of atmosphere among the top echelons of the media giants. They all live in the same neighborhoods, vacation in summer homes in the same areas, attend the same events, vote the same, etc., etc...

Enter Rupert.

He not only disagrees, he DELIBERATELY disagrees. He hires people like Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck to host opinion/discussion shows because he knows that they will enrage his competition. These same hosts then publicly challenge the shibboleths of their competition, knowing that their competition will have a collective conniption fit, because that sort of thing is just not done in their country club, and attack.


Two reasons:

1. Entertainment value. If you're going to watch people talk politics, you don't want a bunch of people who all agree sitting around a table agreeing. Viewers want to see controversy and disagreement, they want debate, if not outright arguing done in a colorful if not extravagant way, because it makes dry subject matter palatable.

2. Free publicity. From my own experience since I got a satellite dish is that every time I turn on MSNBC, someone is complaining about Fox News. You can't buy that kind of time.

People see the controversy and the complaining, and then tune in to see what it's all about. Some see things that they like and stay, others wonder what the fuss was about and stay because they find it lively and entertaining, while a small percentage gets turned off completely and return to what they were watching before. No matter how much you criticize him Murdoch, and his companies, make a net gain from that criticism in the end.

He wants to be the bogeyman, because by being the bogeyman, he's getting his competitors to be his biggest booster. News Corp's recent donation to the Republican Governors Association was a deliberate and calculated move to spark some convenient, and ultimately profitable outrage from his competitors. While these tactics won't get him invited to some of the swankier parties in the Hamptons, he doesn't care, because he's too busy laughing all the way to the bank.

1 comment:

  1. "Fox News serves a neglected niche market, the majority of the American people."