Conspiracy Theory Rock, aka Mediaopoly, on SNL

The legend of this Robert Smigel TV Funhouse segment is that it was yanked either by Lorne Michaels, NBC executives, or GE executives who either thought it wasn’t funny or hit too close to home. A Google search turns up not only multiple copies of the video on YouTube but also commentary from eager conspiracy theorists. Once you see it, though, you can understand why some touchy executive at Rockefeller Plaza might want it taken out of circulation (which exactly what the Chomsky/Herman propaganda model would predict). However, it did eventually turn up on the official SNL TV Funhouse DVD, and Robert Smigel has gone on to a very successful career, so I guess it couldn’t have pissed off too many important people, right?

Whatever you think might be the reason that this segment was pulled from subsequent repeats of SNL, it does make some legitimate points about corporate ownership and deregulation of the media. Here are the lyrics (with links to relevant information):

It’s a media-opoly
A media-opoly.
The whole media is controlled by a few corporations
thanks to deregulation by the FCC.

You mean Disney, Fox, WestingHouse, and good ol GE?
They own networks from CBS to CNBC.
They can use them to say whatever they please,
and put down the opinions of any one who disagrees.

Or stuff about PCBs.
What are PCBs?
They come from power plants built by WestingHouse and GE.
They can give you lots of cancer that can hurt your body,
but on network TV, you rarely hear anything bad about the nuclear industry.
Like when WestingHouse was sued for fraud?
Which time?
GE made defective bolts.
It was an unreported crime.
Or when it was boycotted for robbing nuclear bomb plants just to squeeze a dime.
That’s a footnote by the way.
A footnote protects you from folks who doubt what you say.
Now maybe the voices in my head will go away.

But the bigshots don’t care.
They’re all sitting pretty thanks to corporate welfare.
What’s that now?
They get billions in subsidies from the government.
It’s supposed to create jobs, but that’s not how it’s spent.
They use PACs and soft money to support Congressmen
who will vote for weapons programs again and again
and let them dump toxic waste where the young ones play.

GE made the bullets that shot JFK.
You contribute to this chain every time you buy a product sponsored on this show.
That’s what NBC doesn’t want you to know.
So the next time… BEEP
Please stand by, please stand by.
It means there’s technical difficulties supposedly,
so if you see a “Please Stand By,”
you know it’s all part of GE’s big lie.
Why’d they take Norm MacDonald away?
Because he made too many jokes about O.J.,
but Lorne Michaels overruled.
Now don’t be fooled.
He and Marion Barry went to the same high school…

 

Consolidation and conglomeration

Directly related to our recent discussions in Journalism 1 about consolidation/conglomeration and its impact on the news media:

Media Consolidation Infographic

Source: Frugal Dad.

To this I would add that here in Louisville, Clear Channel Radio runs seven different stations. Main Line Broadcasting runs five radio stations. WHAS-TV is owned by Belo; WLKY is owned by Hearst; WAVE is owned by Raycom; and both WDRB and WMYO are owned by Block Communications — which has an agreement to share programming with WBKI. None of the corporate parents are headquartered in Louisville.

For an example of how consolidation/conglomeration can lead to both better efficiency (and higher profitability) as well as decrease diversity, just take a look at these websites with identical format & design for different newspapers all owned by Gannett:

Did you know that DealChicken is a Gannett company? That explains why the CJ (online and print) has DealChicken ads everywhere. And did you know that Gannett is a partner in the MetroMix project, which runs lifestyle websites targeted towards the 21-to-34-year-old demographic in dozens of cities? That’s why you suddenly find yourself on MetroMix when searching the CJ site for concert listings or movie schedules.

Even LEO is no longer locally owned. It’s part of a national company called SouthComm which owns more than a dozen free weeklies, although you’d be hard-pressed to find evidence of the chain imposing anything on LEO. The websites for SouthComm’s various properties all have their own design & format (unlike Gannett’s), and their obsessively local focus probably keeps management from imposing any top-down marketing schemes.

Obviously it’s not possible to generalize about all corporate-owned media outlets. Without working at each one and observing the flow of leadership firsthand, it’s impossible to say if the owners are making content decisions or leaning on reporters who cross the corporate line. But it is safe to say that the primary concern for each of these organizations is and always will be the bottom line; the old Bingham “reputation for placing principle before profit” is long dead.