Monday, August 3, 2009

The Dangers of GE (and Any Other Corp.) Controlling the News

Federal contracts for General Electric, based in Fairfield, Conn., rose to $3.8 billion during the two years ending Sept. 30, 2004, the last period for which figures are available. . . . General Electric Co. spent $21.5 million last year trying to influence the US government, the most of any corporation, as total lobbying costs rose even as Congress began looking at ways to rein in such activities.

. . . General Electric spent more on lobbying in this year's first quarter than any other company, newly filed federal lobbying reports show. The company shelled out $7.2 million for lobbyists in April, May, and June - that's $160,000 each day Congress was in session.

The only other company to spend more than $6 million was Chevron, and GE almost equaled the Chamber of Commerce's lobbying budget.

. . . Why? Because no other company is so intimately tied up with government - a dynamic that has only intensified in the Obama administration.

Glenn Greenwald documents "The scope - and dangers - of GE's control of NBC and MSNBC."

I want to return to the subject of GE's silencing of Keith Olbermann both because there are new facts I've obtained that shed light on what happened here and because this is one of the most blatant examples yet of pernicious corporate control over America's journalism. The most striking aspect of this episode is that GE isn't even bothering any longer to deny the fact that they exert control over MSNBC's journalism. They've brazenly dispensed with the long-held fiction of the sanctity of journalistic independence from interference by the corporate parents that own America's largest news organizations. Instead, GE is now openly and proudly boasting of their editorial control over the news organizations they own, and publicly rubbing it in the faces of NBC News journalists that they're subservient to GE's corporate agenda. Look at this smug, creepy quote from GE executive spokesman Gary Sheffer explaining in The New York Times why GE issued its gag order preventing Olbermann from criticizing Fox and O'Reilly, all but mocking NBC and MSNBC journalists as nothing more than GE's office of corporate spokespeople: "We all recognize that a certain level of civility needed to be introduced into the public discussion," Gary Sheffer, a spokesman for G.E., said this week. "We’re happy that has happened." Why is GE even speaking for MSNBC's editorial decisions at all? Needless to say, GE doesn't care in the slightest about "civility" in general. Mika Brzezinski can spout that people who dislike Sarah Palin aren't "real Americans" and Chris Matthews can say about George Bush that "everybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs," and GE executives won't (and didn't) bat an eye. What they mean by "civility" is: "thou shalt not criticize anyone who can harm GE's business interests or who will report on our actions." Thus: GE's journalists will stop reporting critically on Fox and its top assets because Fox can expose actions of GE that we want to keep concealed.

Does anyone need it explained to them why it is so dangerous and destructive to have our political debates controlled by GE executives, sitting in their offices censoring the journalism of our leading media outlets in the name of "civility," code for: you will respect those who can harm us? Our entire political culture is already designed to ensure corporate control of our political institutions. Their lobbyists literally write the laws enacted by Congress and control their implementation. The reason the journalism industry insisted for so long on the ludicrous fiction that corporate parents never violated the sanctity of journalistic independence is precisely because everyone understood why that would be so dangerous. Apparently, they no longer feel a need to maintain that fiction. * * * * GE's control over two major American news outlets - NBC, which uses our public airways, and MSNBC - is inherently dangerous even without evidence of its editorial interference. GE's corporate interests in the outcome of our political process is vast and impossible to overstate.

Read the rest here. Suzan _________________________


Stella by Starlight said...

Yes! I love MSNBC. As an Air America addict, I have been following Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz for some time. However, I sometimes suspect that this is GE's way of pulling ratings from FOX.

However, I share your concerns about GE. When I worked in radio, large corporations could only own one TV station, one AM, and one FM radio in each market.

After de-Reaganation, huge corporate conglomerates co-opted and destroyed fair, unbiased news. But you already know that. News today parallels the "feelies" from Orwell's 1984.

If you don't mind, I'm going to borrow part of this post for my blog. If you do, let me know so I can delete the post.

Suzan said...

Please use anything of mine that you desire.

My hope is to "get the word out!"

And I love your thinking!

News today parallels the "feelies" from Orwell's 1984