Volume 93, Issue 66

Thursday, January 27, 2000


Kittie wild and untamable

Good things come in Mini packages

Mergers found guilty in free press murder case

Stories an enigmatic odyssey

Mergers found guilty in free press murder case

I've witnessed some scary things in my time – Mariah Carey receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award, a culture willing to make Monica Lewinsky a celebrity, Vince McMahon becoming the leader of the free world.

Despite all these travesties, nothing compares to the genuine fear that creeps under my skin when I think of the colossal mergers spreading through our media like a diagnosed, but untreatable, cancer.

You're free to roll your eyes at my seeming melodrama, but to understate the possible consequences these mergers hold is like reducing Bill Gates to a flash in the computer age pan. In other words, not enough attention or even panic can be directed at the conjoining of already powerful media empires.

The latest of these happy couples is EMI Group PLC and Time Warner Inc., whose shared music holdings will create the world's largest music company of the four remaining majors. Although a venture handed such capital and resources should be able to foster every artist under the sun, the anxiety machine is already humming for smaller acts rumoured to be meeting the axe in order for the company to save money. Such things as integrity, talent or original contribution mean nothing in a bottom line world. Sales numbers mean everything.

If this doesn't scare you, think about what sells. Given my limited business savvy, I'm still willing to speculate that what is most hyped and most marketable, sells. Enter the vacuous, commercial likes of boy bands, bubble gum pop and the rest of their manufactured ilk. Sure these artists deserve their space on the shelf, but I'm not willing to surrender my access to other less contrived performers just because they can't be shrink wrapped or packaged with their own trading cards.

What's even more frightening than what we won't see, is what we will. With the ownership of newspapers, publishing, television, film, production, technology and music concentrated to only a few hands, the presence of diversity or fair competition is more than unlikely. Why would Warner Brothers get an artist not from Warner/EMI to soundtrack their films? Why would Time Magazine ever question something CNN has shown, even if they have found a more relevant angle to a story? Why would Sports Illustrated ever advertise any Internet Service Provider other than America Online? These mergers leave media so intertwined, phrases like "free press" become obsolete.

Just for a change of pace, I'll don the capitalist hat. To nutshell the defence of the merger trend, I'll say it's just good business. How can you blame them for seeking monetary success? After all, the market rules and we are the market, so any protest on our part naturally comes wrapped in hypocrisy.

Sorry, I don't buy it. Maybe I could bend on another industry, but when it comes to my media I'm a helplessly overprotective parent. This may seem crazy, but deep in the media history books you'll find passages about times when music, film and otherwise were considered art, not paycheques.

But please don't mention these books to the likes of Rupert Murdoch or Ted Turner – you'll likely find bad reviews of them riddled throughout the many papers these moguls own.

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Copyright The Gazette 2000