Dispatches from everywhere

Posted by Mitchell - February 28, 2003 (entry 8)

Yesterday, the FCC held its only public hearing on the matter of repealing media ownership limits. The locale was Richmond, Virginia. The Washington Post had an article on the hearing. Members of Chicago Media Action made the trip to Richmond for the event (and I would have too if it weren't for this class I'm taking, grrr).

The Christian Science Monitor had an article on Hollywood's attempts to bring even more violence. (Plug alert: Chicago Media Action will have a show about violence and the media on March 1, 8:30pm on Chicago area cable, CAN-TV Channel 21.)

TomPaine.com had an article by James Welborn with the headline "Dropping Bombs May Drop Profits: Networks Now Worry Conflict Will Hurt Ad Revenues." An excerpt:

According to The New York Times, "Executives of the 24-hour cable news channels -- CNN, Fox News and MSNBC -- said they expected to suspend all advertising for at least the first few days of a war. Paul Rittenberg, the senior vice president of advertising for Fox News, said the network usually brought in about $1 million in advertising a day. But executives at all three channels said they expected at least a few advertisers to return within weeks, especially if the war ended quickly."

But that model is predicated on what happened last time around, when the war in Iraq was over almost as quickly as it began. If the new war becomes a protracted affair, the cable news channels could suffer irreparable financial harm. Evidently, none of the sponsors are all that excited about cutting away from a shot of bloody carnage to bring you a warm, fuzzy message about their latest product.

I wouldn't disagree with this analysis, but I disagree with whether or not irreparable financial harm would occur. Granted, Fox News and CNN and MSNBC would all hemorrage funds with nonstop coverage and no source of income in the event of a war. But each of these channels is just a single part of mammoth corporations with revenue streams from many different sources; each of these cable news channels would have to take a very sizeable hit to impact the overall bottom line of NewsCorp, AOL Time Warner, and GE, respectively. It could well be the case that these firms would just ride out this loss of income for the immediate future (though Richard Parsons, I suspect, has far less room for error than Rupert Murdoch or Jeffrey Immelt).

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