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Lies and Misunderstandings


When are we going to grow up as a nation?

We have an entire media spectrum…that is, all the radio stations and all the television stations and channels and podcasts and people blathering on street corners and in coffee shops….and there is no substance, no facts and very little concern for the truth.

Just stop and think for a minute. One of the principal prime-time programs on television…not a program on some obscure weight watchers channel…has to do with the valuable, but hardly the subject of entertainment, massive loss of weight by very obese people.

If you were planning prime time television entertainment for Americans, can you imagine sitting down with a group of executives, not comedians, and seriously saying…”let’s get some really, really fat people, put them on television and watch their emotions as they lose weight or watch their humiliation if they do not.” Yes, indeed, Fred Astaire, that’s entertainment.

Or not. But it’s cheap. And today, with so many different channels, and people actually able to watch and learn how the financial meltdown happened from people who were there, or watch the History of India or just watch the best movies on six different channels–prime time has come to fat people losing weight or really bad amateurs trying sincerely to be entertainers while an audience and a panel ridicule their efforts. It may turn out that the “Biggest Losers” are the people watching that programming.

Television has always been about merchandising, about making big money.A commercial on a program like “American Idol” will go for around a half-million bucks–for 30 seconds of airtime. While Jack Bauer was torturing terrorists to get answers…or not…his commercials were going for about $350,000 per 30 secs.

That is about average. There are 18 minutes or roughly 30% of an average television hour dedicated to commercials. That means the television network makes $10,800,000 per hour on prime time.

The average household watches 7.2 hours of television per day. Even if you cut the costs in half, the networks make at least $35 million a day, because they make it while its on, not while you watch. None of these rates are set in stone, but regardless, it is a lot of money. You don’t start a television network in your garage and build it up to be a competitor with NBC.

By the way, there are also another roughly seven minutes per hour of what are called “brand appearances.” In other words, that box of Tide in the hands of a Desperate Housewife was no accident. Networks can’t charge for brand appearances but it does not mean that key advertisers do not get some freebies. Late night and unscripted programming are almost triple in these kinds of product appearances compared to dramatic programming.

Cable television has changed the whole landscape of television over the years. It has made an already quite competitive business even more competitive. And the Great Recession of 2008, cut ad revenues by as much as 20% in 2009. The auto industry cut advertising in half. Twenty-four of the top twenty-five television advertisers cut their budgets in 2009. It was, needless to say, a bad year.

So, if a television program were losing advertisers at the same time as overall advertising was going down, wouldn’t that make a television network wonder whether it should keep him or her? Suppose he lost a dozen advertisers. That would hurt. Or 50. That would be traumatic. Suppose he lost over 100 and he was so bad that another 25 or so refused to advertise on a network that would have him on? That would do it…wouldn’t it?

Not for Rupert Murdoch. Glenn Beck has lost a minimum of 126 advertisers and one television commentator says that there are another 50 at least who will not consider his program and have said so privately. Apple computers flatly refuses to advertise on any program on Fox News Channel at this point. In Great Britain, no advertisers will appear on Glenn Beck’s programs. None. But Murdoch pays him $2 million a year.

Why would anyone do such a thing, if…as we have already acknowledged…television is about merchandising, about big money? The reason is that Murdoch is a man obsessed with controlling society to whatever degree possible. You see, Glenn Beck makes $2 million from Murdoch, but he makes at least another $20 million from his other Right Wing ventures.

Consumer corporations can’t touch him as an advertiser because of the huge boycotts against him for his racist, anti-Democratic, anti-feminist, and simply lying attacks on government, churches, women, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Arab-Americans. But Right Wing groups–old segregationists, White Supremacists, gun owners, and all kinds of uneducated, unlettered people who have a grudge against society love his pseudo-intellectual, rambling, story-telling method of getting out his version of the truth. Of course it is nothing remotely like the truth.

Here’s the misunderstanding part. Remember the numbers for television advertising…multi-million dollar revenues every day? Not just one network, but many networks worth that kind of money are owned by just one man…Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch is not even someone who was born or educated or spent his early life here. Like most people who are as rich as he has made himself, he lives here and takes advantage of the still-affluent American market while paying no taxes at all by world standards. People think that if Beck were not making money for Murdoch, he would fire him. He won’t. Beck is his kind of guy and Beck’s $2 million contract is peanuts to someone like Murdoch.

Even though Beck’s audience has gone down steadily from about 2.3 million down to about 1.2 million now, he still appeals to that group, small though they are, of fringe weirdos who foolishly think that he is on their side. The problem for the rest of society is that these are the people whom the Republican Party uses to stir up racism, lie about the President and confuse the great unwashed about Socialism and Communism, march against their own best interests in health care, benefits for the poor and elderly, lower costs for pharmaceuticals, alternative energy and most other Liberal or Populist issues.

Beck doesn’t care. He is the electronic media personified. He will use anyone or anything to make as much money as he can. He obviously enjoys doing it. He can make up any scenario and no owner or editor or general manager will ask him to start getting his facts straight. Only advertisers, sponsors, will do this when their customers complain that this guy is a nut.

Fox doesn’t care; Murdoch doesn’t care. He built an entire career and fortune on being the trash man of media. The more spectacular and sensational a headline can be made…the truth be damned…the better Rupert Murdoch with his supermarket tabloid mentality likes it.

So don’t be mislead. When something seems to be really off the rails, it usually is and there’s usually a good reason for it. In this case there’s a really good, really bad reason for Glenn Beck’s still being on the air. The arrogant, despotic attitude of a dispassionate, billionaire media mogul named Rupert Murdoch.

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