Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The most powerful person in the media...

On August 7, Digital Media Wire posted a survey, which asks: "Who is the most powerful player right now in media, entertainment and technology?"

The choices are: Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Satoru Iwata, Rupert Murdoch, Google's Larry Page and Sergey Brin, or write-in.
Considering the choices one by one (in my opinion)....

Saying Jeff Bezos is powerful is like saying Meg Whitman is powerful. Both of them preside over important Internet properties (Amazon and eBay respectively) that created powerful new business models (and got rich from them). But that doesn't make them the most powerful players in the media.

Same for Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Google may have unleashed an incredible search-driven advertising machine that's the raison d'etre for all of the company's other businesses (YouTube included) but again, that doesn't make them the most important player in the media.

As for Satoru Iwata, same. Nintendo changed the face of gaming, but not the face of the media.

That leaves Murdoch and Jobs.

The forces that Rupert Murdoch channels through News Corporation's Fox television properties are the personification of political power. But the media has always been seen as a creative force and so much of politics, particularly today, is destructive. So yes, Murdoch may be a very powerful guy, but I wouldn't call him the most powerful in the media.

Even though Disney begat Snow White, I'll always remember people saying "the Mouse has fangs." But that was Michael Eisner's Disney, not Steve Jobs' Disney (Jobs is the biggest stockholder of The Walt Disney Company, which owns Disney pictures, theme parks, the ABC TV network, ESPN and much more). You don't hear much about Apple being evil. Just that it's a closed society. If I ran Apple, which holds some of the world's most coveted intellectual property, I'd run a tight ship too.

Apple has changed the music business by partnering with it. About twenty six years ago, Apple and Visicalc changed business computing. In 1983, Apple commercialized the graphical user interface with the Lisa. In 1985, in partnership with Aldus and Adobe, Apple changed the publishing business. Later, with Adobe and other software partners, it changed movie production. It owns the media player category. It is king of human factors engineering. Between Apple, Disney and Pixar, Mr Jobs is as much a contender as Murdoch. All three companies are icons of creativity.

Given Jobs' hand in traditional media, new media and the tools of creativity, I'd give him the prize.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

FCC releases a library of Media Ownership studies

On July 31, the FCC released ten research studies on media ownership. The agency is in the process of reviewing media ownership policies.

Comments may be posted to MB Docket 06-121. The FCC closes this commentary period on October 1st. The commentary filing process is on the FCC's Web site

As obscure as this may seem, a healthy and diverse media is central to the health of American democracy, which depends upon a well-informed citizenry. Columbia Journalism Review maintains a Web site listing the holdings of the major American media companies.

When an overwhelming majority of the media in America is owned by just a handful of companies - and therefore, is captained by just a handful of powerful executives - there should be cause for concern. The largest are The Walt Disney Company, General Electric, News Corporation, Time Warner, Viacom and Sony. Click the company names to view a listing of each company's holdings.


On June 2, 2003, the Federal Communications Commission relaxed the rules that regulate media ownership in the United States, as follows:

  • National TV Ownership: A single TV broadcast group would be able to reach up to 45% of the national audience, up from 35%; a limit that had been in place since 1941

  • Cross-media Limits: A single media company could own print (newspaper) and broadcast outlets (radio and TV) in the same market; even if the market has 3 or fewer TV stations (by obtaining an FCC waiver)

  • Local Radio Ownership: Depending upon market size, the same media company can own up to eight radio stations in a single market

  • Local TV Multiple Ownership: A single company can own two stations in a market with five stations.

  • Dual Network Ownership: There can be no mergers among the top four national broadcast networks (unchanged from previous rules).

In November, 2003, the White House and US Senate leaders compromised on a TV ownership cap of 39 percent. Two major media companies were already near that level prior to the FCC ruling.

In June, 2004, the US Court of Appeals (Third Circuit) ruled to continue blocking the 2003 ownership changes from taking effect, saying that the FCC had not sufficiently justified its revised numerical limits.