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Copyright 2001 The Washington Post
The Washington Post

September 06, 2001, Thursday, Final Edition


LENGTH: 387 words

HEADLINE: An Offer You Can't Refuse

BYLINE: Art Buchwald


The media are getting closer to it all the time -- one voice for the entire country.

The latest is the Disney-Fox merger. Each merger by the big boys is shutting out the little independents, thanks to a benevolent government that doesn't see any antitrust problems. TV stations own cable television, cable television companies own radio stations, radio stations own magazines, and magazines own anything else that breathes and speaks. There are now only a few major voices in the United States. All this is spelled out for us by takeover spokesman Edgar Soprano, who says we're getting closer to a one-network country every day.

I asked if this was good or bad for the public.

He replied that it makes more sense for us to have everyone connected. People get confused if you give them too many choices.

"It's strange," I said, "but I thought competition was the most important thing in delivering news and entertainment."

"It is, up to a point. Don't forget, even with one voice you still have control of your remote."

"That doesn't change the ownership of the networks," I said. "If newspapers own the television stations in the same towns, you get only one editorial voice."

"But it comes through loud and clear. We have to dominate the marketplace. The independent outlets don't know quality communication when they see it."

"But you also put on a lot of junk. Shouldn't consumers have a choice of the junk they want to see?"

"We wouldn't deprive people of junk on TV. We would just make sure it's our junk."

I asked Edgar if the present administration is trying to limit competition.

He said: "We have a saying, 'If you can't fix it, merge it with something else.' I see the day when one giant monolith will be in charge of our news and entertainment. If anyone has any gripes, at least they will know where to go."

"With only one network, will you start laying off people?"

"Yes, but it will be for their own good. One voice has to mean fewer jobs, but that's the way the cookie crumbles."

"Then monopoly is a good thing for the media."

"It's the only thing. When the few holdouts for mergers give in, you are going to see how well it works. They have it in China and no one who owns a television set over there complains."

(c)2001, Tribune Media Services

LOAD-DATE: September 06, 2001

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