According to a Reuters report today Ted Turner says too few people own too many media organisations, in a speech in which he reserved particular opprobrium for rival media baron Rupert Murdoch.
“He`s a warmonger,” Turner said in a Thursday evening speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco of Murdoch, accusing his rival of promoting the Iraq war.
Murdoch’s Fox News Channel has been the most popular U.S. cable news network during the recent conflict, eclipsing AOL Time Warner`s CNN, which Turner started more than two decades ago.
Asked by an audience member for his thoughts on Fox`s larger ratings share than CNN`s, Turner said, “Just because your ratings are bigger doesn`t mean you`re better. It`s not how big you are, it`s how good you are that really counts,” he said, evoking hoots from the audience.
Turner, who has pledged to give $1 billion (650 million pounds) to the United Nations and is an outspoken advocate of population control, criticised the concentration of ownership of the US media in a few corporations.
“The media is too concentrated, too few people own too much,” he said. “There`s really five companies that control 90 percent of what we read, see and hear. It`s not healthy.”
All of which sounds very comendable but it also serves Turner’s own interests too. For a start it boosts his own credibility at a time when growing numbers of people are becoming increasingly cynical about the mainstream media. By echoing such sentiment Turner has caught the attention of an audience who are more likely to question the media, and thus effectively neutralises any criticism they might have of Turner himself and his media.
However Turner is not alone in doing this. Earlier the same day, BBC Director General Greg Dyke had expressed similar sentiments during a speech at a University of London conference. According to Dyke U.S. broadcasters` coverage of the Iraq war was so unquestioningly patriotic and so lacking in impartiality that it threatened the credibility of America’s electronic media.
“Personally, I was shocked while in the United States by how unquestioning the broadcast news media was during this war,” he said. “If Iraq proved anything, it was that the BBC cannot afford to mix patriotism and journalism.”
Like Turner, Dyke criticised US media giants and like Turner he singled out Fox News, the most popular U.S. cable news network during the conflict, for its “gung-ho patriotism.”
Again, the end result is the same: a subtle boost for the BBC’s standing as a broadcaster of integrity. Because by criticizing US media he was simultaneously enhancing the BBC’s own credibility. Like Turner he was echoing what many people are beginning to think: and by so doing he was underlining the BBC’s reputation for impartiality whilst ignoring the fact that for the last ten years the BBC has barely acknowledged the mounting death toll among Iraqi children, due to sanctions and the effects of Depleted Uranium.
This is “spin” in its most poisonous form. Ignoring and helping to conceal real crimes committed by Britain and America while warning against the dangers of swapping, as Dyke put it: “impartiality for patriotism.”
“In times of war”, Dyke said, “British governments of every persuasion have sought to use the media to manage public opinion … it`s only a problem if the BBC caves in.” The implication being that the BBC has not caved in: or so Dyke would have us believe.
To the uninitiated this may sound convincing enough but it ignores facts that speak otherwise: such as the deaths of over half a million Iraqi children that the BBC has studiously ignored for over a decade. Nonetheless it is no surprise coming from Dyke, who is not only head of the BBC but a skilled and consummate liar too. As the media analyst David Miller has pointed out, a study of the reporting of the war in five countries shows that the BBC allowed the least anti-war dissent of them all. Its 2 per cent dissenting views was lower even than the 7 per cent on the American channel ABC.
Indeed it was probably this skilled duplicity that earned Dyke the position as head of BBC in the first place. A regular guest at dinners given by the Rothschild banking dynasty and a close associate of Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson, by criticising the US media he has skillfully diverted attention from the BBC’s own coverage of the recent Gulf War. And in exactly the same way as Ted Turner he has effectively helped defuse any charges of media bias.
The lesson to be learned from all this is quite simple: by criticising counterparts and treating them as adversaries, whether corporate or national or political, the elite’s own men deflect scrutiny from themselves. The same thing happens in the British parliament and the US Senate and Congress: different parties criticise each other but apart from this apparent disagreement they essentially follow the same path and thus maintain the illusion of political freedom. In the media circus this becomes even more potent if the authorities criticise the media which then endows them with further credibility: as when the BBC was recently criticised by the British government for being “soft” on Saddam Hussein.