Whatever this controversy is about between Disney and Time Warner, it’s almost laughable to hear Disney call Time Warner a monopolist and in exchange on more than 3 million TV screens across the country we have seen the message Disney has taken ABC away from you. It’s a battle of an oligarch vs. a monopolist; in other words there are a few media conglomerates but they are being transmitted to us on local cable companies which have exclusive transmission rights in many cities. As one friend put it, whether elephants are fighting or making love, the grassroots still get trampled below. And today we are going to go to the grassroots. We’re going to start out with the battle between Disney/ABC and Time Warner. [includes rush transcript]
- Jim Naureckas of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). Call FAIR: 212-633-6700.
As we said earlier in the show, the chair of the Federal Communications Commission has scolded Time Warner and the Walt Disney Corporation for taking ABC off the air for three-and-a-half million customers, saying viewers shouldn’t be held hostage to their dispute. The warning came after the corporate warriors put off, but didn’t settle, their quarrel over what Disney would be paid to provide its cable channels to Time Warner customers.
We’re joined on the phone right now by Jim Naureckas of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. Jim, can you talk about the giants facing off?
Yeah, this really is a classic Goliath versus Goliath battle. People who were unable to watch Who Wants to be a Millionaire got a chance to see people playing “Who Wants to be a Billionaire” in real time. This is a situation where you have two of the largest and most powerful media companies in the world squaring off against each other and really facing each other down over the one thing that really matters to these companies, which is money, the question of, you know, who’s going to profit most from the media world, from the media situation.
Well, now there’s hundreds of millions of dollars in dispute right now and in the future, because a lot of this has to do with the future of interactive television, or, more accurately, interactive advertising, which is seen as sort of the next generation of media. And ABC is worried that Time Warner, which is trying to merge with AOL, is going to sort of keep that technology to itself and allow advertising on Time Warner-owned stations like CNN to have, you know, instant web access to the advertisers, while ABC’s stations — channels are going to be left in the technological dust. So they’re really squaring off over these things, which are very valuable issues, and are willing to let the viewer be kind of the victim of this squabble.
Well, Jim, I have to tell you that when I read some of the coverage [inaudible] and basically holding up the flag of the little guy fighting the big guy, I had to laugh.
But I do want to ask you about this whole issue of interactive television. As I understand it, what happened is supposedly Time Warner and Disney had a deal that they were close to making before Time Warner merged or announced its proposed merger with AOL, and suddenly, obviously, the interactive issue became a big one. So then Disney says to Time Warner, well, we want a guarantee that you would treat our station like you would treat your own stations on the cable network, basically guaranteeing them some kind of minimum access to interactive TV, and that that’s been the stumbling point. Is that accurate?
That is pretty accurate, as well as just the sheer cash value of this is also another sticking point. Both of these companies are saying a lot of really nasty things about each other, and they’re largely right in what they’re saying. Time Warner is a monopolist, and they are hoping to use their position as the people who own the wires to have a competitive advantage over every other media company, which is not a good thing. And Disney is being quite greedy, I think, in terms of the prices it’s demanding, prices that will be passed along to cable consumers. You will see a — Disney will succeed, I think, in getting some kind of cost hike out of this, and that will be passed along to Time Warner customers. So, you know, if you — if anyone is fooled into thinking that Disney is the underdog here, you know, they’re going to be paying a check to that underdog when these rate hikes go through.
Well, Jim Naureckas, I want to thank you for being with us, of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, based in New York. The website, www.fair.org. Well, whatever this controversy is between Disney and Time Warner, as you were saying, Juan, it’s almost laughable to hear Disney call Time Warner a monopolist and in return, on more than three million TV screens across the country, we’ve seen the message: “Disney has Taken ABC Away from You.” That’s what Time Warner wrote.
Well, it’s a battle of an oligarch versus a monopolist. In other words, the few media conglomerates are the oligarchs. They are being transmitted to us on local cable companies, which have these exclusive transmission rights in many cities. As one friend put it, whether elephants are fighting or making love, the grassroots still gets trampled below.