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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/31/10

Why US Media Is Soft on Wall Street

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Message Danny Schechter
From Consortium News

But forgive me for believing that those who serve interests have more clout than those that just speak out on issues. There are hidden relationships that sometimes predetermine what stories get media attention and which do not.

I have a current film out, "Plunder the Crime of our Time," taking on big media companies to task for what passes as coverage of the financial crisis. I have been asking why they weren't paying attention, didn't warn us about it, or investigate too deeply into how it happened.

When I discovered that dodgy lenders and credit-card companies pumped more than $3 billion into media advertising, which inflated the housing bubble between 2002 and 2007, I thought I had my answer.

Based on my own experience inside news networks, I could see that networks investigating their own advertisers in a tough economic climate was not exactly high on their agenda. It happens, but rarely.

Yet, even I, as savvy as I thought I was, missed an important link which was hidden in plain sight: Who owns the very media institutions I was railing against?

Guess what: many owners are the very financial institutions that should have been exposed. Media is a business tied into other businesses and driven by interlocking directorates by a not-so-invisible umbilical chord.

It took a colleague, Barry James Dyke, author of The Pirates of Manhattan, [click here for his video collection of the plundering] to give me a little guided online tour into this reality via Yahoo's finance page. It's easy to access but usually only used by investors, not investigative journalists like me.

I am not a stranger to corporate media ownership issues. Our Media channel even did a chart, some years back, showing how a handful of media giants owned most of the channels on broadcast and cable outlets.

What we didn't do, then, is what Barry Dyke was showing me how to discover: who owns those same companies.

It's all there, clearly available in easy to read charts to help you see how their stock is performing. On the left side of the chart, there is a section to click on, entitled "ownership."

In the flash of a click, a display of ownership appears of the company I used to work for: ABC News. This information is mandated by laws designed to insure accountability and protect investors.

The first category is "Major Direct Holders." At the top of the list is a former ABC News executive, Robert A. Iger who owns 850,790 shares.

Under him are other biggies who were given or helped to buy stock, allegedly to incentivize them. These holdings complement and add to their already generous salaries.

In truth, it's all a form of looting of the shareholder value. Often these execs have more clout than the boards of directors they theoretically report to.

Sometimes, it only takes a small percentage of shares to wield control. Together these insiders, and what are called 5 percent owners, own 7 percent of Disney, but exert disproportionate influence.

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News Dissector Danny Schechter is blogger in chief at Mediachannel.Org He is the author of PLUNDER: Investigating Our Economic Calamity (Cosimo Books) available at Amazon.com. See Newsdisssector.org/store.htm.
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