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Britain Faces U.S. Media Invasion

By Anita Roddick, MediaChannel.org. Posted October 5, 2003.

With Viacom gearing up to enter the market, British television may soon fall prey to the same corporate agenda stifling dissent in the U.S. media.


There is a new threat confronting Britain but there have been no dossiers, dodgy or not, issued to warn us. It is not an armed threat. It is not about terrorists. It has nothing to do with the imminent launch of missiles by an "evil doer" in the Middle East.

To see this threat, we have to look in the other direction right across the Atlantic. No, not at Washington, but rather at the heart of New York's Times Square.

There, despite the bright lights, is an avaricious darkness we may soon come to experience. It calls itself Viacom, one of America's most powerful media mega-corporations, the people behind Paramount Pictures, MTV and CBS, among many other blue-chip properties. It is one of the most powerful enterprises of its kind, even wealthier than Rupert Murdoch News Corp.

During his recent tour of Britain, Mel Karmazin, the former radio ad salesman who runs Viacom, told the Royal Television Society that he and another U.S. media tycoon are interested in buying up ITN and ITV's controlling companies, Granada and Carlton. This opens the door to more U.S. corporate penetration of British broadcasting by a company that specializes in dumbing down TV programming. Karmazin is considered a businessman, not a Murdoch-like megalith, but his recent forays into the public limelight are hardly apolitical.

His news network, CBS, was rated the most pro-war network by a Washington-based conservative media watchdog group. They praised it for being even more conservative than Murdoch's Fox. His movie channel, Showtime, commissioned and aired a primetime pro-Bush docudrama called "DC 9-11" that fawns over the American president, portraying him as the hero of September 11. Critics have lambasted it as "over the top propaganda" and a "feature-length Bush re-election ad."

Karmazin is not exactly known to run a socially responsible business either. Last month, he was one of only two board votes to stop the ousting of the Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Grasso. Grasso sparked an uproar when it was revealed that he had wrangled the very companies he was appointed to regulate to give him a pay package valued at nearly $140 million dollars. Mel's man Grasso was given a $5 million dollars bonus for rushing the exchange back on line after 9/11. Recall that it immediately went into a dive after he rang the morning bell.

Women in our country will want to know that Karmazin is considered the patron of radio "shock jock" Howard Stern, known for his conservative views and crude sexist behavior. Stern is an American icon of macho insensitivity. Karmazin has also led the U.S. media industry in forcing through new broadcast regulations that give big companies the right to get bigger. He personally lobbied the U.S. regulators at the Federal Communications Commission to assure more power to companies that are already too powerful.


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