Big Media...Just how Big and Influential is HBO?
I have chosen to do this assignment taking into consideration the television
show "The Sopranos". The Sopranos has been called a revolutionary show for
TV drama, not to mention a ratings boon for HBO. This nighttime drama is an
original series by HBO, which turns out to be a division of AOL Time Warner
Entertainment Company. This paper takes a brief look into the how big the
media company AOL Time Warner - who owns HBO - really is and raises the
question of the level of influence that AOL Time Warner and its companies
really have upon its viewers with regard to political decisions.
AOL Time Warner is listed as the number one leading media company
according to revenue for the year 2001 according to AdAge.com
The headquarters of this company are based in New York and the revenue it
receives comes from various forms of media including interactive services,
cable systems, filmed entertainment, television networks, music and publishing.
The companies that it owns under its media and communication group are:
America Online, AOL Time Warner Book Group, AOL Time Warner
Interactive Video, Time Inc., and Time Warner Cable. The companies that it
owns under its entertainment and networks group are: Home Box Office
(HBO), New Line Cinema, Turner Broadcasting System, Warner Bros., and
Warner Music Group. Each one of these companies in turn has numerous
divisions of their own, which makes this a very powerful company to say the
least. The international scope of Home Box Office alone reaches 16 million
subscribers in more than 50 countries in Latin America, Asia and Central
Europe. In the United States, Home Box Office reaches over 38 million
subscribers. Its joint ventures in other countries include HBO Asia, HBO
Brazil, HBO Czech, HBO Hungary, HBO India, HBO Korea, HBO Ole,
HBO Poland, HBO Romania, A&E Mundo, E! Latin America, SET Latin
America, WBTV Latin America, and Latin America History Channel. The
potential impact of the relationship between AOL Time Warner and its
viewers in the United States as well as other countries around the world, is that
this company has the power to directly influence consumers in their political
The merger in itself of AOL and Time Warner has caused concerns in
Europe about the affect on businesses such as the inability to compete. What's
more, the merger brings with it Time Warner's wide variety of content: movies
from Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema; cable television channels, such as
CNN, HBO and the Cartoon Network; and music labels, such as Elektra, Sire
and Atlantic. ''The concern that the commission has expressed is if they
dominate the market, they're not subject to competition, and consumers don't
have choice then,'' said Alec Burnside, a Brussels-based lawyer specializing in
antitrust cases (Klein). If viewers are left with no choices, then everything that
they are viewing from commercials, political ad campaigns, and programming,
is at the discretion of one very large and powerful company.
AOL Time Warner has the power to directly influence consumers
regarding their political decisions. These large media companies, with a
"monopoly control over the only means of reaching the American people are
therefore in a position to persuade Americans that they have been given all the
essential facts upon which to make their judgments and political decisions.
Other views, they tell us, are only minority views, less important, extremist, or
unpatriotic" (Corporate Mass Media). If we are not given all of the information
in a strictly unbiased way, then we are essentially being manipulated and told
whom to vote for. "The new media are changing the ways we do business,
work, learn, play, and even think" (Tapscott, p. 4). With regard to the way we
think and feel about things that are political in nature, this can be done in a
variety of ways such as with the omission of information that pertains to
candidates, the control of airtime and who appears on it, and the way that news
reporters portray candidates. A negative or positive portrayal of candidates
can be very subliminal - people can react to the tone of voice of a reporter that
is reporting on a political event as well as the body language of the person
reporting on a story. This equates to a powerful media - even more powerful
Recently, a CNN crossfire debate brought to light how much power the
media really has with regard to government issues such as war. In mentioning a
recently published book by reporter Bob Woodward, CNN crossfire reporter
Carlson brings up the fact that:
"Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News Channel, tried to influence Oval Office decisions in the days following September 11. The question at hand was when and how to retaliate for the terrorist attacks? Woodward reports that Ailes sent this profoundly back-channel message to the White House. [According to the book], "The American public would tolerate waiting, and would be patient, but only as long as they were convinced that Bush was using the harshest measures possible. The support would dissipate if the public did not see Bush acting harshly" (Fox Chief Too Cozy With White House?).
This brings up serious questions as too how much control the media really
has with regard to government issues. Certainly, if the media can use polls of
the general public to influence major decisions such as the timing of an attack of
war, we have to ask ourselves - who is REALLY running the country and what
does the future hold? "In a CNN discussion on the future of the media, a few
days before the AOL Time Warner merger, he (Gerald Levin, chief executive,
AOL Time Warner) predicted global media would become the dominant
industry of the 21st century so powerful that they might in fact become more
powerful than governments" (Williams).
It is important that we ask ourselves what type of impact this networking of
businesses - in the form of media conglomeration - has on our political decision
making. Because of the extent of power one media conglomerate has over
content - are the stories fair and accurate, giving all political parties a chance to
speak for themselves, or are they laced with bias on a deep, subliminal level?
The power of the media speaks for itself - it is clearly evident that decisions
have been made by senior officials in government based upon information that
has been provided by media companies already.
Maybe it is not Big Brother that we need to be watchful of - perhaps it is the
companies such as AOL Time Warner that we need to worry about.
Corporate Mass Media. Womens Institute for Freedom of the Press.
June 3, 2003. <http://www.wifp.org/MassMedia.html>.
Fox Chief Too Cozy With White House?. CNN.com. Nov. 19, 2002.
June 18, 2003.<http://www5.cnn.com/2002/ALLPOLITICS
Klein, Alec. Europe Fears Domination by AOL Time Warner.
Washington Post Service. Sept. 9, 2000. June 18, 2003.
Tapscott, Don. "The Digital Economy". Pub McGraw-Hill. 1995
Williams, Granville. Global Media Giants. June 4, 2003.