Chains of love: Murdoch and the FCC

Apr 30, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Why not just open the doors of the FCC, invite Rupert Murdoch and his army of lawyers in and let them rewrite all the rules they want? Or perhaps just have them come in and toss the rules into the garbage, especially the ones involving media cross-ownership and potentially limiting the megafortunes of gazillionaires.
When Rupert wants a waiver, Rupert gets a waiver. Rupert’s like Lola in “Damn Yankees”: Whatever Rupie wants, Rupie gets. Unfortunately, he wants everything.
Obviously he has a buddy in the new chairman of the FCC, Michael Powell, who is fast building a legacy as the industry’s dearest friend, the consumer’s worst enemy. His goal may be to wrest from Mark Fowler the dubious title “Worst FCC Chairman of All Time.” His motto must be that foul Fowler-esque credo, “The marketplace is always right.”
Smacking down Murdoch
At first blush-although nobody had the decency to do any blushing-it looked as though the FCC’s latest decision to remove yet another media ownership restriction was basically a big Christmas-in-April present to Viacom, since the decision opens the door for one corporate entity to own a big, major network and a small, “emerging” network, and Viacom wants to own big CBS and wee UPN.
The rationale appeared to be that it’s well worth trashing the rule to help ensure the survival of the Smackdown Network, just as back in earlier deregulatory days it was decided to relax the ownership rules to help prolong the life of the Fox Network. And thank heaven. How would we ever have made it into the 21st century without Fox and its glorious assortment of gourmet sleazes?
But now it looks as if Murdoch rather than Viacom will be the chief beneficiary of this latest lavish FCC largesse, since Murdoch reportedly has his sights set on acquiring all or part of UPN, his not being content with merely buying the Chris-Craft stations, which include many UPN affiliates-a deal almost closed.
Does anybody do more setting of sight than Murdoch? He sets and sets and sets. And the sun never seems to set on him. He has shown a fanatical and, I would say, diabolical zeal in his efforts to buy DirecTV, the satellite service-something I personally resent since I’m a satisfied DirecTV customer for the most part and shudder to think what Murdoch ownership might do to it. Surely he’ll find ways to cheapen it, abuse it and crummy it up in some manner.
Take away UPN, please
When the $70 billion DirecTV deal is done it will give Murdoch what Inside.com called “control over virtually the entire world’s satellite broadcasting.” Wait-am I the only one who finds that extremely scary, for Pete’s sake? Why isn’t somebody viewing it with alarm? Why isn’t somebody DOING something?
As for the implicit FCC contention that keeping UPN from going under is somehow good for competition and good for consumers and good for the USA, that has to be the biggest bag of bunk since somebody claimed to have possession of Adolf Hitler’s diary. The demise of UPN would be as much a blessing as a curse.
Have you tuned it in lately? “Smackdown!,” the vile and violent wrestling show, is of course UPN’s pride and joy, but its highest-profile show at the moment, even though its ratings started slumping as of the second episode, is “Chains of Love,” a “reality” show designed to degrade and debase anybody who comes within a hundred yards of it.
This is the teasey little titillater in which one person of one sex is chained for three or four days to four persons of the other sex so that cameras and microphones can record the low-minded high jinks that ensue.
Actually most of what’s been recorded so far is specious rabble babble: the pathetic “chain mates” indulging in punishing (to the viewer) analysis of one another’s behavior, with multiple observations along the lines of, “She wasn’t in a place where I was ready to go” and lots of talk about “connections”-the psychological and emotional rather than sexual kind.
They have also, all of them, embraced the “Me” culture with a vengeance. On the most recent edition, one of the male contestants lovingly stroked his abs in the gym that he visits seven days a week, while in voice-over he said bluntly and with no shame, “I always put myself first.” Ah yes-the gospel according to Hollywood.
It is true that on that particular episode-in which a young woman was chained to four men-there was a naughty moment during an interlude in a hot tub: One of the men said to the woman, “There’s bubbles comin’ out of your crotch.” But most of the jabbering is not racy but spacey. It’s Valleyspeak, and spreading it via “Chains of Love” contributes to what Mike Nichols once said he was protesting with his classic film “The Graduate”: namely, “the Los Angelization of the world.”
The new Maria Ouspenskaya
Yap yap yap, blabber blabber blabber. Oh they’re a chatty bunch, these “Love” chainees. The show is followed on Tuesday nights-UPN’s “Heart and Souls Tuesday” as a promo calls it-by “All Souls,” an artsy and gory and dismally unintelligible drama that aims to combine “ER” with “The X-Files.” It’s set in a hospital apparently run by Satan. Or one of his vice presidents.
Last week’s episode included a woman plunging to her death from a great height and crashing onto the roof of a car, then later showing up as a corpse in a tight bathing suit, hanging in a giant test tube with her spine and other organs exposed. A spooky woman who seems descended from the gypsy know-it-all that Maria Ouspenskaya used to play in the “Wolf Man” pictures hangs around the hospital muttering ominously that “the dead have power here.”
What she means is “Only the dead are watching this.” The show has ratings so low they barely register on Nielsen’s vital-signs machines. And yet the FCC thinks this bilge is worth special protection, corporate welfare and the bending or abolition of longstanding rules.
There’s not much point in protesting, is there? Rupert Murdoch’s going to own it all eventually. If slavery were still legal, he might even own Sumner Redstone, who otherwise appears devoted to owning everything Murdoch (or AOL Time Warner) doesn’t. Ah, the diversity of it all!
Murdoch also wants to be able to own New York TV station WWOR-TV and still keep ownership of the New York Post, by the way. It seems he needs the TV station’s profits to keep the money-losing Post alive.
Will he get his way on that one? Gosh. The suspense is killing me.