Iger Says He’s in Favor of Relaxing Media Concentration Rules

Apr 8, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Walt Disney Co. President-CEO Bob Iger said he disagrees with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, who has positioned himself as opposed to relaxing rules on media concentration.
Sen. Obama and fellow presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton are among sponsors of a bill opposing efforts by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin to loosen ownership restrictions.
Mr. Iger said the old rules to prohibit cross-ownership of TV stations and newspapers in the same market don’t apply to today’s media landscape, where technology makes many platforms available to a more diverse range of voices than in previous eras.
“It’s old-world politics being applied to new-world media,” he declared Tuesday in New York City.
His remarks were made during a wide-ranging and fast-moving “conversation” conducted by New Yorker writer Ken Auletta at a well-attended breakfast at the Newhouse School in New York, part of its series of early-morning conversations with leaders in American media.
On other subjects, Mr. Iger said:
–Disney so far has not been significantly affected by the slowing economy. Advertising accounts for about 20% of the corporation’s revenues—a “somewhat modest” amount for the business sector, he said. He also said that as of the earnings information released in February, Disney theme parks had not been affected by tourist travel cutbacks caused by the rising price of gas.
–He believes network news divisions are “more in control of their destinies than they think they are.” He said the broadcast news operations’ ability to “roll with the punches” as they aim to deliver well-priced and well-timed news and information may be the single greatest factor determining their viability.
Asked for a reaction to a story in Tuesday’s New York Times suggesting CBS News has explored outsourcing some of its reporting to CNN, Mr. Iger first said he didn’t know if the story was true. CBS News had denied any such talks, saying there had been some discussions about sharing off-air resources in Baghdad, but those talks had run into a roadblock.
Mr. Iger wondered aloud whether, if there was any truth to the story, it would signal a “bold move” or a “retreat” by CBS News.
He noted that ABC News in the past had discussed working with CNN, but what got in the way was that “we were not interested in farming out [news responsibilities]. We were interested in a true partnership.”
The Disney leader said the exploration of a relationship with CNN was designed to “take ABC News into the future, not to get out of it. We were not interested in anything like that.”
While he conceded that owning a 24-hour cable news channel, something ABC almost did in the 1990s, would make it easier to promote ABC News, “That doesn’t mean we should go into that space.” He said there are news/information Web sites with no old-media involvement that “do just fine.”
–The ABC network is more of a studio than a distribution platform or a brand, and Disney and ESPN are the real brands in the corporate empire.
–There are going to be “a lot of mistakes made” as companies try to make digital technologies and products pay off. The key will be learning from mistakes, such as the attempt to sell a Disney phone with built-in GPS capacity. “We were completely wrong” on a number of counts, including pricing, understanding that there are limitations to GPS safety applications and the lack of retail sales interaction with consumers, Mr. Iger said.
“We’re not going to repeat the mistakes,” he declared said.
While digital applications, particularly for local TV stations, still are not driving the business, he seemed confident that “we’ll figure it out.”
–Disney, which led the way on making TV content downloadable via the iTunes network, is taking a wait-and-see approach to such digital business ventures as Hulu.com, the NBC Universal-News Corp. partnership for online program distribution.
As for iTunes’ universal pricing practices, which NBC cited as one reason for ending its relationship with Apple’s iTunes, Mr. Iger said: “Keeping it simple for the consumer is unbelievably valuable.”


  1. Broadcasters already enjoy a right given to them by the American people in the form of a license. This term American people is thrown around alot but it’s for all of us White, Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, Straight, Gay, Jews and Gentlies etc… We must ask ourselves is it in the PEOPLE’s best interest to extend broadcasters further control as gate keepers of media or is diversity of opportunity (ownership) what makes this nation great. Independent media outlets are like checks and balances. It’s like David and Goliath. Some small family owned newspaper has a young reporter overlooked by the big guy’s breaks the story with national implications…do we want to loose that?

  2. this is the same hat trick that they have been moving toward forever. “oh in this day and age there is new media, blah blah”
    at the same time, they are furiously trying to consolidate with the telecoms and utterly destroy the internet.
    “oh all this video will crash the net!” they say, yet not one of them stops the autoplaying of all of those video ads which play on most sites now
    “oh you can have your own news site in your house!” they say
    meanwhile, they are ALL trying to kill net neutrality so they can close the internet and make it like the vast wasteland of cable television.
    i agree with the poster above. we the american people own those airwaves. we will decide whats done with them.

  3. The single ownership of multiple broadcast licenses in a single market has ruined radio.
    How can it be good for LA to have news’ers KNX and KFWB owned by CBS? Clear Channel and it’s consortium, the CBS Group and others have taken radio to a new controled low.
    I know there are individuals bound to do their very best at what they do within these organizations, but now we have what were once competitive call letters just down the hall from each other cavorting at the same water coolers. More than that, they wind up as crew members on single vessel with a single corporate mindset at the helm.
    The same is/would be true for television licensees.
    There was a very good reason for controlling the issuance of broadcast licenses to a variety of influences within a given community.
    Our democracy needs a return to broadcast licenses serving the public interest, necessity and concern.
    It’s more vital than any of us realize. No to corporate consumption is among many decisions we must make. We are late in doing it, but do it we must.
    Peter Bright

  4. Power in the hands of the few is almost always a really bad idea. How many times does history have to repeat itself before we learn this lesson? I we truly believe that one of the things that makes this country great is it’s diversity, how can cross ownership which is the opposite of this concept make things better? Can “free press” really exist as part of a corporate structure?

  5. New York Jets is a good team,I like it.

  6. Kudos to you! This is a really good blog here and I love your style of writing. How did you get so good at blogging?

  7. Way to focus and straight to your point, i love it. Keep up the work people. Dont let anyone stop us bloggers.

  8. High quality info here! Keep up the great work. I love the feelings being expressed.

  9. I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one these days.. 🙂

  10. Amazing freakin blog here. I almost cried while reading it!

  11. Neat blog layout! Very easy on the eyes.. i like the colors you picked out

  12. I am not actually certain if best methods have emerged roughly stuff similar to that, except I am certain that your huge work is clearly discovered. I was questioning if you offer any subscription near your RSS feeds as I would be very concerned.

Your Comment

Email (will not be published)