HIGHTOWER: Media "Synergy"

With all the recent mega-mergers, America's media industry is fast becoming what longtime, watchdog Ben Bagdikian has called a "Private Ministry of Information and Culture. "Instead of Big Brother controlling what we see, hear, and read, Big Business is taking charge. Take television: NBC is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Electric, Turner Broadcasting has been swallowed by Time-Warner, CBS is under the thumb of Westinghouse and ABC is just another product of Disney Inc.So what, they respond -- with cable-TV there's plenty of room for diversity. Check again Little Nellie Sunshine. The Big Four Media Conglomerates also own such cable powerhouses as CNN, CNN Financial Network, Headline News, TBS, CNBC, MS/NBC, Court TV, the History Channel, A&E, Lifetime Network, The Nashville Network, HBO, ESPN, Cinemax, E!, American Movie Classics and even the Comedy Channel, among others.Far from presenting a diversity of viewpoints, digging into meaty stories or offering any useful discussion about issues that really matter to us, these new corporate-media amalgamations are into what they call "synergy." That's a 50-cent word that the dictionary defines as "combined action." You would define it as: Shameless self-promotion.Instead of news, for example, the Private Ministry of Information is giving us such fluff as a report by Disney-owned ABC's Good Morning America on Disney World's 25th anniversary hoopla. That's right -- Disney "reporting" on Disney. It included ABC's science editor doing a feature on a new ride at Disney World.Don't expect ABC's Peter Jennings to report on such outrages as Disney's exploitation of child labor in Haiti, it's more likely that Peter Jennings will be replaced by Mickey Mouse.

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