MEDIA MASH: Bono Rocks, Enron Headbanging and Sexy Underwear

Rock's Man of the Year

Yes, there is the temptation to look at Bono's face splashed across the cover of Time Magazine and think: "Egocentric rocker schmoozes with world leaders, enhances career." But there is no denying that Bono is an effective political operative. By taking the less than popular cause of debt relief and focusing his efforts on the neglected continent of Africa, he has certainly taken the road less traveled by other celebs -- who usually take on sexier or easier to understand causes. More importantly, he has moved forward the discussion on policy.

Bono's self-appointed task is to help the world -- and especially white America -- understand how the financial and physical health of Africa is intricately linked to the well-being of our country and the globe. To fulfill this challenging goal, Bono started DATA (Debt, Aid, Trade for Africa), a non-profit advocacy group which is slated to launch later this month.  Apart from debt relief, DATA's ambitious agenda includes short-term economic aid, lowered trade embargoes, and money to fight the AIDS crisis.

The Masher notes Bono's and U2's activism has not hurt their success. According to Pollstar magazine, U2's tour in 2001 brought in $110 million, making it one of the most profitable tours in rock history, second only to the Rolling Stones 1994 tour ($121.2 million). Concert-goers paid a lot more per ticket in 2001. Ticket prices went up more than $3 to an average of $43.86 a ducat -- no doubt, an effect of the increasing monopoly power of Clear Channel Communications and its entertainment subsidiary formerly known as SFX. Pop opera singer Andrea Bocelli charged the highest average ticket price at $161.45 in 2001, while the old heavy metal act Poison ranked the lowest with $16.32 per ticket.

FCC At It Again

A new FCC ruling is going to increase the stranglehold of big media companies, allowing them to expand their monopoly to include the Internet. A March 14 decision will allow network owners, cable and television companies to choose who can sell high-speed internet service to the public. Consumers will only get to select among the small number of ISPs (Internet Service Providers) chosen by the network owners. These network owners will also be able to tell the ISPs what they can, and more importantly cannot sell.

Center for Digital Democracy's executive director Jeff Chester says "Michael Powell's FCC has struck a deadly blow to the future health of the Internet and has given a great victory to the cable industry lobby. Cable will now be able to become an even more powerful media gatekeeper." Read more about this ruling on the CDD site.

Victoria's Reach

It's always been a joke that the Victoria's Secret catalogue has fewer women buyers than men, who are lured by the gaggle of large-breasted, supermodels flaunting sexy underwear. The catalogues offer a cheap, regular and reliable source of soft porn right in your mail box. The catalogue enjoys a circulation of 365 million -- an astounding number that hugely overshadows even the best-selling media outlets.

With 900 stores across the country, Victoria's Secret is big business indeed. Its parent company, Intimate Brands Inc., has sold more than 30 million of its so-called Miracle Bra, and is now heavily marketing the "more innovative" Click Miracle Bra, "which can be adjusted to provide more or less cleavage depending on a woman's mood." Yes, the commercial success of this type of hype sometimes makes it difficult to see the victories of the women's movement.

Enron Headbanging

The American Prospect is organizing a potentially wild debate, pitting the thoughtful left against the whacky right. The debate will be held at the National Press Club in Washington at 6:00 p.m. on March 20. The Topic: Is deregulation to blame for the Enron debacle?

Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and Bruce Bartlett, columnist and senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, will be arguing the conservative position. Robert Kuttner, founder and co-editor of the American Prospect, and Robert Borosage of Campaign for America's Future will represent the liberal view. Al Hunt of the Wall Street Journal will moderate the discussion, which will follow formal rules of debate.

Grover Norquist has been quoted as saying, "the lefties, the takers, the coercive utopians are not stupid. They are evil. Evil!" While Kuttner, who conceived this event, is more rational. He simply wants to throw down the gauntlet and show the world that liberal ideas and policies are more sound than those of conservatives. Check out the fireworks.

All Roads Lead to Austin...

The Hightower Rolling Thunder Down Home Democracy tour kicks off in Austin, Texas next Saturday (Mar. 23) with a gaggle of funky activities, including quilt making, clown training for kids, soap box with megaphone, poetry slam, Organic Valley Bus and magic food tent (probably not the magic food you are thinking of, however), beer concessions, and perhaps the world's first Kumbaya Tent.

Progressive heavies who will be preaching to the locals including Michael Moore, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Molly Ivins, Mike Dolan, Jay Walljasper, Ben Cohen, Tom Hayden, Jesse Jackson Jr., Steve Cobble, John Nichols, and Granny D. An array of talent including Marcia Ball, David Garza, The Therapy Sisters and headliner Michelle Shocked will be providing the entertainment. It's not too late to book a flight, or make the drive down to Austin, the "cool" part of Texas and sufficiently far away from Crawford.

Salon Still Ticking

The Masher periodically takes note of the success of Salon, the Energizer Bunny of web mags. Despite the number of dot-coms going bust around them, Salon continues to publish high quality journalism. On Mar. 11, CBS Market Watch reported that Adobe Systems, one of Salon's original funders way back in 1995 (yes, that is seven years ago), has pumped in a fresh $500,000 to help keep the doors open. While word is that Salon's paying freelancers a piddling amount compared to their heydays, their crack team of staff writers/editors is maintaining the quality of their content. Yet one wonders how many times CEO Michael O'Donnell has said -- as he did this week -- that "Salon can reach cash flow profitability in ... " 2000, 2001, 2002 ...

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