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The Politics of the NAB

Most Americans have little awareness of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), but its influence on their lives is enormous.

The NAB is a lobbying group for the biggest players in the broadcast media — but its actual membership is secret; and no broadcaster ever mentions its participation in this intensely political organization.

Not surprisingly, this gives rise to an extraordinarily dangerous and destructive conflict of interests: NAB members profit immensely from the failure to publicly finance elections, and so they rabidly oppose this most urgently needed of all American reforms.

For this reason, we believe NAB members should either be required to stop all lobbying, or else be stripped of their broadcasting licenses.

Is the NAB fundamentally anti-democratic?


Mass media consumer

The Mass Media and Politics: an Analysis of Influence

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"

—The Wizard
   The Wizard of Oz

"Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one."

—A.J. Liebling

". . . to take apart the system of illusions and deception which functions to prevent understanding of contemporary reality [is] not a task that requires extraordinary skill or understanding. It requires the kind of normal skepticism and willingness to apply one's analytical skills that almost all people have and that they can exercise."

—Noam Chomsky
   The Chomsky Reader

All of the American broadcast media, and most of the print media as well, are owned primarily by wealthy individuals. Direct ties to the biggest of big businesses are almost unbelievably extensive (see our analysis below), and, we believe, these ties cannot help but seriously bias and compromise news coverage. Moreover, the media empires are, first and foremost, profit-making corporations that conduct themselves like other corporations when it comes to corrupting American politics. That is, the parent corporations of many make so-called "campaign contributions" and also act against the public interest in other ways. As big winners in the corruption game, they show no signs of serious interest in political reform. (As large corporations themselves, the mass media want the same preferential treatment, and have the same desire to grow without bounds, as all other corporations.)

Allegations of political bias in the media are common, although there is considerable controversy concerning the nature of this bias: neither liberals or conservatives are pleased. Conservatives often allege that the media exhibit a liberal bias. On the other hand, liberals allege that the media exhibit a pro-corporate, plutocratic bias. However, we believe both charges rely on a faulty and simplistic analysis of the American political and economic spectrum (for a better understanding of that spectrum, see the linked diagrams, politics and economics). The truth is that the apparent liberalism of some of the mass media is primarily cultural, and rarely economic. In effect, and like most other American institutions, the mass media advance the economic interests of the wealthy few at the cost of the interests, and values, of the majority; and the self-indulgent, empire-building interests of the wealthy few are not those of either liberals or cultural conservatives.

At the heart of media pseudoliberalism is a shallow but highly serviceable relativistic ethic. We say "serviceable" because the fundamental corporate ethical premise, "if it's profitable it's good," is fully compatible. This form of "liberalism" nicely advances the corporate profit agenda. No matter how low the least common denominator, executives need feel no moral qualms. The media is being entirely consistent when it also manifests pro-corporate, economic "conservatism."

Against this, some have objected that the media often attack corporations. It's true, certainly, that this or that individual corporation may be subjected to media criticism, sometimes even harsh criticism—but it strikes us as significant that the sort of stringent and fundamental reforms needed to bring about real change are virtually never mentioned, let alone advocated. For example, how often are severe penalties for white collar crime advocated? How often is the revocation of corporate charters mentioned?  And public financing of elections, arguably the single most urgently needed reform in America today, has made far less headway than it should despite overwhelming public support, largely because the mass media profit enormously from paid political advertisements.

Unfortunately, even public radio and television, which is supposed to provide programming in the public interest, is currently headed by former Voice of America executives. (Voice of America is the official American propaganda network of radio stations overseas, a relic from the Cold War.) Moreover, an ever accelerating commercialism has been evident in public radio and television for some time. While its news coverage is generally far less misleading than that of the corporate media, when NPR is used as a conduit to bring Americans the message that "globalization is inevitable", any pretense that it truly provides journalism in the public interest stands revealed as a sham.

However, none of this reveals the politics of the owners of the mass media as clearly as the topics which it regards as utterly taboo. Heading this up is the political activity of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), a lobby for corporate media. But almost equally as taboo are the other power structures of corporatists. So, while we hear often of, for example, the NRA, we hear virtually nothing of the Business Roundtable, even though this organization is almost solely responsible for the offshoring of American jobs, the runaway inflation of CEO salaries, and the destruction of American unions. (Nearly all of the boards of the biggest corporate broadcasters are intimately entwined with the BR.) The political agendas of the US Chamber of Commerce, the American Friends of Bilderberg, the Trilateral Commission, and Council on Foreign Relations also pass almost entirely without mention. Often cited by the media are corporate shills such as the spokespersons for the American Enterprise Institute, but their corporate funders are never revealed.

Equally taboo are critics of corporate capitalism. And, though they outperform corporations, and provide far better job stability and compensation to workers, Mondragon cooperatives go without mention in the corporate media.

The disgraceful involvement of US corporations in the corruption of the governments of other countries is systematically swept under the carpet. (See, for example, the involvement of United Fruit in Guatemala and Columbia.) And topics related to central banking are equally taboo: the true nature of the Federal Reserve is never discussed.

In addition to topics that are taboo are the many people who are taboo. Leading this list are representatives of unions, even though CEOs are often heard from. Americans have heard the opinions of Harvard drop-out Bill Gates concerning education, but the heads of the main teacher's organization are virtually unknown. Native Americans are almost entirely voiceless.

Where does this all-pervasive bias come from? The short answer is: the owners and heads of the corporate media, who clearly broadcast on behalf of their own economic interests.

The Mass Media and Corporate Interlocks

To illustrate how pervasive the corporate influence is throughout the major media, the table that follows identifies the interconnections between the six largest or most influential broadcasting companies and other major corporations.

In that table, corporations color coded in red are those that have connections with more than one broadcaster. Corporations coded in green also have connections to the top 28 most interconnected companies. (In addition, a few of the connections through social clubs for the wealthy and/or powerful are listed.) Thus, companies coded in red or green are in a position to exercise significant media influence; and companies coded both red and green, such as Chase Manhattan, are super offenders. We would also single out the former Citicorp (now merged with Travelers to form Citigroup) as a corporation deeply immeshed in secret FTAA negotiations, and which also has an exceptionally bad environmental record.

Unsurprisingly, and again consistent with a pro-corporate bias, all of the major broadcast and print media have been either directly involved in secret FTAA negotiations (which even Congress was kept ignorant of) or else had an interlocking directorate with a company that was, except for Viacom and Fox. As international trade and globalization are among the most important and newsworthy topics today, the failure to adequately inform the American people of their own role and interest in these matters is a severe rupture of journalistic integrity. Of course, corporations owning media corporations have no business whatsoever making "campaign contributions" (bribes) to presidential candidates.  (Note:  all analysis of bribes below refers to the first Bush campaign.)

News Corporation Owning Corporation Has Interlocking Board Members With:
NBC General Electric Co.(13th largest "donor" to the Bush campaign) Allied Signal Inc, American Stores Co, Anheuser-Busch Co Inc, Baxter International Inc, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co (fourth largest "donor" to the Bush campaign), Champion International Corp, Chase Manhattan Corp, Chubb Corp, Citicorp (as Citigroup seventh largest "contributor" to the Bush campaign), Exxon Corp (as Exxon Mobil the 11th largest "donor" to the Bush campaign), Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co, J. P. Morgan & Co Inc, Kellog Co, Kimberly-Clark Corp, Mellon Foundation, PepsiCo Inc (22nd largest "donor" to the Bush campaign), Philip Morris Inc (second largest "donor" to the Bush campaign), Quaker Oats Co, Stanley Works, Textron Inc, Washington Post Co. (And for the obvious connections with Microsoft—the third largest "donor" to the Bush campaign—see the MSNBC web site.)
Viacom Inc. Viacom Inc. AlliedSignal Inc, Avnet Inc, Bear Stearns Co Inc, Duke Power Co, Melville Corp, Nynex Corp, Orange & Rockland Utilities Inc
ABC The Walt Disney Co.(23rd largest "donor" to the Bush campaign) America West Airlines Inc, Bank America Corp, Federal Express Corp, Florida Progress Corp, Hilton Hotels Corp, K-Mart Corp, Mitchell Energy & Development, Northwest Airlines Corp, Pacific Enterprises Inc, Unum Corp, Xerox Corp
CNN AOL-Time Warner Inc.(8th largest "donor" to the Bush campaign) Allstate Corp, America West Airlines Inc, American Express Co, American International Group Inc, Aon Corp, Becton, Dickinson & Co, Chevron Corp (as Chevron Texaco the 19th largest "donor" to the Bush campaign), Citicorp (see above), Colgate-Palmolive Co, Cummins Engine Co Inc, Dell Computer Corp, Foundation Health Corp, Genentech Inc, Illinova Corp, Inland Steel Industries Inc, Kellogg Co, K-Mart Corp, Mobil Corp (see above), Olsten Corp, Philip Morris Inc (second largest "donor" to the Bush campaign), Sears Roebuck & Co, Springs Industries, Sunbeam Corp, Triarc Co Inc, Turner Broadcasting System Inc, WHX Corp
CBS Viacom (Was Westinghouse Electric Co.) Aetna Life and Casualty Co, Ashland Inc, BDM International Inc, Banc One Corp, Bell Atlantic Corp, Campbell Soup Co, Cardinal Health Inc, Chase Manhattan Corp, Columbia HCA Healthcare Corp, Dell Computer Corp, Dow Jones & Co Inc, Duracell International Inc, General Dynamics Corp, Gillette Co, Harcourt General Inc, Kaman Corp, MBIA Inc, Melville Corp, Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc, Prudential Insurance Co of America, Quaker Oats Co, Phone-Poulenc Rorer Inc, Rockwell International Corp, Sun Co Inc, Union Pacific Corp, Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Warnaco Group Inc, Warner-Lambert Co, Westinghouse Foundation
Fox The News Corporation, Ltd.(12th largest "donor" to the Bush campaign) Bankers Trust New York Corp, Bayou Steel Corporation, Global Asset Management USA Inc, Hudson General Corporation, MCI Communications, News America Holdings Inc, News American Publishing Inc, News International PLC, Sesac Inc, Times Newspapers Holding Ltd, 20th Century Fox


Print Media Connections

Newspaper Corporation Has Interlocking Board Members With:
Gannett Co. Inc. Airborne Freight Corp, American Express Co, Bancorp Hawaii Inc, Bank America Corp, Continental Airlines, E.I. du Pont De Nemours and Co, FPL Group Inc, Ford Motor Corp (29th largest "donor" to the first Bush campaign), Frontier Corp, Kellogg Co, Navistar International Corp, PHH Corp, Union Pacific Corp (2 directors)
Knight-Ridder Inc. ALCO Standard Corp, Champion International Corp, Chubb Corp, Delta Air Lines Inc, Digital Equipment Corp, Eli Lilly and Co, Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co, J.P. Morgan & Co Inc, Kimberly-Clark Corp, Phillips Petroleum Co, Raytheon Co (2 directors), State Street Boston Corp, Tandy Corp, Texas Instruments Inc
The New York Times Co. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co, Campbell Soup Co, International Business Machines Co, Lehman Brothers Holding Inc, PepsiCo Inc, Springs Industries Inc, Texaco Inc, US Industries Inc
Times Mirror Co. Amoco Corp, Black & Decker Corp, Boeing Co, Cox Communications Inc, Edison International (2directors), Marsh & McLennan Cos Inc, Nordstrom Inc, Procter & Gamble Co, Rockwell International Corp, Ryder Systems Inc, Sun America Inc, Talborts Inc, Travelers Group Inc
Washington Post Co. American Express Co, American Stores Co, Ashland Inc, Bank of New York Co. Inc, Berkshire Hathaway Inc, Coca-Cola Co, Conrail Inc, Darden Restaurants Inc, Geico Corp, General Electric Co, Gillette Co, H. J. Heinz Co, Home Depot Inc, J. P. Morgan & Co Inc, Lexmark International Group Inc, McDonald's Corp, Morgan Stanley Group Inc, National Services Industry Inc, Polaroid Corp, Rohm and Haas Co, Salomon Inc, Textron Inc, Union Pacific Corp, Wells Fargo & Co.

For a graphic representations of other linkages, see: here, here, and here



. . .And How Many of Those Connections Conduct Themselves

The 28 most-interconnected corporations (via interlocking directorates), with media affiliations and other influential affiliations or practices are noted below. For insight into the nature of the Business Roundtable, follow this link.

Company Number of interlocks Ties to Media? Other affiliations
Chase Manhattan Bank
45
Yes
Council on Foreign Relations, Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor, engaged in secret FTAA negotiations
Wells Fargo Bank
41
No
(Advertiser)
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor
American Express
40
Yes
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor, engaged in secret FTAA negotiations
Prudential Insurance
39
Yes
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor
Sara Lee Foods
39
No
(Advertiser)
Business Roundtable, Council on Foreign Relations, soft money/PAC contributor, engaged in secret FTAA negotiations
Minnesota Mining and Mfg.
37
No
(Advertiser)
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor, engaged in secret FTAA negotiations
General Motors
33
No
(Advertiser)
Business Roundtable, Bohemian Club, soft money/PAC contributor, engaged in secret FTAA negotiations, 30th largest "donor" to the Bush campaign
Kroger Stores
33
No
(Advertiser)
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor
Ashland Oil
32
Yes
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor
Bank of America
32
Yes
Business Roundtable, Bohemian Club, soft money/PAC contributor
CSX
32
No
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor, engaged in secret FTAA negotiations
Bell Atlantic
31
No
(Advertiser)
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor
Coca-Cola
31
Yes
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor, engaged in secret FTAA negotiations, 26th largest "donor" to the Bush campaign
Procter and Gamble
31
No
(Advertiser)
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor, engaged in secret FTAA negotiations, deceptive "front" organizations
Spring Industries
31
Yes
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor
AMR
30
No
(Advertiser)
 
Mobil Oil
30
Yes
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor, Council on Foreign Relations, deceptive "front" organizations
TRW
30
No
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor, engaged in secret FTAA negotiations
Xerox
30
Yes
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor, engaged in secret FTAA negotiations
Ameritech
29
No
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor
Bell South
29
No
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor
Union Pacific
29
No
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor
Westinghouse Electric
29
?
(Former owner of CBS)
 
Burlington Northern
28
No
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor
Cummins Engine
28
Yes
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor
Kellogg
28
Yes
Business Roundtable, soft money/PAC contributor
Kmart
28
Yes
(Restructured)
AOL-Time Warner
28
Yes
(media cartel)
Business Roundtable, Council on Foreign Relations, soft money/PAC contributor, involved in secret FTAA negotiations, eighth largest "donor" to the Bush campaign

Sources: Censored 1998: The News that Didn't Make the News, by Peter Phillips & Project Censored, The Center for Responsive Politics, stop-ftaa, www.ita.doc.gov/td/icp/isac.html, Who Rules America?by G. William Domhoff, When Corporations Rule the World, by David C. Korten.


In addition to the influence exercised by the corporations listed above, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) exercises tremendous political influence, and has virtually always acted against the best interests of consumers and American citizens in media-related issues. (For a brief account, see Ralph Nader's Cutting Corporate Welfare.)

For a glimpse into the media and Bohemian Grove, an all-male, private club for the immensely wealthy, with ties to prominent political figures, including every Republican president of the 20th century see this link.

For a summary of trenchant media critic Noam Chomsky's views (which we believe are supported in large measure by the analysis above) follow this link:

http://the-tech.mit.edu/V109/N25/media.25n.html

For Chomsky himself, see this link.

Those seeking criticism of Chomsky's views might read the reviews of his books at www.amazon.com to get the flavor of both critics and proponents.

And for other resources critical of the media see:

http://www.journalismnet.com/media/criticism.htm

Genuinely mainstream media may be found at this link.

If you don't have access to at least a few of these alternative sources of information, you literally don't—and can't—know what's going on in America today, nor can you hope to understand what the events of the day imply for the average person.




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A corrupted mass media is only one manifestation of plutocracy — or rule by the wealthy — a subject further discussed at this link.  The key organization of the plutocrats is discussed here.  And the broader context of US economics and politics is provided at the Progressive Living Field Guides to economics and politics.  Also see the Progressive Living Field Guide to the Best and Worst US Politicians.