channels and nothing on.” Though the dial appears to offer arnbewildering range of choices, actual control and direction isrnvested in very few hands.rnFinally (and the largest such marriage to date), Time-Warnerrnallied with Ted Turner’s media empire to create a powerhouserncontrolling magazines, books, records and compactrndiscs, sports franchises, film production, and a cable complexrnthat includes Turner Broadcasting, CNN, and a huge and profitablerncollection of classic movies. Leading shareholders in thernnew giant included Turner himself as well as the Seagram company,rndominated by the hugely wealthy Canadian Bronfmanrnfamily, and the TCI cable network. Together, the cable enterprisesrnof Time-Warner-Turner and TCI reach over a half ofrnAmerican households. Though Time-Warner, Disney, andrnWestinghouse represent the Goliaths of the American media,rnthere are several other major powers also susceptible to absorptionrninto still bigger agglomerations. These include News Corporation,rnTCI, Gannett, and Viacom, the last with holdings inrnParamount and the Blockbuster video store chain.rnStill other critical players are not yet fully identified in thern”media/entertainment” category, but their full participationrncannot be far away. The telephone companies are waiting inrnthe wings to play their full role in the exploitation of fiber opticrntechnology, and already TCI has attempted unsuccessfully tornarrange a merger with Bell Atlantic. Presumably, the only reasonrnwhy a giant like Microsoft has not yet ventured deeper intornentertainment is for fear of exciting still greater nightmaresrnabout its corporate hegemony, and possibly new antitrust suits.rnTo see the future, take a look at the interactive movies alreadyrnavailable on CD-ROM, and featuring major stars: now imaginernhow these might be transmitted in another decade, presumablyrnby means that altogether bypass traditional movie or televisionrntechnology. If computer and telecommunication companiesrndistribute these items, how long will it be before they also producernthem? In addition to entertainment, computer and telephonernconcerns will soon diversify into other fields closely relatedrnto their expertise, including financial services andrnbanking. The corporate world of the new century should see anrneven closer integration of the “three C’s”: cable, computers,rnand communications. Buried somewhere in there are the organsrnthat gather, interpret, and disseminate news.rnMedia empires have indeed increased dramatically in scalernand complexity, but this trend has been apparent in everyrnother sector of the economy, from food processing to thernmanufacture of aircraft or widgets. So does it matter? Thatrnthere is a fundamental difference here has long been recognizedrnby legislators, who know from bitter experience that controlrnof the media has political consequences: for most of thernpresent century, the first targets of coup plotters were usuallyrnradio stations and telephone exchanges. In terms of news andrnpolitical commentary, the new lords of the press wield a potentialrnpower that must exercise an enormous temptation, een ifrnthis has not to date directly attracted magnates like MichaelrnEisner or Gerald Levin. Even Ted Turner has been content torninfluence affairs beyond American shores, as suggested by hisrnbizarre claim that his CNN brought down the Bedin Wall, andrnthe far more substantial boast that his network was responsiblernfor deciding Western policy in Bosnia.rnTo see the full potential of the political press-lord, we wouldrnhave to look back in American history to the days of WilliamrnRandolph Hearst, Seldes’ “Public Enemy Number One,” orrnoverseas to the staggering power of Rupert Murdoch in the partyrnaffairs of Australia or Great Britain. In Itah’, television magnaternSilvio Berlusconi made himself Prime Minister of a nationrnutterly disaffected with the sterilit of party conflict, a precedentrnwhich must make us rejoice that our own Tribune of thernPeople, Ross Perot, made his fortune in computers rather thanrntelevision. To understand the mind of the media titan, wernmight consider Evelyn Waugh’s magnificent portrait of “LordrnCopper,” based on the Harmsworth family who were thernBritish equivalents of the American Hearsts. Though talentlessrnin his own right, the lordship demanded the fealty of any aspiringrnpolitician and brooked no contradiction: when agreeingrnwith him, one responded “Absolutely, Lord Copper,” whilernnegation had to be phrased “Up to a point. Lord Copper.” Thernword “no” was as impermissible as it presumabh- would be todayrnfor a Murdoch or a Beriusconi.rnNews media have always been commercially driven operationsrnthat seek to maximize profit, but the emerging complexesrnare new in their annihilation of the distinctions betweenrnnews and entertainment, and simultaneously between commercialrnand political interests. The news/entertainment nexusrnis a familiar complaint, but the exploitation of news media forrnother purposes is a phenomenon that still requires analysis.rnLast year, we witnessed the media fervor over the introductionrnof Microsoft’s software package Windows ‘9S, an outburst thatrncan best be understood in the context of the commercial interestsrnat work. Among the cheerleaders was Gannett’s USA Today,rnwhich coincidentallv is available on the “Microsoft Network,”rnas is NBC. As the Washington Post noted, the fawningrnattention paid by CNN and other Turner outlets may havernbeen tied to the fact that Turner was at that time courting Microsoft’srnBill Gates as a partner in a merger attempt. In Britain,rnGates bought up the day’s issue of the once-august Times andrndistributed it free, complete with Windows ’95 advertising materials.rnConcepts like journalistic independence acquire arnrather humorous tone in this environment.rnThe diversity of media conglomerates raises policy issuesrnthat are quite intractable for regulators, not least in detectingrnpotential conflicts of interest. When a television network is anrnintegral part of a corporate “family” (more or less in the Corleonernsense), there will be pressures, however subtle, to discouragernjournalists from pursuing given stories too aggressively,rnand the defense and nuclear interests of firms like Westinghousernand GE raise obvious problems in this regard. These internalrnconsiderations far exceed even the advertising concernsrnthat were so critical in Seldes’ day.rnOne of the nastier political scandals to erupt from the recentrnwaye of media mergers involved Rupert Murdoch’s desire to securernfavorable treatment from the Congress and administration,rna prospect that would be greatly enhanced by the favor ofrnHouse Speaker Newt Gingrich. Following meetings betweenrnthe two men, Gingrich received a very generous book contractrnfrom HarperCollins, a subsidiary of News Corporation, whichrnwas the instrument of Rupert Murdoch. While Gingrich strenuouslyrndenied wrongdoing, the deal showed the potential forrnsurreptitiously rewarding an ally with nothing as vulgar as a paperrnbag stuffed with used bills: But why should a hypotheticalrnfriend not be remunerated with special terms for his magazinernarticles or his memoirs, or even with favorable puffery neatlyrntimed to coincide with a difficult primary? Though this particularrncorporate affiliation is easy to trace, other links are often asrnlengthy and contorted as an Old Testament genealogy, wherern14/CHRONICLESrnrnrn