Media: Viacom: A Real Threat to ITV ; the Trivial Style of US TV Could Soon Be Coming to the UK. ANITA RODDICK Says We Should Protect Our Standards

By Roddick, Anita | The Independent (London, England), October 21, 2003 | Go to article overview
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Media: Viacom: A Real Threat to ITV ; the Trivial Style of US TV Could Soon Be Coming to the UK. ANITA RODDICK Says We Should Protect Our Standards


Roddick, Anita, The Independent (London, England)


There is a new threat confronting Britain, but there have been no dossiers, dodgy or not, issued to warn us. It is not an armed threat. It is not about terrorists. It has nothing to do with missiles launchable within 45 minutes by an evildoer in the Middle East. To appreciate the threat, we have to look in the other direction - across the Atlantic, to Times Square, in New York.

There, camouflaged by all the bright lights, is an avaricious darkness that we may soon come to experience. It is Viacom, one of America's most powerful media conglomerates. It is the company behind Paramount, MTV and CBS. It is wealthier even than Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

Mel Karmazin, the former radio ad salesman who runs Viacom, was recently in Britain, talking to the Royal Television Society at its conference in Cambridge. He indicated his interested in buying ITV, whose merger plans have just been waved through by the Government. Karmazin is considered a businessman, but his recent forays into the limelight are hardly apolitical.

His Viacom-owned network CBS was rated the most pro-war news network by a Washington-based conservative media watchdog. They praised it for being even more conservative than Murdoch's Fox News channel. His movie channel, Showtime, commissioned and aired a fawning, two-hour prime-time docudrama, DC 9-11, that portrayed President Bush as the hero of September 11. Critics have lambasted it as pure, over-the-top propaganda.

Karmazin is not exactly known as a model of socially responsible business, either. Recently, he was fiercely vocal in trying to stop the ousting of Richard Grasso, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. Grasso caused an uproar when he was found to have negotiated a pay package valued at nearly $140m. He was forced out. Karmazin is still on the board.

Women in the UK will want to know that Karmazin is widely recognised as the patron of the radio shock jock Howard Stern. Known for his sexist behaviour, Stern is proud of being an icon of macho insensitivity. Karmazin is proud that he syndicated him nationally and built him into a big name in the media.

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