Empires of Entertainment: Media Industries and the Politics of Deregulation, 1980-1996

Empires of Entertainment: Media Industries and the Politics of Deregulation, 1980-1996

Empires of Entertainment: Media Industries and the Politics of Deregulation, 1980-1996

Empires of Entertainment: Media Industries and the Politics of Deregulation, 1980-1996

Synopsis

Empires of Entertainment integrates legal, regulatory, industrial, and political histories to chronicle the dramatic transformation within the media between 1980 and 1996. As film, broadcast, and cable grew from fundamentally separate industries to interconnected, synergistic components of global media conglomerates, the concepts of vertical and horizontal integration were redesigned. The parameters and boundaries of market concentration, consolidation, and government scrutiny began to shift as America's politics changed under the Reagan administration. Through the use of case studies that highlight key moments in this transformation, Jennifer Holt explores the politics of deregulation, the reinterpretation of antitrust law, and lasting modifications in the media landscape.

Holt skillfully expands the conventional models and boundaries of media history. A fundamental part of her argument is that these media industries have been intertwined for decades and, as such, cannot be considered separately. Instead, film, cable and broadcast must be understood in relation to one another, as critical components of a common history. Empires of Entertainment is a unique account of deregulation and its impact on political economy, industrial strategies, and media culture at the end of the twentieth century.

Excerpt

When discussing the perils of doing business in the modern media landscape, industry mogul Ted Turner once remarked, “You need to control everything. … The game’s over when they break you up. But in the meantime, you play to win. And you know you’ve won when the government stops you.” “Winning,” according to Turner’s vision, is achieving a significant measure of market control and exploiting that to strategic advantage before forcing the hand of government regulators and enacting the inevitable corporate restructuring. Judging by the current political economy of entertainment, the game for the modern media industries is far from over. Just six conglomerates now dominate the global media marketplace, sharing the common traits of convergence, consolidation, and a major international presence along with the apparent drive to “control everything,” and there are no signs that these companies will be reined in anytime soon.

During the 1980s, Turner was one of the first in the industry to bring film, broadcast, and cable properties together under common ownership. He engineered his success with risky, aggressive acquisitions of content to enhance his growing roster of cable networks. He was able to do this in part because of widespread deregulation in the media industries; these policies worked in Turner’s favor once he was part of a large corporation and, by his own admission, the success he found as an “independent” in the late 1960s and early 1970s could never be replicated by smaller players today. That is because the rules of engagement—between media industries and government regulators—have been redefined since he started amassing television properties and building his own empire. The climate during the 1980s became one favoring consolidation within and across media, and paved the way for Turner’s own path from running a billboard business and buying his first UHF station in Atlanta to becoming vice chairman of the largest media conglomerate in the world.

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