New Internationalist

Ultra Concentrated Media - Facts

Issue 333

Vivendi Universal

Vivendi, better known as a collossus of the privatized water industry – from Puerto Rico to Three Valleys Water in the UK – merged with media company Seagram in 2000. Europe’s answer to AOL Time Warner, Vivendi Universal has taken ‘convergence’ furthest – integrating film, music and mobile phones. As a telecoms giant it has big stakes in the cables and wires that deliver these services.

VivendiNet is the home of all the company’s Internet projects, including Vizzavi.com with Vodafone combining Internet, mobile phones and interactive TV. Also owns MP3.com a music download site to rival Napster, Education.com, an online learning site.

Universal Music Group has a 22 per cent share of the global music market with labels like Polygram and Motown – and operates in 63 countries.

Canal+ the leading French station has 14 million subscribers in 11 European countries. Universal Studios has networks across the world, and theme channels like ‘Action and Suspense’, whilst Universal TV owns TV series such as Kojak, Miami Vice, Columbo. Cinemas include the Cineplex Odeon chain, and United Cinema International.

Owns 2 French major mobile phone companies. Vivendi Telecom International has operations in Spain, Hungary, Monaco, Poland and Egypt.

PLUS Vivendi Environment, the water and utilities group – including UK train service Connex.

Five theme park ‘Universal Studio Experiences’ from Barcelona to Beijing.

Havas owns 60 publishing houses selling 80 million books and 40 million CD-ROMS a year.

AOL-Time Warner

In January 2001 one of the largest mergers in corporate history made America Online (AOL) and Time Warner the world’s biggest media company. AOL has 27 million subscribers. They spend an incredible 84 per cent of their Internet time on AOL alone, which provides a regulated leisure and shopping environment dominated by in-house brands – from Time magazine to Madonna’s latest album.

##‘A vast empire of broadcasting, music, movies and publishing assets, complemented by AOL’s dominant Internet presence, all fed to consumers … through Time Warner’s cable network. Think of it as AOL Time Warner Anywhere, Anytime, Anyhow,’ – TIME magazine.ˆ1ˆ

12 companies including Warner Bros (Daffy Duck) and Hanna-Barbera Cartoons (Scooby Doo). Multiplex cinemas in 12 countries.

29 operations from Poland to Brazil including CNN, Time Warner Cable with 13 million customers in the US.

24 book brands – from Time Life Books to Little, Brown and Company.

Time, Fortune and 33 other titles with a total of 120 million readers.

PLUS 24 book brands, 52 record labels, and the entire Turner Entertainment Corporation including four sports teams.

AOL US and AOL International (14 countries) plus eight other online ventures including CompuServe and Netscape. Time Warner Cable is trial-running a telephone service over the Internet in the US.

Theme parks, Warner Bros studio stores in 30 countries, and tied merchandise.

The Walt Disney Company

The company wants to extend the Disney experience into almost every aspect of life. The magic need never stop in Celebration, Florida, the $2.5 billion pre-planned town built by Disney, which regulates everything from who can move in to the height of the residents’ hedges.

‘In 1998, ABC News discarded an investigative report that raised embarrassing questions about hiring and safety practices at Disney World.’ – Leo Bogart, Commercial Culture.

The Disney Channel broadcasts in 8 countries. International sports channel ESPN broadcasts to over 165 countries in Asia, Europe, Latin America. Other channels include Walt Disney TV, Sportsvision Australia and eight others.

Five magazine publishing groups and four newspapers including St Louis Daily Record.

Disney Theatrical Productions’ extravagant stage musicals include The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast.

Major US TV networks ABC television & radio – 10 television stations and 29 radio stations.

Include Disneyland LA and Paris, Disney World Florida, MGM studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, World Sports Complex, 27 hotels with over 36,000 rooms, two cruise ships, and the Disney Institute where professionals can ‘discover the business behind the magic’.

PLUS Disney Books, 18 online ventures including Infoseek, 6 music labels, several hockey and baseball teams, and 720 Disney Stores worldwide.

Walt Disney, Touchstone, Miramax Films, Buena Vista, and four others.

Bertelsmann AG

Heinrich Mohn, head of the German Bertelsmann house from 1921, was a sponsoring member of the SS. The company was a major printer of Nazi material during the ‘Third Reich’.ˆ2ˆ

Bertelsmann Services Group – from consumer databases to call centres around the world. Multimedia ad agency, Pixelpark ‘brand manages’ major clients such as Adidas.

Bertelsmann is the world’s biggest publisher. Random House shifts over a million books a day in the US alone, and the company has Book Clubs across Europe, operations in South America, and is a major publisher of science titles.

Owns the UK’s Channel 5 and TV and radio stations across Europe including the RTL network. With 22 television stations and 18 radio stations in 10 countries, RTL Group is Europe’s biggest broadcasting corporation. Bertelsmann Broadband is a new interactive TV venture, ‘the convergence between televisions and computers’.

Gruner & Jahr publishes 80 magazines worldwide, from Femme to Prima, and owns nine newspapers across Germany and Eastern Europe.

From Germany to Malaysia online book shopping across the planet, Lycos web portal, Barnes & Noble.com – and numerous other online ventures.

Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) operates in 54 countries. Its US labels own in turn 200 labels worldwide.

Viacom

Viacom broke US rules controlling media ownership when it bought TV network CBS. Within a week, Senator McCain had proposed a change to those rules. Viacom is McCain’s fourth biggest ‘career patron’.ˆ5ˆ Viacom from the cradle to the grave: ‘You can literally pick an advertiser’s needs and market that advertiser across all the demographic profiles, from Nickelodeon with the youngest consumers to CBS with some of the oldest consumers.’

‘Unbridled consumerism.’ - MTV’s Tom Freston outlines MTV India’s content.ˆ3ˆ

Major ownings, from Paramount to United Cinemas International, a joint venture with Vivendi Universal with 104 cinemas in Europe, Japan and South America. Blockbuster is the world’s largest renter of videos with stores in 27 countries.

CBS has 200 affiliated TV stations, and distributes its shows globally. MTV the music video channel reaches 342 million households worldwide. Viacom also owns VH1, MTV’s music channel ‘competitor’. Other major networks include Nickelodeon, Paramount and Comedy Central.

News Corporations

News Corp uses its global reach to localize its tax calculations, getting its accounts done in countries with low tax rates – as a result it paid only 6.1 per cent tax worldwide in the 4 years to June 1998.7

‘Our reach is unmatched around the world. We’re reaching people from the moment they wake up until they fall asleep.’ – Rupert Murdochˆ6ˆ

FOX News, and seven other US news networks. In the UK, BskyB, Sky with 150 channels and services. Australian channel FOXTEL. STAR TV satellite service reaches over 300 million people across Asia. Phoenix satellite TV and four other channels serve much of China. News Corp also broadcasts into India, Japan, Indonesia, New Zealand, Latin America, Europe.

HarperCollins and seven other publishing houses.

The New York Post in the US, The Times, The Sun, and the News of the World in the UK. In Australia the company owns over 100 national and regional titles including The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Tasmanian, and 67 suburban papers. Also Independent Newspapers of New Zealand, with 55 national and community papers, and titles in Fiji and Papua.

Australian National Rugby League, the LA Dodgers baseball team, and UK football clubs.

Fox TV is the largest in the US with 22 stations. Hit shows include ‘Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?’ There are 14 Fox companies internationally including 20th Century Fox TV.

Researched by Granville Williams of CPBF. The full ownership chart is hosted online by Media Channel.

  1. Time magazine, 25 December 2000.
  2. The Independent Historical Commission for Investigating the History of the Bertelsmann House during the ‘Third Reich’, http://www.uhkommission.de/news.htm
  3. No Logo, Naomi Klein, Flamingo, 2000.
  4. Financial analyst, New York Times, 8 September 1999.
  5. Off the Record, Center for Public Integrity.
  6. News Corporation 1999 Annual Report.
  7. The Economist, 20 March 1999.

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