Record Campaign Spending Makes Big Media BIGGER

A little over a year ago I wrote this article wrapping up the 2006 campaign season and showing how, no matter who wins electoral campaigns, the media is the ultimate winner:

"When all is said and done, The Media will have banked over $2 Billion [...] If a campaign can be analogized to a war, then the media are the war profiteers. Fox is the Halliburton of the press corps - GE (owner of NBC/Universal) is the…well, the GE. They benefit no matter who wins or loses. In fact, it is in their interest to incite division and to escalate the conflict."

At the time, the money raked in by media was a new record, but one that was destined to be short-lived.

A new study by PQ Media is predicting that spending for 2008 will dwarf the record set in 2006:

"Political campaign spending on advertising media and marketing services is expected to rocket to an all-time high of $4.50 billion in the 2008 election cycle, as an acrimonious political environment, record fundraising and the high number of presidential candidates are driving an unprecedented media spending splurge..."

There doesn't seem to be an end in sight for the profligate spending on political ads and events. These expenditures are sponsored, for the most part, by mega-corporations with interests in the outcome of the elections. The Center for Responsive Politics just completed a detailed study of lobbyist contributions in the current campaign cycle. It's an eye opening expose of the incestuous relationships between candidates and contributors. For instance, Hillary Clinton claimed in a recent debate that she accepts lobbyist funds because they represent "real Americans" like nurses and social workers. But her financial disclosures reveal a different story:

"Lobbyists who represent health professionals, including the nurses Clinton singled out, account for $82,805 in contributions to her, while those representing the pharmaceutical industry paid out $562,900."

Barack Obama looks a little better having received only $34,500 from 29 registered lobbyists. And John Edwards does even better than that with just $4,500 from seven lobbyists that he has promised to return.

The irony is that many of the large corporate givers are the media companies themselves. Unlike other donors, they will get much of that money back from candidates buying air time. In effect, the candidates are subsidizing the media companies' budget for campaign contributions. Then, after the election, the media lobbyists still get to call on the officeholders to collect their reward in the form of favorable legislation and regulations.

As I said last year, the media is the only guaranteed winner and the people (and democracy) suffer for it:

"So long as we have corporate media monopolies married to political powerbrokers in government and on K Street, we will never have truly free elections. They just feed off of each other and enrich each other at the expense of democracy. The media needs to be corralled into a role wherein it educates and informs citizens. And public financing of campaigns is imperative if we want to remove the influence of corporations from politics."

And it's more true now than ever.

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...can we call these expenditures bribes?

If the writers' strike continues in Hollywood, audiences won't be watching. That leaves radio and print for ad delivery. Newspaper circulation has been declining steadily for some time.

And radio is a case of preaching to the choir unless candidates reach out in unlikely markets -- Hilary Clinton sitting down with Howard Stern for instance.

Big Media may have just shot itself in the foot.

For all things Hollywood Strike related:

A little more on Big Media and Hollywood.

What This Strike Doesn't Need: More PR

I'm convinced something else is at work here, given the high-level political ties of both flackeries: the Hollywood CEOs want to ensure that neither Congress nor the FCC nor even the Justice Department come after them on the thorny issues of media consolidation, unfair business practices, and funny accounting. More than the writers or the directors or the actors guilds, that scares them shitless.

Hollywood "accounting" includes unaccounted for free gifts worth thousands of dollars (product placement), movies that never make a "profit" (Coming to America), American productions overseas that pay employees in cash (no names mentioned), producers who use their production crews to renovate their homes, well-known talent who just take wardrobe and props home, production companies that don't pay overtime and get around it by "flatting" everyone with a 10 hour day rate, development executives who throw money at friends for "development deals" they know will never see the light of day, discrimination hidden beneath a polished veneer of lower scale rates because of "lack of experience", kick backs, theft, graft, nepotism, drugs, all par for the course in Hollywood...

Ah yes, Hollywood "accounting." Proof that being a member of the Democratic Party does not make one immune to corruption.

On the plus side, Hollywood is often a bellwether of changes to come, hence, the strike.