Sunday, March 27, 2011

Marriages of Convenience

 A beautiful marriage is heading for an unhappy end­ing; we hear cries and whis­pers and that the couple are parting their ways. It now seems truly like a campus love story which can be adapted to a television soap -heart­burns, despair, separations and reunions-and that tells the true story of the television distribution industry in the entertainment era.
Last week, the HBO channel, decided to walk out from the Zee-­Turner network, and to join the com­paratively small SET (Sony Entertainment Television)-Discovery bouquet, which is known as "One Alliance", This was amidst the super­hit carnival which is currently going on in HBO, and there were no hints to the break until it came. In a rejoin­der, the Zee-Turner grabbed CNBC from SET-Discovery. Zee-Turner officials have also announced that HBO will be replaced by a premium English movie channel, probably Cinemax, which is a sister concern of HBO. Whether Cinemax can repeat the glittering show of HBO is anoth­er matter, as the majority of the 2000 titles that Cinemax owns is from the old Turner Classic Movies (TCM) except for the Harry Potter franchise. But HBO is all poised for a mega­show in the new year with Jennifer Lopez's The Cell, Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible 2, Spidernan and Ocean Eleven. Thus the HBO defection is really a loss -for Zee­-Turner in terms of box-office films.
But what rules all these defections and alliances? Simply profit, that's what the anatomy of these phenome­na tell. It also clearly captures the ways of the satellite television busi­ness, which has been diversified through financing mainly by global capital, software production, ad sales revenue and distribution, Here it is the ad sales revenue and distribution, which is the underlying reason. Sony had recently abandoned its sales deal with CNBC, after it failed to gain stakes in the channel's Indian opera­tions, while HBO executives spoke about "better commercial terms" by means of ad revenues througb the new alliance. The greatest paradox is that these companies are related to each other either as sister concerns or as joint ventures, and not rival companies as the common man sees. The best example is HBO itself. HBO Asia is a television alliance of four Hollywood studios-Universal, Paramount, Warner Brothers and Sony Pictures. When the channel was launched a couple of years back, both SET and Turner were the main contenders for its distribution and ad sales contract. But only a few know that both these competitors are sister concerns of HBO partners, ie, SET to Sony and Turner to Warner broth­ers. Thus the only underlying interest is the smooth flow of the global capi­tal.
And here begins the story. Global capital means not merely money, it also involves politics and even racism. It is about market but negoti­ates on power. It speaks about human rights but practices repres­sion. It laments about poverty and pats the rich. Global television is its public relations manager. Through multinational operations ranging from news and education to chil­dren's entertainment, music and movie channels, it serves the interests of the transnational companies, their advertising clients and their support­ing nation-states' (read United States) ideologies and policies, Thus starting from our tastes, likes, dislikes and preferences to view points and thought processes, all these are shaped, governed and controlled by these global interests disguised as media products. It can either be a superhit movie in your favourite movie channel or a live show of your most admired artist.
The latest example is that of the HBO (Europe operations) which will premiere the film, Live from Baghdad, on Dec 7 that tells a fraud­ulent story of Iraqi soldiers throwing Kuwaiti babies out of incubators during the occupation of Kuwait in 1990. The story was launched based on the testimony of a 15 year-old Kuwaiti girl before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in October 1990. When media repeated it cold-blood­edly with a precise element of propa­ganda, it blossomed into a tale involving over 300 Kuwaiti babies. This will "clarify the facts" that the CNN showed during the coverage of the Gulf War. What a wonderful agenda. If MTV attempts to inspire Chinese youth to revolt, so surely a movie can try getting a unanimous verdict in favour of the US to attack Iraq. And remember, both HBO and CNN are owned by the AOL Time Warner media conglomerate.

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