February 20, 2004
On How to be a Tool
I just saw a call
for a March 3rd rally against the Comcast-Disney merger led by PennPIRG, Media
Tank, Prometheus Radio Project, the Communication Workers of America, and Jobs
Joining this rally
is about as good an example of being a tool as I can think of. Media monopolization
is a real issue, but rushing to the barricades to defend Disney from Comcast
is about the worst possible way I can think of to deal with the overall problem.
Disney executives ought to come outside and give anyone at the rally $10.00
coupons to the Disney Store in thanks. The fact that PennPIRG is apparently
the key organizer just reinforces my low opinion of the opportunistic and amateurish
nature of PIRGs in general.
hard to know who to sympathize with in the Comcast-Disney struggle. Ive
had a low opinion of Comcasts services for a while. Their technical management
of their high-speed Internet service after Excite@home went belly-up was horrible.
The hysterially overwrought, manipulative drumbeat of attacks against satellite
dishes on Comcast channels is a pretty good argument against media monopolization.
Their current level of service in their On Demand offerings are
beyond lame. Its no wonder they want to acquire Disney to provision content,
because the content that they generate themselves is usually one bare step above
the kinds of public-access channels that have recently released mental patients
whove gone off their meds hosting talk shows. If Comcast succeeds, expect
a whole lot of problems of integration between the two operations: the learning
curve will be by far the steepest on the Comcast side.
On the other hand,
if Disney shareholders cant see that Michael Eisner and his inner circle
of sycophants is dragging the company down, they arent paying attention
and deserve to lose value on their investment as a result. Any parent with young
children can see it: the company has foolishly surrendered the long-term stability
of the high ground in childrens media by relentlessly cannibalizing its
own properties, spewing a tide of made-for-video junk that permanently degrades
the value of their most lucrative properties. There are so many misfires coming
out of Disney lately that its a wonder that there have been any successes
like Pirates of the Caribbean at all. It used to be that you could
see a real difference between the weak storytelling and cheaper animation of
non-Disney kidvid, as in the work of Don Bluth. Now Disney has voluntarily sunk
to the bottom in pursuit of a few quick bucks. Tack on to that Eisners
evident inability to attract, recognize and maintain talent, almost certainly
because of his own authoritarian management style, and you have a company that
is heading for a serious crisis. If I owned a lot of stock in Disney, Id
sure want to give Eisner the boot, and if it took Comcast to do it, I might
well cheer them on.
It probably isnt going to be a story that ends happily ever after for anyone, least of all the consumersbut in a world where theres a lot to protest (including media monopolization) shilling for Michael Eisner strikes me as a low priority.