The two media conglomerates that I have chosen are Fox Broadcasting Company and PBS. I picked these two networks because they are as different as you can possibly get when it comes to television's basic broadcast channels.
Writing Assignment #1
Communications, Media, and Society
Prof. Joe Rose
The two media conglomerates that I have chosen are Fox Broadcasting Company and PBS. I picked these two networks because they are as different as you can possibly get when it comes to television’s basic broadcast channels.
Fox has grown remarkably as a network since its incarnation in 1985. It has gone from a laughable network, to the fourth biggest network, only behind perennial front- runners NBC, CBS, and ABC. The network is owned by a powerful businessman by the name of Rupert Murdoch. The Australian born Murdoch purchased half of the ownership to the 20th Century-Fox film corporation in 1984. The next year he acquired the other half. At the time he was the owner of Australia’s “News Corporation Limited.”
By making these acquisitions, Murdoch was now in control of an extensive film library, along with rights to a large amount of television series’. He began to buy up independent stations across the country. By 1985 he was able to reach 20% of all the households in the United States. Throughout the end of 1980’s Fox continued to grow, despite losing tens of millions of dollars annually until the dawn of the new decade.
One of the reasons that Fox began to grow was that prime time hours were reduced, and no morning shows or soap operas were aired throughout the day. This gave Fox affiliates more flexibility in scheduling shows and commercial announcements. Their network shows began with shaky ratings, but by the end of the 1980’s, they found shows to build on such as “Married With Children”, “Beverly Hills 90210”, and “The Simpsons.” Fox tried to cater to younger, trend following viewers, and though slow to come around, this plan worked. As of 1998, Fox was the #1 rated network for teens and adults aged 18-49.
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As the 1990’s rolled around, Fox had a handful of top shows such as the ones listed earlier, plus the “X-Files”, and “Cops”. A few years later, to the surprise of the big three networks, Fox purchased the rights to NFL Football from CBS. This solidified Fox as a major player among the networks. Football is by far this countries most popular television sport. Also, Fox has hosted the Super Bowl, which is the king of all ratings getters.
This success has given Fox total net earnings of almost $600 million dollars. With that kind of success, they have the freedom to do almost anything without having to worry about their budget. Also they are currently riding the wave of reality television as hard as anyone, and these shows are cheap to produce in comparison to sitcoms and dramas.
Advertising obviously plays a huge role in Fox’s earnings. With a network as successful as Fox, advertisers are willing to pay top dollar to get on Fox’s top programs. During shows like “American Idol”, and “Joe Millionaire”, companies like Coca-Cola, Ford, and Nike battle it out for the most advertising. They see these shows as a chance to get their message to the hip younger crowd. During “American Idol”, the set is filled with Coke furniture, the hosts are drinking from Coke cups, and breakaway segments have the text “Coca-Cola moments” placed on the bottom of the screen.
Within the past ten years Fox has leaped forward as the most intense and shocking of the major networks. While other networks remain relatively conservative, Fox keeps on pumping out shows that grab attention, such as “Who Wants to Marry A Millionaire”, “Guinness World Records”, and “Temptation Island.” The graphics are flashy, and much of the content is in your face. It’s hard to believe that Rupert Murdoch is conservative. He is obviously a smart businessman.
Today the Fox name also has its own cable news channel, which has conservative views to battle against liberal CNN, a sports channel, a cable TV network called FX, that plays original shows and movies put out by 20th Century-Fox, and their own kids network. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation Conglomerate has become very large in recent years. It currently has three film production companies, two internet companies, 11 networks, 22 affiliated stations, 1 radio network, 5 publishing companies, 2 magazines, 8 newspapers, owns or partially owns 5 professional sports teams, and owns or partially owns 3 stadiums and/or arenas. It’s safe to say that Rupert Murdoch isn’t doing too bad for himself.
PBS is an entirely different network than Fox. The name PBS has been around since 1967, when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Public Broadcasting Act. There were public broadcasting stations before this, but this act made their importance more known. The act stressed that public broadcasting was important to put forth a difference in ideas, imagination, the arts, and a forum for more educational programming. Today many smaller PBS affiliates come together to form PBS as a whole. WGBH in Boston happens to be one of the leaders in producing quality public television.
The difference that separates PBS from Fox is that PBS is publicly funded. It is free of advertising in the traditional sense. They rely on public donations to keep the network running. However, with the ever-growing amount of cable channels that cut into the niche programming of PBS, the station has been forced to have various businesses sponsor their shows. For instance, when watching an episode of Masterpiece Theater, you might notice that Mobil sponsors the broadcast. PBS is an attractive place to advertise because though the audience is much smaller than that of commercial television, it is more upscale and they have a greater buying power. Companies like Volkswagen and Siemens also sponsor television shows.
PBS programming caters to a very large demographic. The station is known for their outstanding children’s shows such as “Sesame Street”, and “Mister Rogers Neighborhood”, but they are also known for much more educational and sophisticated shows like “Nova”, and “Masterpiece Theater”. By and large however, PBS strikes the biggest chord with affluent men aged 45-54.
Though PBS shows more artistic and liberal type programming, the appearance of the network is very conservative. Most of the graphics they use are very subdued. Also, their on-air personalities always look like any other common member of society. The whole network has a grounded and relaxed feel. This is probably to make the older viewers feel comfortable. They don’t need to be blown away with over the top substance like Fox uses.
Currently, PBS runs on a budget of about $2 billion. 75% of this goes to public television, and the remaining money goes to public radio. This may seem like a lot, but it is nothing compared to Fox. Various acts have been passed to keep public television funded. In 1987, The Communications Transfer Fee Act stated that a 2% fee had to be given with the transfer of television and radio licenses. As of 1999, this averaged out to about $400 million a year.
Also, PBS has been able to advertise themselves in the form of merchandise. Many children love PBS shows, so PBS is taking advantage of this by featuring various items with popular show characters on them. Now more than ever, PBS is starting to run more like a commercial network, but that is what is necessary to keep PBS around. Some may think there’s no room for public television in our society, but it’s been proven that they show original programming that’s hard to get other places. To fans of this, PBS just can’t go away. They represent all that’s good in television.
Both forms of media have their good points and bad points. Fox is highly a highly entertaining network. I do not have cable television; so I find that my television is tuned into Fox very often. They have the flexibility to show a variety of different shows, and I feel that they do a great job catering to our age demographic, sadly, regardless of how tasteful the programming is. Also, I can get my sports fix sometimes by watching Fox.
The fact that anyone can advertise on their network means that they have an incredible amount of money to put into the network. However this can get very annoying when you see companies take over shows, much like Coca-Cola does on “American Idol”. Fox is a very successful network, but they’re not necessarily a respected network. However, I believe they are doing their job by serving the public, and providing an alternative when it comes to network television.
I believe PBS has the exact opposite of a problem. I think they are a highly respected network, but not necessarily successful, in terms of a network. PBS needs to look to change the formula even more to get more people to watch, while keeping their core viewers. I do believe PBS does their job serving the public. I have watched many interesting shows and when they were over I felt smarter for watching them. That is a great thing indeed. Also, PBS pays attention to the arts more than any other station. I have seen many great musicians on PBS, along with various other artistic shows.
Overall, like I said before, both stations are successful at what they’re trying to do. It just comes down to a matter of credibility.