CNN and MSNBC have come in for much criticism for irresponsible reporting and political bias–merited criticism, IMO–especially in the wake of the Mueller report. It has been too rarely, noted, though, that these networks are not independent entities. CNN is owned by AT&T, and MSNBC is owned by Comcast.
Not to be left behind, Verizon appears to me to also be playing the political-bias game through its Yahoo service. I have a Yahoo Mail account (Yahoo owned by VZ since 2017), and every day I get a “news” email from them. A high percentage of these are anti-Trump in tone, and I doubt that an objective observer could look at a month or more of these communications and conclude that any attempt at balance was being made.
From a business standpoint, I question whether there is any real synergy between a telecommunications business and an entertainment and “news” business. After combining Yahoo and AOL into its ridiculously-named ‘Oath” division, Verizon has already written down $4.8 billion in asset value (and also changed the name.) I doubt that AT&T management is really going to add any value to its vast Time-Warner acquisition. But, not being a shareholder or bondholder in any of these companies, I really don’t care all that much. What I do care about are the societal and public-policy implications of these amalgamations.
Why is AT&T adopting, through its CNN subsidiary, a strident anti-Trump position? Does this reflect AT&T’s corporate policy, or are they merely adopting a decentralized management style and letting subsidiary-level management make their own decisions? Does the anti-Trump drum-beating that I perceive in Yahoo reflect Verizon corporate policy? Do they even know it is going on, or is it just a lower-level decision in a department that is now probably perceived as being not all that important or strategic? Does it make sense for VZ to offend a lot of people–somewhere around 50% of the US population–current or potential customers for a wide range of their services–in the name of a strident opinion stream that doesn’t even have any direct revenue generation associated with it?
TV news viewership isn’t what it once was, but is still nontrivial. The assets and income streams of these telecommunications companies are so vast that they can easily afford to subsidize marginal or outright unprofitable news operations on behalf of corporate political opinions or those of individual executives. At some point, they may hit ‘negative synergy’, as the political slant of the news operations drives away customers for other services, but they don’t seem very concerned about that and relatively few people, so far, even seem to realize the connection between the TV channel or the online systems and the telecommunications company that owns it.
When people talk about ‘the media’, they need to recognize who/what the media actually is.