USA: One Big Company

Publisher Name: 
Focus on the Corporation

Bring 'em on.

A few years ago, even a few weeks ago, we might have opposed the AOL-Time
Warner merger.

But now we're ready to leave twentieth century thinking behind.

We recognize that this merger has "synergies that make some observers
drool," as the Wall Street Journal explained. AOL will highlight InStyle
magazine? Moviefone will pitch Warner Brother movies? Time Warner will
include AOL disks in promotional mailings? That's progress, baby!

In the past, we might have echoed the concerns of those who worried that
the merger might interfere with open access to high-speed internet
connections. AOL has been a leading proponent of open access -- meaning
those who control high-speed internet access through cable systems or
other means not have the power to discriminate against internet service
providers that they do not control or favor. In buying Time Warner, AOL
suddenly acquires one of the largest cable systems in the country, and
gains a material interest in opposing open access.

But that's OK. We're satisfied by AOL's verbal commitment that it will
voluntarily permit open access in the cable systems it will control (though
Time Warner currently has contractual obligations through 2001 to favor
Roadrunner internet service).

A few months ago, we might have agreed with media critics like George
Gerbner, who say that goliaths like AOL-Time Warner undermine media
diversity, that they are so big that their vast size means there will be an
array of issues they cannot cover properly because they have a vested
interest in the outcome.

Now, we say, "C'mon George." AOL Chief Steve Case says he understands and
is eager to learn more about the importance of journalistic integrity.

Not along ago, we might have sympathized with the views of Robert
McChesney, author of Rich Media, Poor Democracy: "This is the last nail in
the coffin for anyone who believed that the internet is the last stronghold
of media competition."

Now, we tell Bob to get over it. The internet's still a free medium --
hey, AOL-Time Warner isn't stopping us from sending this column around the
net. And you want media democracy? Broadband CNN news content will be
distributed on AOL Plus!

Just a short time ago, we might have noted the consensus that the AOL-Time
Warner merger will spur a slew of new media and internet consolidations
("It's what the future is," a chief executive who runs theme parks and a
movie studio told the Washington Post. "It sure feels like you need to be
bigger -- bigger yet."), and urged that antitrust authorities block the
merger to prevent this trigger effect.

Now, we say, "More mergers? That means more synergy!" (As the late Walter
Adams, one of the leading critics of corporate giantism, said, no merger
was ever announced without a ritual incantation of the synergistic gains to
be realized.)

More mergers is exactly what we need.

Microsoft needs a media company to compete. It is already partnered with
NBC, so we figure it should buy NBC. GE currently owns NBC -- Microsoft
might as well buy General Electric, too.

And as long as its on a buying spree, it seems highly inefficient to have
two major multinationals based in Seattle. Microsoft should purchase Boeing.

And once you have planes, you might as well get cars. We recommend buying
GM, Ford and Daimler-Chrysler, Toyota and the rest.

Meanwhile, it is obvious that, with the oil companies facing a serious
political challenge on the global warming issue, they need their own voice.
We recommend they purchase Disney-ABC. Of course, that would be after
Exxon-Mobil finishes buying BP-Arco and the other oil companies. With oil
naturally comes chemicals (DuPont, Dow, etc.) and with chemicals comes
pharmaceuticals. They should all gravitate to the Exxon-Mobil-Disney pole.

Don't worry about competition, the oil companies still face competition
from other energy sources, like the food companies.

Speaking of which, with the chicken, beef and pork processors all rapidly
consolidating, the grain traders merging, the seed business quickly moving
toward monopoly, supermarkets combining and food processors growing
larger, it is time to speed the process of creating a single food company.
Let's call it Philip Morris -- already the largest food company in the
United States.

The food/tobacco company probably should consider merging with AOL-Time
Warner. Just think of the synergy of ordering all your food through AOL!

Among the major U.S. media companies, that leaves Viacom-CBS in need of
some strategic partners. The merger with AT&T -- once it has joined with
MCI Worldcom-Sprint, and the already combining Baby Bells -- seems obvious:
a pairing of leading cable companies to gain efficiency.

Then there's Wal-Mart and the other major retailers. They need a major
internet presence. Hook them up with the AT&T-Viacom combine, and throw in Yahoo! and Amazon.com for a little bit of internet spice.

Sadly, for now we have to leave out perhaps the most synergistically minded industries: finance, including banks, insurance and securities firms. There are endless potential benefits from getting these operations merged with internet firms -- but current law blocks combinations between financial
companies and those in the real economy.

Maybe Congress can tend to that problem this year.

Until then, our major concern will be: can the economy really survive with
the inefficieny of four competing companies? Aren't there synergies to be
gained from combinations among the four corporate groups?

Steve Case, Bill Gates, take us to the future!

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based
Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The
Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy
(Monroe, Maine: Common
Courage Press, 1999, http://www.corporatepredators.org)

Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman / Posted with Permission.

AMP Section Name:Technology & Telecommunications
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