Jakarta is Coming

Kill_Your_TV_by_HandsettBattery“So, if consumers are like roaches, then marketers must forever be dreaming up new concoctions for industrial-strength Raid.”
Naomi Klein

You may be asking what does “Jakarta is Coming” mean. Well, here is the Coors Lite history. Prior to the the military coup in Chile in the early 1970’s, this phrase started being posted around Santiago, Chile. The message was meant to alert Chileans that something akin to the coup that took place a few years before in Indonesia was working its way, via multinational corporations and the CIA, to Chile. On September 11, 1973 the government of the democratically elected socialist Salvador Allende was overthrown by a military junta led by General Augusto Pinochet. What followed was an economic full nelson, led by Milton Friedman, which gave corporations operating in Chile huge profits and led to a societal bloodbath, sanctioned by the CIA.

Corporatism, or corporativism, has more than one meaning. It may refer to political, or social organization that involves association of the people of society into corporate groups, such as agricultural, business, ethnic, labour, military, patronage, or scientific affiliations, on the basis of common interests. (1)

We all know that here in the United States, the majority of all media, excluding terrestrial and satellite radio, is controlled by six companies: Time Warner, Walt Disney, Viacom, News Corporation, CBS (Spun off from Viacom) and NBCUniversal (Part of Comcast). (2) Taking that into consideration, the majority of mass media available for consumption here in the United States is provided by six huge corporations.

As recently as 1983, more than 50 corporations controlled the vast majority of media disseminated in the United States. In 1996, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was signed into law by then President Bill Clinton. The first comprehensive overhaul to the Telecommunications Act in over sixty years and containing the contentious Title 3, which allowed for media cross ownership. (3) Building off that, and in keeping with the shroud of secrecy for which the George W. Bush era is known, in 2003 the FCC under Michael Powell set about to re-evaluate media ownership rules. I know this shit is boring, almost done. And in June of that year, the FCC voted 3-2 and  “approved new media ownership laws that removed many of the restrictions previously imposed to limit ownership of media within a local area. The changes were not, as is customarily done, made available to the public for a comment period.” (4) Upon appeal, it was overturned by the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (the Supreme Court turned down an appeal by the FCC). In 2007, under Chairman Kevin Martin, the FCC relaxed some media ownership rules.

Creative Corporatism takes the core of corporatism, an “association of the people of society into corporate groups…on the basis of common interests.”(1) in this case of media, profit and influence. Creative Corporatism is the idea that creative and news outlets are being manipulated and cajoled by the interests and agenda’s of the corporations.

Now, more than at any time in media history, almost whatever you consume through whatever vehicle you choose is controlled by one of the “big six”. And what actually makes it to air or to press is being controlled by a group of people that, combined, is probably less than a few hundred. This includes your news directors, your newspaper editors, your web content folks, your television and film development and programming decision makers.

Network television still serves as the benchmark of media and has all but abandoned its educational, creative or societal responsibility. The network news programs do virtually everything they can to package important news into their allotted format and ideology, typically less than a couple minutes and it usually leans either hard right or hard left. The scripted shows networks continue to push on us are, for the most part, so bad and unimaginative that I am not even sure a word has been created yet to describe it.

Unscripted programming, also known as reality television, is…is…ya know, I’m at a loss to describe it. When Pete Rose gets a reality show (on TLC, The Learning Channel) and the news that Kim Kardashian is pregnant with Kanye West’s child trumps coverage on the pending “fiscal cliff” one really has to wonder not only where programming people have their heads placed but also where we as a culture have our heads. “At the end of the day, corporations exist to make money”(5) and I guess that explains the proliferation of mind numbing unscripted shows like the Pete Rose show or the endless supply of those damn Kardashians. These shows are cheap to produce and should one become successful, it means black ink on the bottom line. Corporate profitability and innocuousness are more of a programming green-light than actual creativity.

Look, I am not some hoity toity pretentious person who ignores television or watches only “off the grid” programming. I like my share of crap. I’m a sucker for ID Discovery, I have an unparallelled affection for re-enactment actors, one of my favorite movies is “Airplane” but I have to wonder if a comprehensive unscripted show (re: boring) like PBS’ An American Family from 1973 or a movie like “Network” would be produced today. There is a place for crap on television and it should be there but one has to wonder what is going on and when will it stop.

Historically speaking, Hollywood isn’t known for breaking new ground or being a MENSA think tank. I get it. But when news programming is so shallow it is akin to the reporting found in Highlights Magazine or a sitcom narrative and its corresponding punchlines are even more banal and predictable than is typical of the genre and a studios movie release schedule is either a re-boot of already mediocre material or a comic book, you have to wonder what’s going on. “When you control what Americans watch, hear and read you gain a great deal of control over what they think.  They don’t call it ‘programming’ for nothing.”(2)

Corporatism has been reaching its tentacles into the creative sphere for years now through a number of avenues such as MBA’s, network and studio acquisitions, product placement and placing a tighter control on costs. In and of themselves, these are not necessarily bad things. What makes them awful is that along with them comes a bevy of voices that aim to influence, control and ultimately crush creativity, which is Creative Corporatism. Now, I’m not trying to expound some far left or Marxist idea that in order to be creative, you must be true to your art and ignore any and all outside influence. Personally, I don’t believe that. I believe there should always be room for a discussion and for compromise, especially if your goal as an artist or creator is to be heard or seen. But when the ideas and principles of the corporation influence, determine and drive the content of our media, all of our media, that is Creative Corporatism. And that is wrong.

Jakarta isn’t coming, it’s here.

I have deliberately left out new media and most cable outlets, which I believe offer better alternatives across the board, but sadly, everyone still looks to the big networks for guidance. Both the Internet and cable television offer some truly fascinating and original voices in creativity. But for how long? Most cable outlets are owned by the big six and the Internet…well, as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Comcast and Microsoft continue to reach their tentacles further and further into the web, it’s simply a matter of time before there will be six companies c0ntrolling what we view on the web too.

1 – http://tinyurl.com/6zg48
2 – http://tinyurl.com/369zr6
3 – http://tinyurl.com/a4ocm4n
4- http://tinyurl.com/cl8h7e7
5 – http://tinyurl.com/9j3f54e