2/15/2005

Buying back the media, one billionaire at a time

From Will Pitt at Truthout:
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Billionaire investors Warren Buffett and George Soros are getting hooked up with cable.
Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission show Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway, doubled its holdings in Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable operator to 10 million shares, during the fourth quarter, while it dumped its shares in hospital operator HCA and slashed its holdings in athletic apparel manufacturer Nike.
Soros Fund Management LLC disclosed in its own SEC filing that as of Dec. 31, it owned 2.6 million shares of Time Warner, owner of Time Warner Cable, the nation's No. 2 cable operator, as well as a host of other media properties, including CNN/Money. It had no shares in Time Warner at the end of the third quarter.
Soros's fund also bought 17 million shares of satellite television operator Echostar Communications during the quarter, adding another company it did not own on its earlier report. And it bought 209,272 shares of media conglomerate News Corp., which besides owning a number of broadcast and cable networks recently gained satellite television provider DirecTV.

One of the most important web pages you'll find tracking corporate conglomerate media ownership is the 'Who Owns What' page run by the Columbia Journalism Review. You want to see scary? Check out what else the owners of NBC are into. Check out what else the owners of CNN are into. Check out what else the owners of CBS are into. Check out what else the owners of ABC are into. If you really want to wig out, check out how much of the media world is controlled by ClearChannel. These companies are so wildly diversified that their journalism components are incapable of reporting on many major stories without making a subsidiary, an advertiser or a profitable little war look bad. This is the hard nub of why journalism, specifically television journalism, has become such a swamp of late.

So I'm guardedly pleased that Mr. Soros is deciding to bring his billions of dollars and anti-George opinions into the media game. I'm getting an especially big kick out of the fact that he bought up 209,272 shares of News Corp., the parent company of Fox. These days, I guess, you fight billionares with billionares.

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