Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The `Village Voice' Alternative Media Monopoly's Hidden History--Part 15

(Most of the following article originally appeared in the October 9, 1996 issue of Downtown/Aquarian Weekly. See below for parts 1-14.)

After the FCC allowed then-Voice owner Murdoch to purchase Metromedia’s television stations in the United States—despite FCC regulations which prohibited U.S. television stations being owned by foreign businesspeople—the right-wing Australian-born global media baron needed to quickly raise more cash to help finance his entrance into the world of U.S. broadcasting during the 1980s. To raise an additional $55 million, he decided to sell the Voice and his stable of Voice writers to the then-Hartz Mountain Industries owner and NYU trustee Leonard Stern in June 1985. Murdoch earned a net profit of about $30 million (in 1980s money) from buying the Voice in 1977 and selling it in 1985.

Former Voice owner Stern, a then-billionaire like Rupert Murdoch, described himself in 1985 as “right of center on defense issues,” according to the New York Times (6/28/85). And a few weeks after Stern purchased the Voice in 1985, the Times reported that “some Voice employees” were “uncomfortable existing under the same corporate roof with Hartz…” and “some Voice staffers speculate that the desire to recoup some respectability he may have lost because of Hartz’s problems could have motivated him to purchase the newspaper…” Stern’s Hartz Mountain Industries had just pled guilty to some white-collar crimes and antitrust law violations. The Times (7/7/85) also reported the following in July 1985, in reference to the billionaire New Jersey real estate developer who owned the Voice alternative media conglomerate between 1985 and 2000.

“Mr. Stern says he intends to take the same brand of…tenacious management to the Voice…And he is convinced that he has captured a prize: `It was the best media property that’s been offered to me in a long time. Hands down.’

After NYU expanded eastward and moved its students into high-rise East Village dormitories, NYU trustee Stern also decided to move the Voice’s editorial offices closer to the East Village during the early 1990s. Yet although the Voice’s pre-tax profits exceeded $8 million per year in 1991, local advertisers had started purchasing less classified ad space in Stern’s newspapers by the early 1990s.

By the 1990s, Voice staff writers and senior editors apparently were earning more money than what most antiwar bloggers, antiwar indymedia journalists and grassroots antiwar activists earn from their antiwar work today. From a $6 million per year editorial budget, the owners of the Voice in 1996, for example, were apparently paying a full-time Voice staff writer $51,000 per year and a Voice senior editor $52,000 per year in 1996. And the Voice’s editor-in-chief was being paid $125,000 per year as long ago as 1996.

(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 10/9/96)

June 2008 Update on Post-1996 Village Voice Alternative Media Monopoly's Hidden History:

Despite its parent company's annual revenues of over $80 million per year, the journalistic quality of the Village Voice newspaper has, predictably, continued to deteriorate since the October 2005 merger of the New Times alternative media conglomerate with the Village Voice alternative media conglomerate created the Village Voice Media alternative media monopoly.

According to the New York Times (10/24/05), 53 percent of the Village Voice Media’s shares are owned by a trust which Village Voice Media chairman James Larkin and Village Voice Media executive editor, Michael Lacey, control—that is financially backed by a Boston-based private equity firm, Alta Communications. In addition, a minority share of the Village Voice alternative media monopoly is held by Wall Street-based investors like Goldman Sachs, Weiss Peck & Greer and Trimaran Capital Partners.

There’s apparently a possibility that the Village Voice staff writers who haven’t yet been laid-off by Michael Lacey and his Boston Back Bay and Wall Street financial backers since 2005 will be going on strike on July 1, 2008, when their existing union contract is set to expire. But until full control of the Village Voice Media’s alternative media monopoly is democratically shifted to the U.S. anti-corporate and anti-war counter-cultural communities and its staff employees in the various cities where it distributes its weekly newspapers, freedom of the press in the U.S. alternative media world will continue to be threatened by alternative media corporatization and U.S. special corporate interests in the 21st-century.

Next: At Age 42 lyrics

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