NBC Rejects Chicks: What's Up With That?

The Dixie Chicks, that is.
This isn't the first time that big media companies have barred them from the
airwaves, but it is the first time that NBC and the new CW network have. It
appears that once again the Dixie Chicks have exhibited public disapproval of
the Bush administration and once again the media have answered by censoring
them. This bodes ill for the future of free speech, at least what's left of it
in America.

Roots of Rejection: The First Snubbing of the Chicks

In March of 2003, singer Natalie Maines expressed her disagreement with the
start of the war in Iraq and
her disgust with President Bush in public at a Dixie Chicks' concert in London. Shortly
thereafter, chaos ensued as radio stations refused to play the band's songs and
conservative political commentators skewered them verbally on shows. Fans also
boycotted their concerts and their music. Three years later, the Chicks are
releasing Shut Up &
, a film documenting the 2003 controversy and its aftermath.

But NBC is refusing to run an ad
for the documentary
. The network says that the documentary denigrates
President Bush too much. (Check out the story on
). That's an interesting perspective for a network to take and it leads
to bigger questions. Who owns NBC and what links does the government have to
NBC? And, further, are those relationships influencing this particular
decision? I wanted to know, so I started digging through the virtual files.

Who Owns the Airwaves Here: A Brief Look at NBC

A quick look at Stop Big
's website reveals that General
(GE) owns NBC and, interestingly enough, GE also has business
interests in military production, including building engines for

  • F-16 fighter jets
  • Abrams tanks
  • Apache helicopters
  • U2 Bombers
  • Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles
  • A-10 aircraft
  • Other planes, helicopters and

A deeper excavation shows that GE's board of directors
includes members who also sit on the boards of Bechtel and the Chevron
Corporation. (See Project
Censored's report
on media interlocks with corporations).

Bechtel is an American-owned engineering,
construction, and project management company. Strange, that, because they just
finished three
years of work in Iraq to rebuild what the war has destroyed

The Chevron Corporation
is one of the largest oil and natural gas companies in the world. With
headquarters in California
and operations in 180 countries, they supply a large segment of the world with
oil, gas, and other forms of energy. With oil
supplies dwindlin
g as they never have before, it's a good time for an
energy and oil company to control as much of the manufacturing process as

So What? Every Company Needs to Make a Profit to Stay Alive

Surely it's true that every company has to make money. If they don't, they
have to close shop and move on. Why does it matter that these companies have
relationships with each other? Everyone networks these days.

It's not the networking itself that presents a problem. It's questions
regarding media ethics and public trust. Do we believe that the media is
providing accurate, fair and complete information about issues related to the
corporations that own them? Or do we wonder if their interest in their own
bottom lines prevents them from actually serving the public interest? Using
that frame, NBC's current rejection of the Dixie Chicks' ad paints a more
ominous picture:

  • We have a president (Bush)
    who constantly promotes
    war in Iraq
  • We have a major corporation
    (Bechtel) that rebuilds that country.
  • We have an oil corporation
    (Chevron Corporation) that stands to gain from increased American control
    (of oil resources) in the Middle East.
  • We have a company (GE) that
    builds military equipment and also owns one of the top television networks
    (NBC) in the country.
  • And this network won't run
    ads for a Dixie Chicks' documentary that criticizes both the president and
    the war.

Is This a Conspiracy Theory? A Look at Underlying

Does this seem like a giant leap from the censoring of a Dixie Chicks' ad? It
does until you start exploring the landscape of media ownership today. It's as
if we have wound back time and are now sitting at the turn of the last century
— are we living amongst new robber barons who maximize profits at the expense
of the public, government officials who have covert deals with big
corporations, and business interests that run the media to the detriment of the
people they purportedly serve? Again? Has it always been this way? Sure. Media
are businesses and they do have to make money. But that still doesn't make it
right for them to censor information that the public needs to make informed
decisions. A look at our own media history (ie, McCarthyism
which Edward
R. Murrow
addressed on the air when he could or the great robber
of the past and the answer of the Muckrakers) illustrates
vividly how powerful the media really are and the impact of propaganda on the
public. It also demonstrates how concerned citizens can address these issues.
My hope is that we can improve our media system and improve our society at
least in some small way by sharing important information.

What Matters in the End: Monitoring the Media

I don't know the exact reason why NBC is choosing not to run ads for that
documentary. They have run controversial materials in the past, such as ads for
Fahrenheit 911. Exploring the
underlying relationships does, however, yield a wealth of information and
perhaps an inquiry into reasons why we aren't seeing certain stories, issues,
or ideas presented in the dominant media in America.

Sasha Rae blogs about journalism at http://frustratedjournalist.blogspot.com.


I do think this is a bit of a stretch. We're talking about a decision about whether to accept a commercial, not a news item or a program. Every broadcaster has its own standards by which they evaluate any commercial proposed to them. And you know, rather than worrying about what their corporate parent might say, they may just feel that the commercial violates their standards of decency and fairness and might even turn off significant portion of their audience in the time period it was to run. Rather than looking for dark conspiracies, journalistic integrity would call for asking for a comment from NBC. No sign you did that.

What difference does it make what spin NBC Corporate Communications puts on this? The issue is the structural interlocking of today's giant media owners. The idea of some "dark conspiracy" is just a red herring. No response from NBC will change the facts of interlocking media ownership and conglomeration, or its impact (intended or not) on the squeezing or burying of information that is important for public debate and citizenship. To say that the broadcasting of some types of information or some types of commercials is rejected purely for business reasons in no way justifies a media system that deprives the public of important information. If the present corporately owned media, and their profit-driven imperatives are not conducive to the open dissemination of all forms of knowledge and information, then we need to oppose these systems at every turn. Let's not try to mask these fundamental structural issues behind superficial protocols of journalistic "balance."

What happened (and continues) with the Dixie Chicks reminds me of the Media-Echo during the initial planning stages of the Iraq war (lies). France being cut out of the Iraq goodies by the Cheney-Administration, immediately found France backing away (vetoed) the Bush plan to use the United Nation in his illegal war. Just as immediately all of the US Media began an attack-dog war against France, who of course didn't worry about losing French-Fries as a result. At any rate, it all ended at the very same (almost) instant by Corp-Media, once the illegal war was in motion. In researching the issue afterward, I discovered a French diplomat was able to get our State-Dept rep Richard Boucher to admit the Media charges had no basis of proof according to US gov-record, but refused (for some reason) to make the US media stop printing these lies.

I enjoy reading Corp/Gov "Astroturf" these days, it is fun dividing obvious Corp/Gov propaganda from serious citizen statements. Basically all that is needed, is to follow the though's presented in a statement, and determining what the true purpose and intent. The issue of Media monopoly and control is realitively easy to discern, statements regarding this perilous attempt at controlling information are redundant with idiocies such as 'what difference does it make', or 'after all, this is a free country'. About the only American Industry and Commercial (enterprise) that have not been moved into 3rd World slavery, are the Service Industry and minor backup plants retained to correct for error's occurring in our 80% importation of all consumable goods. Check out Americas "Total Debt" that proves we are a wealthy people, what Household in America could otherwise afford their share of about $500,000.00 to pay off this Debt?