MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It wasn't widely reported last week, but right wing Tucker Carlson's The Daily Caller (online) revealed on Friday that the Koch brothers decided not to purchase the Tribune Company newspapers after all. The Tribune print empire includes The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and The Baltimore Sun among other papers.
According to The Hollywood Reporter:
"Koch Industries, after conducting its due diligence, has not been interested in buying the newspapers for 'a couple months,'" the Caller reported, citing multiple unnamed sources. "The company determined that purchasing the newspapers was 'not economically viable' and that both parties walked away from the negotiations."
A spokesperson for the Kochs later confirmed the Caller story, as the Chicago Tribune itself reported:
Melissa Cohlmia, a spokeswoman for the Wichita, Kan.-based company, confirmed a report Thursday from the Daily Caller saying that Koch Industries wouldn't be buying any of Chicago-based Tribune Co.'s eight daily newspapers after conducting a review.Tribune Co. owns the Chicago Tribune.
“Koch continues to have an interest in the media business and we're exploring a broad range of opportunities where we think we can add value,” she said. “In terms of the Tribune, the Daily Caller story is accurate.”
As USA Today noted of the unconsummated acquisition:
The Koch brothers' interest in the Tribune newspapers has been controversial from the start. Their critics, including union members, environmentalists and journalists, have voiced their concerns — that the papers will provide a prominent platform for the brothers' right-wing message — through protests and public meetings.
In May, pro-union activists gathered near the Beverly Hills home of Bruce Karsh, chairman of Tribune and president of Oaktree Capital Management, to protest the potential sale to the Kochs. Oaktree is Tribune's largest shareholder.
At another rally outside the headquarters of the Times in May — according to the newspaper's account — Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause, told the crowd of about 200 that the Koch brothers "have an agenda, and they are willing to spend their billions of dollars on it."
The Tribune Company, now out of bankruptcy after a tumultous period under the ownership of real estate mogul Sam Zell, plans to hold onto its lucrative television and radio stations. It continues to seek a buyer for its ailing print empire.
However, the relief in the Koch brothers not buying a large network of newspapers as an inevitable propaganda megaphone for billionaires may not last long: Rupert Murdoch is rumored to have shown interest in the Tribune's print holdings.
Although the Kochs' claim of only investing where they can turn a profit sounds like the way billionaires operate, it is really a bit misleading. After all, the Kochs have poured untold millions of dollars into political campaigns, organizations such as Americans for Prosperity, ALEC, among other vehicles to guarantee them a reguatory and tax environment that is lax on the rich and cuts the social safety net to shreds.
For the Kochs, crown print jewels like The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun and other newspapers -- even if down on their heels in a digital age -- offers a tremendous opportunity to maximize profit (even if subsidizing the papers) through influencing policy makers and readers with the news seen through the lens of the oligarchy.
In short, the papers could lose millions and millions of dollars, but the Koch brothers could profit in the hundreds of millions of dollars (they are worth about 65 billion dollars between the two of them depending upon the fluctuations of the stock market) due to the ability to influence public policy through the prestige and perception-moulding powers of the newspapers.
After all, Rupert Murdoch is said by the Guardian UK to have lost nearly one billion dollars during his continued ownership of the New York Post. But the tabloid provided him with significant political influence in New York City and DC over the years. He lost a bundle on the Post, but made a huge profit in influencing politicians that the Post championed.
At the end of the day, all we know is that it is highly likely that the Koch brothers will acquire media properties and use them for political leverage.
There is money to be made in owning mass media and controlling the faucet of news and opinion, even if it looks like a loss on the bottom line.