Fox ate National Geographic

natgeo rupert

Over the last few years the National Geographic Society has been slowly vanishing into the Murdoch family’s Fox media empire like a gazelle being swallowed by a python in one of the former’s famous videos. This month the consummation will be complete and Fox will take full control of NatGeo’s major assets – its stake in the TV network, its flagship magazine, its TV studio – in a $725m deal.

The process has not been easy, or without controversy. In September, when the deal was announced, former staffers and others were incensed. “I told my wife I would rather see National Geographic [magazine] die an honorable death than be swept into something it’s not supposed to be,” said veteran NatGeo marine photographer Brian Skerry at the time. The Society will continue to exist as a separate entity…

❝“Even at the very beginning, the magazine subscription was dropping like a stone,” recalled a former executive. “The dirty secret is that NatGeo needed the money for their endowment. Nothing makes money. Nothing. The only thing holding them together is the channel now, spinning off money so they can be alive…”

In the beginning, the network was the dream of Tim Kelly, then the head of the company’s own television unit, which produced National Geographic Explorer for CBS, among others. The group won scores of Emmys; 138 when Kelly left in 2012. But it was also costly, more interested in prestige than in cash, and times changed dramatically. Kelly had had a death in the family and was not available for comment; he now runs an education technology startup called Planet3…

The network officially launched on 1 January 2001, with Laureen Ong as president and Wilk as head of programming. National Geographic had torn down its museum to build a studio on M Street and 17th in Washington DC to build a TV studio; everyone at National Geographic was excited about the new network’s news show…

By 2007 Ong was out, and David Lyle, fresh off the shuttered Fox Reality channel, was in. With president Howard Owens and Lyle as CEO, Lyle was quick to make changes. Memories of the companies’ history together divide along predictable lines: National Geographic loyalists insist that the company’s valuable brand had been sullied by the barbarians at Fox. The Fox crew contend that National Geographic lived in a fairyland of high-minded ideals funded – eventually exclusively – by Fox. When you’re starving to death in a gingerbread house, you choose between food and shelter…

Last year, both Lyle and Owens left the company, Owens first. “As a senior TV executive, I am supposed to say everybody is replaceable, but in Howard’s case I say without a shadow of a doubt, we couldn’t have done it without him,” wrote Lyle in a memo when Howard’s exit was announced, just a few months before he moved on himself. Courteney Monroe, head of marketing, took over and remains in charge.

This year has seen the “TV guys” finally take over for good: the acquisition of nearly all National Geographic’s assets was announced in September. Fox, for years the dominant partner in the supposedly equal relationship, would no longer be subject to the Society’s eccentric board. National Geographic Television still exists, though people interviewed here speculate that it won’t for much longer.

Funny. Murdoch’s crew still hasn’t learned how to do the Web after wasting 10 figures on MySpace. The NatGeo folks never learned how to do TV. Something that has only been codified in How-To books for a half-century. So much of our media/communications culture – always described as dynamic – can’t get out of its own way.

Some of the crap Obama’s budget would eliminate — if Congress showed up for work

Though Republicans like to think of themselves as the party that cuts waste, fraud, and abuse, Democrats, too, propose putting the ax to programs that they’d like to see go away.

Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal is no exception. Though it generally offers higher levels of government spending than Republicans favor, that doesn’t mean Obama loves every program the government runs. In fact, he’s proposing to entirely eliminate dozens of initiatives — often small grant programs — that his team has identified as superfluous or unnecessary.

Starting with the most unproductive program on the books:

The one that’s likely to get the most political attention is eliminating a $10 million-a-year grant program for abstinence-only education run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The biggest proposed elimination is the Department of Justice’s $210 million State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which reimburses state and local law enforcement agencies for costs incurred detaining immigrants.

The cut most likely to provoke backlash from liberals is probably the proposed elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency’s $13 million grant program for water quality research, which sounds pretty useful in light of the situation in Flint, Michigan.

Click the link above for the complete list.

Don’t get too focused on what these are called. We just avoided a portion of a bill in the New Mexico State legislature supposedly about a “Fair Work Week” that not only would have let reactionary city and town governments avoid the state minimum wage law – it would have reversed any raises previously granted by the minimum wage requirement.

Gotta love today’s Republican version of Class warfare.