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Synergy crisis.

The New York Times got it exactly right when, on the eve of the recent media mega-mesh of Paramount Communications Inc. and Viacom Inc., it ran a picture of Sumner Redstone and Martin Davis above a caption reversing their identifications. Moguls like Redstone and Davis have long been interchangeable, like most of the television programs, movies, magazines and newspapers they inflict on us, though perhaps Viacom chairman Redstone does deserve special recognition for so aptly describing the newly formed Paramount Viacom International Inc. as a "monster entertainment company."

Like children transfixed by the latest addition to Jurassic Park, reporters eagerly relayed the awesome dimensions of the new beast. Both companies are awash in cable: the USA Network, a Sci-Fi Channel (Paramount); Showtime, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick at Night (Viacom). Paramount owns the movie studio and a goodly portion of book publishers Simon & Schuster and Prentice-Hall, not to mention Madison Square Garden, where the company-owned New York Knicks and New York Rangers play. In 1992, the combined revenues for the two companies were more than $6 billion, and The Wall Street Journal called the merger an $8.2 billion transaction. Wow, fight up there with Time Warner and Capital Cities/ ABC and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

Next came the ritual fretting. Would other buyers queer the deal by stepping forward now that Paramount was "in play"? Would the stocks of the two companies go up or down in the wake of the announcement? Would Paramount's Davis, long used to command, be able to get along in the same sandbox with Redstone, whose holdings make him the undisputed boss of the new company, even though Viacom is smaller than Paramount? Which executive would get to shoot baskets at the Garden with Patrick Ewing?

Predictably, few if any of the journalists who dutifully recorded the heady numbers seemed inclined to remark on the antidemocratic nature of this latest consolidation, which like those before it leaves the power to promulgate ideas and shape politics in the hands of a decreasing number of corporate potentates who are narcotizing a growing international audience with the Gospel According to Beavis and Butt-Head.

Meanwhile, the pressure mounts. Murdoch's Times of London recently put the screws on a major competitor by lowering the price of the Times despite the fact that it has long lost money. Only a conglomerateur could afford to do this, and it is no accident that the name of the paper he is trying to force to the wall is The Independent.

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Title Annotation:planned merger of Paramount Communications Inc. and Viacom Inc.
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Oct 4, 1993
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