Kevin McDonald, California State University
By all accounts, ethnic Jews have a powerful influence in the American media far larger than any other identifiable group. The extent of Jewish ownership and influence on the popular media in the United States is remarkable given the relatively small proportion of the population that is Jewish.28 In a survey performed in the 1980s, 60 percent of are presentative sample of the movie elite were of Jewish background (Powers et al. 1996, 79n13). Michael Medved (1996, 37) notes that it makes no sense at all to try to deny the reality of Jewish power and prominence in popular culture. Any list of the most influential production executives at each of the major movie studios will produce a heavy majority of recognizably Jewish names. This prominent Jewish role is obvious to anyone who follows news reports from Tinsel Town or even bothers to read the credits on major movies or television shows.
Media ownership is always in flux, but the following is a reasonably accurate portrait of current media ownership in the United States by ethnic Jews:
The largest media company in the world was recently formed by the merger of America On Line and Time Warner. Gerald M. Levin, formerly the head of Time Warner, is the Chief Executive Officer of the new corporation. AOL-Time Warner has holdings in television (e.g., Home Box Office, CNN, Turner Broadcasting), music (Warner Music), movies (Warner Brothers Studio, Castle Rock Entertainment, and New Line Cinema), and publishing (Time, Sports Illustrated, People, Fortune).
The second largest media company is the Walt Disney Company, headed by Michael Eisner. Disney has holdings in movies (Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group, under Walt Disney Studios, includes Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Caravan Pictures, Miramax Films); television (Capital Cities/ABC [owner of the ABC television network], Walt Disney Television, Touchstone Television, Buena Vista Television, ESPN, Lifetime, A&E Television networks) and cable networks with more than 100 million subscribers; radio (ABC Radio Network with over 3,400 affiliates and ownership of 26 stations in major cities); publishing (seven daily newspapers, Fairchild Publications[Women’s Wear Daily], and the Diversified Publishing Group).
The third largest media company is Viacom, Inc., headed by Sumner Redstone, who is also Jewish. Viacom has holdings in movies (Paramount Pictures); broadcasting (the CBS TV network; MTV [a particular focus of criticism by cultural conservatives], VH-1, Nickelodeon, Showtime, the National Network, Black Entertainment Television, 13 television stations; programming for the three television networks); publishing (Simon & Schuster, Scribner, The Free Press, and Pocket Books), video rentals (Blockbuster); it is also involved in satellite broadcasting, theme parks, and video games.
Another major media player is Edgar Bronfman, Jr., the son of EdgarBronfman, Sr., president of the World Jewish Congress and heir to the Seagram distillery fortune. Until its merger with Vivendi, a FrenchCompany, in December 2000, Bronfman headed Universal Studios, a major movie production company, and the Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music company (including Polygram, Interscope Records, Island/Def Jam, Motown, Geffen/DGC Records). After the merger, Bronfman became the Executive Vice-Chairman of the new company, Vivendi Universal, and the Bronfman family and related entities became the largest shareholders in the company.29 Edgar Bronfman, Sr. is on the Board of Directors of the new company.
Other major television companies owned by Jews include New World Entertainment (owned by Ronald Perelman who also owns Revlon cosmetics),and DreamWorks SKG (owned by film director Steven Spielberg, former Disney Pictures chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, and recording industry mogul David Geffen). DreamWorks SKG produces movies, animated films, television programs, and recorded music. Spielberg is also a Jewish ethnic activist. After making Schindler’s List, Spielberg established Survivors of the Shoah Foundation with the aid of a grant from the U.S. Congress. He also helped fund Professor Deborah Lipstadt’s defense against a libel suit brought by British military historian and Holocaust revisionist David Irving.
In the world of print media, the Newhouse media empire owns 26 daily newspapers, including several large and important ones, such as the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Newark Star-Ledger, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune; Newhouse Broadcasting, consisting of 12 television broadcasting stations and 87 cable-TV systems, including some of the country’s largest cable networks; the Sunday supplement Parade, with a circulation of more than 22 million copies per week; some two dozen major magazines, including the New Yorker, Vogue, Mademoiselle, Glamour, Vanity Fair, Bride’s, Gentlemen’s Quarterly, Self, House & Garden, and all the other magazines of the wholly owned Conde Nast group.
The newsmagazine, U.S. News & World Report, with a weekly circulation of 2.3 million, is owned and published by Mortimer B. Zuckerman. Zuckerman also owns New York’s tabloid newspaper, the Daily News, the sixth-largest paper in the country, and is the former owner of the Atlantic Monthly. Zuckerman is a Jewish ethnic activist. Recently he was named head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella organization for major Jewish organizations in the U.S.30 Zuckerman’s column in U.S. News and World Report regularly defends Israel and has helped to rejuvenate the America-Israeli Friendship League, of which he is president.31
Another Jewish activist with a prominent position in the U.S. media is Martin Peretz, owner of The New Republic (TNR) since 1974. Throughout his career Peretz has been devoted to Jewish causes, particularly Israel. During the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, he told Henry Kissinger that his dovishness stopped at the delicatessen door, and many among his staff feared that all issues would be decided on the basis of what was good for the Jews (Alterman 1992, 185, 186). Indeed, one editor was instructed to obtain material from the Israeli embassy for use in TNR editorials. It is not enough to say that TNR’s owner is merely obsessed with Israel; he says so himself. But more importantly, Peretz is obsessed with Israel’s critics, Israel’s would-be critics, and people who never heard of Israel, but might one day know someone who might someday become a critic (Alterman 1992, 195).
The Wall Street Journal is the largest-circulation daily newspaper in the U.S. It is owned by Dow Jones & Company, Inc., a New York corporation that also publishes 24 other daily newspapers and the weekly financial paper Barron’s. The chairman and CEO of Dow Jones is Peter R. Kann. Kann also holds the posts of chairman and publisher of the Wall Street Journal.
The Sulzberger family owns the New York Times Co., which owns 33 other newspapers, including the Boston Globe. It also owns twelve magazines (including McCall’s and Family Circle, each with a circulation of more than 5 million), seven radio and TV broadcasting stations; a cable-TV system; and three book publishing companies. The New York Times News Service transmits news stories, features, and photographs from the New York Times by wire to 506 other newspapers, news agencies, and magazines.
Jewish ownership of the New York Times is particularly interesting because it has been the most influential newspaper in the U.S. since the start of the 20th century. As noted in a recent book on the Sulzbergerfamily (Tifft & Jones 1999), even at that time, there were several Jewish-owned newspapers, including the New York World (controlled by Joseph Pulitzer), the Chicago Times-Herald and Evening Post (controlled by H. H. Kohlsaat), and the New York Post (controlled by the family of Jacob Schiff). In 1896 Adolph Ochs purchased the New York Times with the critical backing of several Jewish businessmen, including Isidor Straus (co-owner of Macy’s department stores) and Jacob Schiff (a successful investment banker who was also a Jewish ethnic activist). Schiff and other prominent Jews like . . . Straus had made it clear they wanted Adolph to succeed because they believed he could be of great service tothe Jews generally’ (Tifft & Jones 1999, 37–38). Ochs’s father-in-law was the influential Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, president of the AJ Congress and the World Jewish Congress and the founder of Reform Judaism in theUnited States.
There are some exceptions to this pattern of media ownership, but even in such cases ethnic Jews have a major managerial role.32 For example, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation owns Fox Television Network, 20thCentury Fox Films, Fox 2000, and the New York Post. However, Peter Chernin is president and CEO of Fox Group, which includes all of News Corporation’s film, television, and publishing operations in the United States. Murdoch is deeply philosemitic and deeply committed to Israel, at least partly from a close relationship he developed early in his career with Leonard Goldenson, who founded the American Broadcasting Company. (Goldenson was a major figure in New York’s Jewish establishment and an outspoken supporter of Israel.) Murdoch’s publications have taken a strongly pro-Israel line, including The Weekly Standard, the premier neo-conservative magazine, edited by William Kristol.
Murdoch . . . as publisher and editor-in-chief of the New York Post, had a large Jewish constituency, as he did to a lesser degree with New York magazine and The Village Voice. Not only had the pre-Murdoch Postreadership been heavily Jewish, so, too, were the present Post advertisers. Most of Murdoch’s closest friends and business advisers were wealthy, influential New York Jews intensely active in pro-Israel causes. And he himself still retained a strong independent sympathy for Israel, a personal identification with the Jewish state that went back to his Oxford days. (Kiernan 1986, 261)
Murdoch also developed close relationships with several other prominent Jewish figures in the New York establishment, including attorney Howard Squadron, who was president of the AJ Congress and head of the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, and investment banker Stanley Schuman.
Another exception is NBC which is owned by General Electric. However, the President of NBC is Andrew Lack and the President of NBC News is Neal Shapiro, both of whom are Jewish. In addition, the Bertelsmann publishing group is a Germany-based company that is the largest publisher of trade books in the world and also owns magazines, newspapers, and music. Most of Bertelsmann’s influence is outside the United States, although it recently purchased the Random House Publishing Company.
Even granting the exceptions, it is clear that Jews enjoy a very powerful position in U.S. media, a position that is far more powerful than any other racial/ethnic group. The phenomenal concentration of media power in Jewish hands becomes all the more extraordinary when one notes that Jews constitute approximately 2.5% of the U.S. population. If the Jewish percentage of the American media elite is estimated at 59% (Lichter et al. 1983, 55)—probably an underestimate at the present time, the degree of disproportionate representation may be calculated as greater than 2000%. The likelihood that such an extraordinary disparity could arise by chance is virtually nil.