Eight Media Faces to Watch in '08
The Writer's Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers -- Their dispute over a new contract has served as an example of the forces tearing the TV industry apart, sidelining Hollywood's entire creative community just when they need to be proving their worth to an increasingly fragmented audience. Already, the clock is ticking -- if the strike lasts into March, the next year's TV season may not survive and audiences driven from free network television by reruns and reality TV may never return.
Rupert Murdoch -- While the world is distracted by Sam Zell's purchase of Tribune Co., the owner of Fox News Channel and the New York Post just cemented his dream of controlling the gold standard of business journalism, the Wall Street Journal. What he does with this brand over the next 12 months may affect what we learn about everything from the effect of inheritance taxes to the operation of China. Can the man who created a sycophantic cable TV news channel for conservatives be trusted with the most hallowed name in business journalism?
Bubba the Love Sponge Clem -- Cox Radio is paying him nearly $2-million to try taming his x-rated satellite radio act for Tampa and Jacksonville free radio. If it works, he'll not only make history as the first jock to succeed in both places, he'll pave the way to building an even more lucrative syndication deal for himself in other markets. Can he pull it off?
Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson -- Last year, it looked like American Idol was poised to Jump the Shark with a predictable slate of finalists and a winner who once again offered a dog of a debut record. But with the writer's strike paralyzing Hollywood, Idol could wind up an even bigger hit with an audience starved for new TV.
FCC Chair Kevin Martin -- He's fighting public advocacy groups on all sides, members of Congress from both parties and most of his fellow commissioners in a bid to relax media ownership rules which will surely play out in 2008. Who knew there was somebody who could run that agency worse than Martin's predecessor, Michael "Colin's son" Powell?
Apple CEO Steve Jobs -- Most experts agree the last frontier in media is finding a way to meld the computer (active media use) with the television (passive media use). And even though his Apple TV hasn't yet turned that corner -- only works with TV stuff downloaded through iTunes and is still a little too complex -- Jobs is best positioned to produce the killer app that unites PC and TV, perhaps this year.
Meredith Attwell Baker, acting assistant secretary for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration -- I'd never heard of her or this group before, either, but it turns out the NTIA is responsible for advising the president on communications issues -- and will be responsible for helping 20-million TV viewers use a voucher handed them by Congress to upgrade their TVs when the nation's television signals switch entirely to digital. About 20-million people don't have cable, satellite TV or digital TV sets, and will see their ability to access TV signals disappear on Feb. 18, 2009. How well the FCC and NTIA helps these people -- many of them poor, elderly and living in rural areas -- may dictate how well the digital TV transition goes for everyone.
YOU - At the risk of repeating the mistake Time magazine made a year ago, the future of nearly every media platform rests in your hands. You will decide whether to keep reading newspapers in enough numbers to keep the business model alive; you will decide whether parking it in front of the small screen every night in huge numbers makes any sense; you will decide whether to buy music from established outlets or steal it for nothing. The digital revolution has put the future of nearly every entertainment media platform in your hands -- use that power wisely over the next 12 months. Please.