It’s mostly about the influence. The success of Tucker Carlson, and the complete refusal of the media to even try to imitate his success, makes it very clear that their motives are not profit-driven:
Tucker Carlson’s prime-time Fox News show, Tucker Carlson Tonight, has shattered record after record to become the highest rated cable news program in television history. On any given night, Carlson’s must-watch program draws nearly 5 million Americans to the television set — a truly astonishing number we may never see again.
According to an analysis by iSpot.tv, Tucker Carlson accounts for 16 percent all ad revenue at Fox News. And during the six-month period of February through July of this year alone, Tucker generated $37.2 million for Fox News and smashed the competition.
The historic popularity and profitability of Tucker’s show raises a simple, yet important question: why have none of the major networks, including Fox, attempted to copy his success? Wouldn’t the fabled “marketplace of ideas” dictate a certain convergence toward the topics and styles that draw the biggest audiences?
Perhaps the ad boycotts aimed at Tucker have scared off would-be copycats. But this simply raises the question of why companies would leave money on the table by refusing to advertise on television’s most popular cable news show. Something is off here, and it suggests that the media industry does not work according to a simple profit motive….
Readers might recall that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos purchased the Washington Post for $250 million. The paper is of course notoriously biased against Trump, even by the standards of today’s mainstream media. This may be good for business and it may not be — but ultimately this is not what matters. What matters is that the Post is directly or indirectly profitable to its owner, Jeff Bezos. If it lost money, but influenced the public or other important constituencies in a manner that resulted in greater success for Amazon (a company 10,000 times its size), it would still be a worthwhile investment for Bezos.
We can generalize this principle by noting that the parent-subsidiary model is very common in business. Any given subsidiary does not have to be profitable in its own right so long as it benefits the parent company. In the case of The Washington Post, there is a clear “parent company” in the person of Jeff Bezos. But even absent the existence of a formal parent company, one can think of the American power structure itself as the true “parent company” of any sufficiently large and powerful media conglomerate.
Although in some cases this is a metaphor, it captures a very important feature of how the media and our country function. For a media empire operating at the highest levels, the influence it wields on the public’s mind is far more valuable to the ruling power structure than any self-contained profit that could be generated by optimizing their news product to suit the taste of the audience.
One need only look at the fact that despite having a blog with 200 million pageviews, and two of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns of all-time for their respective categories, not a single major publisher or media outlet has expressed any interest in working with me in the last 10 years. Whatever it may be that drives those companies, it obviously isn’t a capitalist profit motive.