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Empires of Entertainment

Media Industries and the Politics of Deregulation, 1980-1996

Jennifer Holt

Publication Year: 2011

Empires of Entertainment integrates legal, regulatory, industrial, and political histories to chronicle the dramatic transformation within the media between 1980 and 1996. As film, broadcast, and cable grew from fundamentally separate industries to interconnected, synergistic components of global media conglomerates, the concepts of vertical and horizontal integration were redesigned. The parameters and boundaries of market concentration, consolidation, and government scrutiny began to shift as America's politics changed under the Reagan administration. Through the use of case studies that highlight key moments in this transformation, Jennifer Holt explores the politics of deregulation, the reinterpretation of antitrust law, and lasting modifications in the media landscape.

Holt skillfully expands the conventional models and boundaries of media history. A fundamental part of her argument is that these media industries have been intertwined for decades and, as such, cannot be considered separately. Instead, film, cable and broadcast must be understood in relation to one another, as critical components of a common history. Empires of Entertainment is a unique account of deregulation and its impact on political economy, industrial strategies, and media culture at the end of the twentieth century.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-xi

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Introduction: The Foundation of Empires

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pp. 1-21

When discussing the perils of doing business in the modern media landscape, industry mogul Ted Turner once remarked, “You need to control everything. . . . The game’s over when they break you up. But in the meantime, you play to win. And you know you’ve won when the government stops you.”1 “Winning,” according to Turner’s vision, is achieving a significant measure of market...

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1. 1980-1983: Film versus Cable

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pp. 22-43

The path to fully integrated empires of entertainment first wound through the cable industry, via the film studios. At the outset of the Reagan era, distinct and well-regulated borders kept media industries mostly separate from one another. Because of the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules (fin-syn) and cross-ownership regulations dating back to 1970, broadcast networks and film...

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2. 1983–1985: Broadcast and the Blueprints of Empires

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pp. 44-68

In the Premiere and Showtime cases, the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice had established an antagonistic position toward the film and cable industries’ joining forces. With Premiere shut down and the major studios all but eliminated from the Showtime/Movie Channel merger, it was clear that the Justice Department frowned upon horizontal integration within or between...

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3. 1984–1986: Outsiders Moving In—Murdoch and Turner

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pp. 69-92

In 1983, a yacht sponsored by Rupert Murdoch crashed into Ted Turner’s vessel during the Sydney to Hobart race, causing Turner and his crew to run aground just six miles from the finish line. After returning to dry land, Turner challenged Murdoch to a live, televised fistfight in Las Vegas.1 While Murdoch did not take Turner up on his offer, this “exchange” between the two moguls in...

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4. 1986–1988: Golden Era Redux

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pp. 93-114

Alarming headlines in the trade papers (“Distribs Buy Cash Cow Chains,” “Majors Chase Fat Cat Circuits,” “New Economy of Scale in Hollywood”) trumpeted the mergers and acquisitions—specifically the widespread purchase of theaters and exhibition chains by the major film studios—that shook up the film industry in 1986. This wave of takeovers was a new, and rather surprising,...

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5. 1989–1992: Big Media without Frontiers

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pp. 115-139

As the 1980s came to an end, deregulation was transforming the political economy of entertainment in surprising and unexpected ways. Its impact was varied, if widespread; regulators treated the film, cable, and broadcast industries all quite differently at this moment of empire construction. The film industry had just enjoyed years of deregulation and slackening antitrust...

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6. 1993–1995: The Last Mile

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pp. 140-164

Taken in aggregate, the events in the years leading up to 1996 could almost give the appearance that structural convergence was a fait accompli. Looking back, the media industries of the past seemed to be careening toward the fullblown deregulation of the Telecommunications Act with purpose and intensity. Momentum had been building for greater consolidation within and across...

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Conclusion: 1996 and Beyond—The Political Economy of Transformation

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pp. 165-178

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the ultimate deregulatory initiative to complete the structural convergence of the media industries that began during the 1980s. It was the first major reform of the Communications Act of 1934 and the last piece of legislation necessary to solidify the blueprint for new millennium entertainment empires. This was not an isolated, singular shining...


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pp. 179-208


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pp. 209-216


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pp. 217-225

About the Author

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pp. 226-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780813550862
E-ISBN-10: 0813550866
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813550527

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 11
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 775872932
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Empires of Entertainment

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Mass media -- Ownership -- United States.
  • Mass media -- Economic aspects -- United States.
  • Broadcasting -- Law and legislation -- United States.
  • Telecommunication -- Deregulation -- United States.
  • Telecommunication policy -- United States.
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